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Federal health minister says too early for broad drug decriminalization

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu walks through a back alley after visiting the Molson Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Thursday, January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER — Canada’s health minister says talk about decriminalizing drugs to deal with the country’s ongoing opioids crisis is premature until people have enough help to fight their addictions.

Patty Hajdu says countries that have taken that step have supports in place to protect people.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was not convinced that decriminalizing hard drugs is the solution to the opioid crisis, and other options need a chance.

Hajdu says prevention, treatment, harm reduction, enforcement and housing all need to be part of the equation.

She says the federal government would like to see solutions that are rooted in community support.

The most recent figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that nearly 14,000 Canadians have been killed by opioids since 2016.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020

The Canadian Press