Despite Heroin Injection Sites Galore, Overdose Deaths Spike In Canadian Province

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

Despite an increase of supervised injection sites, almost 1,500 people in the Canadian province of British Columbia (B.C.) died of illegal drug overdoses in 2018.

That’s a new provincial record for a jurisdiction that has seen drug overdoses continue to rise over the last decade, Global News reported Friday.

Supervised injection sites, where heroin users can legally ingest an illegal drug, have mushroomed across Canada since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party came to power in 2015. There are nine such facilities in B.C. alone — four of them in Vancouver, the home of the first injection site in North America. (RELATED: Trudeau Government Opening Up More Heroin Injection Sites)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions in the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont., Dec. 4, 2018. Global News screenshot

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions in the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont., Dec. 4, 2018. Global News screenshot

“Families and communities across the province are losing friends, neighbours and loved ones to illicit overdoses at an alarming rate,” B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said at a Thursday news conference. “The illicit drug supply is unpredictable and unmanageable, and fentanyl is now implicated in 86 per cent of overdose deaths. The almost 1,500 deaths in B.C. in 2018 due to illicit drug overdoses far outweigh the numbers of people dying from motor vehicle incidents, homicides and suicides combined.” (RELATED: Drug Deaths Skyrocket In Vancouver Despite Legal Injection Sites)

Instead of trying to get more aggressive clamping down on drug use, the province wants to decriminalize illegal drugs, which has seemingly worked in some countries.

Since the federal government dictates the legality of drugs, B.C. chief medical health officer Bonnie Henry told Global that she wants to initiate “de facto” drug decriminalization.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04: Brooke, a homeless heroin addict, passes out in a park where heroin users gather to shoot up in the Bronx on May 4, 2018 in New York City. In an attempt to reverse the number of overdose deaths, New York City could become the first city in the United States to adopt supervised injection facilities also known as safe injection sites. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has moved to open four safe injection sites which he has called Overdose Prevention Centers as part of a one-year pilot program. The Bronx was the borough with the highest number of overdose deaths in 2016 with 308 residents dying. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Brooke, a homeless heroin addict, passes out in a park where heroin users gather to shoot up in the Bronx on May 4, 2018 in New York City, which could become the first city in the United States to adopt supervised injection facilities. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“What my office is looking at is how we can have de facto decriminalization for people who use drugs in B.C.,” Henry said.

“The federal government says they are very supportive on a number of issues but they are not at this moment looking at criminal code,” Henry continued. “But we cannot wait on the federal government to take those actions.”

Several American cities are toying with the prospect of opening a supervised injection site. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is backing such a facility while San Francisco is also interested. Last November, Denver wanted to become become the first U.S. city to open an injection site when its city council approved one as a pilot project; but the state government has not approved its operation.

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