British Columbia

Big city mayors release new recommendations to combat opioid crisis

Mayors from 13 cities are urging the federal government to lead a nationwide action plan to treat Canada’s opiod crisis

Mayor Gregor Robertson urges federal government to 'treat this like a national emergency'

Paramedics work to revive a woman who overdosed in a public washroom. (Fred Gagnon/CBC)

Mayors from 13 cities are urging the federal government to lead a nationwide action plan to treat Canada's opioid crisis.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson heads the big city mayors caucus (BCMC) that includes mayors from Surrey, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Hamilton, London, Kitchener, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Robertson says an important piece of the call to action is tracking the number of drug overdoses across the country.

"Many cities and provinces are not tracking the data. They don't know how many people are dying. We want to make sure the federal government pulls together an action table that treats this like a national emergency."

The BCMC's recommendations draw in part from the frontline experience of emergency responders and community workers. In part, they urge Ottawa to :

  • Prioritize targets for reducing overdose and overdose fatalities.
  • Adopt a pan-Canadian action plan to address the root causes of the opiod crisis.
  • Urgently address the four pillars of harm reduction, treatment, prevention and enforcement.
  • Expand efforts to improve the impact on Indigenous communities, with a focus on prevention and addressing social determinants of health.

The Vancouver Police Department released its own recommendations Wednesday. In an annual report, the VPD called for the federal and provincial governments to enact an emergency response that is in keeping with the scale of the problem.

"The development of a functioning system for addiction prevention and care has long been neglected," the report said.

Hugh Lampkin, the vice president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users says the efforts by various levels of government to try and tackle the crisis don't go unnoticed but also don't go far enough.

"Get rid of the black market, because the black market is what's feeding this, so if this isn't a topic, we're not really going anywhere."

British Columbia declared a public health emergency over a year ago, but despite that, the number of overdose deaths continues to escalate.

In March 2016, there were 79 suspected drug overdose deaths. In March 2017, there were 120 suspected drug overdose deaths, a 51.9 per cent increase year over year.

The BCMC is calling for a progress report by September.