British Columbia

Surrey MP calls for emergency summit after wave of overdoses

Sukh Dhaliwal, the Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, said the goal of the meeting is to hear from experts and decide on the best solution for Surrey, which could include a supervised consumption site.

Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton wants all levels of government to find a solution for ongoing "medical emergency"

Vancouver Coastal Health is expanding Insite's hours in response to the overdose crisis. (Colin Askey)

A Surrey MP is calling for an emergency meeting between all levels of government — as well as police, health and advocacy groups — to deal with the city's ongoing opioid overdose crisis.

Sukh Dhaliwal, the Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, said the goal of the meeting is to hear from experts and decide on the best solution for Surrey, which could include a supervised consumption site.

"It's not about just one [specific solution]," Dhaliwal told Early Edition host Rick Cluff. "It's input from all people so we have the best solution for these wonderful people that are suffering from drug addiction."

Forty-three people have overdosed in Surrey since Friday, July 15. None were fatal, but 371 people in B.C. have died from drug overdoses so far in 2016. The province declared it a public health emergency in April.

Solution could involve supervised consumption

Dhaliwal said it is important to approach the the situation as a health issue, not a crime problem.

Sukh Dhaliwal is the MP for Surrey-Newton. ((Sukh Dhaliwal))

"When it comes to people that are supplying drug dealers, we can deal with them under the criminal justice system, but this is a medical emergency," he said.

In a June interview with The Early Edition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his support for supervised injection sites, but said that repealing a law enacted by the previous Conservative government that makes it hard to open new sites "takes longer than I would like to take."

Dhaliwal would not comment on his government's stance on repealing the law — Bill C-2 — but said he would support a supervised consumption site in Surrey if representatives at the meeting believe it to be the best solution.

"I believe that if we have to repeal Bill C-2, or we have to come up with different legislation, I'm willing to push this," Dhaliwal said. "I'm willing to talk to the minister responsible and working on this together in the House."

The Fraser Health Authority has said it is in favour of a supervised injection site in Surrey, but Mayor Linda Hepner has expressed reservations about a standalone facility in her city.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that he would prefer to work around current safe injection site legislation than repeal it outright. (CBC)

With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

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