British Columbia

Trudeau appears open to safe opioid supply proposal in Vancouver, mayor says

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared open to a proposal from the municipality to provide millions in funding for a safe supply of opioids to reduce overdose deaths.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart says on average 1 person dies every day from an opioid overdose in Vancouver

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with the Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart at the start of a meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday. Stewart said Trudeau seemed open to creating a safe opioid supply for drug users. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared open to a proposal from the municipality to provide millions in funding for a safe supply of opioids to reduce overdose deaths.

The city's health agency has applied for $6 million from Health Canada to allow for the safe distribution of diamorphine — a narcotic painkiller more commonly known as heroin.

Stewart said he found it encouraging that Trudeau didn't shut the door to the idea during a meeting the two had Thursday morning in Ottawa.

"[Trudeau said] that he wants to work together … and is open to having a conversation and then looking to us to lead, with health-care professionals, to try and figure out the best solutions to these problems," he said after the meeting.

"So I'm very encouraged by that and grateful."

On average, Stewart said, one person dies every day from an opioid overdose in Vancouver, where residents are calling for more urgent action.

The mayor said he was also pleased to learn Patty Hajdu is the new health minister, as she has experience with harm-reduction strategies and hopes to sit down with her about the city's proposal sometime soon.

Vancouver was the first jurisdiction in Canada to open supervised injection sites in the early 2000s and Stewart says he wants to keep exploring other innovative ways to solve its deadly opioid crisis.

"We're in a minority government situation and there's windows to co-operate, come together, build things that Canadians want," he said. "I want to make sure this window doesn't close before we deliver on these key priorities."

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