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Feds won't decriminalize any drugs besides cannabis, despite calls from cities

A man prepares heroin he bought on the street to be injected at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The federal government says it is not interested in decriminalizing any drugs beyond marijuana, despite calls from Canada’s two largest cities to consider the measure.

As the opioid epidemic washes over the country, Montreal and Toronto are urging the federal government to treat drug use as a public health issue, rather than a criminal one.

Montreal’s public health department has just thrown its support behind a report released recently by Toronto’s board of health which urges the federal government to decriminalize all drugs.

A Health Canada report last month found that nearly 4,000 Canadians died from an apparent opioid overdose in 2017, including 303 opioid overdose-related deaths in Toronto.

In Montreal, the number of deaths relating to probable opioid overdoses was 140 for a period of a little over a year, ending June 30.

Thierry Belair, a spokesman for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, says the federal government is not looking to decriminalize or legalize any drugs aside from cannabis.

Belair says the government understands that stigma and barriers to treatment need to be reduced, and Ottawa has taken steps in that direction.

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