Ontario premier against Toronto decriminalizing drugs

Aug 23, 2023

In a recent interview with Global News’ 640 Toronto hosted by Alex Pierson, Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke out strongly against drug decriminalization, saying the concept is the “craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I will do everything I can to fight this. Again, this goes up to the federal government. They cannot be following up with the request,” said Ford.

Earlier in 2023, Toronto updated its decriminalization request to the federal government, requesting for the Health Canada exemption to also apply to young people as well as adults, as well as to all drugs for personal use.

According to Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s Medical Officer of Health, the submission sent to Health Canada, co-signed by the city’s police chief and city manager, is a model created following a lengthy consultation process.

“We’re talking about a matter of health and a matter of human rights, not one that really is meant to be addressed or is best addressed with a criminal justice approach,” said Dr. de Villa in an interview. “That’s why we’re pursuing this route.”

In July, during a fight that broke out next to a safe injection site in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood, a bystander was killed after getting hit by stray bullets. Moreover, Toronto residents had expressed safety concerns about the safe injection site in the months prior to the shooting.

“I’ve directed our team to look into this site and to make sure they’re in compliance. If they aren’t in compliance, that’s it. They’re done,” said Ford. In addition, he mentioned that his government planned to make more beds available for drug addiction treatment.

Earlier in May, Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFLA) Community Drug Strategy Advisory Committee initiated a public survey on decriminalization.

 “It’s not quite the same as legalization, but it’s lifting that legal penalty for someone that may have [drugs] on them,” said Sara Tryon, program planner with KFLA, one of the committee’s community partners, in her interview with CBC News.

“Decriminalization is not the one solution that’s going to solve all of our issues related to substance use. We need to have a system in place that’s going to support addictions and mental health and all the issues that people are facing in our community.”

Sara Tryon, program planner with KFLA

Between 2014 and 2020, there was a 330% increase in opioid-related deaths in the region served by KFLA Public Health.

“Decriminalization is a new way [to tackle the crisis here] and can be scary. But it is not currently working, our system,” Tryon added. “And trying to make some changes for the positive is really where we should be looking and putting our efforts.”