Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says that Canadians struggling with drug addiction should not be sent to prison.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, O’Toole said that drug addicts deserve better services from the government rather than prison sentences.

“It is not appropriate to have very serious sentences for Canadians who have drug problems,” O’Toole told a reporter from Le Devoir.

“We must provide assistance to Canadians who have drug addiction problems and health problems like that. I am not for very serious penalties for a crime like that. “

O’Toole was asked to comment on a decision by Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel to avoid prosecuting people for non-violent drug possession cases. O’Toole only reiterated that he does not support legalizing any new drugs.

In August, Roussel ordered public prosecutors to only prosecute “the most serious cases” of drug possession and to consider alternative forms of justice.

“For example, where the possession relates to a substance use disorder, prosecution should generally be avoided where the offender is enrolled in a drug treatment court program or a course of treatment provided under the supervision of a health professional,” a spokesperson told CBC.

Public Health experts believe that Canada’s opioid epidemic is only going to get worse. In most parts of Canada, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for opioid deaths.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam has spoken in support of decriminalizing opioids as a means to combat the worsening crisis.

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