While visiting Edmonton to promote the 2022 budget on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a shot at Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s decision to curb drug consumption sites in the province due to high crime levels and questions about their effectiveness in reducing drug deaths.
“We as a government have continued to push for safe consumption sites,” Trudeau said. “It’s unfortunate to see Alberta seems to be going in the opposite direction away from a science-based and harm reduction approach.”
“We know that municipal leaders like here in Edmonton are serious about supporting people through this terrible tragedy and backing those decisions on science and data because that’s how we get through this crisis.”
Trudeau also said that he would welcome the city’s application to seek an exemption from federal laws surrounding the possession of hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine.
Edmonton mayor and former Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi launched the application process for that exemption on Monday, citing the ongoing opioid epidemic.
“We will welcome their application when it comes into the federal government through the processes. I can highlight that we’re already working with the government of British Columbia on their application on a similar issue, and we’re going to make sure we’re grounded in science, grounded in supporting people,” said Trudeau.
As of 2020, Kenney has moved to close and relocate some supervised drug consumption. He said his decision was based on reports by an independent panel tasked with investigating the issue.
“It underscores the concerns that we have had about the negative impact on people and on communities as a result of at least some of the drug injection sites,” Kenney said of the report in Jan. 2020.
“They’re now more than injections … they’re just illegal drug sites. I think we see pretty much everywhere a marked increase in crime in the area of those sites and social disorder and negative human consequences.”
2021 was the deadliest year in drug deaths for Alberta since the province began to track the issue in 2016. The province saw 1,758 die as a result of drug overdoses.
Edmonton isn’t the only city that has sought an exemption from federal drug possession laws. In 2020, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart applied for a similar exemption.
The city even went so far as to approve of a drug buyers group that distributed free high-grade heroin and cocaine to drug users in front of the Vancouver Police Department.