Ontario’s Health Minister and Solicitor General Urge Toronto to Withdraw Drug Decriminalization Bid

The officials argued that such a measure would exacerbate crime and public drug use, without adequately aiding individuals grappling with addiction.

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Ontario’s health minister and solicitor general are urging Toronto to retract its plea to decriminalize minor drug possession for personal use, branding the proposal as “ill-advised” and “catastrophic.”

In correspondence to Toronto’s outgoing Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Ontario’s Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner expressed firm opposition to Toronto Public Health’s pursuit of decriminalization, currently under Health Canada’s scrutiny.

“We note recent media reports indicating Toronto Public Health has not received a ‘formal indication’ of opposition from the province regarding your misguided request to decriminalize dangerous illegal drugs,” the letter stated.

The letter emphasized the province’s unequivocal stance: “Ontario is 100 per cent opposed to your proposal.”

The officials argued that such a measure would exacerbate crime and public drug use, without adequately aiding individuals grappling with addiction.

Toronto had petitioned Health Canada in early 2022 for a waiver under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Recent scrutiny intensified following British Columbia’s decision to curtail its decriminalization initiative.

“We are frankly surprised that, following British Columbia’s reversal of its decriminalization experiment, Toronto Public Health has not retracted its request,” the letter noted.

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Last month, B.C. Premier David Eby urged Health Canada to amend a prior exemption, reverting to criminalization for select drugs in many public spaces, albeit permitting private consumption.

In their letter, Jones and Kerzner cited recent failures of decriminalization experiments, cautioning against its encouragement of risky behavior and its impact on law enforcement’s ability to safeguard communities.

The officials also pledged to bolster oversight of existing consumption and treatment services in the province to ensure public safety.

Premier Doug Ford has vocally opposed the city’s bid, vowing staunch opposition.

Responding to the letter, de Villa expressed surprise, emphasizing her duty to offer sound health advice while leaving decisions to elected officials.

She defended the application, framing decriminalization as a health-centered approach to addiction.

Federal Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Ya’ara Saks described the city’s application as “dormant,” clarifying it had not reached her office.

Ontario officials reiterated their intent to convey opposition to the federal government, warning of further action if Toronto Public Health persists with its proposal.

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