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Nurses ask mayoral candidates to support decriminalizing drug possession

The Registered Nurses Association is sending letters to candidates in more than 20 cities, including Thunder Bay.
drug possession

TORONTO — The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario wants mayoral candidates across the province to pledge support for the decriminalization of simple drug possession in their communities.

The RNAO has launched a campaign encouraging candidates to support a harm reduction approach by following in the footsteps of cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal.

Their city councils passed motions urging the federal government to decriminalize simple drug possession under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

In Vancouver, the motion triggered a three-year exemption from the CDSA in British Columbia that takes effect on Jan. 31, 2023.

Under the exemption, anyone 18 or older will neither be arrested nor charged for possessing up to 2.5 grams of certain illicit drugs.

RNAO is sending letters to mayoral candidates in more than 20 municipalities – including Thunder Bay – along with local data, "so they know how their pledge can make a positive impact," it said in a statement Tuesday.

President Claudette Holloway said, "Nurses have been sounding the alarm on this preventable health crisis and offering evidence-based substance use policy since before the pandemic, yet we have continued to see the number of deaths, hospitalizations and emergency visits soar due to limited or no direct services and supports, and an increasingly toxic drug supply."

Data from Public Health Ontario shows that an average of eight people per day died from an opioid-related overdose in the province in 2021, an 85 per cent increase over pre-pandemic levels.

The Thunder Bay district had the highest opioid-related death rate in the province last year.

"Substance use is a public health matter, not a criminal problem," said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the RNAO. "Decriminalizing simple possession is a crucial step to remove the stigma associated with substance use as well as the barriers to health care that often force people to use alone."


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