Addictions minister had ‘deep concerns’ with Toronto’s decriminalization pitch

Federal Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks says she had “deep concerns” about the lack of limits Toronto put on its now-rejected pitch to decriminalize the possession of illegal drugs — and the city health agency’s refusal to make any changes.

addictions minister had ‘deep concerns’ with toronto’s decriminalization pitch

Earlier this month, Saks told reporters that Toronto Public Health’s long-standing application was “dormant,” then announced its denial days later, on a Friday evening before a long weekend.

That came after she faced weeks of growing political pressure to abandon support for the policy.

The minister now says the proposal did not include age restrictions or limits on the amount of drugs a person could have in their possession.

She says she made the decision to refuse the pitch after she received word in early May that Toronto would not amend its plans to address the concerns raised earlier by department officials.

A spokesperson for Toronto Public Health did not answer questions about the minister’s description of her objections or the timeline of events.

Dane Griffiths said the agency was informed of Ottawa’s decision to reject its application on May 17, the same day it was announced publicly.

In a statement, he said decriminalization is but one “evidence-informed policy tool to help remove barriers to care.”

The email you need for the day's top news stories from Canada and around the world.

“I had deep concerns with the proposal,” Saks told The Canadian Press in an interview Thursday.

More on Toronto

The city first submitted its decriminalization request in January 2022 and updated it in 2023.

“Health Canada presented Toronto Public Health with a series of questions meant to address some of the concerns raised about the proposal,” Saks said.

Not only did Toronto’s application seek to decriminalize personal possession of “all” controlled drugs and substances, but Saks said it did not set limits on how much one person was allowed to possess.

“Having that threshold matters because it’s about personal use,” the minister said.

“As opposed to trafficking, which falls clearly under … the lens of enforcement, and Toronto didn’t set that threshold.”

“The application from Toronto Public Health also did not include age restrictions, unlike a similar pilot project in British Columbia,” she said.

“We didn’t have confidence in it, particularly when it came to young people.”

A recent request from British Columbia to scale back a similar pilot project in that province threw the fate of Toronto’s application into question.

More confusion was piled onto the matter when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed the Toronto Public Health’s application as not being active.

On May 7, Saks told reporters that its application was “dormant” and that nothing had come across her desk.

She said on Thursday that officials had heard nothing from Toronto Public Health for months, but then at the beginning of May, the agency informed Health Canada they would not amend the proposal.

On May 17, the news release announcing the rejection of the proposal said it failed to “adequately protect public health and maintain public safety.”

It also cited the lack of support from the Ontario government, after Premier Doug Ford and his ministers repeatedly vowed to fight Toronto’s application.

The rejection comes after Ottawa agreed to scale back the pilot project in B.C.

That province became the first jurisdiction in Canada to pilot the decriminalization of personal drug possession in early 2023, as a way to combat the toxic drug supply and overdose crisis by destigmatizing drug use.

It was limited to certain illegal substances such as heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.

In April, the Liberals received an urgent request from the provincial NDP government to recriminalize the use of drugs in public spaces. Their use in private spaces is still legal.

The change came in response to concerns from police and nurses, as well as backlash from the public and federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who blamed decriminalization for fueling addictions and overdose deaths.

“The Toronto proposal cannot be compared “apples to apples” with the model used out West,” Saks said, “where there are age limits and only certain drugs have been decriminalized.”

OTHER NEWS

19 minutes ago

8 animals which changed the world - from Lucy the Spaniel to to Tilikum the orca

19 minutes ago

Ghana president says Africa 'greatest victim' of Russian invasion's consequences outside Europe

19 minutes ago

Three Lions open Euro 2024 campaign with narrow win against Serbia as fans celebrate

19 minutes ago

Rod Stewart ‘booed’ in Germany after showing images of Ukraine flag and president

19 minutes ago

Emmanuel Macron facing bigger wipeout than Rishi Sunak is forecast

19 minutes ago

Sunday Euro 2024 Open Thread

19 minutes ago

Palestinians gather at ruined mosque for Eid al Adha prayers

19 minutes ago

RUTH SUNDERLAND: Labour will tax middle class

19 minutes ago

Daulton Varsho's fifth-inning grand slam leads Blue Jays past Guardians 7-6

19 minutes ago

Outrage after Caitlin Clark is whacked on the head by rival Angel Reese in latest WNBA dust up

19 minutes ago

Gov. Wes Moore's message of patriotism and service could be a blueprint for Democrats in a divided US

19 minutes ago

The oldest competitor at the U.S. trials turns in the swim of a lifetime

19 minutes ago

‘Inside Out 2’ Hits $155 Million in U.S. for Year’s Biggest Opening Weekend

22 minutes ago

Queensland set to roll the dice on Reece Walsh for Origin II but two stars from the huge win in Sydney have been omitted by coach Billy Slater

24 minutes ago

Switzerland Offers Putin Safe Passage

24 minutes ago

Eriksen scores for Denmark in draw vs. Slovenia, three years after collapse on field

25 minutes ago

'A basketball play': Reese disagrees with her foul on Clark

27 minutes ago

Producer/Actor Nick Pasqual Extradited From Texas To Face Attempted Murder Charge

29 minutes ago

Video: England 1-0 Serbia: Gareth Southgate's side take the points in nervy opening game with Jude Bellingham's crashing header enough to send fans celebrating into the night

30 minutes ago

Rory McIlroy showed true colours with comment to Patrick Cantlay's caddie before US Open final round

30 minutes ago

South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Sunday, 16 June

30 minutes ago

The 111-Year Record Ludvig Aberg Can Break At The US Open

30 minutes ago

Adele 'renovates her Beverly Hills mansion'

30 minutes ago

My children are my biggest achievement, says David Beckham

30 minutes ago

Katie Price 'has a fresh head and a strong mind'

30 minutes ago

Henry Cavill seeks 'parenting tips' on Father's Day

30 minutes ago

Min Woo Lee and Jason Day to represent Australia at Paris Olympics

31 minutes ago

Stock futures are little changed ahead of a holiday-shortened trading week: Live updates

34 minutes ago

Dak Prescott could ask for an incredible amount of money in new contract with Dallas Cowboys

35 minutes ago

Jude Bellingham's goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024 after fans clash

35 minutes ago

Chris Jones is pleased with the chemistry he has had with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce in training camps

35 minutes ago

Hundreds stuck in queues snaking around car park at Birmingham Airport

36 minutes ago

Weekly Money FM Podcasts: Navigating Reit challenges for Mapletree, Changi Business Park

36 minutes ago

Halfway mark of 2024: Our expert offers top stock picks in Singapore

36 minutes ago

Seinfeld star Hiram Kasten dies aged 71 after prostate cancer diagnosis

36 minutes ago

Blue Jays’ Garcia exits vs. Guardians with right elbow soreness

36 minutes ago

Donald Trump humiliated as he mocks Biden's mental fitness but forgets his own doctor's name

36 minutes ago

Rohit Paudel on Nepal's 1-run defeat to New Zealand

36 minutes ago

Angel Reese BLASTS Caitlin Clark, Indiana Fever after victory over the Chicago Sky: 'I guess some people got a special whistle'

36 minutes ago

Neighbours star Madeleine West reveals the 'terrifying' truth of AI as she shares her own deepfake nude: 'A disturbing new world'