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Ontario warns Toronto to drop drug decriminalization request

ontario warns toronto to drop drug decriminalization request

The Ontario government says it is “100 per cent opposed” to Toronto Public Health’s bid to have small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use decriminalized in the city.

In a public letter addressed to Toronto’s medical officer of health, Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner call the request “misguided” and warned the agency against pursuing the application further.

“Under no circumstances will our government ever support your request, which would only add to crime and public drug use while doing nothing to support people struggling with addiction,” the cabinet ministers write.

The pair go on to say that decriminalization “does not work” but rather “encourages dangerous behaviour in public spaces” and compromises law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe. They also reference B.C.’s recent decision to backtrack on its own experiment with decriminalization.

“If Toronto Public Health fails to rescind its misguided application, we will be forced to explore all options available to us,” the letter says, without elaborating further on what those options may be.

The city made a request to Health Canada in early 2022 for an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The application was supported by both the Toronto Police Service and harm reduction experts and advocates. Similarly, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health has also called on the province to decriminalize possession of unregulated drugs for personal use.

The formal status of Toronto’s application has been the subject of confusion in recent weeks. The prime minister and the federal minister for mental health and addictions have both separately said that the city doesn’t currently have an “active” application for the government to consider. 

Federal Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Ya’ara Saks said earlier this month the request was “incomplete” as Health Canada was waiting for responses to questions sent months ago about the application. 

Meanwhile, the city said discussions around the request are “active and ongoing.”

Drug decriminalization has become a political flashpoint in Ottawa, with the federal Conservatives publicly calling on the federal government to deny Toronto’s request. 

Last week, the federal government approved B.C.’s request to recriminalize the use of unregulated drugs in public spaces such as hospitals and restaurants. While adults would still be allowed to carry small amounts of illicit drugs and use them in private, they could be arrested for using them in public.

This article is from from cbc.ca (CBC NEWS CANADA)

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