Rory Leishman:

Rampant, out-of-control, drug abuse is a serious problem all across Canada, but nowhere more so than in British Columbia. According to the B.C. Coroners Service, “Unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in British Columbia for people aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents, and natural disease combined.”

What is the cause of this deadly plague? In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, Susan Boyd, a feminist legal scholar and distinguished professor emerita of the University of Victoria, singled out Canada’s drug laws which she derided as “the product of colonialism, Christian white supremacy, systemic racism and class, and gender discrimination.”

As evidence for this pernicious allegation, Boyd observes that “Indigenous and Black people in Canada are over-represented for drug possession arrests.” That is true, but what she does not mention is that arrests for drug possession are much lower than average among Asian Canadians.

By her twisted reasoning, Boyd would have us believe that Canada’s supposedly racist police discriminate against Aboriginals and Blacks, but not Asians. She, and other trendy academics like her, ignore all evidence that, on average, Aboriginals and Blacks commit more crimes than Asians and Whites.

By contemporary Canadian standards, Boyd is an academic superstar. The nonsense she spouts about Canada’s drug laws is symptomatic of the intellectual, moral, and spiritual corruption that pervades our universities.

Compared to Boyd, Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner of British Columbia, and her advisers on the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) are no better. Together, they maintain that the key to reducing the number of drug-overdose deaths in British Columbia is to provide addicts with access to a safer supply of opioids than the toxic drugs sold on the blackmarket.

In an informative paper published by the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, “Reckless: British Columbia’s ‘safe supply’ fentanyl tablet experiment,” Adam Zivo recalls that Lapointe and the BCCSU persuaded the provincial government in March 2020 to make opium, morphine, and even fentanyl available to addicts by prescription for unsupervised use in the community.

Has this so-called safer-supply approach to harm reduction worked?

Evidently not. Last year, four years after the safer-supply program began, the number of unregulated drug deaths in British Columbia surpassed 2,400. That was a new record, up from 1,775 in 2020 and just 334 in 2013.

In a report released on Nov. 1, entitled “An Urgent Response to a Continuing Crisis,” the BCCSU noted that 5,000 addicts are now getting monthly supplies of pharmaceutical-grade, prescription drugs through the province’s safer supply program, but an estimated 225,000 additional people in the province are still consuming illicit drugs. To remedy this problem, Lapointe and the BCCSU jointly recommended that the government start dispensing narcotics and stimulants without a prescription so as to “provide addicts with access to opioid and stimulant drugs on demand.”

That proposal was too much even for the NDP government of British Columbia. Provincial Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside promptly repudiated the cockeyed idea. In a letter to Lapointe, she made clear that: “Non-prescription models for the delivery of pharmaceutical alternatives are not under consideration.”

Like British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick have also established safer-supply programs. In addition, the Trudeau government granted the British Columbia government an exemption last year from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for the purpose of allowing adults (18 years and older) to possess up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs including ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine and fentanyl.

In defence of this policy, Carolyn Bennett, then federal minister of mental health and addictions suggested that decriminalization will be “one of the things that hopefully reduces stigma for people to feel safe seeking help.”

Reducing stigma is precisely the wrong policy. In an article published in The Atlantic on Dec. 12, “Destigmatizing drug use has been a profound mistake,” Keith Humphreys and Jonathan Caulkins, two of the foremost authorities on drug abuse in the United States, point out: “Because epidemics of any sort end only when the number of new cases declines, curtailing the synthetic-drug crisis depends on deterring people from using them in the first place. Destigmatizing drug use does the opposite.”

No doubt, decriminalizing the possession of illicit drugs and handing out safe supplies of powerful narcotics will help some drug abusers, but at the sure and certain cost of increasing the number of drug addicts and thereby making the crisis of drug abuse and overdose deaths even worse.

Massive publicity campaigns stigmatizing drunk driving and cigarette smoking have gone a long way to reducing these menaces. The same approach is essential to curbing Canada’s deadly drug-abuse epidemic.