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“Since January, British Columbia has lost 622 people to overdose deaths. This is more than double the number of people who died in car crashes last year. We are making a concerted effort to combat this crisis, but strong partnerships between all levels of government are essential to ending it.

“For the past two days, representatives from around the country, including people personally affected by overdoses, experts in addiction and public health, provincial and territorial governments and the medical community met with the federal government.

“On Thursday, Premier Christy Clark, Leslie McBain, who lost her son to an overdose, Mikaela Mamer, a recovery advocate who has dealt with addiction issues, Judy Robertson, whose stepson is undergoing methadone treatment for heroin addiction, and Marilyn Oberg, a paramedic on the frontlines in B.C., shared their stories, experiences and ideas, and urged the federal government to take immediate action. Our primary purpose was to put a face to the opioid crisis to show how these tragedies are affecting families in British Columbia and across the country.

“This morning, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott signed a Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis, which charts a comprehensive, national plan.

“As part of this, B.C. made it clear that the federal government needs to act on a number of items, including the repeal of Bill C-2 to make the establishment of additional supervised consumption services easier, and  federal legislation banning pill presses. We also need to speed up the approval of new forms of treatment for opioid addiction, so people have more options to find what works for them.

“The federal government must also help stem the flow of fentanyl into Canada by stepping up diplomatic negotiations with countries such as China and Mexico. As well, they need to properly equip the Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP with the tools and resources needed for border control and to get fentanyl off the streets.

“A nationally coordinated surveillance system is needed to track fatal and non-fatal overdoses and other drug-related harms, because, as we’ve learned in B.C., having good data is essential for targeting action when and where it’s needed and for evaluating our efforts.

“During the opioid conference on Friday, the federal Standing Committee on Health released a report on the opioid crisis in Canada. The report echoes what B.C. is calling for and we support the federal government in adopting the 38 recommendations and implementing a national strategy.

“This is one of the most severe public health emergencies of our time, and while the situation is most acute in British Columbia, no jurisdiction is immune. People are dying from overdoses in every province and territory in Canada.

“My heart goes out to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of this crisis. We are doing everything we can to prevent future tragedies and reverse the rise in overdoses.

“B.C. has committed to supporting work at the national level and to help other provinces to learn from our experience. Because we must work together to stop illicit opioids from taking more lives.”

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