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Federal government rejects Toronto’s request for drug decriminalization

The federal government has rejected a request from Toronto to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use after an increasingly bitter public spat over the city’s ask.

On Friday afternoon, Health Canada issued a statement confirming the request had been refused, something the Ontario provincial government asked the federal body to do on Thursday.

“Today, Minister (Ya’ara) Saks has refused the request, as proposed from Toronto Public Health, to decriminalize personal possession of controlled drugs and substances for people in Toronto,” the statement read.

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“She has determined that it does not adequately protect public health and maintain public safety. This includes concerns with feasibility and ability for law enforcement to implement the proposed model, protection of youth, and lack of support from key players including the Province of Ontario.”

Health Canada said it “remains committed to addressing substance use and addiction as a health issue,” and would partner with other levels of government to reduce harm.

Ontario earned Toronto Public Health on Thursday to drop its decriminalization application and said there were “no circumstances” it would support it.

In a statement of her own, Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa reiterated her stance that “decriminalization is one evidence-informed policy tool” to make it easier for people to seek help.

She said the federal government’s decision to turn down her request has only heightened the need to invest in “other available evidence-based interventions” in the city.

“Toronto Public Health remains a ready and willing partner to explore collaborative approaches on this important and urgent health issue,” De Villa said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford reacted to the news on social media with one word: “Good.”

More to come… 

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