Transcript: Election 2021: The Opioid Crisis | Sep 13, 2021


Steve Paikin sits behind a glass desk in the TVO studio. A softly lit blue background and the red, lower-case ‘a’ Agenda logo are behind him.
Steve wears a dark navy blue suit with a blue tie and a white dress shirt. He is clean shaven and has short brown hair.

Text reads, Election 2021: The Opioid Crisis.
@spaikin @theagenda

Steve says, WHILE ALL EYES HAVE
FOCUSED ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
OVER THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF,
THERE IS ANOTHER TERRIBLE HEALTH
EMERGENCY UNFOLDING: THE
OPIOIDS CRISIS.
IT WAS BAD BEFORE.
IT'S MUCH WORSE NOW.
WITH FATAL OVERDOSES UP 60% IN
ONTARIO.
JOINING US NOW FOR A CLOSER
LOOK, WE WELCOME Dr. KWAME
MCKENZIE, CEO AT THE HEALTH
POLICY AND NON-PROFIT, THE
WELLESLEY INSTITUTE AND A
PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO.

Kwame sits in front of a white wall. He is bald with a neatly trimmed black goatee. He wears a white dress shirt, a black tie, and dark-rimmed glasses.

Steve continues, AND Dr. HASAN SHEIKH,
EMERGENCY AND ADDICTIONS
PHYSICIAN IN TORONTO AND
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN FAMILY
AND COMMUNITY MEDICINE AT THE U.
OF T.

Hasan sits in a medical exam room. An examination bed and equipment are in front of a yellow wall behind him.
He has dark, side parted hair and neatly trimmed dark stubble. He wears a blue collared shirt over a white t-shirt.

Steve continues, IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU TWO AGAIN.
HAPPY TO HAVE YOU ON OUR
PROGRAM.
LET ME START WITH A BIT OF A
FACT FILE TO SET THE SCENE FOR
OUR DISCUSSION TO COME.

A graphic appears titled, A Growing Crisis?

Steve reads statistics from the graphic,
ACCORDING TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH
AGENCY OF CANADA, BETWEEN
JANUARY 2016 AND DECEMBER 2020,
MORE THAN 21,000 PEOPLE DIED
FROM OPIOIDS.
IN THE YEAR 2020, 17 CANADIANS
DIED EVERY DAY FROM OPIOID
POISONING OR OVERDOSE.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS NOT
RELEASED THE NUMBERS FOR 2021
YET.
BUT JUSTIN LING, THE JOURNALIST
IN MACLEAN'S MAGAZINE HAS
LOOKED AT THE PROVINCIAL NUMBERS
FOR THIS YEAR AND HERE IS WHAT
HE FOUND: BRITISH COLUMBIA
REPORTING THAT 1,011 PEOPLE DIED
BETWEEN JANUARY AND JUNE OF THIS YEAR.
THAT’S UP 33%
OVER LAST YEAR.
SASKATCHEWAN REPORTED 221 DEATHS
BETWEEN JANUARY AND AUGUST.
THAT'S ALREADY TWO THIRDS OF
LAST YEAR'S TOTAL DEATHS.
ONTARIO COUNTED 638 DEATHS
BETWEEN JANUARY AND MARCH.
THAT'S 57% HIGHER THAN IN THE
SAME PERIOD LAST YEAR.
ALL RIGHT, KWAME, HOW WOULD YOU
CHARACTER ADVERTISE WHAT WE'RE
FACING IN CANADA AT THE MOMENT
WITH OPIOIDS?

Text reads, Kwame McKenzie. Wellesley Institute.

Kwame says, WE'RE THIS A
VERY DIFFICULT POSITION.
WE'VE HAD A WAR ON DRUGS BUT IT
DOESN'T SEEM TO HAVE WORKED WITH
REGARD TO OPIOIDS.
I KNOW WE'VE BEEN GOING THROUGH
THE PANDEMIC AND WE'VE BEEN
WORRIED ABOUT COVID, OBVIOUSLY
FOR GOOD REASON.
BUT IN SOME PLACES, SUCH AS
B.C., MORE PEOPLE HAVE DIED IN
THE LAST YEAR FROM OPIOID
ADDICTIONS THAN COVID-19.
SO, WHEN WE START THINKING ABOUT
IT IN THOSE TERMS YOU CAN SEE
THAT WE'RE IN A REALLY BAD PLACE
WITH REGARD TO OPIOID DEATHS.

Text reads, A Silent Epidemic?

Steve says, HASAN SHEIKH, TO WHAT
EXTENT DO YOU THINK THE PANDEMIC, THE
COVID-19 PANDEMIC THAT IS, HAS MADE THE
OPIOID SITUATION EVEN WORSE THAN IT
MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN?

Text reads, Hasan Sheikh. University of Toronto.

Hasan says, IT HAS CERTIANLY
MADE THE ALREADY DIRE SITUATION
MUCH WORSE.
YOU PUT OUT SOME NUMBERS THERE.
WHEN I TALK TO MY PATIENTS, IT'S
BEEN A DESPERATE SITUATION FOR
THEM.
YOU KNOW, THE PANDEMIC HAS MADE
US ALL SCARED AND MORE ANXIOUS.
THAT'S WHEN PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS
ARE AT THEIR MOST VULNERABLE.
AND IN ADDITION, WE'VE ASKED
PEOPLE TO ACTUALLY SOCIALLY
ISOLATE AT THIS TIME.
SO, THEY'VE LOST WHATEVER, YOU
KNOW, MINIMAL SOCIAL SUPPORTS
THEY HAD.
AND THEY'RE USING A LOAN AND
THAT'S AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
TIME FOR PEOPLE.

Text reads, Election Canada 2021.

Steve says, THERE WAS A QUESTION
LAST WEEK IN THE ENGLISH
LANGUAGE LEADERS DEBATE WHICH
RELATED TO THE OPIOID SITUATION.
ARE YOU, KWAME, TO YOU FIRST,
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE
AMOUNT OF ATTENTION THE OPIOID
CRISIS HAS RECEIVED DURING THE
ELECTION CAMPAIGN?

Kwame says, WELL, AS A MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE,
I ALWAYS LIKE THERE TO BE
MORE ATTENTION TO MENTAL HEALTH.
BUT I DON’T WANT IT JUST TO BE DURING THE
CAMPAIGN.
I WANT SOME FOCUS ON MENTAL
HEALTH NOW AND FOCUS ON MENTAL
HEALTH FOR WHOEVER GETS INTO POWER
AFTERWARDS.
SO, I ALWAYS WANT THERE TO BE
MORE TALKED ABOUT BUT I DON'T
WANT IT TO JUST BE IN THE
CONTEXT OF AN ELECTION.
I WANT IT TO LEAD TO REAL
CHANGE.

Steve says, APPRECIATE YOUR
POSITION.
HASAN, HOW ABOUT FOR YOU?
OBVIOUSLY MYRIAD ISSUES OUT
THERE THAT THE CANDIDATES, THE
LEADERS HAVE TO CONSIDER.
OPIOIDS DID COME UP IN THE
DEBATE.
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THAT?

Hasan says, I REALLY HAVE NOT
BEEN SATISFIED.
THE LAST 18 MONTHS HAS SHOWN US
HOW WE NEED A CENTRAL PLAN WHEN
IT COMES TO A PUBLIC HEALTH
EMERGENCY AND THE OPIOID CRISIS
IS A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY AND
WE DON'T SEE THE SAME PROPER,
WELL THOUGHT OUT PLAN FOR THAT.

Steve says, ALL FOUR OF THE MAJOR
PARTIES RUNNING IN THE PROVINCE
OF ONTARIO DO HAVE THINGS TO SAY
ABOUT THE OPIOID CRISIS AND WHAT
THEY ARE PROMISING TO DO.
I WANT TO TAKE JUST A MOMENT NOW
TO BRIEFLY OUTLINE SOME OF WHAT
THE PARTIES HAVE ON OFFER.
SO, SHELDON IF YOU WOULD,
LET'S BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP
HERE.

A graphic appears titled, The Party Platforms: In Their Exact Words.
The Liberal party logo is on the graphic.

Steve says, STARTING WITH THE LIBERALS, THE
LIBERALS WOULD PROPOSE TO INVEST
$25 MILLION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
TO REDUCE THE STIGMA ASSOCIATED
WITH PROBLEMATIC SUBSTANCE USE.
THEY'VE GOT $500 MILLION IN
THEIR PLAN FOR A FULL RANGE OF
EVIDENCE-BASED TREATMENT AND
THEY’D LIKE TO REFORM THE
CRIMINAL CODE TO REPEAL RELEVANT
MANDATORY MINIMUM PENALTIES.

The logo on the graphic changes to the Conservative party.

Steve continues, THE CONSERVATIVES, THE SECOND PLACE
PARTY IN THE LAST PARLIAMENT.
WOULD INVEST $325 MILLION OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS
TO CREATE 1,000 RESIDENTIAL
DRUG TREATMENT BEDS.
LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOULD FOCUS ON
DEALERS AND TRAFFICKERS SAY THE CONSERVATIVES.
AND ALL POLICIES HAVE
THE REDUCTION OF HARM AND
PROMOTION OF RECOVERY AS THEIR
OBJECTIVES.

The logo on the graphic changes to the NDP party.

Steve continues, THE NDP WOULD IMMEDIATELY
DECLARE THE OVERDOSE CRISIS A
NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH
EMERGENCY.
THEY WOULD PURPORT TO CREATE A
SAFE SUPPLY OF MEDICALLY REGULATED
ALTERNATIVES TO TOXIC STREET
DRUGS AND END THE
CRIMINALIZATION AND STIGMA OF DRUG
ADDICTION.

The logo on the graphic changes to the Green party.

Steve continues, AND THE GREENS DECLARE
THAT THE DRUG POISONING CRISIS
IS A NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY.
THEY WOULD CREATE A NATIONAL
SAFE SUPPLY OF DRUGS OF CHOICE
AND DECRIMINALIZE THE POSSESION OF ILLICIT
DRUGS FOR PERSONAL USE.
LET'S -- YOU KNOW WHAT?
I THINK THE BEST THING TO DO HERE IS
WITH ALL OF THAT HAVING BEEN
SAID, LET ME GET KWAME TO YOU
FIRST, YOUR EXPERTISE ON WHAT
STANDS OUT FOR YOU THERE AS
BEING PARTICULARLY USEFUL OR
RELEVANT GIVEN THE CHALLENGES
AFOOT?

Text reads, A Look at the Platforms.
Kwame McKenzie. University of Toronto.

Kwame says, I’LL JUST GIVE YOU
A BIT OF CONTEXT IN HOW I'M
THINKING.
SO, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS
HAPPENED DURING THE PANDEMIC IS
THAT WE'VE HAD A SIGNIFICANT
CHANGE IN WHO IS ACTUALLY DYING
FROM OPIOIDS.
AND WE'VE GOT MORE PEOPLE WHO
ARE NOT IN CONTACT WITH SERVICES
OR WHO WOULD PROBABLY NEVER HAVE
BEEN IN CONTACT WITH SERVICES
AND MORE ACCIDENTAL DEATHS
BECAUSE OF A TOXIC SUPPLY OF
FENTANYL.
SO, WE'VE SEEN THE SUPPLY OF
OPIOIDS CHANGE TO MAKE THEM MORE
DANGEROUS.
THE REASON I SAY THAT IS BECAUSE
IF WE'RE THINKING ABOUT SAVING
LIVES, JUST INCREASING TREATMENT
WILL NOT DO THE TRICK.
BECAUSE A LOT OF THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE DYING ARE NOT PEOPLE WHO
WOULD BE IN CONTACT WITH
SERVICES OR WHO BELIEVE THEY
NEED SERVICES.
AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DYING
BECAUSE OF ACCIDENTS, BECAUSE
NOW THE SUPPLY OF PARTICULAR
OPIOIDS AND FENTANYL IS SO TOXIC
THAT VERY SMALL AMOUNTS WILL
KILL PEOPLE.

Text reads, For More Information: tvo.org/federalelection2021

Kwame continues, SO, IF WE WANT TO DEAL WITH THAT,
WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT
TOXIC SUPPLY AND SAFE SUPPLY AS
WELL AS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT
TREATMENT WHICH MEANS THAT WE
NEED TO REALLY, REALLY CHANGE UP
WHAT WE'RE DOING.
SO, WHEN I SEE -- AND I THINK THE
PLATFORM SEEMED TO BIFURCATE.
ON THE ONE HAND WE HAVE THE NDP
AND GREENS SAYING WE NEED TO
FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGE THINGS. AND
THEN ON THE OTHER SIDE WE HAVE
THE CONSERVATIVES AND THE
LIBERALS THAT SEEM TO BE SAYING
IN THEIR PLATFORMS: WE NEED
MORE OF THE SAME.
AND MY VIEW FROM THE RESEARCH
AND FROM ALL OF THE POLICY WORK
THAT I'VE SEEN IS MORE OF THE
SAME.
MORE TREATMENT AND ALL OF THE
OTHER THINGS, THAT'S GOOD.
BUT IT WON'T ACTUALLY SOLVE THE
PROBLEM.
YOU NEED SOMETHING MUCH MORE
FUNDAMENTAL IF YOU WANT TO
REALLY SAVE PEOPLE'S LIVES.

Steve says, OKAY, HASAN, AGAIN I'M
NOT ASKING YOU TO ENDORSE
ANYBODY'S PLATFORM IN PARTICULAR
BUT WHAT STANDS OUT AS BEING
PARTICULARLY USEFUL HERE?

Hasan says, I THINK WHAT
REALLY STANDS OUT TO ME IS WHAT
SEEMS LIKE AN ARTIFICIAL
DISTINCTION BETWEEN TREATMENT
AND HARM REDUCTION.
WHEN I THINK ABOUT ALMOST
EVERYTHING I DO IN MEDICINE,
IT'S ALL HARM REDUCTION.
WHEN I TREAT SOMEONE'S DIABETES,
I'M NOT CURING THEIR DIABETES,
I'M REDUCING THE HARMS OF HIGH
BLOOD SUGAR.
BUT WHEN IT COMES TO PEOPLE WHO
USE DRUGS WE SEEM TO HAVE MADE
THESE ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTIONS
WHERE YOU ARE EITHER FOR SAFE SUPPLY AND
DECRIMINALIZATION OR YOU ARE FOR
RECOVERY AND ABSTINENCE-BASED
TREATMENT.
AND I THINK THAT'S REALLY
DANGEROUS.
I WILL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE OF
WHY.
FOR SOME OF MY PATIENTS, THEY
LIVE IN SOBER HOUSING.
WHERE, YOU KNOW, THEY CAN'T USE
SUBSTANCES OR THEY LOSE THEIR
HOUSING.
WE HAVE A HOUSING CRISIS WHERE,
IF THEY DO RELAPSE THEY HAVE
NOWHERE TO GO.
AND SO, THEY HAVE TO CHOOSE
BETWEEN KEEPING THEIR HOUSING OR
USING IT IN THE BATHROOM OF A FAST FOOD
RESTAURANT ALONE, WHERE THEY'RE AT
HIGHEST RISK.
WE MAKE PEOPLE MAKE THESE
IMPOSSIBLE CHOICES.
AS OPPOSED TO PROVIDING A LARGE
SPECTRUM OF OPTIONS REDUCING THE
BARRIERS BETWEEN THEM AND
LETTING PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, GET
THE TREATMENT THEY NEED WHEN
THEY NEED IT AND WHERE THEY NEED
IT.
AND THAT'S NOT THE FUNDAMENTAL
SHIFT THAT I'M SEEING IN THESE
PLATFORMS.

Steve says, A COUPLE OF FOLLOW-UPS HERE.
FOR YOU HASAN, NUMBER ONE WE'RE
NOT IGNORING THE PEOPLE'S PARTY
HERE BUT FROM WHAT WE SAW IN
THEIR PLATFORM THEY DID NOT
SPEAK TO THIS ISSUE THAT'S WHY
THEY'RE NOT ON THE LIST OF WHAT
WE JUST ENUMERATED.
SECOND THING IS, THERE WAS A TIME
IN THIS COUNTRY WHEN THE
CONSERVATIVE PARTY WAS VERY MUCH MORE
FOCUSED ON PUNISHMENT AND SORT OF A
CRIMINAL APPROACH TO THIS, AND
THEY SEEM IN THIS
CAMPAIGN TO BE FOCUSED MUCH MORE ON HARM
REDUCTION AND SICKNESS
TREATMENT.
AT LEAST THEY'VE BEEN GETTING A
LOT OF POSITIVE NOTICES FOR
THAT.
HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT IN WHAT
THEY HAVE ON OFFER?

Hasan says, I THINK IT'S A
STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND I SAY
A TINY STEP IN THE RIGHT
DIRECTION IN THE SENSE THAT
THEY ARE SAYING GLOBALLY THAT
THEY EMBRACE HARM REDUCTION.
BUT IF YOU LOOK AT THEIR ACTUAL
PLATFORM, THERE'S A LOT OF
WORDING AROUND, YOU KNOW, LIVING
A DRUG-FREE LIFE AND INCREASING
TREATMENT.
AND WHEN WE FORCE THAT PARADIGM
ON PEOPLE, WE ACTUALLY CREATE
REAL HARMS.
AND SO, I THINK WHAT WE REALLY
NEED TO SEE IS A SHIFT TOWARD
A COMPREHENSIVE SET OF
TREATMENTS AND REDUCING THE
BARRIERS BETWEEN THEM.

Steve says, AND KWAME, MY FOLLOW
UP FOR YOU ON THIS IS, AND I ASK THIS QUESTION
GIVEN THAT YOU
WERE THE CO-CHAIR OF CANADA'S EXPERT TASK
FORCE ON SUBSTANCE USE WHERE
YOU FOLKS SAID IN YOUR REPORT, IT
IS TIME FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT IN
POLICY.
DO YOU SEE A PARADIGM SHIFT IN
ANY OF THOSE FOUR PLATFORMS?

Text reads, Kwame McKenzie @kwame_mckenzie

Kwame says, WELL, I'M
WORKING ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT
SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO WROTE THE
PLATFORMS HAD READ THE EXPERT
TASK FORCE ON SUBSTANCE MISUSE’S TWO
REPORTS.
IF ANYBODY HASN'T READ THEM,
THEY'RE SORT OF A WONDERFUL
GROUP OF EXPERTS WHO CAME
TOGETHER.
I WAS LUCKY TO BE ONE OF A
NUMBER OF PEOPLE CO-CHAIRING.
AND THERE IS THIS REALLY DEEP
THINKING ON WHAT NEEDS TO BE
DONE TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF
PEOPLE WHO USE SUBSTANCES BUT
ACTUALLY, SUBSTANCE USE POLICY IN
GENERAL IN CANADA.
AND THAT'S UP ON THE HEALTH
CANADA WEBSITE.
AND WE REALLY SAID THAT JUST
MORE TREATMENT AND EXPANDING
TREATMENT SERVICES IS -- LOTS OF
PEOPLE HAVE SAID, IS A GOOD
THING.
REALLY GOOD THING.
WE JUST DON'T THINK IT WILL
SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
THE PROBLEM ISN'T JUST MORE
TREATMENT.
THE PROBLEM IS DECREASING THE
NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO NEED
TREATMENT AND THE WAY YOU DO
THAT IS BY HAVING BETTER POLICY.
SO, LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE TALKED
ABOUT THE WAR ON DRUGS ENDING UP
BEING LIKE A WAR ON THE PEOPLE
THAT USE DRUGS.
AND SO, YOU NEED TO DECREASE THE
NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ENDING
UP IN PRISON FOR SIMPLE
POSSESSION OF DRUGS.
AND THEN SOME PEOPLE HAVE SAID,
WELL, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE ARE USING
TOXIC DRUGS BECAUSE THEY CAN'T
GET A SAFE SUPPLY OF DRUGS SO WE
NEED TO INCREASE THE SAFE SUPPLY
OF DRUGS.
AND SOME PEOPLE, INCLUDING
PEOPLE LIKE THE GLOBAL TASK
FORCES THAT HAVE BEEN OUT THERE
HAVE SAID YOU HAVE GOT TO GO EVEN
FURTHER AND YOU'VE GOT TO THINK
ABOUT REGULATING DRUGS,
REGULATING OPIOIDS LIKE WE
REGULATE CANNABIS, OR ALCOHOL
AND WORKING OUT HOW PEOPLE CAN
GET A SUPPLY OF THAT IN A SAFE
WAY.
SO THAT'S WHERE PEOPLE ARE
GOING.
AND IT'S THAT PARADIGM SHIFT OF
SAYING, WELL, YOU KNOW, WE
HAVEN'T ACTUALLY MANAGED TO DEAL
WITH THE OPIOID CRISIS BY THE
WAR ON DRUGS.
WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING
DIFFERENT.
AND WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT
WHETHER THE ROAD WE'VE BEEN
GOING DOWN IS ACTUALLY GOING TO
WORK.
AND IF WE LOOK AT THE PLATFORMS
AS I SAID IT LOOKS LIKE THE NDP
AND THE GREENS ARE TALKING ABOUT
THAT.
THE LIBERALS HAVE LEFT THE DOOR
OPEN TO THAT, SAYING THAT
THEY WANT A STRATEGY TO DO
A BIG STRATEGY TO DEAL WITH THE
OPIOID PROBLEMS BUT THEY HAVEN'T
DETAILED THAT.
AND AS YOU SAID IN THE PREVIOUS
QUESTION, THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE
MOVED OVER A BIT TOWARDS THE
CENTRE, TALKING LESS ABOUT
CRIMINALIZATION AND PUNISHMENT
AND PENALIZATION AND MORE ABOUT
HEALTH AND HARM REDUCTION.
WHICH IS A WELCOME STEP IN THE
RIGHT DIRECTION.

Steve says, HAVING SAID THAT,
HASAN, AND THIS IS A QUESTION
THE LIBERALS GET ALL THE TIME OF
COURSE AND I WILL PUT IT TO YOU
HERE, THEY HAVE BEEN IN POWER
FOR SIX YEARS AND WHEN YOU SEE
THE LIBERAL PLATFORM SAY
SOMETHING LIKE: INTRODUCE A
COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY TO
ADDRESS PROBLEMATIC SUBSTANCE USE
TO END THE OPIOID
CRISIS, HOW DO YOU REACT TO THAT?

Hasan says, YEAH, I THINK
WE'VE BEEN IN AN OPIOID CRISIS
FOR FIVE YEARS.
AND I THINK, UNTIL WE SEE
ACTION, THEY'RE JUST WORDS ON A
PAPER AND PEOPLE CONTINUE TO
DIE.
AND SO, I THINK I FIND IT A
LITTLE FRUSTRATING WHEN IT'S
BEEN THIS LONG AND WE'RE STILL
TALKING ABOUT CREATING A PLAN AS
OPPOSED TO ACTUALLY IMPLEMENTING
IT.

Steve says, WHAT WOULD YOUR VIEW,
HASAN BE ON THE ISSUE OF
DECRIMINALIZING ALL DRUGS AS A
MEANS TO ENDING THIS CRISIS?
WOULD THAT BE A STEP IN THE
RIGHT DIRECTION?

Text reads, The Case for Decriminalization.
Hasan Sheikh @HasanMSheikh

Hasan says, IT WOULD
CERTAINLY BE A STEP IN THE RIGHT
DIRECTION.
BECAUSE WE NEED TO START LOOKING
AT THIS AS A HEALTH ISSUE AS
OPPOSED TO A CRIMINAL JUSTICE
ISSUE.
AND CRIMINALIZING POSSESSION OF
SMALL AMOUNTS OF DRUGS FOR
PERSONAL USE IS NOT REALLY
GETTING US ANYWHERE.
IT'S JUST CONTINUING THE CYCLE
OF, YOU KNOW, MARGINALIZATION
AND PUSHING PEOPLE OUT TO THE
FRINGES OF SOCIETY.
SO, IT IS CERTAINLY A STEP IN THE
RIGHT DIRECTION.
BUT, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A
LEGALIZED SOURCE OF SUBSTANCES
WHEN IT COMES TO ALCOHOL AND WE
STILL SEE TREMENDOUS HARMS FROM
THAT.
SO, IT'S NOT GOING TO BE THE SILVER
BULLET THAT FIXES EVERYTHING.

Steve says, NOW KWAME, WHEN THE
CURRENT PRIME MINISTER'S FATHER
WAS THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA,
WE’RE GOING BACK ALMOST 50
YEARS NOW TO 1972, HE STRUCK
SOMETHING CALLED THE LEDAIN
COMMISSION, A MEMBER OF THE
SUPREME COURT HEADING UP THIS
COMMITTEE THAT WAS LOOKING AT
THE DECRIMINALIZATION AT THE
TIME OF MARIJUANA.
IT ADVOCATED THAT,
AND TRUDEAU THE FATHER DECIDED
NOT TO GO THERE.
IN 2019, JANE
PHILPOTT WHO OF COURSE WAS THE HEALTH
MINISTER AND THEN RESIGNED FROM
CABINET AND WAS KICKED OUT OF THE LIBERAL CAUCUS
SAID,
“DECRIMINALIZATION OF ALL DRUGS
IS NOT POPULAR WHEN YOU POLL IT”.
QUESTION: IS THE
DECRIMINALIZATION OF ALL DRUGS
ADVISABLE IN YOUR VIEW?

Kwame says, SO YOU COULD HAVE
MY VIEW OR YOU COULD HAVE THE
VIEW OF THE GLOBAL COMMISSION ON
DRUG POLICY.
SO, THERE HAVE BEEN NATIONAL AND
INTERNATIONAL COMMISSIONS THAT
HAVE LOOKED AT THIS.
AND WHAT THEY'VE FOUND IS THAT
WHEN YOU GO DOWN THE LINE OF
PROHIBITION, THAT THE MARKET AND
THE MARKET FOR A PARTICULAR DRUG
ACTS A CERTAIN WAY.
SO, YOU MAKE IT ILLEGAL AND SO
TRAFFICKING BECOMES DIFFICULT
WHICH MEANS THEY MAKE SMALLER,
MORE POTENT DRUGS.
AND THAT'S HOW YOU END UP WITH HOOCH
AND STUFF LIKE THAT.
IN PROHIBITION YOU ENDED UP WITH
SMALLER, MORE POTENT ALCOHOL.
IF YOU CRIMINALIZE OTHER
SUBSTANCES, THE MARKET PRODUCES
THINGS THAT ARE EASIER TO
SMUGGLE WHICH IS SMALLER AND
MORE POTENT.
AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE FINDING
WITH THINGS LIKE FENTANYL AND
THAT'S WHAT WE FOUND WITH JUST
ABOUT EVERY DRUG.
AND AS THEY BECOME SMALLER AND
MORE POTENT, THE NUMBER OF
PEOPLE WHO END UP WITH SERIOUS
CONSEQUENCES SUCH AS THE OPIOID
CRISIS AND DEATHS INCREASE.
SO THAT'S WHAT WE'VE GOT TO
THINK ABOUT.
AND THEN, OF COURSE, IF YOU GO
FULL LEGALIZATION, THEN PEOPLE
WORRY THAT YOU GET AN EXPANSION
OF USAGE OF DRUGS WHICH
LEADS TO MORE PROBLEMS AS WELL.
SO, YOU'VE GOT TO FIND THE SWEET
SPOT AND SOME PEOPLE SAY THE
SWEET SPOT IS REGULATION.
WHERE YOU LIMIT THE ACCESS AND
SUPPLY BUT YOU DON'T CRIMINALIZE
AND YOU MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE
WHO NEED THOSE DRUGS ARE
ADDICTED TO THOSE DRUGS CAN GET
THEM.
AND SO THAT'S HOW PEOPLE LIKE
THE GLOBAL COMMISSION HAVE BEEN
THINKING.
AND THEY SAY IF YOU ARE GOING TO
DO THAT, DIP YOUR TOE IN THE WATER TO START OFF WITH.
BY DOING IT IN A DRUG WITH
SMALLER AMOUNTS OF HARM, AND SO
YOU START WITH SOMETHING LIKE
CANNABIS AND THEN YOU WORK UP TO
WORKING TO MAKING SURE THAT
YOU'VE GOT THE LEGISLATIVE
MUSCLE AND YOU'VE ACTUALLY GOT
THE BUREAUCRATIC KNOW-HOW TO
ACTUALLY GET TO REGULATING
SOMETHING LIKE OPIOIDS.
AND SO, SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SEE
WHAT THE LIBERALS HAVE DONE OVER
A PERIOD OF TIME AS A SENSIBLE
STRATEGY TOWARDS REGULATION.
OTHER PEOPLE WOULD SAY IT'S NOT.
IT'S JUST ONE POLICY AT A TIME.
SO, WE NEED TO SEE WHERE THIS
GOES.
BUT CERTAINLY, IF YOU POLLED NOW
COMPARED TO WHEN YOU'RE POLLING
JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, I THINK
YOU'D FIND SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT
RESULTS ON THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
WHO WOULD SUPPORT FURTHER
LEGALIZATION REGULATION.
SO, I THINK IT MAY BE DIFFERENT
NOW.
AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, JANE
PHILPOTT'S HAD A PARTICULAR VIEW
AT A PARTICULAR TIME.
BUT THE CONTEXT HAS CHANGED.

Steve says, TRUE.
OKAY.
LAST 30 SECONDS TO YOU, THEN,
HASAN.
WHOEVER BECOMES PRIME MINISTER
AFTER THE 20th, WHAT'S THE
FIRST THING THEY OUGHT TO DO ON
THIS FILE?

Text reads, What Needs to Happen After the Election?

Hasan says, I THINK THE FIRST
THING THEY NEED TO DO IS EMBRACE
THIS KIND OF LARGE RADICAL
PARADIGM SHIFT THAT KWAME AND I
HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT HERE
TODAY.
I THINK IF YOU ASK ME FOR A
SPECIFIC POLICY, I THINK
PROBABLY DECRIMINALIZATION LOOKING
AT A SAFE SUPPLIER ARE THE
TWO MOST IMPORTANT STEPS.
BECAUSE THAT’S GOING TO PREVENT PEOPLE FROM
EXPERIENCING IMMEDIATE HARMS.
BUT WE HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO.

Steve says, HASAN SHEIKH AND KWAME
MCKENZIE, IT'S GOOD TO HAVE BOTH
OF YOU ON TVO TONIGHT, THANKS SO
MUCH FOR YOUR WISDOM AND
EXPERTISE ON THIS.

Kwame says, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Hasan says, THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

Text reads, Produced by: Eric Bombicino @ebombicino

Watch: Election 2021: The Opioid Crisis