Canada’s Trudeau calls for stronger federal role in fight against opioids

Canada’s Liberal government says it will step up the fight against opioid addiction by creating a new federal agency that will oversee the country’s $50-billion health care system.

The Canadian Council on Drug Policy says the move will help strengthen public safety, but some health advocates say it risks further stigmatizing the countrys opioid crisis.

The council, which represents medical professionals, health experts and community members, also said it would not recommend the creation of a drug-control agency.

The new agency would be headed by an independent body, but the cabinet has not yet decided whether to name it.

The Liberal government has been reluctant to announce such a new agency because it has not had a federal-level drug-policy strategy in place for some time.

Read more: Canada’s opioid crisis: Can the Trudeau government tackle it?

A drug-implementation plan has not been developed in part because of the delay, said Health Minister Jane Philpott, who has faced a backlash from the opposition for announcing a new health-care initiative this week.

“We don’t have a good plan in place,” she said in an interview with CBC News.

“We haven’t had a drug strategy, and I think there’s a lot of people that are waiting to hear about it because they haven’t seen the plan, because they don’t understand what it’s going to look like,” she added.

Philpott also said she hopes to have the new agency up and running in about six months, adding that it could include a “robust” enforcement system.

Canada’s health system is struggling to cope with an unprecedented spike in overdose deaths in recent months.

The opioid crisis has killed more than 100,000 Canadians, with many struggling with chronic pain.

In recent weeks, Ottawa has struggled to deal with the fallout of a string of deadly overdoses, including the death of a 25-year-old woman who died from a fentanyl overdose in Montreal on Oct. 8.

Ottawa has blamed the rise in opioid deaths on fentanyl-laced pills that were delivered by courier.

A few weeks earlier, two Toronto men died of fentanyl overdoses while driving in Montreal.

The latest deaths prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce a national public-health strategy in September that promised to help the country tackle the crisis by making drug-treatment programs accessible to the most vulnerable Canadians.

Last month, the government unveiled a new opioid strategy that focused on addressing the issue of overdose deaths and the public’s fear of the drug.

Trudeau said he was encouraged by the results of a pilot project in Ottawa that showed that drug-testing of drug users was having an impact on drug-related deaths, though he acknowledged that “there are still some people who are resistant to this.”

“I think we’ve come a long way,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“I think it’s time to get this right.”

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