If anyone doubted the fact that Premier Jason Kenney, and soon to be stepping down as leader of the not-so United Conservative Party, won’t go away quietly, if at all, need only see his May 31 reaction to the decriminalization of some hard drugs in British Columbia.
It also should the definite difference between those who think more conservatively and liberally.
Kenney has decided to weigh in on British Columbia’s decision to decriminalize possession of a limited amount of hard drugs (2.5 grams) including cocaine, heroin, meth, MDMA (ecstasy) and fentanyl. The provincial government in B.C. had asked for and been granted exemption from the federal government’s drug laws. It is in effect Jan. 31 2023 and expires Jan. 31, 2026.
B.C. is the first place in Canada to be exempt from laws although there was private member’s bill from NDP MP Gord Johns to decriminalize across the country.
The B.C. government and experts in drug addiction and mental health say that decriminalizing the drugs (B.C. had initially asked for a 4.5 grams exemption) will destigmatize drug use and scare drug users from getting help with their addictions. According to media reports, the number of people who have passed from drug overdoses is close to 10,000 since 2016.
B.C. was desperate. To them, the old system of law was not working.
Addiction according to Merriam-Webster, the definition of addiction is “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.”
In other words, a lot of drug addicts are predisposed to non-stop repeated use so once they try it, the brain can’t have enough drugs unless treated. This involves psychology, mental health, medical health, volunteer efforts by many people trying to help those directly and indirectly affected by hardcore drug use.
It is painful for both the user and loved ones who watch many see money, self esteem, life opportunities sail away.
Kenney demonstrated no compassion or sympathy for those affect has he made a special point of denouncing it and those affected:
“Many cities across Canada have existed in a defacto state of drug decriminalization for years now. The de-policing of areas in major cities like Vancouver has led to significant increases in disorder, crime, drug use and death. These Liberal-NDP policies are clearly not working.
“Alberta’s government will never allow our communities to become sanctuaries for cartels and drug traffickers. This action will likely result in a dramatic increase in drug use, violence, trafficking and addiction – something that health systems are already overburdened with.
“Our government supports dealing with addiction as a health-care issue while keeping our communities safe. We should never have to choose between the two. We have spent the past three years putting in place unprecedented resources to fund and create treatment services so that people with the illness of addiction can get their lives back.
“As a neighbouring province, the Government of Alberta is alarmed by this announcement to decriminalize and we will be monitoring the situation very closely.”
Reaction to the Premier’s comments was swift.
“Premier Kenney likes to quote statistics. Well, a statistic he left out is that here in Alberta, 2021 was our deadliest year yet for fatal drug poisonings and it looks like 2022 will be worse,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “The reality is that under his government’s leadership, Albertans are dying in record numbers: five people every single day…Hollow talk of abstinence-only ‘recovery,’ while doubling down on ideological rhetoric far removed from the reality of those in our communities does not and will not save lives. Our governments must act decisively, by supporting harm reduction efforts, safe consumption services, safe supply and by moving forward with decriminalization.”
This is not going to be a quick process. It will take time. Even pro-decriminalization advocators say the 2.5 grams isn’t enough to make as much of an impact because many drug users buy more than that.
As someone who supposedly stepping down as leader, Kenney is still allowed to have an opinion and people can make their own decisions about how relevant his opinion is now.
However, Kenney’s statement does shed light on many who share the conservative view that all drug users are criminals, all users should be jailed as opposed to rehabilitated and that more police are needed as opposed to those who can help with psychological issues.
It’s all another sign that the world, especially those in government need to develop more compassion and realize that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. Sit down, generate and talk with people to fix a problem throwing the book at them.
(Ryan Dahlman is the editor of Prairie Post East, Prairie Post West and the 40-Mile Commentator)