IN THE NEWS- NDP MP Gord Johns calls for audit of government’s response to toxic drug crisis

OTTAWA – Yesterday, the Public Health Agency of Canada published updated data and modelling projections demonstrating the devastating toll the toxic drug crisis continues to have on families and communities across the country.

Between January 2016 and June 2022, 32,632 Canadians have died due to drug poisoning. The data shows that another 4,100 people may lose their lives in the first half of 2023 if urgent action isn’t taken.

“The Liberal government knows it needs to do more to turn the tide on this tragic crisis but continues to drag its feet because of stigma,” said MP Gord Johns, the NDP’s Critic for Mental Health and Harm Reduction. “Just like in June, this devastating new data has been released as Parliament adjourns because the government doesn’t want to answer for its ineffective response that has cost lives.”

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IN THE NEWS- MP Gord Johns stands with Nuu-chah-nulth people

Victoria-BC: Changes to federal funding distribution for language revitalization programs has raised concern for the survival of programming at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC).

The VNFC offers language classes to meet the needs of its diverse Indigenous community, including Nuučaan̓uɫ, Nihiyaw (Cree - Y dialect and TH dialect), Nedut’en Carrier, Dene, Dakota, and Anishinaabe.

Johns praised Nuu-chah-nulth elders, educators and learners, who he said are making tremendous progress towards revitalizing their Indigenous language, in spite of the uncertainty of federal funding from one year to the next.

“Now their language program funding may be cut by up to 57 per cent because of a newly proposed federal heritage funding formula. The formula fails to recognize that British Columbia has the highest concentration of Indigenous language and cultural diversity of any province or territory in the country, with 35 distinct languages and more than 90 dialects,” said Johns in his statement.

IN THE NEWS- Deaths increase despite drug decriminalization in B.C

January 31 marked the one-year anniversary for B.C.’s three-year decriminalization pilot project, where people using up to 2.5 grams of certain illicit drugs would not face seizures, charges, or arrests. But as 2023 saw a five percent increase in death rates, experts are pushing for expanding the prescribed safer supply to help users on their recovery journey.

While B.C.’s overdose death rate increased by five per cent since 2022, provinces that have not implemented decriminalization and harm reduction efforts as much as B.C. have seen an even steeper increase in fatalities, said Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns.

“We have the lowest increase of the four major provinces with the highest death rate in the country,” said Johns. “We need to be going the other direction and if we treat this like a health emergency and we filled those gaps, we would see those numbers drop significantly.”

“[It’s] unequivocally clear and unanimous in that criminalizing people who use substances causes more harm, especially when people are using toxic, unregulated street drugs that are poisoned,” continued Johns, adding that upper levels of government need to move faster. “There's a lack of coordination, a lack of integration to fill those gaps, and a lack of will to see this as the crisis that it is.”

IN THE NEWS- MP Gord Johns Firefighter Bill lands in Ottawa

Bill C-310 is currently working its way through the House of Commons. If passed, volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel will receive an increased tax credit, from $3,000 to $10,000. Many of our neighboring municipalities rely heavily on volunteer firefighters, and this bill would help to attract and retain volunteers. 

Gord Johns, an NDP MP representing Courtenay-Alberni in British Columbia, put forward the bill. The first reading of that bill took place in December 2022. BayToday contacted Johns to see how things are coming along.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be in the budget,” this year, he said. “We’ve had over 165 communities throughout Canada” send letters of support for the bill, municipalities “from almost every territory and province.”

Those letters, coupled with an electronic petition with over 16,000 signatures, were brought to the House of Commons as well. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs also supports the bill, Johns added.

“I tabled it at the House yesterday,” Johns said, referring to the January 30th session. “In the coming days,” he added, “literally dozens of petitions” supporting the bill will arrive at the House of Commons. These are the hard-copy petitions that circulated throughout various municipalities.

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