Jagmeet Singh is doubling down on claims that the New Democratic Party would decriminalize personal possession of all drugs.
The newly elected leader of Canada’s federal NDP recently visited an overdose prevention site in Vancouver and says he witnessed the horrific toll of the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic.
“I saw that people’s lives are being destroyed while the federal government does little or nothing and it breaks my heart,” said Singh at this past weekend’s B.C. NDP convention.
“I saw with my own eyes the devastation of the opioid crisis.”
Singh – who worked as a lawyer in the criminal justice system for many years – added that drug addiction is a matter of social justice, not criminal justice. He also said federal legislation should reflect this distinction and implored the Trudeau government to declare opioid addiction a national crisis.
“To me poverty, mental health and addictions don’t sound like criminal justice problems,” he said. “They sound to me like a social justice problem.”
“That’s why I’m calling for the decriminalization of all personal possession offences when it comes to drugs to make a difference in the lives of people and actually bring real change.”
Singh has been vocal in the past about the need for decriminalization of cannabis and other drugs.
"People who are charged with personal possession offences are often those who are poor, often those who have mental health issues and often those who are addicted,” Singh said in September while running for the NDP leadership, adding: “what we need to do is decriminalize and work towards harm reduction, supports and rehabilitation.”
Just last month during an interview with VICE, Singh said it was “incredibly irresponsible” of the Trudeau government not to immediately decriminalize cannabis when plans for recreational legalization were presented.
“The signal's been given that [cannabis] is gonna be legalized but at the same time right now, people are still being arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated, for a substance that's going to be completely legalized in a short period of time,” he said.
During this same interview, Singh called for “automatic pardon[s] for an offence that’s legalized.”
“There also should be a path towards pardons,” he said. “People shouldn't have a criminal record that's going to preclude them from opportunities, like employment, traveling, maybe even in some cases educational opportunities.”