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Ford calls drug decriminalization a ‘nightmare’ that will ‘never’ happen in Ontario

Drug decriminalization is an “absolute nightmare” that will “never” happen under Ontario’s Progressive-Conservative government, Premier Doug Ford says.

Ford made the comments to reporters on Friday amid a national debate over the policy, which was recently rejected in Toronto by the federal government.

“It’s an absolute nightmare. It would be a disaster,” Ford said.

“As long as I’m premier, we’re never going to decriminalize hardcore drugs.”

Ford praises Eby for policy reversal

Ford cited British Columbia as an example, which recently recriminalized the use of drugs in public places following a pilot project that sparked public and political blowback.

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British Columbia’s pilot project began in January 2023, but this spring’s reversal came after B.C. Premier David Eby expressed concerns about an “escalating situation” regarding public safety. This January, B.C. chief coroner reported a new record high in overdose deaths for 2023, the first year of decriminalization: at least 2,511 lives lost.

Click to play video: 'B.C. recriminalizes drug use in public spaces'

B.C. recriminalizes drug use in public spaces

Eby said that escalating situation included concerns about drug use in hospitals, and public places like restaurants. He concluded the changes were needed after the attorney general said a legal battle over the province’s own attempt to legislate restrictions on public drug use could be tied up in court for at least a year.

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“Addiction is a health issue, it is not a criminal law issue, and that principle is what the entire decriminalization project was about,” Eby said.

“But that compassion, that concern for people who are struggling does not mean that anything goes. We still have expectations around safety, public spaces, in the coffee shop, on the bus, in the park, on the beach.”

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Click to play video: 'Ontario warns Toronto to drop proposal to decriminalize drugs for personal use'

Ontario warns Toronto to drop proposal to decriminalize drugs for personal use

Ford praised Eby on Friday, saying he was “so proud” of the premier for reversing that “big mistake.”

He also thanked Ottawa for “giving the jurisdiction of that into the hands of the province.” The federal government recently rejected a request from Toronto to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use.

“What I believe in: we need more detox centres (and) we need more rehabilitation centres,” Ford said.

“But we sure the heck don’t need people shooting up and doing drugs in neighbourhoods like Etobicoke, Mississauga or anywhere in that case in Ontario.”

Ottawa had ‘deep concerns’ with Toronto’s decriminalization pitch

The Canadian Press reported Friday that Federal Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks had “deep concerns” about the lack of limits Toronto put on its now-rejected pitch to decriminalize the possession of illegal drugs.

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Saks said the proposal did not include age restrictions or limits on the amount of drugs a person could have in their possession.

Saks added she made the decision to refuse the pitch after she received word Toronto would not amend its plans to address the concerns raised earlier by department officials.

Click to play video: 'Opioid crisis: Are Canada’s ‘safe supply’ drugs being used in organized crime?'

Opioid crisis: Are Canada’s ‘safe supply’ drugs being used in organized crime?

A Toronto Public Health spokesperson did not answer questions about the minister’s description of her objections, or the timeline of events, but added decriminalization is but one “evidence-informed policy tool to help remove barriers to care.”

Ontario did not support Toronto’s pitch; it warned Toronto Public Health to drop its more than two-year-old decriminalization application.

Ford also wrote a letter recently to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking Ottawa to stop approving new sites that supply safe opioids, while seeking a review of the Health Canada-approved sites across the country.

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— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton, Simon Little and The Canadian Press

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