March 2, 2022
Treaty 1 and Dakota Territory, Homeland of the Red River Metis, Winnipeg MB – Just days ahead of Black Balloon Day for overdose awareness, Bernadette Smith, NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, called out the PC governments’ inaction on the addictions crisis, introducing a bill that would force the government to be transparent and accountable on overdose deaths.
“Families from every corner of the province have lost loved ones to overdose deaths," said Smith. “Families and advocates were hoping that with Brian Pallister gone, the PCs would tackle this crisis, but Premier Stefanson is just repeating Pallister’s mistakes by ignoring the problem and leaving families on their own. Our NDP team is committed to taking a harm-reduction approach and fighting for evidence-based and compassionate solutions that help families.”
Manitoba has fallen behind other provinces that publish regular data. Smith’s bill would ensure that the public and medical experts have access to reliable monthly data on drug overdose deaths as well as information on type of drugs related to each death so public health has an accurate depiction of the crisis.
“The first step in addressing the addictions crisis is to publish accurate, up-to-date data that can inform good public health policy and save lives,” said Smith. “We need this data to be public so we can hold the government accountable for their inaction and continue to push for stronger supports for families who are struggling with substance abuse disorders. Time is up for the PCs to take action on the addictions crisis.”
According to the Medical Examiners report, in 2019 there were 191 fatal drug overdoes in Manitoba. In 2020, the number jumped to 374 – more than one a day. In November of 2021, the Chief Medical examiner release data from January – June of 2021, showing a total of 199 deaths indicating Manitoba was on track to exceed 2020 deaths, but no data has been published since.