Liberals acknowledge increase in opioid deaths since safe supply programs launched, blame economy and street drugs
The Liberals shift blame for the spike in opioid deaths since their safe supply programs launched from COVID to the economy.

Mike Campbell

November 6, 2023

The Liberal Minister of Mental Health and Additions, Ya’ara Saks, has acknowledged that opioid-related deaths remain elevated since safe supply pilot programs launched, and shifted blaming the COVID pandemic for the increase to the economy and flow of illegal street drugs.

Liberals acknowledge increase in opioid deaths since safe supply programs launched, blame economy and street drugs

In a response to an order paper question, Saks stated that despite the COVID pandemic being long over, opioid-related deaths “remain elevated.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) launched a number of safe supply programs in 2020 when opioid-related deaths were skyrocketing.  The programs are meant to provide prescribed medications as an alternative to the illegal drug supply. 

YEAROpioid-related deaths in Canada
20162,831
20173,925
20184,219
20193,716
20206,421
20218,015
20227,483
2023 (Q1)1,904
Source: Government of Canada Opioid- and Stimulant-related Harms — Canada.ca

However, the number of opioid-related deaths remain significantly elevated since the programs launched — and they can no longer blame the COVID pandemic for the spike. 

In her response to the order paper question from a Conservative MP that challenged the utility of the safe supply programs, Saks said “There is no one single intervention alone that will reduce overdose deaths and solve the overdose crisis. This crisis is being driven by a highly toxic illegal drug supply and a number of underlying socio-economic factors.” 

The number of opioid-related deaths in Canada have gone from 2,831 in 2016, to 7,483 in 2022. 

Between January and March 2023, there were 1,904 opioid-related deaths, which is an average of 21 deaths per day. This pace remains extremely high compared to the time preceding the launch of the first safe supply program. 

Inconclusive data

Curiously, Saks stated that there is evidence that safe supply programs work, but also admitted that “additional high-quality evidence is needed that address potential benefits and risks.”

Saks further conceded that her department doesn’t have modeling that predicts how many lives will be saved by safe supply programs. 

Since 2020, the Trudeau Government has committed more than $60 million in funding for safe supply projects across Canada.

Between January 2020 and March of this year, 23,823 Canadians have died from opioids. 

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