You’re wrong Premier Smith; B.C. will win the war on addiction

Your chief of staff says B.C. has a “drug legalization agenda,” Premier Danielle Smith.” He adds that B.C. invests in treatment on a “very small scale.”

Those are fighting words, Premier Smith.

You are wrong on both counts. First, drug legalization is precisely the direction that every province should be headed. Drug abuse is a medical problem, not a legal one. Dr. Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes of UBC Faculty of Medicine says:

“If we treat addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue, we have a better chance of helping people who use drugs to seek treatment and improve their overall health. These types of decriminalization policies, which have been successfully employed around the world, also help reduce the stigma associated with drug use and promote dialogue among friends and family about an issue that’s often hidden or ignored.”

Dr. Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes image: Twitter

Prohibition has been a complete failure in harm reduction. In fact, the criminalization of drugs has made it worse. If all drugs were legal, the dosage and purity could be controlled and a lot fewer people would be dying from toxic brews distributed by criminals.

I suppose you are proud of Alberta’s Emily Murphy, Premier Smith. Despite being a racist, Murphy’s statue remains undisturbed in Emily Murphy Park, Edmonton. And Murphy is almost solely responsible for the criminalization of cannabis.

Murphy wrote under the name “Janey Canuk’s in a 1922 book, The Black Candle, and in articles in Macleans magazine (I saw the original Macleans article in the Calgary library.)  In it, she claimed that good white women were being led into lives of depravity by Chinese immigrants who drugged them with opium.

She claimed that cannabis users became “raving maniacs and are liable to kill or indulge in any form of violence to other persons, using the most savage methods of cruelty without, as said before, any sense of moral responsibility.” 

A year later, Canada added cannabis to the Opium and Drugs Act with no debate, not even mentioning it by name. To this day, the exact reason why cannabis was outlawed remains a mystery – at the time, hardly anyone was using cannabis.

Since Tuesday, B.C. has an exemption to federal drug laws that allows for decriminalization of small amounts of drugs. Now the possession of small amounts of drugs – opioids, cocaine, ecstasy, meth – will no longer result in criminal charges in British Columbia.

As for treatment for drug addiction, you are wrong again, Premier Smith.

While your government has built a $24 million recovery centre in Red Deer, with 75 beds and a second will open in Lethbridge this spring, B.C. is doing a better job.

Alberta’s treatment-recovery beds will increase from 1,000 five years ago to 1,900. In B.C., we have 3,272 substance-use beds as of last June, up from 2,900 in 2017.

I welcome a competition between provinces, Premier Smith, but I suspect the comments of you chief of staff are just politics.

You are pandering to prospective voters stuck in the dark ages when people thought that making drugs and booze illegal would solve the problem.

Supplying safe drugs to addicts will save lives. More recovery centres will return the addicted to their loved ones.


Emily Murphy was a racist but her statue is safe, for now

Emily Murphy and John A. Macdonald were racists but Murphy’s statues won’t come down anytime soon. Here’s why.

image: Famous 5 Foundation

Macdonald may have been one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers but his reputation as a nation-builder has been tarnished because of his role in the creation of residential schools. His opinions now are offensive:

“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.”

The view that Indigenous people were savages was common. Seen from today’s perspective, those views are abhorrent. Macdonald’s popularity is demonstrated by the 18 years he served as prime minister.

If you lived at that time, you probably would have thought the same.

Oh no, you protest! I am an enlightened person. Our treatment of Indigenous people has been cruel. I would never agree to the inhumanity perpetrated on them.

Yes, you (and I) would. We are creatures molded by the times we live in, formed by the zeitgeist of our times. Like fish, we don’t notice the water we swim in –it’s all pervasive.

But while Emily Murphy was also a racists, her statue in Emily Murphy Park, Edmonton, will remain undisturbed -for now.

Murphy was a champion of women’s rights. She is responsible for winning the rights for women to be declared legal “persons.” After women gained personhood, they could become members of the senate. She became a respected police magistrate and juvenile court judge in Edmonton.

Murphy made no secret of her distain for Canadians of Chinese decent. In her 1922 book, The Black Candle, and in articles she wrote for Macleans magazine, she claimed that good white women were being led into lives of depravity by Chinese immigrants who drugged them with opium. In her book, Murphy says:

“It behoves the people of Canada to consider the desirability of these visitors – for they are visitors – and to say whether or not we shall be ’at home’ with them in the future.”

Why hasn’t Murphy been condemned for her views? Although we have been sensitized by the atrocities against Indigenous people, that’s not so for Asian Canadians.

We have not yet woke to our deplorable treatment of Asian Canadians. While the internment of Japanese Canadians is an historical fact, it is not part of the milieu of our everyday experience.

In 1942, 22,000 Japanese Canadians, the majority of them Canadian citizens by birth, were imprisoned in camps in the B.C. interior. We know that but it’s not much more than a dry fact.

The attacks on Canadians of Asian decent have increased.  Vancouver experienced an increase of 717 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2021. With 98 reported cases – more than all US cities combined – Vancouver was dubbed the “anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America”.

Eventually, we will become incensed at our blatant abuse of Canadians of Asian descent.

When the spotlight shines on Emily Murphy, watch as her statue is toppled and the plaque now reading “An author and a mother, she was a leader of social reform and political issues,” is smeared with paint.