In an online press conference last Wednesday February 17, Annamie Paul, on behalf of the Green Party of Canada, calls for Canada Day (July 1, 2021) to be the deadline for parliament to take action on decriminalizing use of illicit drugs.

Watch the full press conference here.

Annamie Paul opens the press conference with staggering news. “We have now just closed the record-breaking year for opioid deaths in Canada.”

“For our part we fail to understand why the federal government continues to hesitate in decriminalizing possession, and why it has failed to work to create a safe supply nation wide”.

“We support the calls from the BC government, and also from various municipalities across the country for an exemption under the existing Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but it’s a call that they should not have had to make. It’s something that should be done under the leadership and the initiative of the federal government” says the federal leader of the Green Party.

The Green Party of Canada is calling for decriminalization to occur within the life of this Parliament and no later than Canada Day 2021 (see full media release here).

2020: An unforgiving year

“2020 was an unforgiving year for not only every substance user but also their families, their friends,” says Guest Panelist Guy Felicella, peer clinical advisor at Vancouver Coastal Health during the online press conference.

“The sad, lack of infrastructure that we have is killing people every day […]. If we don’t act, each loss, each day, and each additional death is the result of a policy failure.”

Green MP Paul Manly stresses that these people are not statistics.

“In British Columbia we’ve had a health emergency that was declared in 2016. Thousands of people have died in British Columbia, 1,700 in 2020 alone.”

“These people are not statistics, one of these people in 2018 was my cousin, who I was very close to, who had schizophrenia, who was in and out of the criminal justice system when he should never have been part of the criminal justice system.”

“In front of my office, my own staff have had to administer Naloxone to somebody having an overdose crisis, right outside of our office.”

Lack of back-end services for those suffering from addiction

Guest Panelist Felicella stresses the importance of trauma therapy: “A treatment system that focuses on getting people off drugs doesn’t always focus on the traumas that are involved […]. Until we address all the issues, we’re going to have the revolving door and the majority of people that tried treatment, that use again.”

Annamie Paul emphasizes the lack of back-end services.

“In Toronto Centre where I ran, […] we have people using the safe injection sites, […] they have an overdose and then they have to leave. They have to walk back out onto the street. There are no back end services at all, whether it’s mental health services, whether it’s ensuring they have somewhere to go and sleep”.


On February 11, Annamie Paul announced her intent to run once again in Toronto Centre in the next federal election. Ms. Paul came in second in the riding’s by-election in October, just 9 points behind Liberal candidate Marci Ien.

The Green Party was the only party in the context of the 2019 election to call not only for decriminalization of illicit drugs, but also for a safe supply.

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Sarah Cui

Sarah Cui is in her fourth year of undergraduate studies in Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. Her background is intercultural, having grown up in both Ottawa and northwestern China. Her areas of interest include environmental policy, degrowth and conservation. In her free time, Sarah enjoys connecting with friends, hiking, identifying plants and learning a new language.

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