OTTAWA — The co-founder of a network of mothers whose children died of drug overdoses says she wants to speak with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre about his opposition to prescribing a safer supply of opioids to those living with addiction.
Leslie McBain of the group Moms Stop the Harm joined other advocates and Green Party MPs at a news conference Tuesday, and said she wants to tell Poilievre that she believes the practice of offering drug alternatives saves lives.
"I have asked that we have a conversation … so we can understand each other's point of view and hopefully find some common ground, but he has not responded," said McBain, whose son died of an overdose in 2014.
"I think that's actually quite important, the fact that he hasn't responded. I'm not sure what their point is in stopping safe supply … it makes no sense to us."
Poilievre's office did not directly answer whether he intends to meet with McBain or other members of the group, but in a statement a spokesman said the Conservative leader has met with "many Canadians suffering through addiction and those in recovery, as well as their families and support systems, to hear first-hand about their fight."
Sebastian Skamski also said the meetings are meant to "better understand how a common sense Conservative government can bring home our loved ones drug-free."
"This includes first and foremost ending Trudeau’s taxpayer funding of hard-drugs flooding our streets with cheap opioids and redirecting all funds to addiction, treatment, and recovery programs."
McBain said she plans to reach out to Poilievre again while in Ottawa this week, but remains doubtful about receiving a reply.
After the death of her son, Jordan Miller, McBain worked with several other families to form the group, which officially launched in 2016.
The mission statement on its website reads that it advocates to bring an end to what it calls "a failed war on drugs" in favour of what the families involved view as "evidence-based prevention, treatment and policy change."
For McBain and others, that includes offering what is commonly known as a "safe supply" or a "safer supply" of opioids to those struggling with addiction, although the federal Conservatives and other critics dispute that term, given the inherent risks tied to drug use.
Drug policy experts and advocates argue that such measures are needed to counter the poisoned drug supply, which they say is one of the main drivers of overdose deaths in the country.
From 2016 to 2022, nearly 35,000 people died from opioid toxicity, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Poilievre has said such policies are dangerous, arguing they lead to highly addictive drugs making their way into the wider community and continue to fuel addiction instead of treatment and recovery. He also vowed to sue pharmaceutical companies for pushing doctors to prescribe potent opioids and use the money to fund treatment programs.
Poilievre recently asked the House of Commons to reject what he called the failed policy of federally funding the supply of pharmaceutical alternatives, such as hydromorphone, in place of certain illicit drugs to combat the opioids crisis.
The Greens joined the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois on Monday in voting against a Conservative motion that sought to condemn the Trudeau government's approach to substance use and addiction.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press