Pierre Poilievre makes “false statements” about drugs: Plante

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Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s office is criticizing Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre for spreading “false statements” about the city’s efforts to decriminalize simple drug possession.

His office wants to set the record straight about a “request from the mayor of Montreal” that the leader of the official opposition has been mentioning in the House of Commons for more than a week. After British Columbia backtracked on a decriminalization project, Poilievre implored Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at almost every opportunity not to “repeat the radical experiment” elsewhere, including Montreal.

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It also says Poilievre incorrectly uses “decriminalize” and “legalize” as synonyms.

“The national overdose crisis will not be solved by the Conservative leader’s false claims, and we encourage him to focus on concrete solutions,” Plante’s office says in a written statement sent to The Canadian Press.

For an approach similar to what BC has begun to take to move forward, the federal government must grant an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. BC earned this seal of approval from Health Canada in 2022.

However, Montreal has not made a formal request to Ottawa, “despite a unanimous position from Montreal municipal council in favor of this principle,” Plante spokesperson Catherine Cadotte wrote in an email.

The approved approach aims to avoid criminal records and imprisonment for people found with small amounts of drugs for personal use.

“Before changing the laws, it is essential to provide cities with more resources in housing, mental health, addictions and social intervention,” he said.

Questioned about Plante’s “request” and called to react to her cabinet’s comments, Poilievre’s cabinet stated on Friday that “the mayor of Montreal has confirmed her desire to legalize hard drugs.”

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A motion proposed by the Conservative leader, which was debated on Thursday, has similar wording. It calls on Trudeau to reject the “vote of the city of Montreal calling on the federal government to legalize hard and deadly drugs.”

The municipality has not supported the legalization of all drugs.

In 2021, Montreal city council adopted a motion asking Ottawa to allow the decriminalization of simple possession. Plante voted in favor and has since reiterated her support for the approach several times.

“People who use drugs don’t need a cell or a criminal record, they need care and a roof over their head, and that’s what we need to act on immediately,” Cadotte said.

Poilievre’s office maintains the same interpretation of the word “legalization” and its related lexical field without making any distinction with the term “decriminalization.”

Party spokesperson Marion Ringuette condemned “Justin Trudeau’s experience with the legalization of hard drugs.”

He said there is no doubt that the exemption granted by the Trudeau government “resulted in death and destruction, chaos and carnage in hospitals, playgrounds, parks and public transportation in British Columbia.”

However, it is unclear what would happen with a formal request from Montreal, if it ever materializes, as Trudeau has clearly said he wants to work with provincial governments on this matter.

“The city of Vancouver approached us wanting to decriminalize their city and we said no, we would not do that for Vancouver, that we work with the provinces and the public health systems,” Trudeau said on May 1 during the question period. “With respect to any other province, whether it’s Quebec, Ontario or anywhere else, we will work with existing governments on proposals that they may or may not have, to address the opioid epidemic. That’s all.”

When Ottawa granted BC its exemption in 2022, the Coalition Avenir Québec government said decriminalization was not in its plans.

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