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 where she 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.
Poilievre’s office has not yet responded to questions about whether he intends to meet with McBain or other members of the group.
She said she plans to reach out to him 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 in Canada 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 asked the House of Commons to reject what he views as 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.