Premier John Horgan. (Abby News photo)

B.C. Premier apologizes, says he misspoke on comments about drug addiction

B.C. set a new record of 175 overdose deaths in June

B.C.’s premier is apologizing for comments he made Thursday comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the province’s ongoing opioid crisis.

B.C. set a new record of 175 overdose deaths in June, surpassing the record just set in May and about 5,000 people have died since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016.

Advocates have questioned whether the opioid crisis has been overshadowed by the pandemic, despite occurring for longer and with a higher death toll.

Horgan told reporters Friday that he “mischaracterized” the challenges of addiction.

He says he knows addictions come from a place of despair and trauma and he regrets that while trying to get a point across about two completely different issues he spoke longer than he should have.

On Thursday, he told reporters that drug users initially make the choice to use and then they become dependent.

“That’s not my point of view. I mischaracterized the situation and I regret that very much.”

READ MORE: Nearly 6 people died from overdoses each day in June as B.C. sees continued spike

Health Minister Adrian Dix defended Horgan, saying the premier has been a staunch advocate for those struggling with addiction.

Horgan said Thursday that he supported Canada’s police chiefs suggestion that small amounts of drugs should be decriminalized. He said the federal government needed to get behind a national plan.

“If you’re addicted, you’re not a criminal,” Horgan said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has also called for the decriminalization of people who possess small amounts of drugs, said there are many reasons why people use drugs.

“Nobody grows up thinking ’I want to be addicted to substances, I want to have a substance use disorder, I want to have this controlling my life,’ ” she said.

The B.C. Liberal critic for mental health and addictions said the comments are some of the most upsetting she’s heard and called on Judy Darcy, the minister of mental health and addictions, to disavow them.

“If the minister won’t reject the premier’s suggestion that people suffering from addiction chose this path, then she shouldn’t be leading this important file that, frankly, should be of much greater priority for this government,” Jane Thornthwaite said in a news release.

Karen Ward, a longtime advocate and emergency response communications co-ordinator with the City of Vancouver said Horgan’s comments take several steps backwards in the understanding of substance use.

“People are aware that they’re not in the best place,” she said. “They’re just not doing great, they’ve run out of options.”

Ward says Horgan’s comments show he needs to engage more with the drug user community to better understand their situation.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

opioids

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Roots & Blues announces ticket giveaway ahead of online festival

The festival is streaming free online this year, but those who pre-register can win passes for 2021.

Vernon business restores faith in humanity for houseboat fire victims

Community kindness leaves out-of-province father in tears of appreciation

WATCH: Lavington man chains himself to tree as crews clear space for child care centre

Crews began work clearing space for a new facility Thursday, Aug. 6

Rogers initiative ‘Step Up to the Plate’ to help Central Okanagan Food Banks

The initiative will deliver food hampers that will provide more than 1,343,000 meals for local food banks

British Columbians worried as end of COVID-19 rental supplement looms

Single mom struggles as supplement was her saving grace

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Penticton man wakes to wildfire, forced to evacuate

A wildfire sparked off the side of Highway 97 near Penticton on Thursday

Anti-gang cops probe Kelowna’s street-level drug trade over B.C. Day long weekend

CFSEU’s Gang Enforcement Team was deployed to Kelowna last weekend

Man allegedly wielding knife at Kelowna Superstore arrested

The 29-year-old Kelowna man has been released on strict conditions for a future court date

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Acclaimed B.C. actor Brent Carver passes away

Carver, one of Canada’s greatest actors with a career spanning 40 years, passed away at home in Cranbrook

Most Read