Opioid-linked deaths are on the rise Canada-wide: Ottawa

Overdoses have been particularly bad in B.C.

The number of apparent opioid deaths in Canada in the first nine months of last year almost matched the figure for all of 2016.

The Public Health Agency of Canada released the grim figures on behalf of a special advisory committee set up to deal with the epidemic of overdoses from prescription opioids and highly toxic illegal drugs.

There were 2,946 deaths believed to stem from opioids across the country in 2016 and at least 2,923 from January to September of last year, the vast majority of them accidental, according to data made public Tuesday.

From January to September 2017, almost three-quarters of such fatalities involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, compared with 55 per cent the year before. Fentanyl can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Authorities have identified China as a leading source of opioids entering North America and Canada is working closely with the United States and Mexico to address the issue.

More than 42,000 people died from overdosing on opioids in the United States in 2016. Officials in Washington and Ottawa are feverishly comparing notes.

“We have had a tremendous amount of dialogue since this issue has hit both our countries,” said James Walsh, deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, an arm of the U.S. State Department.

Walsh is in Ottawa this week to discuss the opioids crisis with Canadian and other G7 counterparts.

“This is a global problem. Our point to our colleagues in the G7 and our other colleagues around the world is that, if you’re not seeing this now, this is a new paradigm, so you need to be prepared,” Walsh said in an interview Tuesday.

“We need to be shouting from the rooftops that this is something that you do not want in your neighbourhood infecting your citizens.”

Fentanyl is a challenge because even a small amount may be deadly and it can be shipped via postal mail — sparking efforts by the United States and Canada to intercept such packages.

The RCMP has been working with the Chinese Ministry of State Security to address the flow of synthetic opioids into Canada, supported by renewal of a memorandum between the agencies on crime-fighting.

Canada says the Chinese government takes a consistently strong official stand against trafficking in illicit drugs and supports international co-operation to disrupt criminal activities.

Walsh said officials must deal head-on with “the synthetics coming out of China,” but he too had positive things to say about diplomatic efforts with Beijing.

“They can do more, but it is working.”

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Just Posted

28 years later: Dunahee disappearance remains largest investigation in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Saanich could become the new home of the world’s largest gnome

Galey Farms could find out Tuesday whether it will host the eight-metre-tall structure

Victoria Fire Department advises cigarette safety after two fires started in one week

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

VicPD faces ‘significant pressure’ following Victoria’s 2019 budget decision

Chief Const. Del Manak says council continues to micromanage his department

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Most Read