Life / Health

Justice minister says public emergency declaration won't help fentanyl problem

CALGARY — Alberta's Justice Minister says work needs to be done fast — and on all fronts — to combat the use of fentanyl.

Kathleen Ganley spoke to reporters at the start of a national conference on the deadly drug in Calgary.

The symposium, for law enforcement, health-care and community workers, heads to Edmonton later in the week.

Ganley says fentanyl is posing a significant challenge across the country and it's critical for all agencies work together to combat the opiod.

But she says it's not necessary for Alberta to follow the lead of British Columbia and declare a public health emergency.

B.C.'s chief health officer declared a public health emergency earlier this year, after an alarming number of fentanyl overdose deaths in the province.

Ganley says declaring a health emergency should be reserved for when there's an outbreak of a communicable disease because police get increased powers, such as the right to enter homes without a search warrant.

"None of those powers will assist us in this," she said.

"It's much more helpful, I think, to continue assuring that we can address that demand side in addition to the supply side" of the fentanyl market, she said.

Calgary legislature member Mike Ellis said he has been calling for the province to declare an emergency for the past year over fentanyl.

"I do not see how more education and letting people know that we are literally in a crisis right now can do any harm," Ellis said.

There were 159 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta in the first six months of this year, compared with 139 over the same time period last year.

(CFFR)