News / Edmonton

Edmontonians gear up to challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at town hall

MacEwan University will open its doors for Trudeau's visit at 5 p.m. Thursday

Petra Schulz with Moms Stop the Harm.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Petra Schulz with Moms Stop the Harm.

Edmontonians will line up at MacEwan University Thursday in hopes of face time with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Moms Stop the Harm, a group of parents who have lost children to drug overdoses, plans to have 10-15 members at the town hall to challenge the PM on the opioid crisis.

“It’s very upsetting for us how silent he has been on this issue,” said group member Petra Schulz. “There are thousands of Canadian families like ours that are mourning the loss of a loved one, and the prime minister has not even spoken on the issue in the house.”

Schulz wants to see a significant funding investment from the federal government akin to other health crises, like the 2009 H1N1 flu scare or the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

“We need leadership from the federal government," she said. "What’s happening in provinces is a patchwork.”

Her group is also calling on the government to decriminalize personal possession of substances, so people who use opioids can have an easier time getting treatment instead of ending up in the justice system.

Local activist Bashir Mohamed hopes to ask what the federal government is doing to address anti-black racism.

Bashir Mohamed.

Kevin Tuong METRO FILE

Bashir Mohamed.

Trudeau announced in Ottawa Tuesday that Canada would recognize the United Nations' International Decade for People of African Descent, but Mohamed said he would like to know what the government's specific plans are to combat, or at least research, the problem.

“There is this myth in Canada that we either don’t have this problem or we don’t have a history of this problem existing,” Mohamed said.

“The first step of solving a problem is by recognizing that there is one. And for these communities, it’s extremely serious.”

Mohamed pointed to Toronto research showing black people without a criminal record are three times more likely to be charged with marijuana convictions than white people, and black children account for half the students expelled from schools.

Reports on police carding in several cities have also shown black Canadians are disproportionately affected.

However, national statistics on these issues simply don’t exist.

“There’s no real national research when it comes down to understanding this problem, or in general anything that really has to do with racism and discrimination in Canada,” Mohamed said.

Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the town hall will start at 7 p.m. in the university’s David Atkinson Gymnasium.

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