thumb-2023-09-08-manitoba-pc This article is more than 8 months old

Manitoba PC Candidate Claims NDP Wants to Give Away ‘Free Heroin For Criminals’

Community groups say Manitoba PC candidate’s rhetoric is demonizing drug users and putting their safety at risk

One of Heather Stefanson’s Manitoba PC candidates is demonizing drug users as “criminals” and claiming the Manitoba NDP is giving away “free heroin,” prompting local community groups to accuse the PC’s of putting lives at risk by “fear mongering.”

Saima Aziz, the PC candidate for the Winnipeg-area riding of St.Vital said that the NDP plans to give away “free heroin” and “provide safe consumption sites” for criminals in an interview broadcasted on a local YouTube channel.

“Their plan is to provide free heroin, hard drugs, for the criminals, and they will provide safe consumption sites for criminals,” Aziz said in an interview with the U Multicultural channel last month.

Aziz goes on to ask what will become of Manitoba if these plans follow through.

“If they will provide free heroin, if they’re going to defund the police, will Manitoba be a livable place? People will come here to live? Companies will come here to invest? No way,” Aziz said.

Aziz also went on to use Vancouver as an example.

“Their government is not doing very well.”

“We are here for a better economy, governance, law, and order. We plan to make Winnipeg streets safer, improve the health system and better quality of life for all Winnipeg residents.”

Community members in Winnipeg say that the misinformation and fear mongering for political purposes only further stigmatizes people who use drugs.

“People have been trying to use fear mongering and painting people who use drugs as monsters for decades,” Levi A. Foy, the Executive Director of the Sunshine House Winnipeg told PressProgress.

“And all that it does is that it creates stigma and it creates unsafe environments for people who use drugs.”

The Sunshine House is a community drop-in and resource centre and also operates an overdose prevention site in Winnipeg.

“We don’t only talk about drug users and people who use drugs as criminals, we treat people who use drugs as criminals. We treat them as inherently bad and needing to be policed and needing to be fixed in whatever way,” Foy said.

“That’s a fundamentally flawed approach, in many ways. You can’t police yourself out of that problem. It’s a public health problem.”

Foy says politician’s platforms on drug policy often ignore the evidence.

“Many of these people who are campaigning on this moral panic are doing it in spite of all of the evidence.”

“Really simple cost effective kinds of public health interventions raise the overall positive health outcomes for (these) communities. It doesn’t make any sense to be creating policy or to be campaigning on the demise of large swaths of your population.”

Foy adds that while politicians often talk about public safety, they neglect many people in their definitions of who is or isn’t deserving of it.

“Safety never really means safety for all people. It usually implies protecting the wealthy, protecting those with resources and those in positions of power from those without,” Foy said.

“It’s much easier to manage a social movement around the fundamental principles of hate than it is love and hope. However, those things don’t make Manitoba a more livable province.”

Overdose deaths in Manitoba continue to rise “dramatically” according to Manitoba’s chief medical examiner. At least 418 people died of a drug overdose in the province in 2022.


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Rumneek Johal
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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