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Canada should open criminal investigation into opioid manufacturers, NDP leader says

Jagmeet Singh urges Trudeau to explore the possibility of charges against drug companies
Jagmeet closeup
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch an investigation into pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis.

Such a probe could potentially result in criminal charges and restitution for the public costs of the ongoing overdose crisis.

Singh made the call during a press conference in Burnaby Thursday, where he hopes to win an eventual byelection. He made the announcement alongside Leslie McBain, whose son died of a prescription drug overdose in 2014, leading her to found Moms Against the Harm.

"I hold the pharmaceutical company in large part responsible for my son's death,” McBain said in a press release. “Our family doctor bought the marketing line from the company and prescribed ever increasing doses of Oxycodone for Jordan's minor back injury. Eventually Jordan had to find the drugs elsewhere, and fatally overdosed.”

Singh said McBain’s story is sadly not unique in Canada.

“In almost every community across Canada there are mothers like Leslie who’ve lost a child to this epidemic,” he said. “The federal government should have declared this a public health emergency a long time ago and must ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

In August, B.C. filed a civil lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, including Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin. The companies downplayed the risks of certain opioids when marketing them to doctors, according the B.C.’s attorney general David Eby.

Similar cases in the U.S. have been successful, resulting in a total of more than $600 million in damages, according to the NDP.