Thanks very much, and good morning to everyone who is part of this parliamentary committee.
Thanks very much for the opportunity for us to join you here from the city of Winnipeg. You're going to hear some repetition of the presentation you just heard from the chief of police in Calgary.
Winnipeg is like any other big city right now in Canada. We're not immune to illicit drug use in our community. One of the most significant challenges that our police and our community are facing right now is not only the presence of opioids, but of course, the rising presence of meth in our community. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly prevalent here in the city of Winnipeg. According to our police, seizures of meth this year to date are in excess of 20 kilograms, which is nearly double that of 2017.
Meth, combined with other drug addictions, is incredibly stretching the limits of the resources in our community, especially those who are struggling to keep up with the demand on the front lines. You're going to hear later, if we have an opportunity during questions and answers, from Chief Danny Smyth of our Winnipeg Police Service and Chief John Lane, the chief of our Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, who can answer more specific questions, given that they and their teams are on the front lines in their respective capacities.
We're also hearing from other community groups. Groups like our Bear Clan or community foot patrols are reporting the nightly cleanup of needles in various locations across our community.
Conversations that I've had with families have been, for me, very educational and disturbing. I've heard about their experiences over many years dealing with loved ones they're trying to help, and sadly, those who have been lost due to addictions. I've talked with families from all walks of life. Meth doesn't distinguish between the area of the city in which you reside or your family's income. Addictions and mental health really know no bounds. We're seeing that here in the city of Winnipeg.
I've been in office now for just over four years. Over that time, much of the country has been talking about the opioid crisis, which we are seeing here in the city of Winnipeg, but another disturbing and challenging story is emerging that I would like this committee to really hear loud and clear. That, of course, is the rise of meth use.
Meth is not a new drug to the world, but as I've come to learn from those with lived experiences, meth is highly destructive to the individuals using it, as well as to our community, in significant ways. Meth doesn't have the same danger with overdose, but we've been told the drug is, of course, highly addictive, and with excessive and repeated use can cause users to behave in ways that are violent and unpredictable.
I've learned from presentations by stakeholders that there are many impacts related to the addictions that come from mental health issues. What we're experiencing in Winnipeg is more citizens being directly impacted—and even more indirectly impacted—as a result of the actions of violence associated with the drugs we're seeing right now on our streets.
There is a key connection, of course, between mental health and addictions, but also, with meth, there is the connection with homelessness. We certainly hear from those with lived experience that they will use meth to simply stay awake at night, so they don't freeze to death in the cold weather climates we experience across Canada and in the Prairies.
In 2018, a new concern of mine is certainly growing. As we look at—and are now dealing with—the legalization of cannabis, the concern is whether or not organized crime is increasingly shifting its energies to meth. I don't have any stats to back that concern. I just raise it as something we'll be watching for in the coming months and years, if and when those stats are available.
In terms of statistics, what I will say is that both of our chiefs can hopefully provide you with some additional and much more detailed information about what they're seeing with their teams. But I will talk briefly about what the City of Winnipeg's actions have been to date to help with illicit drugs.
First, the Winnipeg Police Service launched an illicit drug strategy some time ago that speaks to a three-pronged approach: education, enforcement and intervention.
The City of Winnipeg has made land available to our provincial government for the Bruce Oake memorial recovery centre. It's still in the public hearing process for rezoning so I can't get into too many details, but the story around this facility has been widely reported. In short, the city has sold land and a facility asset to the Province of Manitoba for $1, for the purpose of long-term addictions treatment to be made available in a greater capacity than what we have right now.
We've also been supporting the end homelessness strategy. This is a United Way Winnipeg multi-stakeholder strategy to help those Winnipeggers affected by homelessness. As well, we continue to advocate for the destigmatization of those who are affected by mental health and addictions in our communities so that they can get the treatment they so desperately need.
The last thing I'll mention is what we are currently working on. The primary responsibility of our council, the city, governments, of course, isn't health care, but when we see a crisis with meth, we have to do what we can to coordinate and leverage the resources of multiple stakeholders and multiple levels of government. Our council has unanimously called for a tri-government-level meth task force. We've been having very positive discussions with local members of Parliament, including one our MPs who I know is there this morning, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, as well as with the provincial government. These discussions are happening, and it's our hope that we'll be able to announce very soon the formal creation of a meth task force so that we can better coordinate and align all of our energies on the ground here in the city of Winnipeg, in the province and of course from our federal government partners.
Luckily, when faced with what seems like an impossible task, our community can rise to the challenge. In the early 2000s, our city was plagued with arson and auto theft, and we came together to knock both back. We know how to get things done by working together. That's why I wanted to appear before this parliamentary committee—to make the case for us to better coordinate our energies and our actions among all three levels of government.
I have three requests of Parliament that I'd like to submit to you. I think they could make the greatest impact with the responsibilities and the resources that are aligned with the federal government.
The first, of course, is to create a national strategy on illicit drugs, which would include meth and not just opioids. FCM, who has appeared before your committee.... I'm part of the big city mayors' caucus, and we've called for a national strategy on opioids. I would urge you to expand that national strategy to include meth, because it is growing in cities, and not just in Winnipeg. You've heard from Calgary, and I know others, where a national strategy is required. We'll be there to support those actions and the development and the implementation of such a national strategy if and when it gets developed.
Secondly, strengthen border protection. We're advised that the drugs are coming in from other countries, such as Mexico. Of course, greater border protection—as is the responsibility of the federal government—to combat the importation of illicit drugs would obviously help.
Most importantly, my third request is to provide greater focus and greater resources on mental health, addictions and homelessness. As long as the demand is there, these other efforts will not be as effective. Resources are required in cities like Winnipeg. Our resources are stretched, and of course we really do need the support of the federal government to help with mental health, addictions and homelessness.
That being said, these are my introductory remarks. Chief Smyth, Chief Lane and I are available to answer any other specific questions you might have today.
Thanks very much.