Newly elected Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa Marie Barron, front, and Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson at a community event earlier this year. (News Bulletin file)

Newly elected Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa Marie Barron, front, and Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson at a community event earlier this year. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Barron to focus on opioid crisis, wild salmon stocks

Lisa Marie Barron receives critic roles leading up to parliamentary session beginning Nov. 22

With a Parliament session on the horizon and B.C. in an opioid crisis, Nanaimo-Ladysmith’s new MP says she will put Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task with her new duties.

On Oct. 29, Jagmeet Singh, federal NDP leader, named Lisa Marie Barron deputy critic for the newly created mental health and addictions file, on which she will collaborate with critic Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni). Barron will also serve as fisheries, oceans and Canadian Coast Guard critic, with Johns serving as deputy critic.

Far more people have died from opioid overdose than from COVID-19, Barron told the News Bulletin, adding that her party will push Trudeau to “do what’s right to finally address the opioid crisis.” A federal health emergency hasn’t been declared and the issue has to be seen as a mental health emergency, not a criminal emergency, Barron said.

“In order to truly begin treating the opioid crisis like the public health emergency that it is, we need to begin de-stigmatizing addiction and those who are struggling with substance use,” she said. “Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of substances intended for personal use, harm reductions supports, and safe supply are all essential to begin saving lives.”

Ensuring those suffering with addiction receive mental health support, affordable housing and “all those social determinants that help people get the support they need, when they need them” is also key, Barron said.

Having resided in Atlantic Canada and the West Coast, Barron said she has good perspective to serve as fisheries-oceans critic. The ecosystem faces many threats, such as climate change and pollution, and she wants to support protection and rebuilding of salmon and other fish stocks with assistance from “great leaders” such as former Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP candidate Bob Chamberlin.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done right now to pressure the government for necessary investments in restoration, habitat, habitat protection and enhancing and resourcing our communities and Indigenous people with the resources that they need to lead these efforts,” Barron said.

She also mentioned that her party will work to support local fishers, their families and fishing-dependent communities.

“There’s a lot of work right now happening with Rachel Blaney (North Island-Powell River MP) for example, who’s pushing for us to ensure that we are considering just transitions for workers in land-based fish pens … while protecting our environment,” said Barron.

A current marine-related matter relates to the MV Zim Kingston ship losing its cargo off Vancouver Island’s coast. Barron said the onus is on the shipper for response and cleanup, but said her party will push for a tactical response team that draws from local resources and community groups in partnership with Indigenous communities.

“Because it’s a complicated process, it requires expertise and qualifications to be able to do this work,” she said. “We want to make sure that it’s done properly and we actually do have the local and Indigenous knowledge and organizations to be able to do it.”

Barron said she will to work along provincial counterpart, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson, who worked on marine-related legislation when she was MP between 2015-19.

“I’m a big believer in looking to those who have experience and leadership in these areas, and then continuing to work in building off that, so Sheila has been doing a lot of work in this area,” said Barron. “And absolutely, I will be looking to Sheila to transfer information and to help provide her thoughts and to work together in the best way possible to protect our coasts together.”

Barron said she will be headed to Ottawa this week. The next parliamentary session begins Nov. 22.

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