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B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe retiring, sad about lack of sway on overdose policy

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe speaks during a press conference at the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Dec. 19, 2016. Lapointe has announced she is leaving her post after 13 years, deeply saddened the province has been unable to reduce the 'tragic impacts' of toxic drugs on thousands of people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — British Columbia's Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says she's leaving her post after 13 years, saddened by her agency's inability to sway policies to reduce the "tragic impacts" of toxic drugs on thousands of people.

The B.C. Coroners Service had been "forever altered" by the public health emergency that continued to take the lives of people of all ages across the province, including more than 2,000 deaths so far this year, Lapointe said in a statement Wednesday.

B.C. declared a drug overdose public health emergency in April 2016. Latest numbers show the loss of 13,317 lives, at a current rate of more than six people a day.

"(It) deeply saddens me that we have been unable to influence the essential change necessary to reduce the tragic impacts of toxic drugs on so many thousands of our family members, friends and colleagues across the province," she said. 

Recommendations by coroners service death-review panels, including providing a safe supply of drugs without prescription, are needed to end the overdose crisis, said Lapointe.

But the B.C. government rejected those recommendations last month, minutes before Lapointe was set to deliver a report on them at a news conference.

"The measures recommended by the expert members of coroners service death-review panels are essential to ending this crisis and I will continue to support those recommendations post-retirement," Lapointe said.

Lapointe, whose third term ends with her retirement on Feb. 18, 2024, said she had the honour of serving the people of B.C. for the past 30 years, including holding positions at the coroners service, corrections branch and the civil forfeiture office.

She said the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General will initiate a recruitment process to choose her successor.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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