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N.B. opposition say premier’s comments on homeless encampment deaths lack empathy

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick opposition parties say the premier lacks compassion because he responded to the recent deaths of two homeless people by invoking legislation that could force the unhoused into addiction treatment.

Liberal Leader Susan Holt says Blaine Higgs’ comments at the legislature on Tuesday failed to show empathy for the two people killed in a tent fire at an encampment near a highway on-ramp in Saint John.

Higgs said that some people “just don’t want to come off the street,” in response to an opposition question about how his government would prevent tent fires at encampments.

The premier added that his government will table legislation to help people into shelters when their lives are in danger. 

In the fall, Public Safety Minister Kris Austin told the CBC that the government planned to table a bill that would give police the power to force people into drug rehabilitation in extreme cases. 

Both Holt and Green Party Leader David Coon say they are concerned that the premier brought up the bill in the context of homelessness, adding that the legislation is problematic and potentially harmful. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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