Canada's Pacific coast province of British Columbia reached a new peak of 914 illicit drug overdose deaths last year with the arrival of the deadly opioid fentanyl.

The figure is almost 80 percent higher than the province's 510 overdose deaths due to illicit drugs in 2015.

The British Columbia Coroners Service said Wednesday that December was the worst month at 142 deaths — the highest ever recorded in a month.

Chief coroner Lisa LaPointe says 51 people died last month in Vancouver alone. Officials call the situation a crisis and epidemic.

British Columbia Health Minister Terry Lake says the federal government should declare a public-health emergency on the overdose crisis, saying it's not just a provincial problem.

The province's government declared its own public-health emergency last April.