Statement from the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health on the Overdose Crisis

Press Release

From: Health Canada

December 14, 2022

Today’s national data release on opioid- and stimulant-related harms shows that the overdose crisis and increasingly toxic illegal drug supply continue to take a devastating toll on individuals, families, and communities across Canada. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones to this crisis.

Tragically, more than 7,000 people died of an overdose in the last year. On average, there have been 20 deaths and 14 hospitalizations every day from January to June 2022. These are not just numbers, they are our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours from all walks of life who needed, or who still need our collective help.

We understand that in order to save lives and turn this crisis around, we must prioritize a full continuum of supports to help people who use substances along their journey, including harm reduction, which unfortunately, some of our critics do not understand.

We must continue the necessary work to ensure that all people in Canada have access to substance use supports when they need them, whether that’s safer supply, supervised consumption sites or increased access to evidence-based treatment and public education campaigns.

Since 2017, our government has invested more than $800 million in a wide range of actions and interventions through preventionharm reduction and treatment efforts. Along with these investments, we have also repealed mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences; penalties that had led to the overincarceration of Indigenous people, Black persons and racialized Canadians.

Additionally, we are working with British Columbia on establishing the indicators in public health and public safety to monitor the first-ever exemption granted in BC for adults to possess small amounts of certain illegal drugs for personal use. Once this exemption comes into force on January 31st, these drugs will no longer be seized by police, who will instead divert people away from the criminal justice system and towards supportive and trusted relationships in health and social services.

As part of our ongoing public education efforts, we recently launched the “Ease the Burden Campaign” aimed at men working in trades, who are more impacted by substance use and addiction than any other industry. This campaign aims to reduce the stigma around asking for help and point people to free substance use resources. Even in the early months of this campaign, we know it has reached millions of people and we hope that it has made it possible for those in need to feel comfortable in reaching out for help and get help.

We will continue to work with our national partners, stakeholders, and those with lived and living experience on a whole-of-society approach to reduce the harms associated with substance use and to make sure Canadians are getting the culturally appropriate and trauma-informed support they need.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to preventing or reducing overdose deaths and substance use harms, it’s up to all of us to help people who use substances live safer and healthier lives, including by reducing stigma around drug use and embracing harm reduction as an essential pillar of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy. Together, we will end this crisis and save lives.

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P.

Contacts

Maja Staka
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
343-552-5568

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983
[email protected]

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