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

Press Release

From: Public Health Agency of Canada

September 28, 2023

Canada is facing an unrelenting and tragic toxic drug and overdose crisis that has left no community untouched. Family members, friends, and neighbours are losing their lives to one of the most serious public health crises in our country’s history. Today’s national data release on opioid and stimulant-related harms tells us that this crisis continues.

According to the latest data, there has been over 38,500 opioid-related deaths since national surveillance began in 2016 with an average of 21 people a day dying from January to March 2023. This type of data is essential to drug policy development and decision-making, as it helps identify trends related to substance use, and measure the impact of our actions. But this is not just data, it is people’s lives.

I want to recognize the tragedy of this crisis and the lives of Canadians we have lost. Every person who overdoses is somebody who has a family and people that care about them and that we must take all actions at all levels to protect them.

Every person who uses substances is on their own path and has their own unique needs. We know there isn’t one linear way out of this for anyone struggling. However, we are not without tools and we are not without hope.

We know, now more than ever, that we need to provide a full range of services and support to save lives and protect the health and safety of Canadians. That’s why we are focused on the key pillars of drug policy; prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery, as well as enforcement efforts to protect our communities. This is not the time to be pitting harm reduction against treatment. We need all four to end this crisis.

To truly help people who use substances, we also have to provide services and supports they can access along their wellness journey, when and where they need them. We need to make sure people, families and, children in particular, feel safe where they live, work, go to school and play. This means working with our partners in public safety to prevent and disrupt the illegal drug trade.

We are already seeing results from organizations across the country that are saving lives. Between October 2017 and June 2023, almost 50,000 overdoses have been reversed in supervised consumption sites across Canada. Additionally, more than 256,000 referrals were made to connect people with health and social services, including primary medical care, counselling, and housing and employment supports. These sites save lives and improve health outcomes.

We are also committed to addressing the complex factors that can contribute to substance use and related harms, including links with other issues such as mental health, homelessness and economic insecurity, as well as chronic pain.

Measures such as increasing awareness around opioids, reducing stigma as well as barriers to accessing treatment of opioid use disorder, and authorizing supervised consumption sites, are all part of our comprehensive public health approach to substance use.

It will take the collective efforts of everyone ─ communities, provinces, territories, Indigenous leaders, professional and regulatory bodies, people with lived and living experience, and health care providers ─ to stop the needless harms and deaths of Canadians and address the many other costs of substance use and-related harms.

I encourage Canadians to learn about how they can contribute to ending this crisis, there is a lot we can each do. From showing kindness to those in need, to getting the facts about substance use and addiction, to learning how to administer Naloxone. We have the power to make a difference, one life, one story, one person at a time.

Together, we will continue to work toward addressing and ending the toxic drug and overdose crisis, so that no more families, friends, or communities will lose a loved one.

The Honourable Ya’ara Saks, P.C., M.P.


Alexander Fernandes
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada


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