The Policy Behind Bill C-37 - An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts


May 18 2017

On December 12, 2016, the Government of Canada announced the new Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy that restored harm reduction as a core pillar, along with enforcement, prevention, and treatment, and returned the lead for the strategy from the Minister of Justice to the Minister of Health.

What is harm reduction?

The Government recognizes that harm reduction is an important part of a comprehensive approach to drug control, and is committed to ensuring that evidence-based measures are part of our efforts to reduce the harms caused by drug misuse. Evidence demonstrates that harm reduction is an important part of a comprehensive public health approach to substance use and addiction.

Harm reduction initiatives do not require people to stop using drugs (abstinence) as a primary goal. Rather, they focus on more immediate goals such as safer use or reduced use, which can eventually lead to abstinence. While it is essential to have access to evidence-based treatment options, not every person is willing or able to enter treatment at any given time. Harm reduction measures meet people where they are in their life right now to reduce risks, improve health and connect people with other important services.

What is a supervised consumption site?

Supervised consumption sites are facilities where individuals can bring their drugs and inject them in a hygienic facility using sterile equipment supervised by qualified staff who can provide immediate treatment in the case of an overdose. The facilities also provide sterile equipment, information about drugs and basic health care, and treatment referrals, and may include access to other health care services.

How do supervised consumption sites reduce harm?

Supervised consumption sites are an important harm reduction strategy and part of a comprehensive, compassionate and evidence-based approach to drug policy. A significant body of evidence demonstrates that these sites, when properly established and maintained, save lives and improve health without increasing drug use and crime in the surrounding area. Supervised consumption sites have also been shown to decrease infections as well as the transmission of communicable diseases. They also decrease use of emergency departments, as well as hospital admissions related to injection drug use.

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