Statement from the Minister of Health on International Overdose Awareness Day


August 31, 2018                      Ottawa, ON                 Health Canada

OTTAWA – Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a day to remember loved ones we have lost to drug-related overdoses and to reflect on the tragedy of these preventable deaths. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about how stigma affects people who use drugs. 

In Canada, we are experiencing a serious and growing opioid crisis. In 2017, there were approximately 4,000 apparent opioid-related deaths. The majority of these deaths were caused by accidental overdoses. Each was a tragic loss of a valuable life– a family member, a loved one, a friend. This crisis is devastating communities across the country and affecting Canadians from all walks of life.

Despite the efforts of organizations across the country who are working to shine a light on this crisis, people who use drugs continue to be stigmatized. Stigma, or negative attitudes or beliefs, can have a major impact on the quality of life of people who use drugs, people in recovery and their families.

Stigma destroys self-esteem and relationships, makes it harder for people to access treatment, jobs and housing, and leads to discrimination or isolation. It can prevent people from accessing critical health and social services, and often leads to further health issues.

No one level of government or single sector can address this complex social, health and safety issue alone. Reversing the trend of this overdose epidemic is a shared responsibility and requires collaborative action by many stakeholder groups, people with lived and living experience and all levels of government. We all have a role to play in reducing stigma for people who use drugs.

Next week, I will be hosting a symposium that will place the voices of people with lived and living experience at the centre of the discussion to help end stigma and promote increased access to treatment services. The Opioid Symposium will allow us to recognize the different aspects of the crisis and enable us to discuss opportunities for continued collaboration to address the drivers of this crisis and prevent future tragedies.

Together, we can #StopOverdoses.

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P.

Additional Resources:

Get the facts on the opioid crisis in Canada


Thierry Bélair
Office of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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