Government of Canada changes regulations to help prevent illegal production and trafficking of controlled substances

News release

New measures are one more step in the Government's response to the opioid crisis

May 15, 2019 - Ottawa, ONTARIO - Health Canada

The crisis of opioid overdoses continues to be one of the most serious public health issue in Canada's recent history. Tragically, 10,337 Canadian lives were lost between January 2016 and September 2018, devastating families and communities across the country. Illegal drugs tainted with highly toxic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil continue to be behind the majority of opioid-related overdose deaths. Since 2017, nearly three quarters of opioid-related deaths in Canada involved fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances. At the border, we are seeing increasing interceptions of chemicals that can be used in the illegal production of fentanyls and certain amphetamines.

Today, the Government of Canada announced new regulatory amendments to help tackle the illegal trafficking and production of controlled substances. The amendments under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) come into force immediately and control specific chemicals—known as precursors—from being imported and used in the illegal production of fentanyls and amphetamines, such as methamphetamine and MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy).

In recent years, law enforcement identified novel chemicals not controlled under the CDSA that were making their way across the border and being used in the illegal production of fentanyls and amphetamines. Before these regulatory changes, law enforcement could take action only once illegal substances were produced using these chemicals, or if there was evidence that the chemicals were intended to be used to produce an illegal substance.

With today's changes, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other law enforcement officers can now take action against illegal activities involving precursor chemicals, such as benzylfentanyl, derivatives and analogues of 4-anilino-N-phenethylpiperidine (ANPP) and norfentanyl. Specifically, officers can detain and seize these chemicals to prevent them from entering Canada.

Controlling precursor chemicals will help to decrease the production and supply of illegal drugs that contribute to problematic substance use in Canada. The Government of Canada is taking action to address the opioid crisis through a compassionate, comprehensive, collaborative and evidence-based public health approach, which includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement activities.


"We continue to face one of the most significant public health crises in Canada's recent memory. This crisis is as complex as it is tragic. The regulatory amendments that come into effect today will help protect the health and safety of Canadians by making it easier for our border service and police officers to tackle illegal trafficking and production of controlled substances involving novel chemicals. Controlling these chemicals will help to reduce the contamination of the illegal drug supply with highly toxic substances, ultimately helping to save lives."
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

"Public Safety Canada continues to work with partners across the federal government, along with provinces, territories and municipalities, and with other countries including the United States and Mexico, to reduce the smuggling of opioids across our borders. Further disrupting the supply chain of illegal opioids and the precursor chemicals used in their manufacture remains a key priority and essential to stopping overdoses in Canada and helping Canadians live safe and healthy lives."
The Honourable Bill Blair
Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction

Quick facts

  • Between January 2016 and September 2018, the opioid crisis claimed the lives of 10,337 Canadians.

  • Fentanyl is a particularly dangerous drug because:

    • it is 20 to 40 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, which makes the risk of accidental overdose very high;
    • a very small amount (about the size of a few grains of salt) of pure fentanyl is enough to kill the average adult;
    • it is odourless and tasteless, so you may not even know you are taking it; and
    • it can be mixed with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and is also being found in counterfeit pills that are made to look like prescription opioids.
  • The Canada Border Services Agency has recently trained six new detector dog teams to detect fentanyl, and placed them ports of entry of the highest risk, contributing to the Government of Canada's ongoing efforts to keep synthetic opioids out of Canada.

  • Working with partners and fellow law enforcement agencies, the Canada Border Services Agency made more than 21,800 seizures of narcotics at the border in 2018.

  • On November 9, 2018, officials from the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States convened for the third annual high-level meeting of the North American Dialogue on Drug Policy (NADD). Under the auspices of the NADD, law enforcement and health officials are enabling our governments to collectively address the many facets of the transnational epidemic of opioid overdoses.

  • On March 29, 2019, Public Safety Canada hosted the Law Enforcement Roundtable on Drugs to explore emerging drug trends and threats and advance discussions on law enforcement responses to the opioid crisis.

Associated links


Thierry Bélair
Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux
Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction

Media Relations
Health Canada

Media Relations
Canada Border Services Agency

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada

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