Statement from the Minister of Health on Recommendations from the Expert Task Force on Substance Use


August 13, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the ongoing overdose crisis, and the recent national data and modelling projections on opioid overdose deaths show how communities across the country have been impacted by this public health crisis.

We have lost too many Canadians to opioid overdose, and more must be done at all levels of government to protect those that use substances. We must redouble our efforts to save lives, reduce harms, and meet the needs of people who use substances. As we do this, we use a public health-focused and compassionate approach to help people who use substances live safer, healthier lives.

At the federal level, we are exploring all options to respond to the ongoing overdose crisis to save lives. Earlier this year, I asked experts from diverse areas, including health, justice, public safety, academia, community groups and people with lived and living experience, to work together on the Expert Task Force on Substance Use.

The Task Force has submitted two reports based on their independent, expert advice: Recommendations on Alternatives to Criminal Penalties for Simple Possession of Controlled Substances and Recommendations on the Federal Government's Drug Policy as Articulated in a Draft Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS).

I want to thank the Task Force members for their tremendous dedication and hard work in developing these recommendations, which we are reviewing. Their reports will inform our next steps in drug policy.

Substance use is a health issue. It is not a moral issue or a criminal justice one. People who use drugs deserve our compassion and support. We must continue to look at ways to divert people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system and towards health and social supports, such as supervised consumption sites and drug treatment services.

The overdose crisis is complex, and affects each community differently. We continue to work with all jurisdictions and communities to support initiatives that meet their needs, to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.


Thierry Bélair
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

Page details

Date modified: