Government of Canada takes action to disrupt the illegal importation and distribution of precursor chemicals used to make illegal fentanyl

News release

June 5, 2023 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada

The overdose crisis, and the increasingly toxic illegal drug supply, continue to have devastating impacts on individuals, communities and families across Canada. This toxic drug supply is contaminated with illegally produced, highly potent opioids, such as fentanyl, with nearly 75% of accidental apparent opioid toxicity deaths in Canada since 2017 involving fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances. The Government of Canada is working with our departments and agencies to take action against these substances head on. 

Today, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced regulatory changes that will come into effect on August 30, 2023, to schedule a group of chemicals, known as novel fentanyl precursors, as precursors under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). These changes follow the temporary year-long Ministerial Order that was put in place to disrupt the illegal importation and distribution of these same chemicals. This measure will enable law enforcement to continue to take action against any illegal importation, distribution, and use of these precursor chemicals, which are used in the illegal production of fentanyl by illegal drug producers. 

This action aligns with the renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, which includes increasing access to harm reduction, treatment and recovery, prevention, and enforcement – including aggressively dismantling criminal drug trafficking organizations. 

Minister Bennett made this announcement ahead of her participation at the Trilateral North American Drug Dialogue Public Health Summit in Washington, DC., where she will discuss continued collaboration with the United States and Mexico to address the toxic drug and overdose crisis, the importance of trilateral and international cooperation to address the crisis in Canada and globally, and the growing public health and security challenges posed by synthetic drugs. 

The Government of Canada will continue to support a full continuum of compassionate, evidence-based actions and innovative strategies to address the toxic drug and overdose crisis and save lives, including through: improving access to harm reduction services and treatment, funding awareness, prevention, and stigma reduction activities, supporting research and surveillance initiatives, and strengthening law enforcement capacity to address illegal drug production and trafficking.


“Every day, we lose more loved ones to the overdose crisis and the increasingly toxic illegal drug supply. We have to follow all four of the internationally recognized drug policy pillars, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment and law enforcement so that we can continue working together to address this crisis. By helping to disrupt the illegal production of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, by enabling enforcement to take action against illegal importation, distribution, and use of these illegal substances, we will help to protect the health and safety of Canadians – and save lives.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority. Our work begins at the border, where we stop illegal drugs like fentanyl precursors from coming into Canada. I want to thank CBSA employees and law enforcement partners for their commitment and hard work to keep our communities safe.”

The Honourable Marco Mendicino
Minister of Public Safety

Quick facts

  • This group of novel fentanyl precursors, which are analogues and derivatives of N-phenyl-4-piperidinamine and its salts, also known as 4-AP, do not have any legitimate industrial, commercial, or medical uses, and controlling them will help to address their use in the illegal production of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. 

  • Since 2017, the Government of Canada has taken evidence-based action to address the overdose crisis and announced over $1 billion to increase access to evidence-based treatment and harm reduction services, fund awareness, prevention, and stigma reduction activities, support research and surveillance initiatives, and strengthen law enforcement capacity to address illegal drug production and trafficking.

  • Data on Opioid- and Stimulant-related Harms in Canada show that while the average number of opioid-related deaths per day was eight in 2016, this number has now more than doubled, reaching an all-time high of 21 deaths per day in 2021. The number of opioid-related hospitalizations also grew from 13 per day in 2016, to 17 per day in 2021.

  • The Government of Canada works with domestic and international partners to address the toxic illegal drug supply, including by:

    • Providing border services officers with tools and equipment to safely and effectively detect, identify and interdict fentanyl and other toxic substances at the border. As part of Budget 2018 funding for the opioid crisis, the Government of Canada dedicated $31.6 million over five years to equip the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to more safely and effectively detect, identify and interdict fentanyl and other highly toxic substances at ports of entry. The Agency plays a direct role in protecting Canadian communities, by preventing the illegal movement of controlled substances and precursor chemicals across our borders.  
  • The CBSA stays current on global trends and patterns to ensure that its front-line border services officers and intelligence personnel are knowledgeable about new and unique concealment methods.

  • The CBSA has:

    • Seized over 20 kg of fentanyl at the border between April 2018 and April 2022
    • Seized over 22,000 kg of other narcotics, drugs and chemicals between April 2021 and March 2022.
    • Implemented 81 safe examination areas at high-risk ports of entry to help identify and examine shipments suspected to contain opioids.
    • Maintained field drug analysis sites with on-site chemists in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
    • Added fentanyl detection to the scent profile of six drug and firearm detector dog teams strategically located across the country.
    • Working with private sector partners to address money laundering of the proceeds of fentanyl trafficking.

Associated links


Maja Staka
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Inquiries

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