National report: apparent opioid-related deaths (2016)

Overall Summary

In 2016,

  • available preliminary data indicate that there were 2458 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada, although this figure may change as more updated data become available
  • based on this count, the apparent opioid-related death rate in Canada was 8.8 per 100,000 population
  • these data indicate that Western Canada experienced the highest rates, with apparent opioid-related death rates of over 10.0 per 100,000 population for Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alberta

Note: These national figures do not include data from Quebec at this time. The above figures may change as more updated data become available. See more limitations and considerations.

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Figure 1 – Map of Canada showing apparent opioid-related death rates per 100,000 population across the provinces and territories for 2016.
Provincial and territorial apparent opioid-related death rates for 2016
Province/territory Rate range per 100,000 population in 2016
AlbertaFootnote 1 10.0 to 14.9
British ColumbiaFootnote 2 Over 15.0
New Brunswick 0 to 4.9
Newfoundland and Labrador 0 to 4.9 (based on 2015 data)
Northwest Territories 10.0 to 14.9
Nova Scotia 5.0 to 9.9
Nunavut 0 to 4.9
Ontario 5.0 to 9.9 (based on 2015 data)
Quebec No data available
Manitoba 5.0 to 9.9
Saskatchewan 0 to 4.9
Prince Edward Island 5.0 to 9.9
Yukon Over 15.0


Footnote 1

Alberta's figures are based upon accidental apparent opioid-related deaths.  Delays in some investigations related to non-fentanyl opioid-related deaths mean that Alberta's 2016 numbers are likely an underestimate and may change.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

British Columbia reports on unintentional deaths related to all illicit drugs, including, but not limited to opioids. Thus British Columbia's numbers are likely an overestimate.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Limitations and considerations

It is important to view the data presented in this summary with caution.

  • These figures are based on data submitted on or before May 26, 2017.  New or revised data submitted after this date will be reflected in future updates.
  • Some death counts and rates are based upon ongoing investigations by Coroners and Medical Examiners and therefore may change.
  • Rates (per 100,000 population) reported here are not age-standardized and are therefore not adjusted for existing differential risk associated with age.
  • Rates (per 100,000 population) for jurisdictions with relatively smaller populations may change substantially with even slight changes in counts.
  • While the uniform definition is still being implemented by provinces and territories, the 2016 figures reported at this time include deaths that do not meet the criteria described above.
  • Figures for Ontario are based on 2015 data. Complete data for 2016 are not available at this time; however Ontario has recorded a total of 412 opioid-related deaths for the first six months of 2016.
  • Figures for Newfoundland and Labrador are based on 2015 data as complete data for 2016 are not available at this time.
  • Data from Quebec are not available at this time.

Definition of apparent opioid-related death

In April 2017, the Special Advisory Committee agreed upon a definition of apparent opioid-related death based on a number of criteria. However, some provinces and territories have yet to apply this definition, therefore there are various limitations and considerations for the 2016 figures reported at this time.

What is an apparent opioid-related death?

An apparent opioid-related death is a death caused by intoxication/toxicity (poisoning) as a result of drug use, where one or more of the drugs is an opioid.

The data includes:

  • open (preliminary) and closed (certified) cases
  • non-natural manners of death (both intentional and unintentional)
  • individuals with or without personal prescriptions

The data does not include deaths due to:

  • chronic substance use
  • medical assistance in dying
  • trauma where a poisonous substance contributed to the circumstances of the injury

Note: The term "opioid-related death" is used instead of "opioid overdose death" in order to avoid any suggestion that all the deaths were intentional, which is sometimes associated with the term "overdose".

What persons, places and time do these figures describe?


These figures describe apparent opioid-related deaths, regardless of the person's:

  • sex
  • age
  • immigration status
  • place of usual residence


Figures reflect the province or territory in which the overdose that led to the apparent opioid-related death occurred.


Figures are based on the date of death. Figures for 2016 include apparent opioid-related deaths that occurred between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016, unless stated otherwise.

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