Joint Statement from the Co-Chairs of the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses on New Data Related to the Opioid Crisis


December 11, 2019 - Ottawa, ON - Public Health Agency of Canada

Today, the co-chairs of the federal, provincial, and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses—Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer—issued the following statement on the release of new data on opioid-related harms in Canada.

“The opioid overdose crisis continues to devastate many Canadians, their families and their communities from coast to coast to coast. The updated data we are releasing today underscore the need for our continued commitment across all jurisdictions to a comprehensive and collaborative approach.

“Between January and June 2019, there were 2,142 apparent opioid-related deaths. Tragically, that means that 13,913 Canadians died of an apparent opioid-related overdose in Canada between January 2016 and June 2019.

“Many of these deaths are a result of the contamination of the illegal drug supply with toxic substances. Fentanyl and other illegal and highly toxic synthetic opioids continue to be a major driver of this crisis. The data also point to a broader public health challenge. Thousands of Canadians continue to experience non-fatal overdoses each year and hundreds of thousands more are affected by problematic substance use.

“For the first time, through a collaboration between PHAC and Health Canada, we are also able to integrate national data on hospitalizations due to opioid-related poisoning. These data are coupled with Emergency Medical Services data on suspected opioid-related overdoses to provide a more comprehensive picture of opioid-related harms nationally. This broader perspective will better inform the actions of all governments.

“The opioid overdose crisis is a complex problem that we know will take time to turn around. To have a significant and lasting impact, we need to continue working together on whole-of-society changes. This includes addressing the stigma that surrounds substance use, implementing further harm reduction measures and reducing barriers to treatment. It also means continuing to work together to better understand and address the drivers of this crisis, such as mental illness, and social and economic factors that put Canadians at increased risk.

“We need to constantly remind ourselves that behind every overdose death, emergency response and hospitalization, are individuals, families, and friends who are experiencing highly stressful and traumatic events.

“There is still much work to be done to address the opioid overdose crisis. Canadians can be assured that continuing these efforts remains a top priority.”

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Co-chair, Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Dr. Saqib Shahab
Chief Medical Health Officer, Saskatchewan
Co-chair, Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Related Links

National Report: Opioid-related Harms in Canada
Federal Actions on Opioids
Interactive map: Canada's response to the opioid crisis
Canada’s opioid crisis


Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

Page details

Date modified: