Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on August 26, 2020


August 26, 2020 - Ottawa, ON - Public Health Agency of Canada

In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today:

"There have been 125,969 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,090 deaths. 89% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested an average of almost 48,000 people daily over the past week with 0.7% testing positive. Currently, Canada is testing more than 140 people for every positive case. An average of 400 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days.

Tragically, in many regions of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic is contributing to an increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths. There are indications that the street drug supply is growing more unpredictable and toxic in some parts of the country, as previous supply chains have been disrupted by travel restrictions and border measures. Public health measures designed to reduce the impact of COVID-19 may increase isolation, stress and anxiety as well as put a strain on the supports for persons who use drugs.

For the third consecutive month this year, the number of drug overdose deaths recorded in British Columbia has exceeded 170. These deaths represent a 136% increase over the number of deaths recorded in July 2019.

There are news reports of an increase in overdoses in other communities across the country. Yukon reported twice as many overdose deaths in the first half of 2020 when compared with the same period in 2019. Saskatchewan is reporting historic levels of overdoses and overdose deaths, and in Quebec, July saw the highest number of overdose deaths in Montreal in over five years.

People use substances for many different reasons, such as a means of coping with trauma and other pain. For some, substance use can have negative impacts on their life. We know that addiction is not a choice, it is a treatable medical condition. There are many different paths to wellness and recovery. I encourage those in a position to support people who use substances to explore all of the options at their disposal.

Evidence shows supervised consumption sites help save lives, connect people to social services and can serve as a pathway to treatment. Providing flexible treatment options (like methadone or other opioid agonist therapies) or a safer alternative to street drugs for people with substance use disorders are also evidence-based ways to help reduce the risk of overdose, infection and withdrawal.

The federal government is continuing to take action to address the drug overdose crisis and to reduce the risk of harm for people who use substances during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

There are many resources available to guide providers, such as six new national guidance documents, developed by the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM). These guidelines address the urgent needs of people who use substances, service providers, and decision makers in relation to the COVID‑19 pandemic. I also encourage health care providers to access this toolkit, which provides clarity on the rules for prescribing for the treatment of substance use disorder, and/or to provide a safer alternative to street drugs.

Visit to learn more about what you can do to help save a life, such as recognize and act if you witness an opioid overdose, or change the way you speak about substance use so others feel supported to reach out for help. These actions can help save lives, especially given the compounding public health impacts of the pandemic.”


Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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