Original language of petition: English
We, the undersigned residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons in Parliament Assembled to the following:
Whereas over 4000 Canadians died in 2017 and over 2,800 in 2016 due to preventable opioid overdose resulting from fentanyl-poisoned sources. The number of preventable deaths has surpassed the total number of deaths of all other Public Health Emergencies in the last 20 years including SARS, H1N1, and Ebola. Those who have died as a result of a preventable opioid overdose from fentanyl-poisoned sources were valued citizens of this country; our children, siblings, spouses, parents, family members, clients, friends.
And whereas Substance use is a normal part of human experience; documented across centuries and all over the world. The current war on drugs has been costly and grossly ineffective and resulted in widespread stigma towards addiction and against those who use illicit drugs. Criminalization of particular substances has resulted in the establishment of a drug trade that now traffics dangerous and lethal products, such as fentanyl. Regulating to ensure safe sources, with proper measures and bylaws, will reduce the criminal element associated with street drugs. Problematic substance use is a health issue and is not resolved through criminalizing personal possession and consumption. Decriminalization of personal possession is associated with dramatically reducing overdose deaths in the countries that have modernized their drug policy.
Therefore, We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada call upon the Government of Canada to:
The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about problematic substance use in Canada, including the ongoing opioid overdose crisis and the devastating impact it is having on the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Tragically, there were more than 14,700 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada between January 2016 and September 2019.
The Government recognizes that the complexity of this crisis has only increased due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Public health guidance around physical distancing and self-isolation presents a unique challenge for people with substance use disorder. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have been working with provinces and territories and other partners, including researchers, advocates and people with lived and living experience, to help make sure that people who use(d) substances can continue to access treatment, harm reduction and other substances during the pandemic.
Health Canada has asked provinces and territories and regulatory colleges to improve access to opioid agonist treatment medication and to allow for special accommodations during the pandemic response that reduce or remove requirements that may not align with public health direction during the pandemic. This could include take-home dosing, and the removal of the requirement for witnessed ingestion, doctors’ visits and urine screening.
Health Canada issued a class exemption to allow pharmacists to extend and renew prescriptions, to transfer prescriptions to other pharmacists, and to allow other individuals to deliver controlled substances to patients, and ensure continuity in access to pharmacotherapy for addiction treatment and management of other health conditions such as chronic pain. To allow patients with chronic medical needs to adhere to physical distancing and self-isolation guidance, Health Canada has allowed prescribers to issue verbal prescriptions for narcotics. Health Canada has developed and disseminated a toolkit to service providers to better support people who use drugs to physically distance and self-isolate and stay safe. The toolkit provides a summary of the exemptions now in place for health care professionals to facilitate flexible models of care during the pandemic. It includes prescribing and practice guidelines for health care professionals to increase the appropriate prescription of medications to address symptoms of withdrawal, including methadone, Suboxone, and to provide access to pharmaceutical grade medications like hydromorphone as a safer alternative to the toxic street supply. It will also assist people who use drugs, harm reduction advocacy groups and families who support people who use drugs to understand the changes and exemptions in order to secure medications and treatment supports, as well as educate on harm reduction measures.
Health Canada is working with community organizations funded through the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) to re-direct resources from funded activities to support the COVID-19 response. For example, the BC Ministry of Health will use a portion of its SUAP funding to provide personal protective equipment to pharmacists providing injectable opioid agonist treatment and the University of Victoria will use a portion of its funding to purchase basic needs and supplies (such as food) for clients at select front-line harm reduction sites.
The Government of Canada remains committed to taking a public health approach to substance use through the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy during this difficult time and over the long term. The Strategy includes four pillars – prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement – and is designed to be comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based. The Government is placing particular focus on:
The Government of Canada recognizes that the overwhelming majority of deaths caused by the opioid overdose crisis are due to a street drug supply that is contaminated with highly toxic substances, such as fentanyl. The Government is taking a series of actions to address this issue, including:
The Government of Canada has made substantial investments to address the overdose crisis. Recent examples of key federal investments in this area include:
In order to prevent and reduce the harms of problematic substance use, including to enable access to evidence-based treatment and support recovery, the Government has undertaken a broad range of policy, legislative and regulatory actions, including:
We are focusing on a safer supply and building the evidence base for this public health intervention. The use of pharmaceutical-grade opioids to treat opioid use disorder is an established medical practice, supported by research and peer-reviewed clinical guidance. The federal government has taken steps towards increasing access to pharmaceutical-grade medications, including making prescription opioids used in the treatment of severe opioid disorder more easily accessible to healthcare practitioners, reducing regulatory barriers, and funding national clinical guidelines for the management of opioid use disorders.
Certain programs, sometimes referred to as “safer supply”, build on these established models in an attempt to reach a wider range of people at risk of overdose and create additional pathways to health and social services. The federal government is supporting pilot projects to increase access to pharmaceutical-grade medications as a safer alternative to the contaminated illegal drug supply. As part of its approach, the federal government is also supporting a comprehensive evaluation of the pilot projects to develop valuable evidence on effective service models and help develop best practices.
To protect the health and safety of all Canadians, any prescription-grade medications, including those that may be used in safer supply programs, may only be provided with the appropriate oversight of a qualified health care provider (e.g., a physician or a nurse practitioner), as per the parameters of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and its regulations, as well as applicable provincial, territorial, and professional regulatory requirements.
Some provinces, including British Columbia and Alberta, have declared a formal public health emergency or crisis to address the overdose crisis. Under their respective provincial legislation, these declarations can provide access to additional powers and authorities, such as new funding, and streamlined decision-making. At the federal level, legislation is not required to access similar additional powers. The comprehensive federal response has included reductions of legislative and regulatory barriers, new prescription guidelines, marketing restrictions, new tools for law enforcement, improvements to the knowledge base, and emergency funding to provinces and territories – all of which were put in place without a formal declaration of a public health emergency.
In Canada, our circumstances require that we undertake a comprehensive and collaborative approach across all provinces and territories. No single organization or level of government alone can solve the opioid overdose crisis. All levels of government, a wide range of stakeholders and all Canadians who are impacted by opioid use must work together to reduce opioid-related overdoses and deaths, and improve the health and well-being of Canadians who use drugs.
Through the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, the Government of Canada remains firmly committed to addressing all forms of problematic substance use with a public health approach that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence based.
Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.
Petitions identical to 431-00229 (Health)
|Identical Petition||Presenter||Date of Presentation||Signatures|
|431-00229||Gord Johns||June 3, 2020||42|
|431-00170||Gord Johns||May 5, 2020||29|
|431-00130||Gord Johns||March 9, 2020||27|
|431-00100||Gord Johns||February 21, 2020||26|
|431-00081||Alistair MacGregor||February 18, 2020||25|
|431-00046||Gord Johns||January 30, 2020||63|
|431-00041||Gord Johns||January 28, 2020||147|