Prominent Actions Undertaken by the Federal Government

The federal government of Canada has made a number of moves to attempt to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic in Canada with efforts focused on 6 key areas.


How are these drugs categorized and what does that mean?

Drug Schedules are a classification tool for drugs, substances, and certain chemicals that are used to make drugs. They are distinct drug categories that are defined by medical use and each specific drug’s potential for abuse and dependency. For example, on a scale of I to III, drugs categorized within Schedule I show a high risk of psychological and physical dependence, and accordingly, those in Schedule III pose the least amount of risk for drug abuse.

Any person found guilty in possession of schedule I drugs is “liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years”, similarly if an individual is found in possession of schedule drugs II and III are “liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five and three years” respectively.

Classification of illicit substances comes under Canada’s “Controlled Drugs and Substances Act”

Schedule I Schedule II Schedule III
Opium, Cocaine, Meth Dolophine, Demerol, OxyContin LSD, DMT, DET
Schedule I Schedule II Schedule III
Seven Years Five Years Three Years

How does the Federal Government Interact with the Provincial Governments?

The regulatory authority over substance use permits both provincial and federal governments to regulate, prohibit and treat substance dependency in Canadian society. While the presence of two levels of government on a single activity of ameliorating substance dependency has surely yielded many benefits from distinct legislative responses, it has also led to many intergovernmental conflicts and confusion over substance use jurisdiction. The following are some of the instances where the Federal government has interacted with the Provincial and Territorial governments in tackling substance use in Canadian society.

Overall the Federal Government supports the provincial/territorial role by providing transfer payments, establishing national standards through the Canada Health Act and undertaking other health-related functions outlined in the Department of Health Act such as conducting public health research and cooperating with provinces and territories on efforts to improve public health.

How are these drugs policed and where do they come from?

Canada has historically taken a strong stance against drugs, passing laws such as the Opium act in 1908, and the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act in 1911 which implemented harsher penalties for those who use drugs (Canada’s drug laws and strategies). However, in recent years the federal government has taken a more relaxed stance on drugs. This is evident in the 1987 Canada Drug Strategy released by the federal government. This includes something known as the “four-pillar approach” which includes things such as prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and enforcement (Canada’s drug laws and strategies). However, even though this may seem beneficial, the majority of funding was reserved for the enforcement aspect.