Law Enforcement Related to Opioids
Canada continues to experience an unrelenting rate of opioid overdose deaths. Between January 2016 and March 2019, there were more than 12,800 apparent opioid-related deaths and thousands more Canadians that experienced non-fatal overdoses and other opioid related harms. The rate of opioid overdose fatality is showing signs of stabilizing; however, it remains alarmingly high.
To date, the collaborative opioid response between the federal government, provinces, territories, and key stakeholders has been critical in preventing the crisis from growing unabated. The Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS) includes four pillars: harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. In the context of the evolving opioid crisis and as a key component of the CDSS, the enforcement pillar encompasses efforts to prevent illicit use and trafficking of opioids and related substances.
The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act supports the new strategy by providing some legal protection for those who seek emergency help during an overdose. Furthermore, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA)requires that all pill presses and encapsulators be registered with Health Canada prior to being imported into Canada and grants border officers the authority to open suspicious international mail weighing 30 grams or less. These authorities assist law enforcement and border officers in their efforts to interdict the flow of illicit drugs.
The enforcement pillar of the CDSS encompasses regulatory and enforcement activities aimed at reducing the illegal drug supply and the collaborative methods used by law enforcement and public health officials to reduce drug-related harms. Areas of focus for Public Safety Canada are set out below.
As part of Budget 2018, Public Safety has received funding to develop and deploy de-stigmatization awareness training to law enforcement. To date, engagement sessions between law enforcement and stakeholders representing individuals with lived and living experiences of problematic substance use have been completed and draft awareness material prepared. The development of an e-learning module is currently underway and is scheduled to be rolled out to law enforcement in early January 2020.
Also as part of Budget 2018, Public Safety has committed to lead a series of roundtable sessions that bring together police and border services, community leaders, government officials, and other stakeholders to discuss best and promising practices, as well as identify existing and emerging challenges related to opioids and other illicit drugs. Information shared at these events is used to help inform policy approaches to drug enforcement. The third law enforcement roundtable was held in Winnipeg on October 8-9, 2019, covering topics such as emerging and existing drug trends and threats; identifying information and data gaps; technology; supply reduction efforts; and community responses.
Public Safety is working closely with federal law enforcement agencies and Health Canada to explore gaps and challenges in regulating the import and re-sale of pill presses and encapsulators. Public Safety is also leading discussions with Canada Post and federal partners to take additional action against the use of the domestic postal system to distribute illicit drugs such as synthetic opioids.
Public Safety works closely with the United States to address drug threats. Most recently, on June 20, 2019, the US and Canada committed to developing a joint action plan to find solutions to the opioid crisis. Public Safety also supports continued trilateral engagement at the officials level with the US and Mexico through the North American Dialogue on Drug Policy (NADD). NADD is administered out of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and provides a forum for information sharing to address the movement of drugs across the continent.
Although the broad law enforcement community is supportive of de-stigmatization awareness training, such training cannot easily be made mandatory because law enforcement agencies are administered by different levels of government. Senior officials within law enforcement have indicated that they will encourage their staff to complete the online module.
Public Safety will continue to lead discussions with federal partners to advance efforts to curtail the illegal opioids supply within Canada. Public Safety will work with law enforcement on the deployment of de-stigmatization awareness training and continue to engage with the law enforcement and public safety communities to increase information sharing and best practices on emerging drug threats.
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