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The division of powers between Canadian provinces and the federal government has made concerted, comprehensive action against drug and alcohol abuse very difficult to achieve. For example, most program strategies aimed at prevention are generally seen as part of the health or education systems; matters of provincial jurisdiction over which the federal government has little direct control. However, while enforcement activities are controlled at the local level, for the most part, the authority derives from federal powers, and the control largely remains with the federal government.
In developing the NDS, the federal government noted that, within the provinces and territories, and at the community level, many innovative programs of drug counselling, therapy and rehabilitation had been initiated.
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It also recognized that much of the program expertise existed at the provincial level. What was lacking, however, was a strong mechanism for national collaboration. The government identified six core components of the NDS: education and prevention; enforcement and control; treatment; international cooperation; research and information; and national focus. In order to illustrate the comprehensive nature of the NDS, the following sets out the goals and initiatives announced during the week of its launch:. Prevention, treatment, research, control components .
Enforcement components . Interdiction components . International components . Proceeds of crime components . Thus, the CCSA was created to provide a national focus and leadership in the area of reducing the harm associated with alcohol and other drug abuse. It works closely with federal and provincial partners, both governmental and non-governmental.
As the NDS indicated, the government had recognized that a coordinated response including all partners was required if long-term solutions were to be found. Co-operation and coordination between all partners is a key function of the CCSA. The CCSA works with the private sector, provincial addiction agencies, and many special interest groups to make it possible for all Canadians to benefit from the best prevention programs. An important contribution of the CCSA is the establishment of a Clearinghouse on Substance Abuse, which links all major sources of information on alcohol and other drugs in a single computer network.
The CCSA, which is within the portfolio of the Minister of Health, is structured as a corporation, with a chair and a board of directors. It is funded by the NDS and through its own revenue-generating efforts. This necessitated the release of almost all full-time staff. Since , the CCSA has basically survived by working for a number of departments on contract. Those contracts ensured our survival, but significantly hindered our efforts to fulfill our legal mandate in a proactive way.
We were told that, with this increase, the CCSA can stabilize its activities and Canada runs a lower risk of losing its only collective memory as well as the only drug addiction specialists working at the federal level. The secretariat was given many responsibilities, including ensuring the visibility of the NDS, coordinating the evaluation of the NDS and examining the issue of substance abuse from a strategic standpoint. One of its key responsibilities was to act as a facilitator. An important function of the Secretariat is to serve as an information source, a central point of entry to the federal government directing those with questions toward people with the answers.
Members of the Secretariat also provide advice from outside groups to the federal partners. They attempt to bring groups together to facilitate issues of common concern. The Secretariat was disbanded in during Phase II of the strategy. In the evaluation of Phase II of the CDS, it was suggested that the function of overseeing the coordination should be given to a body that is not an integral part of one of the partner departments—otherwise, such a body would be in a potential or perceived conflict of interest.
It describes itself as follows:. The Office of Canada's Drug Strategy of Health Canada is the focal point within the federal government for harm reduction, prevention, and treatment and rehabilitation initiatives concerning alcohol and other drugs issues. Our efforts aim to prevent the use of drugs by those not currently using them, reduce the harm for those who use them, and promote effective and innovative treatment and rehabilitation for those affected by substance abuse.
The Office works collaboratively with other federal departments and provincial and territorial governments, and provides national leadership and co-ordination on substance abuse issues, conducts research into the risk factors and root causes of substance abuse, synthesizes and disseminates leading-edge information and best practices to key partners, and collaborates with multilateral organizations to address the global drug problem. In addition, the CCSA would be given a coordinating role with respect to the provinces and territories, cities and with research bodies and universities.
In order to determine the future of the NDS, the federal government undertook a national consultation process in March and April The purpose of the consultations, held with local and provincial partners, was to prepare for the possible renewal of the NDS, obtain information on the strengths and weaknesses of the strategy and identify renewal priorities.
During the consultations, alcohol abuse was identified as the major problem in Canada, and the abuse and misuse of pharmaceuticals was the second most frequently mentioned concern. Tobacco use was also seen as a major substance abuse and health problem. Street drugs, while still a concern, were not a major worry of those consulted. It was noted that cannabis use continued to be widespread.
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It was also suggested that use of steroids by athletes and youth be included in the NDS. A long-term commitment to the drug strategy was one of the issues stressed by the participants. To address many problems in substance abuse, participants in the consultation process stressed the need for a long-term commitment to CDS.
Substance abuse has been a problem since the dawn of time. To expect significant changes in the level and nature of substance abuse over a five, or even a ten, year period is not realistic. The impact of initiatives to counteract the problem of substance abuse may not be visible for generations. Therefore, CDS must become an ongoing program with political and government support and endorsement. Bringing about fundamental long-term societal changes in attitude and behaviour requires base funding, without a sunset provision. Once again, CDS called for a balanced approach to reducing both the demand for drugs and their supply.
In renewing CDS, the federal government acknowledged the concerns of stakeholders and stated that solutions to substance abuse require long-term commitment—that to expect significant changes over five or even ten years was not realistic. Thus, it was stated that CDS should become an ongoing program. In addition, it was thought that a balanced approach between demand and supply reduction was critical to the success of CDS.
Finally, it was recognized that partnerships both governmental and non-governmental at all levels locally, nationally and internationally were needed. On the whole, it was concluded that the strategy was working well and that it was important to maintain the momentum created by Phase I. This would be accomplished through the following secondary objectives:.
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The decision to renew CDS was accompanied by a requirement for its evaluation. Its main findings were as follows:. However, interdepartmental co-ordination at the strategic planning level was identified as a concern over the course of Phase II and would not appear to have been resolved clear coordination goals were not identified, nor was the role of the CDS Secretariat properly defined ;. However, there were significant subsequent cuts to some departmental budgets that may have limited the potential achievements of Phase II; and.
The report also identified effective leadership, coordination and strategic planning as essential to the strategy, and found weaknesses in these areas during Phase II. In addition, a common vision and a set of clear and measurable objectives were also found to be fundamental requisites. Lack of accountability for strategy-wide objectives was also identified as a problem.
As will be discussed later, most of these issues were again raised as concerns in five years later by the Auditor General of Canada. Their purpose has been described as follows:. The Steering Committee is mandated to meet at least twice a year to improve the overall effectiveness of the strategy and provide direction to the Working Group.
Its aims are to co-ordinate federal activities, develop consensus on priorities, address emerging issues, and monitor implementation of the federal strategy. It should be noted that since the introduction of the CDSA, most changes to federal legislation dealing with illicit drugs have focused on supply reduction. In , CDS was renewed in principle but without any specified funding, despite warnings of possible negative consequences.
We must conclude that short-term initiatives such as the CDS Phase II are useful in that they inspire a higher sense of priority for a certain issue; at the same time, they hold inherent disadvantages in addressing an issue such as substance abuse, that is widely recognized to require a longer-term intervention than time-limited initiative funding will allow.
In many areas, Health Canada is now poised to reap benefits from the knowledge gained — however it is feared that this will not be the case due to non-renewal. The signatories were limited to federal departments and agencies, with Health Canada again responsible for providing national leadership and coordination.
CDS still states that it reflects a balance between reducing the supply of drugs and reducing the demand for drugs. The goals of CDS are to:. The strategy states that it is built on four pillars: prevention; enforcement and control; treatment and rehabilitation; and harm reduction. Within this general framework, seven separate components have been identified: research and knowledge development; knowledge dissemination; prevention programming; treatment and rehabilitation; legislation, enforcement and control; national coordination; and international co-operation.
This section does not claim to provide an in-depth analysis of CDS since its implementation and development in Certain key objectives, however, will be reviewed in order to determine whether or not the CDS can be deemed a success.
It is important to note that, despite the considerable amounts of money spent at the federal level to control psychoactive substances, many would argue that Canada does not even have a funded national drug strategy. The drug strategy did not escape these cuts and it sunset in In fact, there has been very little new money from the federal government for the field of addictions since.
Canada currently has no national strategy. We therefore simply do not have research data to guide us. In fact, no one knows the extent of drug consumption or prevalence in Canada because no national inquiry has been done since We therefore have to come up with hypotheses and resort to other tools to get a picture of the current situation in Canada.
As mentioned, research, knowledge development and knowledge dissemination are severely lacking in Canada, despite the fact that these are intended to be key components of the CDS. To summarize, Canada has not given itself the means to conduct proper research and to acquire knowledge in this field. For example, only two general national drug surveys have been conducted - in and Much of the problem with respect to research and knowledge development can be attributed to the almost non-existent funding allocated to the CCSA.
The recent increase to its core funding may temporarily stop the bleeding but will not allow Canada to acquire the tools necessary to conduct vital and necessary research in this area.