Own your ow legal marijuana business
Your guide to making money in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry
Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 2 - Policies and Practices In Canada

Chapter 11 - A National Drug Strategy?

Phase II - Renewal


In order to determine the future of the NDS, the federal government undertook a national consultation process in March and April 1991. 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.  

Many at the consultations advocated incorporating the Driving While Impaired (DWI) Strategy into the NDS, and there was also strong support for a comprehensive national alcohol policy. It was also suggested that use of steroids by athletes and youth be included in the NDS. Finally, others called for a comprehensive tobacco policy and for tobacco’s inclusion within 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. [1][25]  


In 1992, the NDS was renewed under the designation Canada’s Drug Strategy (CDS). Funding was increased to $270 million over the five-year period and the Strategy principally involved six federal departments.[2][26] As had been suggested, the DWI Strategy became a component of CDS, although the same could not be said for tobacco. Once again, CDS called for a balanced approach to reducing both the demand for drugs and their supply. The funding was to be allocated as follows: prevention (30%); treatment (30%); enforcement and control (28%); information and research (5%); national focus (5%); and international co-operation (1%). According to Health Canada, over the five-year period, about $104.4 million was actually provided.[3][27] In fact, resources that were originally approved were almost immediately reduced, and this reduction continued over the course of CDS as a result of budget cuts.

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.[4][28]

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. The primary and overall objective of Phase II was to make Canada’s alcohol and other drug interventions more effective at reducing harm to individuals, families, and communities caused by the problem use of alcohol and other drugs. This would be accomplished through the following secondary objectives:


v     Improved program targeting through a focus on high-risk populations (especially young children, street kids, dropouts, off-reserve Aboriginals, the unemployed, seniors and women);

v     Improved coordination and collaboration across federal departments and with external partners (provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, etc.);

v     An improved information base on substance abuse-related issues, to assist policy-makers, program developers, researchers, professionals, and others concerned with substance abuse issues in addressing this problem; and

v     Enhanced resources that would enable departments to continue certain ongoing activities and redirect attention to emerging issues or new activities.[5][29]

The decision to renew CDS was accompanied by a requirement for its evaluation. In June 1997 a report evaluating Phase II of CDS was published by Health Canada. Its main findings were as follows:


v     Improved program targeting was implemented in all participating departments, with justifiable variation according to their respective mandates;

v     Interdepartmental coordination at the working level and for task-specific initiatives was effective. 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);

v     CDS did not have national visibility at either political or public levels;

v     The information available in Canada on the issue of substance abuse increased as a result of Phase II funding;

v     Departmental resources were increased through Phase II. However, there were significant subsequent cuts to some departmental budgets that may have limited the potential achievements of Phase II; and

v     Phase II resources were used in a manner consistent with a harm reduction approach, although a formal harm reduction policy was not in place during the course of the strategy.


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 2001 (five years later) by the Auditor General of Canada       

To coordinate the strategy, two groups were established at the federal level, both chaired by Health Canada: the Assistant Deputy Ministers’ Steering Committee on Substance Abuse, and the Interdepartmental Working Group on Substance Abuse. 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. [6][30]



[1][25]  Government of Canada, Canada’s Drug Strategy: Consultations 1991, page 7. For more information on comments made regarding supply issues, demand issues and the role and impact of CDS, see pages 3-7.

[2][26]  Health and Welfare Canada, Solicitor General Canada, Revenue Canada (Customs and Excise), Labour Canada, External Affairs and International Trade Canada and Justice Canada.

[3][27]  Gillian Lynch, Director General, Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme, Health Canada, Proceedings of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, Senate of Canada, first session of the thirty-seventh Parliament 2001-2002, 10 June 2002, Issue no. 22, page 27.

[4][28]  Government of Canada, Canada’s Drug Strategy – Phase II, 1992, page 3.

[5][29]  Health Canada, Evaluation of Canada’s Drug Strategy: Final Report, June 1997, p. iv.

[6][30]  Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons, 2001, Chapter 11, “Illicit Drugs: The Federal Government’s Role”, page 6.

Library Highlights

Drug Information Articles

Drug Rehab