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Statement by CNA President Barb Shellian following the health ministers’ conference

Edmonton, October 20, 2017 — Barb Shellian, president of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), issued the following statement following the health ministers’ conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

“The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) was pleased federal, provincial and territorial health ministers discussed strategies to address key health topics of public interest.

“We commend the fact that a meeting with national Indigenous organizations was a key part of the agenda today. In partnership with the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA), CNA is a vocal advocate for Indigenous nursing and health. It is through dialogue and meaningful action that we will make real progress toward our shared goals. CNA’s 2018 pre-budget submission to the House of Commons standing committee on finance echoes that of CINA in calling for measures to address the significant and longstanding gaps in Indigenous health outcomes.

“CNA has called on first ministers to take action on the opioid crisis. To start, governments must remove procedural barriers to allow nurses to do their necessary lifesaving work in various settings, including supervised consumption sites. We are glad to see federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and provincial and territorial health ministers recognize the opioid epidemic as a national public health crisis. We appreciate their efforts to address barriers to harm reduction, reduce stigma often associated with problematic substance use, and implement other measures to save lives.

“We are encouraged that health ministers discussed how they will address new federal legislation (Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act), which will become law by July, 1, 2018. CNA supports the passage of Bill C-45 as it is an evidence-informed strategy to reduce the harms of cannabis use in Canada. We are also very pleased to see ministers stress the importance of early and ongoing public education about cannabis use, especially among young Canadians.

“We urge Minister Petitpas Taylor to adopt a key recommendation in our 2018 pre-budget submission to the House of Commons standing committee on finance [PDF, 181.6 KB]. CNA calls for the federal government to invest $125 million over five years in public education, with ongoing funding of $2 million per year for a harm reduction-based cannabis awareness campaign targeting youth and adults. Provincial and territorial governments should ensure funds are used to develop and disseminate relevant resources to better inform Canadians about the risks of cannabis use.

“We were encouraged to see health ministers provide more details on progress toward development of a focused set of common indicators to demonstrate meaningful progress in improving home care across Canada, as required by the recent bilateral health agreements. Prior to the 2017 federal budget, CNA called for the agreements to include accountability measures to show that the targeted funds are bringing high-quality care closer to home. In 2016, CNA called for the creation of a framework that would use publicly accessible data to report on federal health funding and health and social outcomes [PDF, 297.3 KB]. Through the work of CIHI, we are beginning to take necessary strides.

“In addition, given the threat to health posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), we are encouraged to know this was discussed and participants agreed to continue work on implementing the pan-Canadian frameworks on AMR. CNA’s 2018 pre-budget submission and appearance before the House of Commons standing committee on health in June 2017 (recommendations outlined in our brief [PDF, 194.7 KB]) called for the federal government to adopt recommendations to stem the threat of AMR. As an example, provincial and territorial governments would benefit from a federal investment of $45 million over the next five years to scale up provincial and territorial acute care and community-based antimicrobial stewardship programs.



Recommendations on addressing the national opioid crisis:

  • Remove procedural barriers to opening supervised consumption sites (SCSs) across Canada. Amendments were proposed via our submission [PDF, 160.5 KB] to the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs on Bill C-37, An Act to Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to Make Related Amendments to Other Acts.
  • Amend Bill C-37 to include a provision that would allow provincial or territorial ministers to grant temporary exemptions to SCSs.
  • Support and encourage provincial and territorial counterparts to adopt a system of electronic health records that can communicate across jurisdictions and link compatibly with the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS), which captures data on dispensed prescription drugs.
  • Fund development of educational resources for health-care practitioners — with a primary target audience of prescribers and dispensers — that provide current, evidence-based information, developed in consultation with providers to support their practice.

CNA has already disseminated educational resources related to opioid use for provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing:

Recommendations on Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act:

CNA strongly recommends that the federal government:

  • Implement as soon as possible an evidence-informed public education campaign, targeted at the general population but with an emphasis on youth, parents and vulnerable populations. This campaign should include education and prevention messages as well as information to help people detect impaired driving. Furthermore, it is imperative that such campaigns provide education on cannabis edibles, even if they are not addressed in the initial legislation.
  • Decriminalize personal possession of cannabis for all age groups. Legalizing cannabis for adults while maintaining criminal penalties for youth can disproportionately disadvantage young people, particularly those from marginalized or racialized groups, potentially barring them from opportunities to equitably advance in and contribute to society.
  • Commit to using revenue from cannabis as a source of funding for cannabis-related administration, education, research and enforcement.
  • Propose limits on the density and location of storefronts, including appropriate distance from schools, community centres, public parks, etc.
  • Maintain a separate medical access framework to support patients and continue to support research into indications for use of medical cannabis.

For more information, please refer to our August 2017 submission regarding Bill C-45 to the standing committee on health.

The Canadian Nurses Association is the national professional voice representing over 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:

Kevin Ménard
Communications Advisor
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-266-8230
E-mail: kmenard@cna-aiic.ca