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Canadian Public Health Association

Position statements


A Public Health Approach to Population Mental Wellness

March 2, 2021

In 1942, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) approved its first resolution concerning mental health. That resolution called for improvement to the provision of mental health services for Canadians in light of the effect of the war effort on the availability of such services domestically. Between 1942 and 2003, mental health and mental wellness had been, directly or indirectly, the subject of five additional resolutions and a discussion paper. Appendix 1 provides a summary of these initiatives. “Mental health” was subsequently identified as a subject for development during CPHA’s …

Review of Canada’s Initial Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

February 16, 2021

On 31 December 2019, China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown etiology in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province. The cause of this infection was later identified as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a previously unknown coronavirus (CoV) that is morphologically similar to SARS-CoV which causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by WHO on 30 January 2020, the illness was named COVID-19 on 11 February 2020, and a pandemic was declared on 11 March …


Climate Change and Human Health

October 4, 2019

Climate change is “the greatest health threat of the 21st century”1 and it is recognized that “the effects of climate change are being felt today and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health.”2 The enormity of the challenge has been catalogued in a recent Government of Canada report.3 The effects of climate change include: overall changes in temperature, increases in extreme weather events, changes in conventional patterns of disease vectors, polar ice decline, sea level rise, and changes in plant f…

Public Health in the Context of Health System Renewal in Canada

May 21, 2019

The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) has a history of contributing to the discussions concerning the development and renewal of the public health systems* in Canada. This statement, CPHA’s latest contribution, comes at a time when public health systems in some provinces and territories are being reorganized and in some cases reduced in size. The resulting changes have raised concern that these systems will no longer be able to meet the current mandate nor address future demands. The Association’s commentary concerning these changes is provided in two parts. The first is a

Children's Unstructured Play

March 12, 2019

Unstructured play happens when children follow their instincts, ideas, and interests without an imposed outcome. CPHA recognizes unstructured play as a child’s right and a critical component to child and youth health and well-being. Actions are necessary to reduce the barriers limiting opportunities for unstructured play at school and in the community. CPHA commends those school boards, municipalities, other governments and non-governmental organizations that are taking positive steps to improve children’s access to unstructured play; however, further steps are needed.


Racism and Public Health

December 17, 2018

Canada remains a nation where a person’s colour, religion, culture or ethnic origin* are determinants of health that result in inequities in social inclusion, economic outcomes, personal health, and access to and quality of health and social services. These effects are especially evident for racialized and Indigenous peoples as well as those at the lower end of the social gradient and those who are incarcerated (populations that are also disproportionately composed of racialized and Indigenous people). Complicating this scenario are government and non-governmental systems that impose barri…

A Public Health Approach to Nicotine-containing Vaping Devices

March 31, 2018

Vaping devices (vapour devices or e-cigarettes) are devices that heat a liquid consisting of a carrying solution and a combination of flavourings and/or nicotine. The resultant vapour is inhaled. There are two categories of vaping devices: those that contain nicotine and those that do not. In Canada, about 9% of Canadians 15 years of age and older, and 20% of youth in the age groups 15-19 and 20-24 respectively, have tried vaping devices.1 Of those who tried vaping devices, 55% reported that the last device they used did not contain nicotine, 26% reported using a nicotine-contai…

Response to Health Canada’s Consultation on the Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis

February 2, 2018

In November 2017, Health Canada released a consultation document describing the proposed regulations that are being developed in support of the Cannabis Act.1 In order to ensure that the structures necessary to permit the sale of cannabis will be in place by 1 July 2018, Health Canada has developed these draft regulations in advance of the promulgation of the Act. That document described the proposed regulations falling within the jurisdiction of Health Canada and would control the sale of cannabis at the federal level.2 It also provided several questions fo…


Jordan's Principle and Public Health

November 6, 2017

The Canadian Public Health Association supports Jordan’s Principle, and calls on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to fully implement the Principle and address inter-jurisdictional disputes related to the provision of health and social services and/or supports to First Nations’ children. Jordan’s Principle is an approach to resolving disputes related to the provision of public services (including health) to all First Nations children living on- or offreserve. The principle provides a child-first approach to meeting the needs of First Nations children in a culturally appropriate and efficient way (within 48 hours); it requires that the government of initial contact with a child fund the health care and social services needs without delay or disruption of services. Any funding disputes among government organizations are to be resolved later through a jurisdictional dispute resolution mechanism.

Decriminalization of Personal Use of Psychoactive Substances

November 6, 2017

The use of illegal psychoactive substances in Canada persists despite ongoing efforts to limit their consumption. Criminalization of those who use these substances remains the principal tool to control their use and is unsuccessful. An alternative approach – a public health approach – is required. Such an approach is being used to  manage the ongoing opioid crisis through amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and other related acts, including renewal of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy. The amendments provided a simplified approach for obtaining permission to establish supervised consumption facilities while the Strategy renewal reintroduced harm reduction as a pillar. Similarly, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides an exemption from charges for simple possession of a controlled substance, as well as charges concerning pre-trial release, probation orders, conditional sentences and parole violations related to simple possession for people who call emergency services or are on scene when help arrives for those suffering from overdose. The Canadian Public Health Association  encourages provinces, territories and municipalities to implement similar measures in their jurisdictions. Furthermore, the Association recognizes and supports the right of Indigenous communities to respond to psychoactive substance use according to their traditional justice and/or cultural protocols. A public health approach is also being promoted for the legalization and regulation of cannabis and its related products in Canada. The Canadian Public Health Association commends the Government of Canada for taking these actions and urges the continued expansion of this public health approach to manage all psychoactive substances that are currently illegal, as described in Managing Illegal Psychoactive Substances in Canada, a 2014 Discussion Paper. Central to this action is a reduction of the legal barriers which cause harm to individuals who use drugs. Such an approach could be similar to that currently in use in Portugal, as described in Appendix One.