Help shape Canada’s approach to substance use issues!

Health Canada has launched a public consultation on potential next steps in the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS).

The purpose of this consultation is to engage Canadians on new and innovative ideas on how to further strengthen the federal government’s approach to substance use issues through the CDSS. The consultation will last for 90 days, closing on December 4, 2018. To participate you will provide feedback through an on-line questionnaire based on key themes, including:

  • Taking action on the root causes and risk factors of problematic substance use
  • Reducing stigma towards people who use drugs
  • Improving access to comprehensive, evidence-based treatment services
  • Applying a public health lens to regulation and enforcement activities

Here is the link to participate:


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PAD’s 2018 Annual General Meeting

Notice of
2018 Annual General Meeting of Parent Action on Drugs

Monday, September 17, 2018
6:30 p.m.

North York Civic Centre, Committee Room #1
5100 Yonge Street, Toronto M2N 5V7

Featuring a presentation by Massively on the development of a chatbot for parents and youth to engage in discussions on cannabis.

Contact the Parent Action on Drugs office if you would like to attend.  416 395-4970 or

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Thanks to those that donated to PAD for the Great Canadian Giving Challenge

PAD received a total of 525 entries into the Great Canadian Giving Challenge

this year.  Thank you to our donors for the chances to win. 

It’s too late for this year for the contest, but not too late to donate

and help PAD continue their programs and services. 

Click on the Donate Now button at the top of the page. 



Start your summer right. Help us win $10,000.



Please Help our Charity Win $10,000

Every $1 you donate to our charity in June via

counts as a ballot to help us win $10,000 from the GIV3

Foundation. Please donate today – we really appreciate your help!


Donate to help us win


For full contest rules and regulations, please read the Official Contest Rules

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Newly revised Parent Action Pack Brochure 2018 now available online

The newly revised Parent Action Pack Brochure is now available electronically in English. 

It includes:

  • a new section on fentanyl,
  • updated statistics,
  • and an expanded section on cannabis.














And check out the Parent Action Pack website here.

Print version and French edition to follow.

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Teaming up with University of Waterloo to educate students about the alcohol and breast cancer connection

Thanks to a grant from Women’s College Hospital’s Women’s Xchange $15K Challenge, PAD and Campus Health Promotion at the University of Waterloo (UW) conducted a focus group study involving UW, Laurier, and Conestoga College students to develop awareness messages about alcohol consumption and lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. This study allowed us to understand what resonates with the audience, female students, 18-22 years of age, and which communication channels they prefer to receive health information.

Why does it matter undergraduate women know about this relationship? There is convincing evidence of a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and female breast cancer, but the level of awareness about this dose-response association is low. Plus, the window of time when breast tissue proliferation is high and potentially more susceptible to carcinogens, like alcohol, is between menarche and first pregnancy and post-secondary students are at an increased risk for high alcohol exposure. Therefore, it is not only important to increase awareness that the more alcohol a woman consumes over her lifetime the higher her risk for breast cancer, but there is also an elevated risk associated with consumption earlier in life.

The findings of the study suggest that educating students about specific health risks not typically associated with alcohol may be an effective strategy to promote contemplating reduced alcohol consumption. To learn more about the study, the messages developed and the next steps for disseminating the awareness ads, please read the summary report and watch our dynamic and informative video. If you are involved in post-secondary health promotion and interested in acquiring and disseminating the awareness tools we produced (posters, GIF for social media), or have questions or feedback, please contact PAD at, or me directly at

Jane McCarthy, MSc, MPH

Manager, Program Development

Parent Action on Drugs

Printable versions of the posters – click on link below and then right click and do a save image as to save it to your computer for printing.

Poster 1 – printable version

Poster 2 – printable version

15K Final Project Report (Summary)


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HC Link Conference: Linking for Healthy Communities: With Everyone, For Everyone

PAD was a member of HC Link and was lead for this conference.

On November 20 and 21, HC Link’s 2017 conference, Linking for Healthy Communities: With Everyone, For Everyone brought together 110 people at the BMO Institute for Learning in Toronto to learn and share experiences and ideas about how to work across difference to build more inclusive communities.

The event provided a safe, open space for curiosity, self-reflection, and conversation to:

  • Build understanding of equity, diversity, cultural humility, inclusion, and allyship.
  • Ask questions, reflect and learn in a safe space for open conversation.
  • Learn to work across difference with diverse groups to advance collective efforts.
  • Gain practical strategies to build inclusive communities.
  • Connect and share with conference participants from many sectors and from across Ontario.

The conference program offered an amazing line-up of inspiring presentations, interactive workshops, and engaging activities to explore how communities can work with everyone to create communities healthy for everyone. Ophea’s Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC) was the conference physical activity partner.

Conference Resources

Linking for Healthy Communities 2017 Conference Highlights

Final 2017 conference program

Presenter bios

Keynote Address from Kim Katrin Milan

Kim Katrin Milan is a dynamic community organizer and advocate of equality and inclusion who helps people build their ability to relate to others – especially to those who, on the surface, may seem quite different than ourselves. Kim’s keynote address deepened our understanding of the concepts of equity, bias, intersectionality, cultural competency, allyship and inclusion.

Opening Keynote Address – Centring the Margins

Video interview with Kim

Workshop Materials

What Successful Partnerships Do: An equity and inclusion lens (HandoutPartner Contribution Matrix)

Reflection and Action on the Impact of Power & Privilege in Health Equity Practice (Slides)

Practicing Equity with Cultural Humility (Slides)

Nation to Nation: Strengthening Relationships with Indigenous Communities (Slides not available – contact

Actionable Knowledge & Helpful Tools for Engaging Young People from Diverse Backgrounds (SlidesBlog post)

Working With the Priorities of People Living In Poverty (Blog post)

Facilitating Community Conversations on Inclusion (Slides)

Reflecting on Equity and Inclusion in Leadership (SlidesWorkshop materialsBlog post to come)

Vers le développement de partenariats dynamiques, effectifs et durables (SlidesHandout)

Les 5 disciplines de la gouvernance synergique (Slides not available – contact

Franco Pavilion

The French Pavilion at the conference helped connect participants to French speakers and service providers through mini-presentations and an open marketplace.

Patient Priority: An overview (English Slides)

How to engage with francophone communities (English Slides)

Socio-demographic changes within the Francophone community of Ontario (French Slides)



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PAD’s Annual Report 2016 2017

Parent Action on Drugs annual report for 2016 2017 is now available.

Annual Report 2016 2017

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New Opioid Education Resources for Parents/Caregivers, Educators and Students

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the School Mental Health ASSIST program partnered to produce three new downloadable print resources about opioids: the facts, the dangers, problem signs, and getting help. Prescription opioids and fentanyl are covered, as well as information about naloxone, the medication that can prevent death in someone who has overdosed.

“8% and 10% of grades 7 and 8 and high school students, respectively, said they used prescription opioids without a prescription at least once in the past year.” (Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey, 2015)

While the majority of youth are not experimenting or using prescription opioids, or using street drugs that may contain opioids, knowingly or unknowingly, the danger of overdose and possibly death to those who do is high. This level of risk makes it essential that young people and the adults in their lives be educated. These practical information sheets are a must in the substance use/misuse prevention and education tool box.

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Notice of AGM

Notice of
2017 Annual General Meeting of Parent Action on Drugs
Monday, September 11, 2017
6:30 p.m.
North York Civic Centre, Committee Room #1
5100 Yonge Street, Toronto M2N 5V7

Featuring a presentation by Suzanne Witt-Foley on Youth and Mental Health.

Contact the Parent Action on Drugs office if you would like to attend.  416 395-4970 or


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It’s “cannabis” not “marijuana” and other interesting learnings from the Hon. Anne McLellan

By Jane McCarthy, Parent Action on Drugs

Complex. Challenging. Broad societal impact.  Words that come to mind when thinking about the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. I recently had the opportunity to hear the Honourable Anne McLellan, chair of the Government of Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, also use these words when she spoke at the University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems. She spoke about the work of the Task Force and where we are headed.  Having scanned the 106-page Task Force’s report on the recommended framework for legalization and regulation, it was a welcome opportunity to learn more about how the recommendations came together (80 diverse position statements taken into consideration) and how quickly so (five months), in a more dynamic way. While Ms. McLellan recapped the general public health approach and principles upon which the legislation introduced by the federal government is based, i.e., take a cautionary approach and protect the public’s health and safety, she imparted some interesting and important side notes, a few I’d like to share here.

  1. It’s cannabis, NOT marijuana, from here on, folks! —As we go forward, we need to stop using the term marijuana in our messaging and replace it with the correct botanical name, cannabis. Marijuana is slang and more typically thought of as the dried flowers of the cannabis plant used for smoking or ingesting. Cannabis can be consumed in many different forms in multiple ways, so we need to re-educate ourselves, colleagues and those we serve.
  2. There is soooo much we don’t know about this plant!—We know something about THC and CBD, and still more to learn about them, but what do we know about the 104 other active ingredients in cannabis? Not much. Are they harmful or helpful? We need to know. There will be a huge focus on primary research in the botanical sciences and merging that knowledge into the biomedical space. Interested in studying plants? There should be plenty of work available in that field as we move forward.
  3. Why recommending the minimum legal age be 18 years makes sense—It’s true the developing brain is vulnerable to harms associated with cannabis use until 25 years of age. Contrary to recommendations made by medial associations and others to set it higher, the task force made this recommendation for a number of valid reasons. First, it makes practical sense for Provinces and Territories to choose to harmonize it with their legal drinking age, three of which have set that age at 18. Second, although it seems counter intuitive to not set a higher age when the focus is to protect youth, setting the minimum age too high would encourage an illicit market targeting youth and thus, leaving them more vulnerable to the harms associated with unregulated substance content and criminal interaction. Third, most Canadians who report use of cannabis in the past year are 15-24 years of age. Usage falls off dramatically after age 25 to about 10%. If the legal age were 25, it would criminalize the bulk of users and wouldn’t have much of a harm reduction impact, now would it? The Task Force believes that with quality public education, most people by age 18 can make an informed decision.
  4. It’s a one-sided gender target market, so far—Males by far out-number females in terms of recreational cannabis consumption, approximately to the tune of 3:1. However, once legalized in Colorado, consumption did see a rise among females. It will be interesting to see if that holds true in Canada as well.
  5. Education is key: from creating clarity around legalization to promoting health and safety—Ms. McLellan noted that many members of the advocacy for recreational cannabis community only seem to hear the word “legalization”, while the word “regulation” is ignored. Just because it will become legal, doesn’t mean it’s a free for all for cannabis to be consumed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. People must be educated to understand the rules and be held accountable to them for the sake of public health and safety. And while we must move away from a psychology of prohibition to legal use, proper public education is required to address both the benefits and harms to mitigate both fear among those opposed to legalization and the misguided belief there are no harms associated with cannabis among the fervent advocates. To keep children and teens safer, longer, it is paramount that parents and other adults involved with youth, and youth themselves receive effective education about the potential harms to the developing brain ahead of legalization and on-going.

In a nutshell, there is much to learn about cannabis, its effects, and how to best legislate production, distribution, and use to promote public health and safety. Every aspect of society will be impacted in some way by legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis from perceived norms to business development to educational opportunities to health care to law enforcement to—you name it! Thus, the Task Force has recommended legislation that is cautious and flexible to respond to evolving knowledge and experience. As health educators and promoters, we must get ahead of legalization and teach the risks of developmental harms to youth and those associated with problematic patterns of use at any age. We must target and engage parents, health care providers, educators, community workers, and youth themselves to develop and evaluate effective tools about facts, norms, and making healthy, safe choices around cannabis, regardless of what the laws will look like.

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