National Anti-Drug Strategy Evaluation

5. Conclusions, Recommendations and Management Response

This chapter summarizes the major conclusions and presents the recommendations and management responses arising from the findings of the evaluation.

5.1 Conclusions

1. There is a strong continuing need for the National Anti-Drug Strategy, nationally and internationally.

Illicit drug use is a continued concern for Canadians, particularly given the involvement of youth and other vulnerable populations, the economic costs, concerns regarding emerging issues, and a desire for safer and healthier communities. Justice Canada’s 2008 report on the Costs of Crime in Canada estimated that the costs associated with illicit drug use in Canada totalled $1.3 billion in additional health care costs for illicit drug users, $2 billion in justice-related costs (police, courts, and correctional services), and $5.3 billion in productivity losses for illicit drug users. Emerging issues such as illicit use of pharmaceuticals, drug-impaired driving, and major local drug issues (e.g. MGOs, compassion clubs, and gang migration) have been highlighted as areas requiring attention. In addition, Canada has a role to enhance international cooperation and to respond to the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, particularly marihuana and synthetic drugs. There was consensus amongst evaluation participants that there is a continuing need for programming that contributes to a reduction in demand for illicit drugs and disruption of illicit drug operations in a safe manner, while targeting criminal organizations at the national and international levels.

2. The Strategy is consistent with the Government of Canada's priorities and roles and responsibilities.

The relevance of the Strategy and its alignment with the Government of Canada’s priorities have been demonstrated through recent Throne Speeches (2011, 2010 and 2007) as well as the government focus on tackling crime and creating safer and healthier communities. The role of the federal government is founded in key legislation and international conventions and protocols in areas relevant to the Strategy’s activities. All groups of interviewees indicated that the federal government is uniquely positioned to provide leadership (e.g. strategic direction, framework, standards, best practices, legislation and regulations), support (e.g. funding and information) and coordination, complementing the service delivery activities of the provincial and territorial governments as well as other stakeholders.

3. Progress has been made in key areas such as engaging youth and First Nations and Inuit communities.

Many aspects of the Strategy were successful in engaging youth in program activities and services. Stakeholders explained that some activities funded under the Strategy (e.g. NYIDP, DOCAS-ASP) have changed the relationship between police officers and youth by introducing officers as a source of information and support when youth need help. Youth participants in various NCPC and DSCIF projects reported their intent to continue contributing to, or participating in, the project on an ongoing basis. Departmental representatives highlighted the effectiveness of the Mass Media Campaign’s use of social media (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, etc.) in engaging youth to post comments and share stories online as an important best practice.

Stakeholders noted that the NNADAP renewal process was effective in engaging First Nations communities in federal initiatives as well as in improving the quality and relevance of treatment services for First Nations and Inuit people. They explained that the NNADAP renewal process built strong momentum by developing a system-based approach and providing effective methods, particularly with respect to culturally based interventions.

4. The three action plans of the Strategy have demonstrated progress in moving towards their targeted outcomes. However, bringing about significant change in public opinion and behaviour and creating healthier and safe communities take time.

The Prevention Action Plan has been successful in increasing awareness and understanding of illicit drugs and their consequences, and in developing supports for targeted populations. In particular, the Mass Media Campaign and DOCAS have shown significant impacts in increasing awareness and understanding of illicit drugs, and NCPC and DSCIF have enhanced supports for targeted/at-risk populations to make informed decisions about illicit drug use. Components of the Prevention Action Plan developed publications, resources and tools for different purposes and scopes. Although k nowledge has been created and made available, more time and effort are required for communities to uptake the knowledge. A CCSA survey identified that community responses to illicit drug issues could be strengthened by identifying programs that match their needs as well as their organization’s mandate. Establishing a centralized resource of information on youth drug prevention programs and learning about program planning, implementation, evaluation, best practices, partnership models, and creative ways to reach target audiences can also improve the community uptake and capacity. In addition, it was suggested that prevention activities could be strengthened by placing a higher priority on reaching at-risk youth in the communities most in need as well as using a variety of channels to influence the decisions of the target populations. Overall, the evaluation participants think that it is too early to observe and measure changes in public opinion and behaviour or to attribute changes to the Prevention Action Plan.

Components of the Treatment Action Plan enhanced the capacity to plan and deliver treatment services and programs. Despite major delays in implementation, HC’s DTFP provided funding to strengthen treatment systems and services in six provinces and one territory and secured the support and participation of provincial and territorial governments as well as treatment service providers. HC’s NNADAP supported improvements in the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of services, including innovative and collaborative approaches to addiction treatment for First Nations and Inuit. The NNADAP Framework reflects a continuum of care approach that focuses collaboration across jurisdictions and profiles examples of highly effective and innovative programming that can be replicated in other communities. Research indicates that the Justice Canada DTCs have been successful in reducing drug use behaviour and contributing to a reduction in criminal recidivism compared to conventional justice system responses. The RCMP’s NYIDP provided tools and training at eight sites to enable frontline members of RCMP to consider alternatives to charging youth and to refer them to community/treatment programs. Justice Canada’s YJADS enhanced the capacity of treatment services through funding training and research projects related to youth offender intervention/treatment for illicit drugs. CIHR’s Research on Drug Treatment Models expanded addiction research to many related areas and examined the capacity of treatment system for knowledge translation. The Treatment Action Plan also enhanced provincial and territorial commitments in some areas but there are concerns about the sustainability of projects once federal funding ends. The uptake of successful pilot projects and identified best practices by treatment systems was a main concern among evaluation participants.

Finally, all lines of evidence suggest that the Enforcement Action Plan has made progress in increasing capacity for drug enforcement and prosecution of illicit drug producers and distributors . The Plan has also increased the capacity of Strategy partners to gather and share intelligence and to analyze evidence. It had significant success in developing partnerships particularly among the RCMP, CBSA, CRA, FINTRAC, PWGSC-FAMG, and HC-DAS. Annual contributions to the UNODC and OAS-CICAD also improved global capacity. The evaluation results revealed that the Action Plan raised awareness of illicit drugs and precursor chemical issues among enforcement officers in Canada and abroad through workshops, training and information sessions conducted by many partners, including PS, the RCMP, HC-DAS, HC-OCS, CBSA and DFAIT. In addition, overall capacity to control and monitor controlled substances increased, particularly for the RCMP, HC-OCS and CBSA. The Strategy contributed to increased safety in dismantling illicit drug operations through training of police officers and people who are closely involved in dismantling operations, and it raised awareness among the general public.

The Strategy has been effective in identifying emerging issues such as the synthetic drug problem. Moreover, stakeholders indicated that enforcement officials are now better able to identify the emergence of new designer drugs (e.g. cathinones and cannabinoids) as a result of the Strategy. They also mentioned the role of the Strategy in increasing awareness, particularly in Latin America, of key issues and gaps. Other stakeholders highlighted the important progress made in shifting enforcement towards addressing the distribution of illicit drugs, rather than targeting those who use illicit drugs. In focus groups, departmental representatives highlighted the increasing attention given to the victims of illicit drugs and how their dependency affects communities. They added moreover, that one of the strengths of the Enforcement Action Plan is its flexibility in responding to new trends and emerging issues identified by partners.

Statistics indicate that there has been an increase in illicit drug seizures. For example, CBSA seizures almost doubled, which the Agency attributes to introducing a dedicated Desk Head, presenting a workshop and information sessions with frontline officers, and strengthening the precursor intelligence network. The RCMP reported a significant increase in the number of MGOs dismantled per year since 2007 while HC’s OCS reported an increase in the diversion of precursor chemicals . However, there is currently little basis for estimating the extent to which these outcomes can be attributed directly to the Strategy.

Departmental representatives participating in focus groups highlighted the success of the Enforcement Action Plan in addressing drug-related issues and promoting the work of the Strategy at the international level. As a result of the Strategy, particularly through DFAIT and partner departments, Canada has been able to articulate clearly to the international community how it is responding to the drug problem. In addition, Canada has been recognized as a country that is working to address its own issues with respect to illicit drugs, emphasizing both demand and supply reductions through its three action plan approach.

5. Given the size, complexity and early stage of development of the Strategy, it is not yet possible to comment conclusively on its overall efficiency and economy.

Based on the document reviews and field research, it is possible to identify some of the major factors that have contributed to and constrained the efficiency of the Strategy. The Strategy has benefited from:

In the short term, the efficiency of the Strategy has been constrained by a number of factors including the challenges associated with creating such a large, complex horizontal initiative, the start-up time associated with establishing new components or expanding the capacity of existing activities, and an inability to redistribute funding across components. Efficiency has also been constrained by certain regulatory issues (e.g. the process involved in implementing amendments to the CDSA), and the limited availability of complementary services in some regions or communities. The low public profile of the Strategy may have had a negative impact on its efficiency by reducing the stakeholder involvement and interest in it.

5.2 Recommendations and Management Response

The evaluation supports the continuation of the National Anti-Drug Strategy and its three-pronged approach; however, there were some areas for improvement. This section discusses four issues arising from the evaluation and provides recommendations along with the management response.

Issue 1: Governance

When asked about the strengths of the Strategy, departmental representatives commonly identified the effective governance structure and committed leadership. More specifically, the governance structure of the Strategy is effective in facilitating communication, collaboration and cooperation among partners. Representatives highlighted the importance of regular communication internally among partners and having both program-level and DG/ADM-level committees to ensure that the Strategy remains a priority within the participating departments. Departmental representatives have noted that the strong leadership and commitment of senior staff from Justice Canada (particularly in fostering relationships among partner departments and buy-in from key ADMs) greatly contributed to the success of the Strategy. Although the governance of the Strategy was recognized as a strength, there have been several changes to the structures since 2007 with the creation of formal and informal sub-groups. Some unfunded partners identified at the outset of the Strategy have not been participating in any of the meetings; however, other unfunded federal partners were included in some committees.

Recommendation 1:

It is recommended that the Policy and Performance Working Group, in collaboration with the other working groups and sub-groups, undertake a review of the governance structure. The review should include the membership and terms of reference for each committee, as well as the roles and responsibilities of each partner and the lead of each action plan.

Management Response:


Justice Canada will support the Policy and Performance Working Group in reviewing the governance structure, including terms of reference and membership of each committee and working group, and in articulating the roles and responsibilities of each Strategy member department and each action plan lead.

At a 2012 meeting of the Policy and Performance Working Group, Justice Canada will lead a review of the governance structure, including terms of reference and membership, and will articulate the roles and responsibilities of the Strategy members and each action plan lead department. It is noted that the perspectives of non-Strategy federal partners, e.g., Public Health Agency of Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada , and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (Homelessness Partnering Secretariat) continue to be welcome as part of the Policy and Performance Working Group. Justice Canada will also continue to reach out to federal partners who work on drug-related issues, e.g., Transport (Road Users Section) and Heritage (International Anti-doping Section), to ensure that their knowledge contributes to the efforts of the Strategy.

Issue 2: Coordination and Communication across Action Plans

Interviewees as well as case study and focus group participants commented on the significant progress made in terms of developing partnerships, fostering collaboration, and facilitating information-sharing among many different partners and stakeholders. Strong relationships were developed within departments, between federal departments, with other levels of government, with other stakeholders, and internationally. However, concerns were raised in the interviews and focus groups about how demand and supply reductions are working in silos, resulting in a disconnection in the Strategy. Departmental representatives suggested that ad hoc meetings, conferences and workshops focused on specific issues could be an effective vehicle to improve the coordination of supply and demand reduction activities and improve collaboration and communication across the three action plans, particularly with respect to emerging issues.

Recommendation 2:

It is recommended that the Policy and Performance Working Group, in collaboration with the Prevention and Treatment Working Group and the Enforcement Working Group, identify opportunities to improve the communication across the three action plans.

Management Response:


The Policy and Performance Working Group, the Prevention and Treatment Working Group and the Enforcement Working Group will identify opportunities to improve communication across the three action plans.

Actions to implement this recommendation will include:

Issue 3: Knowledge Transfer

Although the Strategy has been successful in developing knowledge by supporting innovative pilot projects, undertaking research, and identifying best practices or lessons learned, it is important to recognize that the eventual impact of those projects is dependent on the ability to transfer that knowledge to other parties and on their capacity to act on it. With respect to the former, both departmental representatives and stakeholders identified challenges in disseminating knowledge, best practices and research findings to potential users. Most dissemination activities targeted funding recipients of individual components, rather than potential users more broadly. With respect to the latter, there is concern that funding constraints at the provincial and territorial level may mean, for example, that some successful pilot projects will not continue once federal funding ends.

Recommendation 3:

It is recommended that the Prevention and Treatment Working Group develop a mechanism for disseminating knowledge developed through the prevention and treatment components of the Strategy.

Management Response:


The Strategy partners will continue to devise ways to improve knowledge exchange about prevention and treatment interventions.

Actions to implement this recommendation will include:

Issue 4: Performance Measurement

Throughout the implementation of the Strategy, departmental representatives have regularly measured performance, and this information was used extensively in this evaluation. However, a number of challenges were identified with the existing performance measurement system. These include difficulties in aggregating impacts given the broad range of activities undertaken, attributing particular outcomes directly to the activities and outputs of the Strategy, and defining performance measures that fairly reflect the target outcomes of the programming. Component-specific evaluations will assess the progress made and identify lessons learned, best practices and opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of future activities and outputs.

Recommendation 4:

It is recommended that the Policy and Performance Working Group and Sub-committee on Evaluation and Reporting build on the lessons learned during the first five years by reviewing and revising performance indicators and data sources. The review should simplify and prioritize the indicators and outcomes for each component, and ensure that they are relevant, measurable and attributable to the activities and outcomes of the component.

Management Response:


The Policy and Performance Working Group and the Sub-committee on Evaluation and Reporting recognize the importance of performance data and will review the performance indicators as part of the overall exercise to update the framework.

In 2012-13 the Sub-committee on Evaluation and Reporting, under direction from the Policy and Performance Working Group, will develop a performance measurement strategy. This exercise will provide an opportunity for the Strategy partners to review and revise the performance indicators to ensure that they are relevant, measurable and attributable to the activities and outcomes of the Strategy components. Given the maturity of the Strategy, effort will be made to shift the focus from reporting on activities to outcomes, which will better support the next evaluation. Furthermore, during this process, partners can review the timing of component-specific evaluations to ensure, where possible, that they are completed in time to support the next evaluation of the Strategy.