July 1, 2024

Canadian Government Launches Planet Youth Initiative to Combat Youth Substance Use

From left to right: Jon Sigfusson, Chairman of Planet Youth, Pall Rikhardsson, CEO of Planet Youth, the Honorable Ya'ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and associate Minister of Health, Trevor Denhartogh, Interim Executive Director of Undercurrent Youth Society

No community in Canada has been left untouched by the substance use-related harms and the toxic illegal drug supply and overdose crisis. Efforts to prevent substance use, especially among youth, are critical, and by strengthening communities and environment of youth, they will be at lesser risk of initiating substance use.

On June 26, the Honorable Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced the Canadian government’s support for the Youth Substance Use Prevention Program (YSUPP). The event took place in Glace Bay, Novia Scotia in the Undercurrent youth center which provides leisure activities for the youth in the area. The initiative aims to reduce substance use-related harms among young people across Canada through the implementation of the Icelandic Prevention Model (IPM), with support and expertise from Planet Youth.

The initial stage of this initiative will secure funding for seven projects in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Which will be added to the already started seven Planet Youth initiatives in other parts of Canada. These projects will focus on the Canadian adaptation and implementation of the Icelandic Prevention Model and its collaborative approach to preventing substance use harms among youth. With Planet Youth’s guidance, the IPM emphasizes a community-driven strategy to address the root causes of substance use.

These projects will engage diverse communities and sectors, including First Nations, schools, service providers, community leaders, and young people with lived and living experience. Their participation will be crucial in evaluating the IPM within the Canadian context, ensuring that the model is effectively tailored to meet the unique needs of Canadian youth.

Additionally, Renison University College, affiliated with the University of Waterloo, will receive funding to establish a new Knowledge Development and Exchange Hub for Youth Substance Use Prevention. Planet Youth experts will train the Hub to provide guidance and training on the IPM’s implementation in Canada. The Hub will lead a pan-Canadian youth substance use prevention community of practice, facilitating the sharing of information and best practices among various projects.

Preventing and reducing youth substance use through YSUPP is a key component of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy. The Canadian government is committed to continuing this critical work in collaboration with all levels of government, partners, Indigenous communities, stakeholders, and local organizations. These efforts aim to reduce substance use-related harms, ensure comprehensive support for those in need, and ultimately, save lives.