Nova Scotia keeps report on impact of illicit drugs confidential

Jan 19, 2021

A recent report created by Nova Scotia’s provincial health department to evaluate which illicit drugs are impacting communities across the province has been kept confidential by the government and has not been made available to the general public.

The report, compiled earlier in November’s and titled “Nova Scotia Drug Report – Drugs & Substances” includes information regarding the drugs which have led to overdose deaths, as well as the drugs which have been found in different health zones across the province.

In his interview with Global News, Dr. Matthew Herder, drug policy analyst and director of Dalhousie University’s Health Law Institute, said that confidentiality comes with increased risks to the public.

“Without that information, we can’t have a more informed conversation about whether we should be doing more,” Dr. Herder added.

Acting provincial health minister, Leo Glavine, has said that beyond potential “security purposes,” he was unsure why the report has not been made public yet.

“I know this was the case, came up a few times, when I was previously minister but why we don’t have (the report) public, I can certainly check on that for you,” Glavine said during a provincial cabinet meeting held earlier in December.

The provincial health department has denied an interview request by Global News to address questions about the report and why it isn’t available to the public.

However, the health department has provided a statement by email, stating that the report was compiled by the Department of Health and Wellness and incorporates data gathered from justice, health care, and community harm reduction. The email statement reads that the report contains “sensitive information” and is an internal document. Further, the email said that the report isn’t available to the public because “there are risks of identifying individuals who are a part of a vulnerable group with this more granular information.”

“People who have been advocating for various harm-reduction-related services, new ideas like safe supply that other jurisdictions in Canada have signalled support for. The reason why we’re not making any progress on that front in Nova Scotia seems to be because ‘we’re not the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver,’” Dr. Herder told Global News.

A copy of the report was leaked, however, from a source who feels it should be public information and is available online. It is four pages long and outlines the drugs which have been in different communities across Nova Scotia. Specifically, the report states that crystal meth has been traced in Cumberland County and that fake Oxy 80s have been circulating in Cape Breton.

The report also outlines detailed information regarding 436 substance-related responses by Emergency Health Services for the month of October, with 24 of those calls involving cocaine and/or crack/cocaine.

Drug policy advocates have expressed their concerns over the report being kept confidential, since this type of information could be informative to individuals, communities and support agencies to deal with illicit drug supply.