The above information was sent to me via email and I would like to share with you the Canadian Association of Principal’s (CAP) involvement with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in relation to Public Education and Awareness of Cannabis. As CAP president and now as past president, I have been part of a focus group with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. In November 2017, I attended a Partnership Symposium: Cannabis Public Education and Awareness. During the symposium, I took part in a panel discussion on Raising Awareness among Target Audiences. This provided CAP with an opportunity to have a Presence and be an Advocate and Communicate a message to Health Canada on cannabis legalization.
During the panel discussion, I highlighted that not only educators had a responsibility to educate our youth on Cannabis, but also other mentors as well. Our youth interact with many others in mentoring roles including coaches, instructors, tutors, counsellors and other community leaders. Teachers have the responsibility to deliver curriculum and prepare youth to become productive citizens, it is extremely important for our youth to hear the same message related to cannabis from all trusted adults in their lives. As well, there are many organizations in our country who are more than willing to be partners with schools to share a message to our youth on public education and awareness of cannabis. The focus on fear mongering to youth as a deterrent for Cannabis use does not work. A more proactive approach is necessary. I highlighted the need to focus on youth resiliency and social emotional learning as a method of empowering our youth to be aware, engaged and responsible decision makers.
Due to my attendance at the Symposium on behalf of CAP and stressing the need for engaged and informed youth, our organization was invited to be part of a Youth Resiliency Project Steering Committee led by Dr. Claire Crooks out of Western University. (Dr. Crooks has an article in this CAP Journal on the project)
In November 2018, CAP was invited to a School Stakeholder Forum by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam. This one-day forum was on the role of healthy school communities in the prevention of problematic substance use. I represented CAP at this Forum. The forum entitled Fostering Collaborations to Build Healthier School Communities and Prevent Problematic Substance Use among Canadian Youthwas convened by the CPHO.
The focus of the forum included: i) to convene diverse school stakeholders (students, educators, youth health organizations, researchers, etc.) from across Canada to discuss challenges and opportunities to bolster healthy school communities and help prevent and minimize the harms associated with problematic substance use among youth; and ii) to facilitate collaborative coordinated efforts to achieve these objectives.
The School Stakeholder panel on the topic of Leveraging Strengths and Capacities to Prevent Problematic Substance Use: Experiences On The Ground led to discussions on how organizations can help build capacity for collaboration related to student and school health. We held small group discussions where we looked at key challenges facing students in Canada today followed by a focused discussion on Opportunities for Collaborative Action. Some of the topics discussed were mental health, healthy relationships, social inclusion, caregiver views and other relevant topics. The discussions were very informative and engaging. For me, listening to the voice of the youth involved was motivating and interesting. There were several key points that I have been able to realize from my involvement over the past year with regards to the legalization of cannabis. First and foremost, the voice of our youth must be heard and listened to in any discussion on legalization of cannabis. Secondly, the discussion and focus must be on harm reduction and not on scare tactics on the harmful effects of usage. Thirdly, all discussion must be evidence based with a strong focus on research. Research shows “Initiating cannabis use at a young age – primarily before the age of 16 – and frequent use of cannabis can increase the risk for substance use disorder and psychosis (The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report 2019). Lastly, there are many organizations with a wealth of pertinent information, ready to use manuals and literature. The personnel is very knowledgeable, ready and willing to help share whatever they have with schools, students, caregivers and the general public.