Michaelle Jean Canadian Governor General The Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean delivered the following Speech on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

The fight against dependency is not a fair one.

For dependency is a ravenous beast. It stalks us at every turn, feeding off our fears, our anguish, our frailties. It devours us from the inside out.

This is how dependency gathers strength, conquering reason, will, self.

It seems such a daunting task to root out dependency because it ensnares its prey in invisible chains.

  • Chains that bind together to form a complex web of social ills.
  • Chains whose weight is borne by our families, our friends, and the community as a whole.

Faced with this elusive phenomenon and the suffering it causes, it is easy to judge without knowing.

  • To condemn without understanding.
  • To punish without distinction.

Twenty years ago, Dr. David Archibald wanted to loosen the bonds of servitude forged by every kind of dependency.

He asked Canadians to look beyond their fears, beyond prejudice, beyond rhetoric.

To look at the facts rather than assumptions—this, he felt, must be the approach.

Stigmatizing those struggling with addiction is not a viable solution.

In this fight to the finish against alcoholism and drug abuse, Dr. Archibald is convinced that the key is to focus on research, information and prevention.

An ambitious project. Daring, you might even say.

Dr. Archibald managed to rally the dynamic forces of this country, bringing together sides that are at times opposed.

After much persuasion and dialogue, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) was created, with all-party support in Parliament, on August 31, 1988.

On that day, a significant milestone was achieved.

We can gauge the results of the Centre’s efforts over the past twenty years by looking at the discoveries made by Canadian researchers, at our role as a leader on the front lines, at the changed mindsets of our fellow citizens, at the innovative approaches this country’s decision-makers have adopted with courage and conviction.

And of course, by looking at the women and men who have freed themselves from the yoke of alcoholism and drug abuse, thanks to research facilitated by the Centre and its efforts to raise awareness. And finally, by looking at the young people who have escaped the snares of dependency, thanks to the Centre’s information tools.

Recently, while in Vancouver, I visited La Boussole, a community centre that is reaching out to those most in need, and met with a number of young people.

Some were young people living on the streets.

  • Addicted to drugs.
  • Addicted to alcohol.

As they spoke to me, their every word touching my heart, I couldn’t help but wonder what had led them to that point.

Where did things start to go wrong? What terrible circumstance had cut them off from the rest of the world?

What had happened to steal away their sense of belonging, to snuff out any hope of ever belonging again?

Oddly enough, they didn’t really talk about dependency.

Do you know what they did talk about? They told me

  • Of their suffering.
  • Of feeling abandoned.
  • Of the exclusion that is killing them bit by bit.
  • Of solitude.
  • Of having no way out.
  • Of being treated with contempt.

Alcoholism and drug abuse go well beyond mere consumption. They are the symptoms of profound anguish. And it is that anguish, that nameless despair, that we must address.

In Vancouvery, I also spent time at a Women’s Centre, at the core of the Downtown Eastside, where I met a group of women who described themselves as survivors.

  • These women had to overcome many challenges.
  • These women told me that the fight against drug abuse and alcoholism is a fight against poverty, exclusion, and isolation.
  • These women told me that it is a fight for social housing, for better living conditions, for viable and sustainable communities.
  • These women told me that it is a fight against indifference. 

In this spirit, I applaud the efforts of civil society to counter the devastating effects of alcoholism and drugs.

The Drug Prevention Strategy for Canada’s Youth, which your Centre launched last year, is a tangible and powerful example of this.

From your research, we now know that the younger we are when exposed to addictive substances, the more likely we are to use them later in life.

This is why it is so important that we create a protective ring around our children as they move into adulthood, which is happening earlier and earlier. 

I know that information and prevention are the surest ways to bring about lasting change.

Thanks to you, gentle warriors of the CCSA, we can wage a war on equal footing with dependency, targeting its very source.

  • With compassion.
  • With intelligence.
  • With daring.
  • And with leadership.

For all those living with addiction, and for all those who have chosen not to succumb to its threat, you represent an incredible chance for freedom.

Thanks to you, we can believe that the forces of creation will continue to triumph over the forces of destruction. And it is with this hope that you must go on with your work.

Thank you, so very much.

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Related Reading:

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