Cannabis cur­ricu­lum needed: NSTU

Tri-County Vanguard - - News - ANDREA GUNN SALTWIRE NET­WORK

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has spent more than $33 mil­lion on cannabis ed­u­ca­tion — out of a planned $108 mil­lion over six years — but crit­ics say lit­tle of that money has trick­led di­rectly to com­mu­ni­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­sponse to a writ­ten Or­der Pa­per Ques­tion filed by Saska­toon Con­ser­va­tive MP Kevin Waugh, Health Canada has spent a to­tal of $15.36 mil­lion (in­clud­ing a to­tal of $222,531 spent by the Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada, an arm of Health Canada) on con­tracts for var­i­ous cannabis ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness cam­paigns start­ing in 2017, lead­ing up to le­gal­iza­tion.

Much of that was al­lo­cated to con­tracts with me­dia and com­mu­ni­ca­tions firms for large coun­try-wide ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns like the $7 mil­lion ‘Your Cannabis Ques­tions An­swered’ cam­paign, a multi-plat­form ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive fo­cused mainly on teens and young adults, which in­cluded ad­ver­tis­ing on so­cial me­dia apps like Snapchat, In­sta­gram, Face­book and YouTube.

An­other cam­paign dubbed ‘Pur­sue Your Pas­sion’ aimed to en­cour­age young Cana­di­ans to en­gage in creative hob­bies and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties rather than us­ing cannabis. That cam­paign cost $5.58 mil­lion and in­cluded a part­ner­ship with the Cana­dian Hockey League and an ex­hibit that trav­elled dur­ing the sum­mer to events such as mu­sic fes­ti­vals and fairs.

There was also a smat­ter­ing of smaller cam­paigns, such as a ‘Par­ent Talk Kit’ that aimed to help par­ents talk to their chil­dren about cannabis use, an on­line quiz for students, as well as dig­i­tal tool­kits aimed at teach­ers and health pro­fes­sion­als.

And re­mem­ber those lit­tle post­cards you re­ceived about le­gal­iza­tion? They ran the gov­ern­ment $2.39 mil­lion, paid mostly to Canada Post.

Although Health Canada spent the bulk of cash ear­marked for cannabis ini­tia­tives so far, Pub­lic Safety Canada spent $2.85 mil­lion for pub­lic opin­ion re­search and TV, cinema, ra­dio, mo­bile and so­cial me­dia ad­ver­tis­ing as part of its Don’t Drive High cam­paign, which aimed to raise aware­ness about the dangers of im­paired driv­ing.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s to­tal planned in­vest­ment in cannabis pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, aware­ness and sur­veil­lance is $108.5 mil­lion over six years, which started in the 2017-18 fis­cal year. That in­cludes $62.5 mil­lion over five years an­nounced in the 2018 bud­get to sup­port com­mu­nity-based and In­dige­nous or­ga­ni­za­tions in their ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives, dis­trib­uted through Health Canada’s sub­stance use and ad­dic­tions pro­gram.

In ad­di­tion to $18.21 mil­lion it has spent on its own pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns, Ot­tawa also has funded 15 cannabis projects to­tal­ing about $14.8 mil­lion un­der the sub­stance use and ad­dic­tions pro­gram ( $10.5 mil­lion of that through 2018 bud­get re­sources) and is still ac­cept­ing pro­pos­als.

NSTU PER­SPEC­TIVE

Paul Wozney, pres­i­dent of the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union, said teach­ers have been ba­si­cally left to their own de­vices to ed­u­cate students about recre­ational cannabis.

“At the mo­ment, all teach­ers in Nova Sco­tia have re­ceived by way of tan­gi­ble re­sources are some PDFs you can print and pho­to­copy and pass out (and) links to web­sites where kids can go read stuff on their own.”

More­over, Wozney said the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided in those re­sources is very clin­i­cal in na­ture and not con­ducive to ad­dress­ing the types of ques­tions teach­ers are get­ting in class.

“Students don’t just want to know ‘Is it good for me, is it bad for me?’ (they) want to know ‘Do you use it your­self — why or why not?’” he said.

“What we don’t re­ally have is a frame­work that al­lows us to fa­cil­i­tate a re­ally in­tel­li­gent, re­ally re­spon­si­ble high de­gree of pub­lic trust kind of con­ver­sa­tions where kids get med­i­cally valid age-ap­pro­pri­ate in­for­ma­tion about recre­ational cannabis that will set them up for suc­cess,” he said.

Wozney said he rec­og­nizes it’s still early days, but he hopes to see some sort of co­he­sive cur­ricu­lum de­vel­oped ei­ther provin­cially or na­tion­ally to help teach­ers ad­dress cannabis con­cerns soon. And ideally, he said, the prov­inces would get help from Ot­tawa so they don’t have to eat into al­ready-strapped ed­u­ca­tion re­sources to do it.

IN THIS RE­GION

In an emailed me­dia re­sponse, Health Canada said only two ini­tia­tives have been funded in the At­lantic re­gion so far: $1.44 mil­lion over three years to the John Howard So­ci­ety of New Brunswick for in-school pro­gram­ming for Grade 10 students across the At­lantic prov­inces, aimed at dis­pelling myths about drug-im­paired driv­ing; and a drug-driv­ing lead­er­ship pro­gram to en­gage in­car­cer­ated youth in the re­gion’s youth cus­to­dial cen­tres.

A to­tal of $967,381 over four years has also been pro­vided to the Tri-County Women’s Cen­tre for cannabis pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives tar­get­ing youth and the gen­eral pub­lic in ru­ral pop­u­la­tions in Nova Sco­tia through on­go­ing youth work­shops and a se­ries of com­mu­nity fo­rums.

Heather Fair­bairn, Nova Sco­tia Depart­ment of Jus­tice spokes­woman, said in 2018-19, Nova Sco­tia will spend about $625,000 on cannabis pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion ef­forts, funded en­tirely by the prov­ince, and is in the process of work­ing with a local stake­holder group to ap­ply for fed­eral fund­ing for a tar­geted pub­lic health pro­gram.

In the mean­time, Wozney said he’s con­cerned about how young peo­ple are fill­ing in the gaps.

“The longer this goes the more students are go­ing to turn to their peer net­works, to the in­ter­net or what­ever, to get in­for­ma­tion on this topic and that’s rarely a good thing for kids of that age,” he said. “That should be of con­cern to adults that are mak­ing de­ci­sions about this.”

CARLA ALLEN

In­side the NSLC’s cannabis shop in Yar­mouth.

ERIC WYNNE

Paul Wozney, pres­i­dent of the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union.

FILE PHOTO

A cannabis plant.

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