Dear Minister Bennett:
Thank you for agreeing to serve Canadians as Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health.
From the beginning of this pandemic, Canadians have faced a once-in-a-century challenge. And through it all, from coast to coast to coast, people have met the moment. When it mattered most, Canadians adapted, helped one another, and stayed true to our values of compassion, courage and determination. That is what has defined our path through this pandemic so far. And that is what will pave our way forward.
During a difficult time, Canadians made a democratic choice. They entrusted us to finish the fight against COVID-19 and support the recovery of a strong middle class. At the same time, they also gave us clear direction: to take bold, concrete action to build a healthier, more resilient future. That is what Canadians have asked us to do and it is exactly what our Government is ready to deliver. We will work to build that brighter future through continued collaboration, engagement, and the use of science and evidence-based decision-making. With an unwavering focus on delivering results, we will work constructively with Parliamentarians and maintain our strong partnerships with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and Indigenous partners. This decade has had an incredibly difficult start, but this is the moment to rebuild a more resilient, inclusive and stronger country for everyone.
The science is clear. Canadians have been clear. We must not only continue taking real climate action, we must also move faster and go further. As Canadians are increasingly experiencing across the country, climate change is an existential threat. Building a cleaner, greener future will require a sustained and collaborative effort from all of us. As Minister, I expect you to seek opportunities within your portfolio to support our whole-of-government effort to reduce emissions, create clean jobs and address the climate-related challenges communities are already facing.
This year, Canadians were horrified by the discovery of unmarked graves and burial sites near former residential schools. These discoveries underscore that we must move faster on the path of reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. We know that reconciliation cannot come without truth and our Government will continue to invest in that truth. As Ministers, each of us has a duty to further this work, both collectively and as individuals. Consequently, I am directing every Minister to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to advance their rights.
We must continue to address the profound systemic inequities and disparities that remain present in the core fabric of our society, including our core institutions. To this effect, it is essential that Canadians in every region of the country see themselves reflected in our Government’s priorities and our work. As Minister, I expect you to include and collaborate with various communities, and actively seek out and incorporate in your work, the diverse views of Canadians. This includes women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, newcomers, faith-based communities, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2 Canadians, and, in both official languages.
Across our work, we remain committed to ensuring that public policies are informed and developed through an intersectional lens, including applying frameworks such as Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) and the quality of life indicators in decision-making.
Canadians continue to rely on journalists and journalism for accurate and timely news. I expect you to maintain professional and respectful relationships with journalists to ensure that Canadians are well informed and have the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, Canadians and their governments have adapted to new realities. Governments must draw on lessons learned from the pandemic to further adapt and develop more agile and effective ways to serve Canadians. To this end, I expect all Ministers to evaluate ways we can update our practices to ensure our Government continues to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
The success of this Parliament will require Parliamentarians, both in the House of Commons and the Senate, to work together across all parties to get big things done for Canadians. I expect you to maintain constructive relationships with your Opposition Critics and coordinate any legislation with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. As Minister, you are accountable to Parliament both individually, for your style of leadership and the performance of your responsibilities, and collectively, in support of our Ministry and decisions taken by Cabinet. Open and Accountable Government sets out these core principles and the standards of conduct expected of you and your office. I expect you to familiarize yourself with this document, which outlines my expectations for each member of the Ministry.
Our platform lays out an ambitious agenda. While finishing the fight against the pandemic must remain our central focus, we must continue building a strong middle class and work toward a better future where everyone has a real and fair chance at success and no one is left behind.
As Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, you will work with the Minister of Health to build a healthier future, with a particular focus on ensuring that health inequities are understood and addressed, including for Indigenous Peoples, Black Canadians and vulnerable Canadians. You will work to ensure that mental health care is treated as a full and equal part of our universal health care system, working in close collaboration with provinces and territories, and lead a whole-of-society approach to address problematic substance use in Canada.
To realize these objectives, I ask that you achieve results for Canadians by delivering the following commitments.
- Work with the Minister of Health, and with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, to establish a permanent, ongoing Canada Mental Health Transfer to help expand the delivery of high-quality, accessible and free mental health services, including for prevention and treatment.
- In order to support the mental health of Canadians, develop and implement a comprehensive, evidence-based plan, leveraging existing and new investments, including to:
- Develop mental health standards, with a particular focus on health equity;
- Sustain improved access to virtual mental health services with Wellness Together Canada;
- Ensure timely access to perinatal mental health services;
- Implement a three-digit suicide prevention hotline; and
- Introduce a new fund for student mental health that will support the hiring of new mental health care counsellors, improve wait times for services, increase access overall and enable targeted supports to Black and racialized students at post-secondary institutions across Canada.
- Support the Minister of Indigenous Services to co-develop and invest in a distinctions-based Mental Health and Wellness Strategy to meet the needs of First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, including culturally appropriate wraparound services for addiction and trauma, suicide and life promotion and the building of treatment centres.
- Oversee the implementation of our investments in mental health interventions and supports for people disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including health care workers, front-line workers, seniors, Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians.
- Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth to ensure mental health supports are accessible to children and youth as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.
- Advance a comprehensive strategy to address problematic substance use in Canada, supporting efforts to improve public education to reduce stigma, and supporting provinces and territories and working with Indigenous communities to provide access to a full range of evidence-based treatment and harm reduction, as well as to create standards for substance use treatment programs.
- Require tobacco manufacturers to pay for the cost of federal public health investments in tobacco control.
- Support the Minister of Public Safety to continue advancing Canada’s first-ever National Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries, including additional investment to support the health and well-being of first responders.
- Support the Minister of Veterans Affairs to ensure Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans have access to adequate mental health resources, services and training programs tailored to their specific needs.
- With the support of the Minister of Rural Economic Development, explore pathways to increase the accessibility of mental health services in rural areas.
As Minister, you are also responsible for actively engaging with your Cabinet and Caucus colleagues. As we deliver on our platform commitments, it will be important that members of the Ministry continue to collaborate and work constructively to support rigorous and productive Cabinet decision-making. I expect you to support your colleagues in delivering their commitments, leveraging the expertise of your department and your own lived experiences.
To best achieve results for Canadians, Ministers must be rigorous and coordinated in our approach to implementation. I would therefore ask that you return to me with a proposed approach for the delivery of your mandate commitments, including priorities for early implementation. Furthermore, to ensure we are accountable for our work, I will be asking you to publicly report to me, and all Canadians, on your progress toward these commitments on a regular basis.
As we have been reminded throughout the pandemic, adapting to change is not only something government should do, it is something government must do. As you work to fulfil our commitments, I expect you to actively consider new ideas and issues as they emerge, whether through public engagement, your work with Parliamentarians or advice from the public service. I also expect you to work with your Deputy Minister to assess priorities on a continual basis as we build a better future for all Canadians. In addition to achieving results, you are responsible for overseeing the work of your department and ensuring the effective operation of your portfolio.
As you staff your office and implement outreach and recruitment strategies for federally appointed leadership positions and boards, I ask that you uphold the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. This helps ensure that federal workplaces are dynamic and reflective of the Canadians we serve. You will also ensure your Minister’s office and portfolio are reflective of our commitment to healthy and safe workplaces.
Canadians expect us to work hard, speak truthfully and be committed to advancing their interests and aspirations. When we make mistakes – as we all will – Canadians expect us to acknowledge them, and most importantly, to learn from them.
I know I can count on you to fulfill the important responsibilities entrusted in you, and to turn to me, and the Deputy Prime Minister, early and often to support you in your role as Minister.
Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada