In Canada, the use of poppers among gay, bi and other men who have sex with men (sexual minority men) has been common in both nightlife and sexual contexts for several decades. They have the effect of relaxing smooth muscle tissues, which can facilitate sex for sexual minority men.
In the past, poppers were illegal to sell for consumption in Canada; however, they were available for purchase as products like room odorizers and leather cleaners, though they were rarely used for these purposes. This was a legal “gray area”.
In 2013, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government, Health Canada initiated enforcement of the ban on the sale of alkyl nitrite products. It is unclear why the crackdown was initiated in 2013, given little evidence pertaining to both the harms and benefits of poppers use, as well as the impact of the changed policies on poppers users.
Many people still use poppers in Canada in spite of the crackdown – in 2019, more than a quarter of men surveyed by CBRC’s National Sex Now Survey reported having used poppers in the last 6 months. Survey data also suggest that there has been no appreciable decline in poppers use between the years 2012 and 2017, pointing to the ineffectiveness of the ban at curbing their use.