Human Pathogens and Toxins Act

An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Leona Aglukkaq  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment creates measures to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins and all activities associated with them. It establishes a comprehensive legislative regime that extends beyond the present importation regime. It requires every person conducting activities involving human pathogens or toxins to take all reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of the public.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • May 5, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • April 27, 2009 Passed That Bill C-11, An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / noon
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday when this bill was last debated, I asked a question of one of the hon. members about the privacy implications that are included in the bill on human pathogens and toxins. I was not quite sure whether I got a full answer but I did ask what the disposition of the concerns were with regard to privacy. The indication was that there was a letter from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner responding to a couple of points.

That letter was written on March 11 and was sent to the chair of the Standing Committee on Health. To make a long story short, it appears that the health committee had arranged its affairs in order to look at the health implications of Bill C-11.

In Bill C-11, in clause 38(1) and some ancillary matters to do with the Privacy Act the Privacy Commissioner had indicated an interest to appear before the committee to discuss the concerns with the committee. In addition to the letter of March 11, there is a letter dated March 30. I may want to table both of them. In the letter, the Privacy Commissioner's office laid out the process it went through. There was some consultation with that office. They met with officials. They did not receive a privacy impact assessment. That is a critical element that is required to do a proper assessment of whether or not the activities related to the Privacy Act are going to be handled in a matter which is appropriate and also in a manner which does not conflict with other areas of the privacy legislation.

In going through these, the Privacy Commissioner's office had a couple of suggestions right off the bat, for instance, including the word “reasonableness”. It says, “the minister has the authority to order private personal information and confidential business information to be disclosed without limit and without any conditions, simply to order it to be”. That raised some concern in my mind. The Privacy Commissioner indicated there probably should be the normal wording that there was a test of reasonableness, that the minister should have reasonable cause to believe that this information was vital to the administration of the act.

That change was made. In fact, based on the written input of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, an amendment was made by the government at committee.

There was a subsequent letter, and a few other changes were proposed.

The reason I am rising is not with concern related to the health aspects, the safeguards that are being proposed in the bill to ensure the safety and security of human pathogens and toxins and those who have access to, custody of, or responsibility for them. My concerns relate to how this piece of legislation impacts on privacy rights of Canadians.

The member for Eglinton—Lawrence gave a wonderful speech last Thursday. Members may want to consult it to see more detail about the concerns that have been raised. I think that would be a very good place to start. I will not repeat the points made there, but the argument was made very clearly that there were some holes.

In fact, subsequent to the March 11 letter, based on which some government amendments were made, the letter dated March 30 I think was written on same day the committee did its clause-by-clause study and passed the bill and sent it back to the House. I did not get a chance even to read this letter, for the members' edification, and I am pretty sure that the members probably received or at least were advised of the letter of March 11. I am pretty sure, also, that when the members voted on the bill clause by clause they were not even aware of the March 30 letter.

That raises a very significant problem with regard to the manner in which the committee conducted its affairs. The members of the committee were not apprised of relevant information to do with that on a matter which did not even have a witness before it for them to even make the necessary enquiries. This raises some concerns about whether or not that committee discharged its responsibilities in a fashion which is expected by the House. That is a matter the committee members may want to review as a committee.

It also raises the issue that should the other items incorporated in the letter of March 30 from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner raise substantive items, and I believe they are substantive, it puts us in a situation where, very quickly, somebody had to decide whether we do something about this. There are a couple of ways to deal with it. One way would be to make a motion to send this bill back to the health committee. That process requires that we identify the specific clause or clauses for reconsideration. I am prepared to do that, but I am not sure whether it would get the support of the House because the details are not there. For all the members having to deal with this, the details are not there.

I hope the government members, the government House leader and the government whip will consider the options. One is to send the bill back to committee to hear a witness who knows what he or she is talking about when it comes to protecting the privacy rights of Canadians. The second option would be to say that we do not have much choice, and if we cannot send it back to committee, we will have to either defeat the bill or pass it. I think it is unlikely that the members will want to defeat this bill. It is an important bill in that we are dealing with health implications here.

However, in my view, there are some changes that are necessary with regard to the Privacy Act implications. A privacy impact assessment was not, and has not been, provided to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to enable it to give an informed opinion on whether or not the scope and the intent of the content of the legislation as it stands now are compatible with our obligations to protect privacy rights.

In the absence of the option of defeating the bill, I would suggest we have to pass it. That means this bill would go to the Senate. There is no doubt in my mind that the Senate does good work on legislation review. The Senate would look at the speeches of the day. It would look at the speech given by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence and see that some very serious questions have been raised. The member quoted extensively from both letters. If that is the case, it is my view that the problems in Bill C-11 as they currently exist are such that the Senate may have no choice but to make amendments to the bill and send it back to the House. Then we could send it back to committee for the committee to hear a witness and to fix the bill and then bring it back to the House and go through the process. It would be much more extensive.

I am calling out right now, in the middle of my speech, to the government House leader, to the whip, to the health critic, to the parliamentary secretary and to the Minister of Health to have a quick look at the situation. If they agree that this is the best opportunity for us to repair this bill, then a motion should come forward by a member speaking to this bill at this time to send the bill back to committee with regard to clause 38 and the clauses to which it relates. That is the reason I am rising, to ask the government to quickly consider the options before us.

I think the fastest route is to revert to committee to look at the matters, to consult with the Privacy Commissioner, not by exchanging a letter but by having representatives from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner appear.

It is a very substantive portion of this bill. It means that disclosure of personal information and confidential business information, not only of a person who has access or custody or responsibilities for human toxins or pathogens, the bill is so broad it could also lead to the disclosure of information about the person's family members. On top of this, the bill also allows this information to be shared with foreign governments.

One of the key issues the commissioner raised in this letter was what she termed “anonymize” the information about those who have custody or access or responsibilities related to human pathogens or toxins. That would mean instead of having the person's name disclosed to those it is necessary to disclose to so that we have the tools necessary to properly administer Bill C-11, it would not put on the record tes person's name, personal information, family's information, confidential business information or anything else it would dig up without explanation, limits or conditions on the minister.

The reason it just twigged with me is that I happen to be the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The Privacy Act comes under my committee's purview. We meet with the the Privacy Commissioner regularly. We are now working on some quick fixes to the Privacy Act, because it has not been touched in over 25 years.

These are important issues, and if we allow another bill to compromise the privacy rights of Canadians and effectively undermine the intent of the Privacy Act, then we have a ripple effect. It is not right.

I want to highlight a couple of things in the letter of March 30, which I do not believe the committee members even saw. It was sent directly to the chair of the committee. It would have been very difficult to have it go through the process of going through the parliamentary secretary and the government officials for health, maybe even the health minister, and then to distribute it to the committee members, who are entitled to get copies of all correspondence related to the matter before them.

In this case the assistant privacy commissioner actually signed the letter, thanking the committee for including some of the suggestions they had. They said there seemed to be a preliminary exchange of emails between the Public Health Agency of Canada and some of their officials. That was in May 2008. It was almost a year ago that they were talking about this. The privacy officials, the Privacy Commissioner, and Dr. Butler's agency, the PHAC, were aware of this.

It causes me great concern. If the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the PHAC, were aware of these items, these concerns on the Privacy Act, and still put forward a bill to the House of Commons that did not take into account the substantive concerns that the Privacy Commissioner had, it causes me grave concern. Somehow the system failed the House of Commons. Or, there is a reason. I am not going to speculate on whether someone wanted to pass by the input of the office of the Privacy Commissioner or pass by the prior consultations from almost a year ago with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This is serious. Something has gone wrong in the operation of the committee, in the drafting of legislation, in the circulation of correspondence, and in the assessment, getting a privacy impact assessment so that the Privacy Commissioner could actually do the job.

It does say, “...we did not have many details and did not receive materials other than what was then Bill C-54, at that time”. That was the bill from the last Parliament.

That is all they received. How could we expect the Privacy Commissioner to do her job when there is no consultation and no communication with her on this bill specifically, until afterwards, where someone somehow picks up on a couple of items?

This involves two acts. One is the Privacy Act, which has the oversight with regard to the government departments, but also there is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act; it is referred to as PIPEDA. These two acts together are related, and they are involved in this matter. It is not straightforward.

The letter goes on to say:

We recognize that the intent of the legislation is to deal with the personal information of laboratory workers; however, we still have concerns that there is nothing in the Bill to restrict the collection of ancillary personal information, such as patient information.

We are getting into areas that are so sensitive.

Another ancillary collection could be personal information about a laboratory worker's family members, should they come into contact with a regulated pathogen or toxin. As well, we are aware of the potential for function creep and would therefore prefer to limit the collection of personal information.

It goes on to say:

We look forward to these issues being addressed in the privacy risk assessment work to come.

They still have not received the privacy impact assessment. That is the tool, the approach in which we look at the implications to the Privacy Act of any legislation that touches on it. There is a protocol to go through here. It is the way we do our business, because Lord knows that members of Parliament cannot be experts in every statute we have responsibility for.

We have a responsibility to make sure that the work is done. We second the responsibility for the detailed knowledge, the day-to-day knowledge, to the people who work on it in the departments, in the agencies, we have established to do this.

But the matter has not come forward. It did not come forward to the committee. It did not come forward to the House. It was not disclosed by the parliamentary secretary in his speech. It was not disclosed by the minister at any point. No release. No information. We have done a very, very poor job as the House. It is a reflection on all of us.

However, we now have an opportunity. We have identified a potential problem here. It may be nothing. I may be wrong, but the Privacy Commissioner does not think so.

I believe the best course of action is to remedy the concerns that have been raised in the letter of March 30 by the commissioner, to ensure we learn from this example, to ensure that legislation, before it is signed off by all of the cabinet, that members did their due diligence. Did they check off on every piece of information? We have the formal checklist. Are they representing that this is constitutional, that it does not contradict any other laws of Canada, that it follows the model or the protocols we have established to make sure our bills and statutes work?

We also have a grave concern about the regulations. Bill C-11 requires substantive regulations. But if there is no consultation on the bill, I am not sure we will see any consultation related to privacy when the regulations are drafted and gazetted and promulgated.

One of the other areas is clause 67. It says that this may “diminish controls over personal information”. I guess that is the point of all this.

Having said that, I would like the unanimous consent of the House to table photocopies of both letters to the chair of the Standing Committee on Health: one dated March 11, one dated March 30, both in relation to Bill C-11.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rather perplexed by the suggestion that the House would refuse to accept a motion to table two documents, which can be made public and which were solicited by the chair of the Standing Committee on Health, forwarded to the chair of the committee, and in the context of the way that Parliament and committees work should have been distributed to all members of the committee prior to the consideration of those clauses of the bill in question.

A member of Parliament stands before the House and says he would like to make them available to every member of Parliament so that he or she can take the consideration of this bill in its fullest context, keeping in mind that the health issues are not the ones being addressed but really the privacy concerns associated with the gathering of data pertinent to health issues. And members of the House have said, no, they do not want that information.

It might be well worth our while to ask the member to propose that again, given that members have now had a few brief moments, because that is all they would require to make an intelligent decision. If he were to present that motion again, we might find that members of the House may be disposed more favourably to receiving information that is for the public benefit and for a mature decision on this bill.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pretty sure that I cannot make a motion during questions and comments. I thank the member for the chance, or at least the gesture.

I can say that I am not here to put blame on anybody. I am here, as a member of this place, to suggest that there may be a problem with this bill. There are a few ways to handle it, as I indicated. Let me review them.

Number one is to make a motion to send the bill back to committee with specific reference to clauses 38, 67, and any other clauses that flow from those, for the health committee to hear the appropriate witnesses, to remediate the bill as necessary and to return it to the House.

The second thing would be simply to defeat this bill and make the government come back with another bill that has the changes in it.

The third thing is to pass the bill with the potential or alleged flaws in it and let it go to the Senate. Then the Senate will have an opportunity to review these matters in some detail, and it will send the bill back to us and we will probably have to send it back for consideration at the health committee anyway.

The most expeditious way to find out whether we have a serious problem is to send it back to committee. If anybody would like the letters, I would be happy to provide them. I am asking hon. members to rise in their place to debate Bill C-11 and make the motion to revert it to committee. I know my Liberal colleagues would be prepared to support that.

At this point we need members to review the information, look at the options we have and try to find the best manner in which the House of Commons can dispose of an important health bill.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to reflect on the intervention by my colleague, the member for Mississauga South, that the hands of the House are tied and that we would be essentially dependent upon the decisions made in the other place for how to address this bill, keeping in mind that one is talking about protecting the rights of citizens to information that is personal and private, while we take a look at all of the issues that are important from a health perspective with respect to transporting and dealing with human pathogens and toxins.

The House would owe, from my perspective, very humbly, a debt of gratitude to members of the House, like the member for Mississauga South, who underscores sometimes occasional problems associated with issues that are related to the importance of citizens' interests on privacy.

I wonder whether we can have his comment on that as well.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would think this is potentially a bit of an embarrassment to some people, but the bottom line is that the members of the health committee did not receive the second communication from the Privacy Commissioner, which laid out at least four different areas of concern. One of them is this has no limits on how long that personal information can be kept.

That is fundamental to any legislation. If a person leaves the employ and is no longer involved, there is no sunset date as to when it has to dispose of this information. That has to be changed because it is consistent with every other treatment we have with regard to matters as it touches on the Privacy Act. I know some members are a little concerned about whether we will open up a problem area here.

I am not convinced the privacy commission is satisfied with the bill in its current form, but I do know they will participate in the continuing activity of this review. If the House is not prepared to deal with it, I am pretty sure hon. members of the red chamber, the other place, will look at this carefully to make absolutely sure that the legislation we pass in the Parliament of Canada is the best possible.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the health committee, I would like to reassure the hon. member opposite that we have had great, lengthy conversations regarding the privacy assessment and privacy issues. At the end of the day, we also know that the regulations will address some of the issues about which we need talk. There was consent, both by his party and ours, to move the bill forward.

This is very important legislation. Yes, the privacy issues need to be dealt with and I feel very sure that we will move forward in a proper and proactive way.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am 100% in agreement except for one thing. Regulations cannot fix this. Regulations are drafted after the legislation receives royal assent. Regulations cannot change the bill in any manner that is not enabled by the bill itself.

The bill has to say that the minister has the authority to make regulations to specify the details and conditions, et cetera under which regulations can be made. Respectfully that is not in the bill now. It still needs a change.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I want to start off by taking the opportunity to thank the opposition parties, especially the critics from the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberal Party, for all their hard work and co-operation in working on this very important piece of legislation.

I am pleased to be here today to update members on the progress of Bill C-11, An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins.

As we have heard at second reading, there is strong support for strengthening safety and security with regard to human pathogens and toxins in Canada.

We had an opportunity at the Standing Committee on Health to discuss the key elements of the bill, which would provide the new authorities required to safeguard Canadians from the risks that dangerous human pathogens and toxins pose.

The Standing Committee on Health heard from a wide variety of witnesses about the importance of Bill C-11. Following witness testimony, as well as appearances by government officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada, amendments were made to Bill C-11 that have strengthen the bill and addressed many of the concerns raised by witnesses.

I would like to give members a quick overview of the bill.

The intention of the bill is to try to balance biosafety and biosecurity requirements with the need to advance science and research. The intent of the bill is not to restrict research and development, but rather to introduce a risk-based approach to the management of human pathogens so that they are handled safely and accounted for across Canada.

Because of the risk posed by dangerous human pathogens and toxins, Bill C-11 relies primarily on the criminal law jurisdiction of Parliament. In this regard, Bill C-11 includes a range of prohibitions, penalties and security screening requirements designed to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The program and regulatory framework to be developed under Bill C-11 will include requirements for licensing, inventories, biological safety officers, information gathering and transfers of human pathogens and toxins, among other matters. The legislation has been drafted with care to ensure that the bill fully respects the rights and freedoms of Canadians entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and privacy rights protected via the Privacy Act.

There were certain amendments to the bill. In studying Bill C-11, several issues were raised from various witnesses concerned about the impact of the bill on their work. These issues included concerns about the oversight of risk group 2 laboratories, concerns about how the suite of regulations for Bill C-11 would be developed, concerns about the reporting requirements, as well as concerns about the schedules under the bill and how they would be amended over time.

We listened to these concerns, and I believe we have worked together at the health committee to develop a piece of legislation that addresses these concerns and more precisely reflects the original policy intent of Bill C-11.

Now I would like to speak about risk group 2.

With regard to the concerns that the committee heard about the oversight of risk group 2 human pathogens, several amendments were made to clarify that these relatively less harmful agents would be treated less stringently than the more dangerous risk groups 3 and 4 human pathogens, in the bill and in the program and regulatory framework. Four specific amendments were made for this purpose.

The first amendment clarifies in the preamble that human pathogens and toxins pose varying levels of risk to the health and safety of the public. This change reflects what was heard in committee, that not all human pathogens and toxins are the same from the perspective of risk, that some pose a greater threat than others.

The second amendment dealing with risk group 2 agents clarifies clause 33 explicitly so that security clearances will only be required for persons who have access to prescribed risk groups 3 or 4 agents or toxins as prescribed in regulations. It was never the program policy intent to security screen individuals who only have access to risk group 2 human pathogens, and this amendment clarifies this intention.

The third amendment regarding risk group 2 agents creates lesser general penalties for offences under the act or regulations related to risk group 2 human pathogens. This includes no provision for a prison sentence for a first offence involving only risk group 2 agents. This change to clause 53 reflects concerns voiced that persons carrying on activities with risk group 2 human pathogens should be treated more leniently than those carrying on activities with risk groups 3 or 4 human pathogens.

Finally, the fourth amendment, in clause 66, makes explicit that the regulatory regime will treat risk group 2 human pathogens in a way that is consistent with the fact that they are less dangerous than human pathogens in risk groups 3 and 4. Taken together, these changes signal that the level of risk associated with risk group 2 human pathogens is lower than risk groups 3 or 4, and they will therefore be treated less stringently in the overall legislative and regulatory framework.

Regarding reporting requirements, another important amendment that was made at the health committee clarifies that subclause 12(1) of the bill only applies to releases of human pathogens or toxins from a facility. This stems from concerns that were heard from stakeholders that minor spills contained within a licensed facility would have to be reported. This amendment recognizes that releases from the facility itself pose greater risks to public health. Once again, we believe this will help to improve the clarity of the bill, specifically with regard to what will be required of licensees.

Another important amendment requires the formation of scientific advisory committees under clauses 9 and 10 to advise the minister regarding changes to the lists of human pathogens and toxins found in schedules 1 through 5. As part of the consultations on the program and regulatory framework, the Public Health Agency of Canada will consult with stakeholders concerning the makeup of these committees, which be will formed under the authority in section 14 of the Public Health Agency of Canada Act.

Concerning privacy amendments, during hearings on Bill C-11, the health committee received a letter from the Privacy Commissioner noting, amongst other things, the need for a more objective test of what constitutes relevant information collected by the minister under clause 38, as well as the need for situations in which recipients of information disclosed by the minister pursuant to subclause 39(2) may be compelled by law to disclose it further. These two amendments were made based on suggestions from the Privacy Commissioner.

The last of these important amendments requires the tabling of the regulations in both houses of Parliament. This amendment reflects what we heard from witnesses about the need for greater accountability and transparency in the making of regulations. In reviewing the wording of this particular amendment, the government noted some inconsistencies between the intention of what was stated in the health committee and what was written into the revised Bill C-11.

Specifically, it was agreed that the amendments would require tabling of the regulations in both houses of Parliament in order to provide an opportunity for review by a committee in each house. The wording of the bill after committee stage only required the referral of the proposed regulations to a committee in the House of Commons. There was no similar requirement regarding the referral of the regulations to an appropriate committee in the other place.

The government therefore clarified that the regulations would need to be tabled in both houses of Parliament and referred to a committee of each house. We believe this was the original intention of committee members in agreeing to this amendment, and we tabled an amendment at report stage from committee to clarify this intention.

There is a need to move forward. We believe this new legislation is needed now. It is required to safeguard the health and well-being of all Canadians, including those persons working in laboratories. It is also required to demonstrate to the Canadian public and to our international partners that the Government of Canada is taking the issue of security related to human pathogens and toxins very seriously. The proposed legislation represents a made-in-Canada approach that addresses both safety and security.

Clearly, the urgency in moving ahead with expanded federal oversight over human pathogens and toxins has been widely recognized. I believe the study of Bill C-11 in the health committee has resulted in a clear piece of legislation, and I look forward to moving it on to the Senate.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, indeed, the member is correct. The NDP critic worked very hard and co-operated with the government and the entire committee to move this very important piece of legislation forward.

As I said in my opening statement, I want to thank all the critics and members of the committee, the NDP, Bloc and Liberals. By working together, we came up with an improved piece of legislation.

The amendments that the NDP member put forward were included. We listened to her suggestions because we felt it made a better piece of legislation and I want to publicly thank her for her input and good work.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
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April 30th, 2009 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am glad to see the committee has done good work to get some clarifying changes.

I want to ask the member for a little extra information with regard to subclause 12(1), the addition of the words “from the facility” following the words “reason to believe that a human pathogen or toxin has been released inadvertently”.

The point is that “facility” is not a defined term in the bill. I do not know whether that has any import, but it would seem to me that if it is not a defined term, facility could in some cases turn out to be something other than what would normally be the case under a licence arrangement. I would ask the member for clarification as to whether just adding the words “from the facility” is substantive enough or whether there should be a definition added for what constitutes an authorized facility?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, this very issue was brought up in committee. There was concern with some of the researchers who were working with these pathogens and toxins. As the member would know, even though researchers working in laboratories take the utmost precautions, spills can occasionally happen.

The intent of this legislation is not to force laboratories and workers to report what we would call usual spills in conducting their research but if there are inadvertent releases from the laboratory into the public domain. The idea of this legislation is to improve biosafety and biosecurity in Canada. There is still a very strong concern that these pathogens and toxins will not be released to the general public and will not cause a concern to our health and safety in Canada.

This was something put forward by the government and that all opposition parties were in agreement with. We were happy to clarify that wording because that definitely is the intent.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I too want to commend the parliamentary secretary for all the work he did on this bill, as well as the committee. It was very good. One thing that came up in committee was the risk 2 category that was of grave concern to the entire committee. I believe there were marked changes in the approach to the risk 2 category.

Would the parliamentary secretary please expand a bit on the risk 2 factor because the contribution that the committee made to that one aspect was very important?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her wise oversight as chair of the health committee. It was through her leadership that we were able to move forward with this legislation. She was very good at working collaboratively and developing consensus with the different witnesses as well as the members of committee. I thank her for that.

She brings up a very important point. It was acknowledged that the intent of the legislation was to treat risk group 2 human pathogens differently than groups 3 and 4, so it was very important to clarify exactly what was meant. There were three amendments included that recognized that facilities dealing only with risk group 2 human pathogens should be treated less stringently under the bill, the program and regulatory framework, as they are less risky than human pathogens in risk groups 3 or 4 or toxins.

There was also an amendment included which specified that there will be no requirement for security screening of persons with access to only risk group 2 human pathogens, as well as an amendment to lower the possible penalties for contraventions of the act or regulations involving only risk group 2 human pathogens.

The government also proposed two further amendments to respond to the concerns expressed by the Privacy Commissioner and moved those forward as well. I hope that answers the hon. member's question.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
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April 30th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the minister's parliamentary secretary.

He said that in our study of the bill in committee, we heard from various stakeholders directly affected by Bill C-11. He also seemed to be saying that the amendments he read met the demands and expectations of those very stakeholders, that is, the researchers who work daily with the micro-organisms targeted by this bill, specifically group 2 micro-organisms.

However, although the various researchers were aware of the amendments, how can he explain the fact that, on the last day of consultations with them, before clause by clause study began, the researchers still had reasonable, legitimate, well-founded fears lingering in their minds? How can he explain the fact that the government nonetheless decided to go ahead with the clause by clause study knowing that those particular stakeholders were dissatisfied with the final product?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
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April 30th, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is quite correct. There are stakeholders who feel that this legislation, like any piece of legislation, is not perfect. However, I think the member realizes that in any type of legislation there has to be a balanced approach. We have to decide and debate what we want in the legislation and whether we want to move forward with the regulations.

I was impressed with Health Canada when it said that it would consult with us and give strong consideration to this piece of legislation through the implementation phase. We also brought forward an amendment for an advisory committee.

The member may be totally correct in saying that not all stakeholders believe that this is perfect legislation, but it did pass committee and we did have a good debate.

Overall, we have come up with a good piece of legislation, a balanced piece of legislation. The Canadian public deserves legislation that would protect their biosafety and biosecurity. This government and all opposition parties are in line with that intent, that is for sure.