House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.

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Division No. 1323
Government Orders

May 29th, 2000 / 7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I declare the motion lost.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Division No. 1323
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on May 16 when I rose in the House of Commons to ask the Minister of Health how many more lives would have to be lost because of drug overdoses before his government took action, the minister professed to be very concerned and he responded that he would address this “complex and tragic problem”. He said if I had specific suggestions he would be happy to receive them. Well, I do.

Indeed, I sent the Minister of Health a very detailed letter on April 13 outlining precisely what needs to be done to make our community safer. I have done a lot of research and spoken with many community members to determine what needs to be done to lower the crime rate and to help injection drug users regain their sense of dignity and health. I subsequently wrote the Minister of Health on May 19 and asked for a meeting to which I hope he will agree.

We need to know unequivocally if the Minister of Health is prepared to implement the array of recommendations put to him by numerous medical and scientific experts and reports to help this community come to grips with this devastating crisis.

While the drug resource centre is a very necessary step, it is simply not enough. If the minister is serious, as I am, in reducing the incredible harm to individuals and the community as a whole, then he must be willing to take comprehensive action that must include education, better treatment, expanded methadone, programs for drug maintenance, safe injection sites and housing and social supports.

I believe the minister knows the facts. I believe he knows in his heart what needs to be done medically in his department. The question is, does he have the political will to act on the irrefutable evidence he has? What is the minister's response?

Division No. 1323
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies
Québec

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the question the hon. member has asked concerning the serious situation in Vancouver's downtown east side.

I would like to remind the hon. member that the purpose of the Canada's Drug Strategy is to reduce the ill effects of alcohol and other drugs. In addition, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the hepatitis C disease prevention, community-based support and research program are working with injection drug users, and the organizations providing them with support, to prevent the transmission of blood-borne pathogens.

Federal-provincial-territorial committees representing the drug industry, the HIV/AIDS community, correctional services, justice, and public health have pinpointed injection drugs as a priority problem. These committees are working together to determine the best ways of addressing this situation in Canada in a co-ordinated and multi-jurisdictional manner.

Health Canada has contributed to the development of a resource centre for drug users in Vancouver's downtown east side and is participating in a partnership under the Vancouver agreement among all three levels of government.

Health Canada will also be providing support to the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and to community activities with a particular emphasis on aboriginal women who are at risk of contracting HIV and those who have AIDS.

With respect to what has been done in Europe, I wish to assure the House that Health Canada is looking at the experiences of other countries in order to consider the possibility of applying their conclusions to the Canadian context.

In conclusion, Health Canada will continue to encourage, facilitate and increase public participation in a dialogue based on objective information concerning the best ways of addressing this health problem and serious social issue.

Division No. 1323
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am on my feet again on the hepatitis C issue. It is an issue that simply will not go away. Obviously the reason it will not go away is because the government has failed to deal with it in a manner that would be acceptable to Canadian people.

What I am speaking of is the settlement with our hepatitis C victims. Not one nickel of compensation has been received by the victims. It is hard to believe. It has been going on two years since the settlement was reached and not one victim has received a nickel. The only people who have received compensation are the lawyers for the federal government. I know members find that hard to believe, but only the lawyers for the federal government have received payment. My question to the minister a number of weeks ago was why? Why can the government not resolve this issue?

One of the parallels I drew that day is that the province of Ontario has again compensated those victims left outside the package. The package the federal government announced leaves out the victims prior to 1986 and after 1991. The premier of Ontario, although he comes under criticism from the House from time to time, had the courage to stand up and say, “Listen, we are going to compensate those victims regardless of when they became infected. They deserve compensation”.

The Liberal government opposite has not compensated one victim. The only people who have received compensation from the Liberal government are the lawyers representing the federal government in the suit.

We in the Progressive Conservative Party are asking the government to move on this issue and compensate the victims. Canadians want them to be compensated because they truly are victims. We want some action on the part of the federal government. The issue has dragged on now for a number of years. It has been two years since the compensation scheme was announced. People are still on the outside looking in. They need help. We want action. Will the government move on this issue?

Division No. 1323
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies
Québec

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the government has committed approximately $1.4 billion to compensate and assist those infected with hepatitis C through the blood supply system.

Of this amount, our government has already spent $875 million in order to meet its financial obligations to victims under the 1986-1990 hepatitis C settlement agreement. Under this agreement, which was approved by the courts, we have probably succeeded in avoiding ten years of litigation. An independent administrator was appointed by the courts. A process for handling applications has been put in place and applicants' cheques should soon be issued.

In addition, in the case of those infected before 1986 and after 1990, the government has agreed to pay some $525 million towards care, rather than in hard cash. For it is care that people are greatly in need of when they are sick.

We consulted people throughout Canada. We listened to what they had to say and we took action accordingly, putting $50 million into hepatitis C research and the creation of community support programs. We have also set aside $125 million for improved safety and monitoring of the blood supply system.

I would also like to add that an important component of our contribution is an agreement with the provinces and territories to pay half the costs, up to $50 million, to identify and notify all individuals who have been infected with hepatitis C through the blood system so they can receive the care and treatment they need. We have offered a $300 million transfer to the provinces and territories. Our plan is sensible, it provides the care that people living with hepatitis C need and it is a compassionate plan.

Division No. 1323
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.25 p.m.)