House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regulations.

Topics

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Aboriginal affairs; the hon. member for Repentigny, University Scholerships.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Repentigny.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me today to rise and present my position and that of the Bloc on Bill C-11. As a member of the Standing Committee on Health and the Bloc’s youth critic, I can say that this bill is of great concern to me. I am concerned because it has to do not only with public health and safety but also with the research done in our universities.

The predecessor of this bill was Bill C-54, which died on the order paper when the election was called last October. The purpose of the bill is to create measures to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins.

In case any of my colleagues do not know, pathogens are micro-organisms that can cause illness in human beings. Some toxins, produced by micro-organisms, can also cause illness. Pathogens are divided into five categories. The least dangerous are in risk group 1 and the most dangerous in risk group 5.

When I said that Bill C-11 concerned both public health and our scientific community, it was because these micro-organisms are used in both scientific research laboratories and in health care facilities in Quebec and Canada.

At the present time, the regulations on importing pathogens make it necessary to obtain a licence in order to bring them in from foreign countries. Only laboratories that import pathogens have to observe a set of guidelines on laboratory biosafety. Those that use pathogens already present in Canada do not.

The purpose of Bill C-11 is, in short, to make the laboratory biosafety guidelines obligatory for everyone and to require everyone to obtain a licence for controlled activities so that the existing pathogens can be followed. The purpose is to determine where these pathogens are and who is in possession of them and also to institute a system of offences and punishments for people who violate the guidelines.

Bill C-11 would therefore require everyone in the scientific community to obtain a licence in order to conduct research on pathogens and toxins. Whether in order to manipulate, possess, or import them, everyone would need a licence.

As I pointed out earlier, there are guidelines for the possession and handling of pathogens and toxins.

In short, Bill C-11 would require that low-risk laboratories, those using agents from groups 1 and 2, which entail, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, “moderate risk to the health of individuals and a low risk to public health” obtain a licence. That is interesting. According to the agency once again, “They are able to cause serious disease in a human but are unlikely to do so. Effective treatment and preventive measures are available and the risk of spread of disease caused by those pathogens is low.”

Naturally, we understand the government's concern with respect to groups 3 and 4 and the precautions proposed as they could affect the health and safety of the general population. However, there is a problem in that laboratories that handle agents in groups 3 and 4 already observe the provisions in the guidelines.

The guidelines were established more than 15 years ago and, since then, there has not been an incident in Canada in laboratories that use groups 3 and 4 or those that use groups 1 and 2. Mr. Marc Ouellette, a professor at Laval University, appeared before the committee twice and was very clear on that point.

Bill C-54 and then Bill C-11 sent shock waves through the research community. No one was prepared for them. When we examined the bill—and I even read the document explaining it—we thought it was ridiculous, because people had been following the guidelines for 15 years.

In fact, the only major incident involving improper use took place in the United States in the early 2000s and it was in a laboratory run by the American government. Scientists already comply with the framework put forward by the federal government for the use and importing of pathogens.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-11 would impose a new framework for university and hospital laboratories as well as private laboratories. At the Standing Committee on Health, we spoke to a number of scientists who work in these laboratories and who have serious doubts about the impact of Bill C-11, and I can understand them.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the new obligations on the circulation of pathogens within a facility such as a university, researchers wonder, not about the safety aspect of their research, but about the way the government is taking control over their everyday research activities.

Once again, the Conservative government is trying to use a variety of tactics to interfere in scientific research, exactly as it did by granting new funding to the Humanities Research Council, but limiting them to economic research. I will return to that point later. That decision, once again, was reached without consultation and without taking the opinion of those most concerned into consideration.

Did the government do any impact studies on the effects such legislation would have on university curricula, on the operation of our hospitals, on the research industry in Quebec and Canada?

Not in the least.

In addition to cutting $162 million in funding to granting agencies, the Conservative government is imposing a legislative framework on researchers, which will require major additional investments for the thousands of facilities wishing to use pathogens with a low level of risk to the public.

The Conservative government is again after carte blanche as far as the regulations are concerned; they will not be reviewed by Parliament. I have serious misgivings about the potential repercussions of this bill on the development of pathogen research in Quebec and on the positive contributions this would make to public health.

We need only think of the swine flu that is rampant at this time. Will scientists be able to work as effectively in future to find solutions to such a virus? I think this issue is worth examining.

Once again, it seems that the Conservative government is introducing a bill without evaluating its direct repercussions on the community. We are beginning to get used to it.

Did the government reflect on the impact that Bill C-11 will have on university teaching? Did it reflect on the investments required to set up a teaching laboratory using groups 1 and 2?

For example, E. coli is currently listed in schedule 2 of the bill. According to the academics, this pathogen is widely used by students in laboratory experiments. The fact that it is in schedule 2 would force universities to step up security in classrooms, although not all types of E. coli are potentially hazardous.

It is true that the government introduced some distinctions in Bill C-11 compared to former Bill C-54 and it could change the classification of pathogens in the schedules. However, that example illustrates the general upgrading problem that will be necessary in some teaching laboratories.

Moreover, the bill restricts the access to licensed facilities. Clause 31 of Bill C-11 says that:

A licence holder shall establish and maintain a list of all persons authorized by the licence holder to access the facility to which the licence applies, including persons holding a security clearance for that facility and visitors. The licence holder shall provide the Minister with that list if requested to do so.

Where teaching is done in laboratories, will the university have to give the list of all students who can access the laboratories or of all students of the university? I do believe that there are still too many questions and not enough answers in that bill.

According to the academics we consulted, Bill C-11 would require major investments in universities where there are laboratories. These investments will not be used to make the necessary upgrades to allow the laboratories to work with groups 3 and 4 pathogens, but to make them conform to the new provisions concerning groups 1 and 2. They told us that universities in Quebec and Canada will have to spend billions of dollars—and I repeat, billions of dollars, in the middle of an economic crisis—to do the necessary upgrading.

Many witnesses also asked the government to eliminate schedule 2 from the bill to reduce the impact on everyday research work. According to scientists, that would considerably change the content of Bill C-11. Indeed, 90% of pathogens used in university laboratories are from group 2.

A scientist at McGill University's Department of Microbiology and Immunology even issued a serious warning about the direct impact of implementing the act if schedule 2 is not repealed:

Removing level 2 would not put Canadians at any greater risk than they face now. Canadians are well protected with what is already present. Keeping level 2 in this bill will certainly slow research in this country and slow our ability to compete internationally and our ability to attract biotechnology and major industries...

In a time of economic crisis, it seems that the worst thing we could do would be to put even more constraints on our universities, which are already faced with serious funding problems. Especially since, as I said, there have been no incidents since the guidelines were introduced 15 years ago. The government is once again trying to impose its right-wing ideology and to control research as much as it can without spending anything. That is completely unacceptable.

As I have mentioned, the handling of pathogens is carried out for diagnostic purposes and for research and development. The Bloc Québécois is concerned with the effects of this bill on the future of research and development in this country related to pathogens. At the risk of repeating myself, I want to say that the Conservative government, in addition to cutting research budgets, is trying to exert maximum control over the scientific community.

It is also important to be concerned about the effects of Bill C-11 on health institutions, such as hospitals, that use laboratories to carry out diagnostic tests. That could have a direct impact on the health services of Quebec and the provinces. The bill also seeks to impose penalties on anyone who contravenes the law. It is important to mention that laboratories, including universities, hospitals and other government establishments, could be forced to pay a fine. Does the government really want to inflict fines on universities and hospitals that already have a crying shortage of funds?

The bill also provides fines and penalties for anyone guilty of careless acts or lack of precaution in the handling of pathogens and toxins. Such action would be liable to a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 for the first offence. A second offence would attract a maximum fine of $1 million or up to two years in prison, or both of those penalties. Are the measures in Bill C-11 to prohibit intentional misuse of pathogens not already contained within the Anti-terrorism Act?

While we had questioned officials about the possible repercussions, it is now clear that the government did not conduct any study of the impact of Bill C-11. The only response we received was that when it was drawing up the regulations the government would consider the concerns of experts and researchers, to reduce any possible negative impacts. Even though the government still has not conducted an impact study or else is refusing to make it public, the government appears so anxious to have Bill C-11 adopted that it is forgetting that enforcement of the law will not begin for another 4 or 5 years.

I sincerely believe that the government should have acted responsibly before blindly jumping into the implementation of Bill C-11. It should have conducted impact assessments and properly consulted the stakeholders, specifically, researchers, the provinces, medical laboratories and the entire scientific community. Of course the Bloc Québécois supports the notion that the government must consult the stakeholders affected by the bill before drafting any regulations. However, in the clause by clause study conducted by the health committee, of which I am a member, the Bloc proposed that the government consult the provinces before amending the schedules, which obviously was not done.

When asked about the consequences of this amendment, the officials said there would be no consultation with the provinces before the amendments were drafted, thereby forgoing the expertise of public servants from Quebec and the provinces. I would also remind the House that British Columbia has expressed serious reservations about the bill, and that it was these same officials who reassured them, promising that they would be consulted about the scope of the legislation.

This sentiment was echoed by the Government of Quebec. The Quebec health minister, Yves Bolduc, wrote a letter to the Canadian Minister of Health to express his concerns.

The Liberal members who were tearing their hair out in committee because of the failure to respect British Columbia's jurisdictions and the repercussions the bill would have on the people of that province decided to put their trust entirely in the regulations, thereby denying British Columbia the opportunity to give an opinion on the classification of pathogens. The Liberals have a habit of trampling on the provinces, and this is just one more example.

In her speech earlier, the hon. member for Winnipeg North seemed to be saying that the NDP were the only ones to try to change Bill C-11 in committee by proposing amendments.

Perhaps this amnesia is due to the energy she spent on justifying her position.

I would also like to remind the NDP members and all members of the House that the Bloc Québécois also proposed amendments at the report stage calling for the removal of level 2 pathogens and calling on the government to table the regulations before the House before they are adopted. We therefore supported the other parties' amendments that were along the same lines. However, that was not enough.

It would be interesting to know why the hon. member for Winnipeg North and the Liberal and Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Health did not support the amendment put forward by the Bloc Québécois calling for the activities carried out in any facility regulated, operated or funded by a province to be excluded, when Quebec's health minister as well as Ontario and BC officials expressed serious concerns about the impact of Bill C-11 on activities in Quebec and the provinces.

Given that the risk to Canadians posed by the presence of human pathogens and toxins in labs is low, according to the Conservative government; that the bill is designed to make the laboratory biosafety guidelines mandatory through licensing, without the government first consulting the primary stakeholders and assessing the impact on such things as university teaching and labs in health facilities; that the government's goal is to address a potential terrorist risk by regulating pathogens and toxins and that the Anti-terrorism Act and other acts can already cover some of the provisions of Bill C-11; and that this bill can potentially invade the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, for all of these reasons, the Bloc Québécois is calling for an in-depth review of Bill C-11.

We will question experts to make sure that the details of Bill C-11 do not adversely affect Quebec's research community. We will ensure that the proposed provisions are respectful of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction in that they take into account potential implications with respect to university teaching and research as well as health services provided to the people of Quebec.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of my colleague.

Did I hear correctly that Quebec's health minister is opposed to this bill because it encroaches on the province's jurisdiction?

We know that pathogen issues fall under provincial jurisdiction. If I understand correctly, Quebec's health minister, Mr. Bolduc, is strongly opposed. He is not the only one, since I believe other provinces also voiced their opinions. I would like to hear more about this.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Gatineau for his excellent question.

Let me read from the letter sent by minister Yves Bolduc to the Minister of Health:

Quebec realizes that what is proposed in the bill would have major impacts, most notably on the management of medical laboratory and diagnostic services, which are normal services within Quebec's health system. However, these services fall under the jurisdiction of the government of Quebec.

Once again, the Conservative government, despite its promise of open federalism, is engaging in piecemeal federalism and trampling the role of the provinces in the federal system. I must say this is one of the main reasons why I am a sovereignist.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Repentigny for his excellent speech on Bill C-11. We just heard that the government is not very interested in the position taken by the Quebec Minister of Health and his opposition to this bill for reasons related to provincial jurisdiction. This is not surprising from a Conservative government that constantly ignores the interests of Quebec and its areas of jurisdiction. However, what concerns me more is the support the Liberal Party seems willing to give to this bill. I would like to know what the hon. member thinks of the position of the official opposition.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for his election and to thank him for his excellent question.

I have to admit that, while he was asking this question, I was already thinking of the disappointing way the Liberals have acted in this matter. In committee, they were completely against the bill. They asked many scientists and researchers to come and testify against inclusion of group 2 pathogens. And what did they do when it was time to vote? It was all the same thing. They supported the government, as they have done for many other bills and motions. The Liberals talk to the media about how terrible and scary this is. They say they will vote against it, but the first thing they do is to vote with the government. So, would it be that different if they were the government? I really doubt that because it is always the same with them. Anyway, when they were in power, the Liberals did what the Conservatives are doing, that is, demeaning the role of the provinces within Confederation. So, I have said it and will say it again: it is always the same thing.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague to elaborate on a point. Why do we find ourselves in a situation where the federal government will once again attempt to interfere with Quebec's areas of jurisdiction?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am being asked many very good questions today and I appreciate it. That allows me to elaborate on the actions of the Conservative government on that issue.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

An hon. member

A good government.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

I am not so sure about that. The member across the way says that it is a good government, but I have my doubts. However, in all honesty, I must admit that we would not be better off with the Liberals.

The problem with the fact that the government interferes with provincial areas of jurisdiction is that most universities and health facilities doing research with group 2 pathogens are financed by the provinces. Guess what the government will do when the act is implemented? It will wash its hands of it. It will say that it is not its problem anymore and that provincial governments must invest in universities and hospitals to upgrade the laboratories to comply with the new regulations. Of course, as usual, the provinces, and particularly Quebec, will not get one red cent from the government to help them.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to know how young university researchers who are learning their skills in our institutions and universities in Quebec and the rest of Canada will be affected by this bill.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can tell from his many interesting questions that my colleague from Gatineau knows a lot about this issue.

The problem for young researchers is that they work in labs with human pathogens. I specified in my remarks that over 90% of these human pathogens are in group 2. If these group 2 pathogens are removed from the schedule, there will not be any problem. But the government insists on keeping them there. The problem is that young researchers will no longer have the bacteria and toxins they need to pursue their studies. It is easy to figure out what the impact will be.

It is as if I wanted to teach carpentry to somebody, but without giving him a hammer. How could he become a good carpenter if he does not have the tools of his trade? The problem will be the same with Bill C-11 as long as schedule 2 is there. Scientists and young researchers will again be penalized.

We know that this Conservative government is cutting funds for research. And now, with Bill C-11, it is taking control over scientific research.

Guess who is going to be penalized? Those affected will again be young students, researchers and academics, who are working in good faith and want to contribute to the medical community in Quebec and Canada. And what does the government do? It is making things difficult for them and it is making sure they will go abroad. All our potential to develop new knowledge, all those who could help Quebec and Canada forge ahead, will leave for places and countries where it is recognized that the knowledge economy is the economy of the future. But the Conservatives do not know what the knowledge economy is all about.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, can my colleague from Repentigny tell me how universities and medical institutions could be affected by Bill C-11?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for his question.

The problem is that universities and hospitals, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, are already experiencing a serious funding problem. Because of Bill C-11, these universities and hospitals will need several billion dollars—according to a university professor—to improve their laboratories. That will be very costly for the provinces and they will not get any federal assistance.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I listened very carefully to my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois who demonstrated clearly that this bill is irrelevant and should go back to the drawing board to be re-examined and reworked to meet the real needs of the community in terms of risk management.

Everyone knows that I am curious. When I see a bill that is irrelevant, that leads nowhere, that will solve nothing and that will only interfere with the work of specialists and researchers, I am curious and I look for anything that could enlighten me as to where exactly the danger lies. Why is the government looking now to pass a bill that would suddenly make risk group 1 and 2 pathogens more dangerous and require a licence for these pathogens? I asked myself that question.

I looked to see what was being done in the United States because we know of course that, since 9/11, our American friends are very fond of all these laws and measures that are nothing but cumbersome. I understand their anxiety and their need to put forward legislation aimed at preventing terrorist acts on their territory.

I came across something quite interesting, and I believe that our Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat colleagues should hear it. Words could be a useful pathogen if, by reproduction and transmittal, they could contaminate our colleagues from these parties and disseminate more wisdom among them.

I will read some excerpts from a report by Mr. Nicolas Moquin, of the Laboratoire d'étude sur les politiques publiques et la mondialisation. The title is “Analyse des impacts de la mondialisation sur la sécurité au Québec, Rapport 4 — L'arme biologique et ses vecteurs”. The author is not the member for Laval or just anyone talking through their hat about things they do not really know. The study was done by a very knowledgeable group of people. Here is how the report begins:

The erosion of frontiers, the increasing ease of travel, the free circulation of goods and people as well as migratory movements are characteristics of globalization. The new information and telecommunication technologies, such as satellites, cable broadcasting and the Internet, also promote rapid information sharing and allow for the coordination of various activities taking place at great distances. Western democracies are therefore more vulnerable to transnational threats. Transnational terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda, can acquire tools which allow them to better target their attacks.

As I read this, I cannot help thinking about the day, not so long ago, when our distinguished colleague across the floor went to the airport in Toronto. With some of his colleagues in charge of public safety, he was able to gain access to areas where, normally, he should not have been able to go. This represents a much greater threat of bringing biological weapons here than the threat of reproducing those weapons in a laboratory where we have pathogens from the risk groups 1 and 2. In spite of this, nothing has been done yet to make airports safer.

Western states are very concerned about terrorism. On October 5, 2001, shortly after the September 11 tragedy, the United States lost yet more lives when five people died of anthrax.

Anthrax is considered a risk group 4 pathogen. It is not a risk group 1 or 2 pathogen. It is very dangerous and should not be in just anyone's hands. However, even though the United States has very strict and specific rules, the pathogen was found in envelopes addressed to elected members of the U.S. Congress and Senate. Unfortunately, police in the U.S. had been unable to intercept the envelopes.

This incident illustrates the degree to which the proliferation of nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical (NRBC) weapons constitutes a threat to national and international security.

These are weapons of mass destruction, much like the weapons that were not found in Iraq, weapons that justified the American government's military action in that country.

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and NRBCs can have a destructive impact on all levels of society and the environment.

The introduction explains these problems. Further on, it addresses biological weapons, bioterrorism and agroterrorism. I would like to talk about bioterrorism, because pathogens are what interest us today.

Security experts agree. Actions against civilians or even property by individuals or groups belonging to large organized networks are characteristic of terrorism. These organizations claim adherence to a political or religious cause, orchestrate attacks, or employ intimidation tactics to create a climate of fear. There are many forms of terrorism; we will focus on biological weapons.

Biological weapons have not yet been used on a large scale, but some states have pursued the development of biological weapons and their antidotes. These weapons use living organisms or products derived therefrom.

These states are not terrorist groups; they are governments that have developed biological weapons.

These organisms may multiply within another living organism, which then becomes a vector for contamination [...] There are four categories of biological agents: viruses (smallpox, Ebola), bacteria (anthrax), fungi, and toxins produced by living organisms (ricin, botulism bacillus).

Each of those appears in risk group 4.

Vaporizing or mixing biological agents with drinking water or food increases their capacity for mass destruction. These agents can also be incorporated in goods or postal packages.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 50 viruses, bacteria and toxins could be used to manufacture biological weapons... Manufacturing a biological weapon requires little specialized knowledge. Advances in biological research and even the access to Internet have made it increasingly possible to procure the equipment necessary to manufacture such a weapon. It is even highly likely that the number of instances where strains of smallpox are stolen will increase. As it turns out, there is a real threat, and the use of such weapons of mass destruction is cause for great concern. Currently active terrorist groups could resort to biological weapons in attacks.

When we say that it is easy to make a biological weapon with the help of Internet, it is important to realize that we are not talking about scientists or researchers working in laboratories to serve mankind by developing universal remedies for the various diseases known to man. We are talking about terrorists who, in the comfort of their own bedroom or living room, find recipes for putting together these so-called biological threats.

Bioterrorism means the spreading of germs susceptible of causing deadly diseases. Recent advances in genetics and molecular biology make it possible to turn innocuous bacteria into pathogens through the insertion of toxic genes. These bacteria can be made even more virulent so that they can bypass the immune system or become antibiotic resistant.

I do not think that the kind of bacteria and terrorist activities we are talking about here will be the fields of interest of our young researchers and scientists, who are so dedicated and so anxious to improve the lives of their fellow citizens by looking for new methods of treatment.

Included in this report is the notion that, being aware of these problems, risks and potential difficulties, the United Nations as well as the United States, Canada and Quebec have developed alternate approaches that now allow us to make sure that we will not be the victims of bioterrorism or agroterrorism.

For example, in 2003 in the United States, the FDA or Food and Drug Administration, which is the agency that oversees drugs, arms and foodstuffs, established an obligatory registration system for foreign and local producers who handle, process, deal with or transport foodstuffs. Foreign companies in the agri-food sector that export perishable foods to the United States must provide the Food and Drug Administration with a minimum of two hours advance notice.

American importers of agri-food products must also notify the FDA before crossing the border of another American state. If imported food products might constitute a health risk, the FDA reserves the right to quarantine them for a period of 20 to 30 days.

Members will recall that we had a serious problem two years ago with spinach imported from the United States. Even though there are very strict rules in the United States governing the transportation of food, its quality, and its relative risk, here in Canada we ended up, despite all that, with very dangerous spinach contaminated with a coliform bacillus that was a threat to human health. It is not enough to have very strict rules. We have to be certain that those rules work.

The bioterrorism legislation in the United States also attempts to secure institutions that stock toxins and biological viruses. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has established a list of viruses that could be used to produce biological weapons. States, universities and private laboratories must therefore abide by certain conditions if they want to hold and handle these type 4 viruses, as was previously mentioned.

Canada has also become involved at the United Nations in a group of countries that are concerned about these problems because some states have developed viruses, bacteria and human pathogens that can be very dangerous and that can reproduce very quickly.

Today, most of these viruses are in a Russian laboratory, where they are monitored. For a few years, there has been an oversight committee made up of people from Canada, the United States, Europe and even Quebec. These people have a responsibility to protect the viruses against terrorism and make sure that the viruses kept in this facility are not removed for any reason.

Responsibility for planning and for Canada's response to the threat of bioterrorism rests with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC), the Departmental of National Defence (DND), the RCMP and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), which are all part of the joint response team. The national readiness and response system of PSEPC coordinates all response activities. Internationally, Canada responds to biological threats by working with its international partners.

In 2002, to follow up on Canada's proposals at the Kananaskis summit, the G8 member countries adopted the global partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. This partnership has primarily focused on co-managing Russia's chemical and biological military complex, a legacy of the Communist era. Canada and the other G8 members want to prevent any terrorist group from acquiring or developing biological weapons.

These chemical weapons are not found in small hospital or research laboratories. Chemical weapons do exist, but it is governments of certain countries that have developed them to use them themselves or to scare their neighbours or other countries by threatening to produce and export them. Generally, researchers and lab technicians are not the most diabolical minds behind threats of bioterrorism.

In Quebec, we are fortunate to have a public health agency.

Canada's and Quebec's initiatives to combat the vectors of biological weapons and protect themselves against the effects of such weapons primarily take the form of cooperation on safety and public health and compliance with FDA requirements by agri-food companies in Quebec and MAPAQ regarding food traceability.

I am certain that my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin is well aware of this situation, because:

—September 11, 2001 and the anthrax incident resulted in major changes to civil security in Quebec. Not long after these events, the governments of Quebec and the state of New York decided to establish the Quebec-New York Committee, a working group to examine new measures to be adopted for communications and security in emergency situations... The work of the committee led to the establishment, within the Ministry of Public Safety, of the roundtable on management of nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical threats.

The Parti Québécois—a sovereignist party—was in power in Quebec at the time.

Representatives of Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau were members of the roundtable. Each city was represented by a police officer, a firefighter and a municipal civil security officer. Other members of various ministries and organizations also participated, including the Quebec provincial police, the SQ, which was responsible, together with the Montreal police force, for examining nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical threats.

I only have one minute remaining. That is not long enough. It is not enough to make my colleagues understand, no matter whether they are Liberals, Conservatives or New Democrats, that they are not making the right decision by voting for this bill. This bill must be reviewed in its entirety. It must be studied and witnesses must come and explain what they need, in order to have a real policy to prevent bioterrorism.