Blood Samples Act

An Act to provide for the taking of samples of blood for the benefit of persons administering and enforcing the law and good Samaritans and to amend the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Chuck Strahl  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 16, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

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.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 1st, 2002 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the twelfth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to its order of reference of Tuesday, October 16, 2001, the committee has considered Bill C-217, the blood samples act, and pursuant to Standing Order 97.1 recommends the House of Commons do not proceed further with the bill, that the order be discharged and that the bill be withdrawn from the order paper.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the thirteenth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) the committee recommends that the issues addressed in Bill C-217, the blood samples act, be placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the federal-provincial-territorial meetings of ministers of justice, attorneys general and solicitors general, as well as the agenda of the uniform law conference.

In addition, the committee recommends that Health Canada increase its efforts to gather statistics on the number of emergency workers who are exposed to blood borne pathogens in the course of their duties. The committee also recommends that government allocate the resources necessary to achieve this objective.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

October 16th, 2001 / 5:25 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, October 4, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-217 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 2001 / 1:25 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of Bill C-217 are deemed put and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, October 16, 2001 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 4th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all the parties, as well as the member for Fraser Valley, concerning the taking of the division on Bill C-217 scheduled at the conclusion of private members' business later today, and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on Bill C-217 all questions necessary to dispose of the motion for second reading be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, October 16 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2001 / 6:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join in the debate. I commend my colleague from Fraser Valley for bringing forward this initiative. I thank those who have worked so hard for so long behind the scenes to bring this idea to the floor of the House of Commons.

There seems to be one underlying issue for those who have any hesitation in supporting the bill, that of two conflicting principles: the principle of individual personal autonomy versus personal responsibility.

In objections raised by a few of my colleagues, that is the nub of their argument. They say or have said that we need to be careful of an individual's right and in taking a blood sample we might be impinging on a person's right. The flip side of that argument is that individuals in society need to be responsible for their own actions.

When there is a conflict in this area, which do we choose as legislators? We have the opportunity with Bill C-217 to make a positive change to help those who help others. We have the opportunity to make a change for health care workers, police officers, people in emergency services or those who do something out of the goodness of their hearts. We can do that with the bill. Let us not focus on the aspects that might stop us from moving ahead because there is a greater good in passing the bill.

We are always faced with choices in our lives. As legislators we are faced with the choice of moving ahead with the bill or saying yes, it is a good idea, but let us not do it. I say let us do it. I encourage my colleagues from all parties to move ahead and say yes to Bill C-217.

It needs to be done. The reason it needs to be done is that there are many people in our society who do things out of the goodness of their hearts. When doing so they rarely stop to think about the implications of their good deeds. Those who work in the health services area or are police officers or emergency service workers obviously do think about it. They are trained. They do have protocols.

My colleague from St. Catharines seems to be saying, and I hope I mistook him in some way, that these protocols would provide an extra level of protection. In one way they do, but at the end of the day what needs more protection and was not mentioned by my colleague is the uncertainty that has to be lived with by an individual who has done a good deed and may have accidentally been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV. That individual has to live with the mental anguish of not knowing. I cannot fully imagine how terrible that is for those who have had to walk that road, thinking about their own families, their children, their lives and their livelihoods and how that one act of goodness done to help another might be the cause of their own demise. That is a terrible thought and that is a terrible place to be in. We can do something about it.

Change happens when individuals seek out change, take a stand and move forward with a vision and with hope on something that is very important to them. Constable Anderson has been very instrumental in behind the scenes work with the bill in terms of developing an organization called FLAG, Front Line and Good Samaritan's Right to Know. I commend her for her good work. Oftentimes it must be frustrating to hear the different debates we have about this conflict of individual rights versus personal responsibility.

At the end of this debate what we need to hold in the forefront of this discussion as legislators is that we want to discourage negative behaviour and encourage positive behaviour in our society for the good of our country, for the good of our citizens and for the well-being of all.

Should we then place the emphasis on those who might commit an act that could endanger the life of another citizen? Should we put that principle above the principle of personal responsibility? I do not think we should in this case, and I think the bill addresses very well that specific concern mentioned by my colleague from the Liberal Party and by other colleagues as well. There would have to be a warrant issued by a judge for the taking of a blood sample in this situation. There is protection built into the legal system so that this would not be abused. There would have to be a good reason for a warrant.

Also for those who have concerns, the warrant can be used just for that specific purpose. Clause 14 of the bill says that:

A sample of blood taken from a person pursuant to a warrant issued under section 5 shall not be analysed for any purpose other than the purpose specified in the warrant.

That is very specific.

This is a well crafted bill that addresses a need and a concern and it should be passed. So many times in this place we hear good ideas, for good causes. We debate both sides and make a decision. In this case I believe we must be compelled to focus on the greater good of those who give of themselves in the line of service. We must focus on that because it is a positive thing to do and it will provide a benefit to our society, to our health care workers and to people who put their lives on the line every single day in every single way that they can. That so often goes unnoticed and unthanked.

It is that selfless giving of individuals day after day in their lines of work that contributes to society and makes it a better place to be. We should not neglect that and pass up the opportunity now. If we let the bill slip away, we will lose an opportunity to do something good that would benefit our country, our people and future generations. For that reason, I ask my colleagues, when considering why they should or should not support the bill, to consider the argument that it is a better thing to focus on personal responsibility and the greater good of our society in passing the bill. While taking into consideration individual personal responsibility, the greater good must be done.

Let us do it. Let us work together and make this happen. We have an opportunity to make a difference and that does not happen too often in this place. We can do it today. Let us move forward and support Bill C-217.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2001 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill proposed by the member for Fraser Valley raises a number of important issues that must be thoroughly examined.

Bill C-217 provides that a justice may issue a warrant authorizing a peace officer to require a qualified medical practitioner to take or cause to be taken by a qualified technician, samples of blood from a person in order to determine whether the person carries the hepatitis B virus, or the hepatitis C virus or human autoimmune deficiency virus if the justice is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to do so. These reasonable grounds are subsequently enumerated.

At first blush the bill appeals to our desire to help those on the front lines, those individuals who in their daily work confront the possibility of putting their health at risk. We are speaking medical practitioners, firefighters and police officers to name a few.

The Minister of Health, as we all do, appreciates the work that has been done by the emergency responders in Canada. They are an essential component of the Canadian health care system. Health Canada has collaborated with the emergency responders on many occasions leading to the development of a national consensus on guidelines for the establishment of a post exposure notification protocol for emergency responders.

Those who work on the front lines as emergency responders can be exposed to blood and other body fluids in the course of their work. Of concern in this proposed piece of legislation are those injuries that could result in an exposure of blood borne pathogens, namely HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It must be pointed out that exposure to the blood or blood fluids of an HIV, HBV or HCV infected person does not necessarily result in a transmission of the virus.

In order to properly prevent these exposures and to respond appropriately when an exposure occurs, emergency response organizations need an overall occupational health protocol. That includes immunization against hepatitis B and personal protective equipment such as gloves and safe work practices. If a possible exposure does occur, emergency responders need to be educated on the protocols of how to obtain immediate assessment and follow up.

Bill C-217, a blood samples act, would authorize the drawing of blood samples from individuals who may have accidentally or intentionally exposed frontline emergency providers or a good Samaritan to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or human immunodeficiency virus HIV. After a suspected exposure, an emergency service provider would be permitted to apply to a justice for a warrant. This warrant would authorize a medical practitioner or technician to take a blood sample from the patient in question, tests for the aforementioned diseases and provide test results to the patients and to the emergency service provider. Refusal to submit a blood test could result in a prison term of up to six months.

While we recognize that emergency service providers must act promptly to counteract the negative effects of exposure to serious diseases, it is important to note that previous requests for such testing have been rejected by the courts.

Preventive measures should be taken within hours of exposure. According to Health Canada guidelines published in the Canada communicable disease report, the option to administer post exposure prophylaxis should be established within a few hours. It is unlikely that the legal and medical procedures necessary to draw an authorized blood sample, to test it and to distribute its results could be accomplished within this brief timeframe.

While mandatory blood testing of sources in cases of genuine exposure might assist in making more informed decisions regarding the use of post exposure medications, there would also be the potential for endangering the health of the victim, especially his or her mental health, by breaking the rules on patient confidentiality.

The guidelines referred to previously and established by Health Canada in 1995, in conjunction with firefighters, police and ambulance workers, demonstrate concrete actions taken to address the risks and consequently have already anticipated the objectives of the bill.

Guidelines that ensure emergency responders will be notified quickly regarding exposures obtained in their line of work have been implemented by the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories and by other regions and hospitals in other jurisdictions.

In 1997 a second protocol outlining assessment, testing and treatment procedures to be used to promote the well-being of health care workers, including firefighters, police and ambulance workers, was released by Health Canada. By following the second protocol, emergency responders will receive up to date care directed toward reducing the effects of an exposure.

The guidelines recommended by Health Canada for emergency responders reflect the same standard of care given to all other health care workers including nurses and physicians. The guidelines recommend testing the source in such cases but always with consent.

By following Health Canada's notification protocols emergency responders can be assured of timely, rational and effective assessment and treatment.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say first that my brother-in-law is a firefighter at the Vancouver airport and he welcomes the type of initiative by my colleague from Fraser Valley. As we are talking about blood sampling, the other day I had the privilege and honour of donating my 100th donation to the Canadian Blood Services. I encourage all members of parliament and their families, those who are healthy and those who can, to donate blood on a regular basis to help those less fortunate in our society.

Instead of coming up with one of my eloquent speeches, I thought I would just repeat a speech from my former colleague, Mr. Peter Mancini from Cape Breton, who spoke on the bill so eloquently. I thought it would be proper just to repeat what he said.

First, we welcome the member for Fraser Valley for bringing forward this piece of legislation, Bill C-217, which is well intentioned. We commend him for it. It raises some important questions about people who partake in the kind of activity envisioned.

When listening to his remarks we became a little concerned, and the government member raised some of those concerns as well. There is a difference between people who engage in criminal activity and people who in the execution of their professional duties, such as firefighters or peacekeepers, have suffered or have cause to be concerned about whether they have been infected with various forms of hepatitis or HIV.

A great deal of his time was spent referring to the perpetrators of the crime. He was right. When someone has committed an offence, should our police forces or security guards not have a right to find out if they have been infected with some kind of disease when in the execution of their duty, which is the protection of our society, they encounter some activity that has caused them some concern?

The bill is wider and goes further than that. It does not narrow those affected to those involved in fighting crime and to the perpetrators of crime. The legislation says that a person, not a crime fighter or a police officer, may apply to a justice for a warrant authorizing the taking of a sample of blood from another person who is not necessarily the perpetrator of a crime.

There are numerous examples. We can envisage how wide ranging the legislation would be. For example, it would apply to firefighters who in the execution of their duties such as saving an individual from a burning building, came into contact with bodily fluid blood or whatever and may have cause to wonder if they have been infected in the line of their duty with some disease.

The same would apply to health care workers and paramedics. The bill is quite broad. It applies to persons who in their professional capacity may find themselves in that situation. Like the government member, I wonder if the criminal code is the best way to meet the need which is obviously a real concern for the member and the people engaged in those activities.

We in the New Democratic Party intend to support the legislation to at least get it to committee where it can be examined. However we wonder if we might better to look at labour legislation, because we are talking about the health and safety of individuals engaged in the performance of their professional duties, be they nurses, firefighters, policemen, security guards, prison guards, teachers, people in day care centres, et cetera. We are talking about a wide range of professionals and working people who are faced in 2001 with health and safety concerns that we could not possibly have imagined 25 years ago.

We applaud the intent of the legislation. The purpose of the legislation is good. However we wonder if by working collectively through the committee members of the Conservative Party, the Alliance, the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals, we might find a better way to ensure that this legislation does what the member wants it to do without running into all kinds of hurdles. Working collectively we may all be able to achieve just that.

In addition to wondering whether the criminal code is the appropriate piece of legislation, there are certain civil liberties that have been raised by the government speaker as well.

We may be able to find a way to take the thrust of the legislation out of the criminal code and place it in labour legislation. The government talks about working in tandem with health. We lean toward labour legislation. If we find a way to do that then we may avoid some of the constitutional challenges that could follow as a result of criminal code legislation.

The hon. member in speaking to his bill referred to the perpetrators of crime. However we remind him, and he obviously knows, that this legislation is very wide ranging.

My colleague is a lawyer and a bit of a wordsmith from Nova Scotia, and we deal with words all the time. Subclause 3(b) states that a judge can issue a warrant and it outlines the considerations. Subclause 3(b) goes on to state “by reason of the circumstances by which the applicant came into contact with the bodily substance”. We need to explore that to see exactly what it means. If it is a matter of a criminal code offence, then we know that if in the execution of his or her duties, and the examples were given by the mover of the legislation, a police officer gets stabbed by a needle or gets bitten, these are compelling circumstances.

However for a nurse who works in a hospital in a unit where a number of people suffer from HIV or hepatitis B are those circumstances sufficiently compelling? No one says, as in some of the criminal cases cited by the member, “I bit you. Now you have HIV” or “I have a score to settle with you and I am going to pierce you with a needle”.

How compelling should the circumstances be for the invasion of someone's civil liberties to take a blood sample? We need some clarification on that. By sending the bill to committee, we might very well get the clarification that is required.

In summary there is a serious point raised by the government and the opposition members, and that is the arresting of someone who has not committed a criminal offence. That is a serious matter for all of us to consider, especially in the constitutional challenges.

In Canada one of the things we pride is our freedom: freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom from arrest without the reading of rights and without knowing what we have done wrong. This is where the criminal aspect of this is different than applying it to the civil aspect, to those engaged in health and safety occupations where no crime has been committed.

We have fought the intent of the legislation. We would like to bring it forward to the committee for further examination. There are some real concerns that we see with it, but we think by working together we will be able to iron them out.

This was originally said in 1999 by our great colleague, Mr. Peter Mancini from Nova Scotia.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour for me to rise in support of Bill C-217. I take this opportunity to praise the hon. member for Fraser Valley for his tireless work on this file and, more important, for bringing forward a matter of great concern to true Canadian heroes. If the hon. member for Fraser Valley would like to come over here and sit beside me, I would not have a problem with that at all. He has done a wonderful job.

Bill C-217 respecting the blood samples act offers a measure of protection, security and peace of mind to those brave Canadians from every part of the country who put their lives in harm's way to defend and assist those in need. There can be no more noble legislation than that which protects those who protect us. There is a policeman in the gallery tonight who works in the community to protect us.

It has been said that Bill C-217 would benefit Samaritans. I am reminded of the parable of the good Samaritan as recounted to us in the readings of Luke 10:30-37. It is a story of a traveller who was beaten and robbed by a pack of thieves. Left by the side of the street, hurt and bloodied, this innocent victim was in dire need of help. Others came down that same road but passed the traveller and would not reach out a helping hand.

Then came a Samaritan who was himself on a journey and who bore witness to this victim of crime in desperate need of help. The Samaritan did not know the traveller and did not know what had happened. The Samaritan did know, however, that he should treat his neighbours as he would want to be treated himself. The Samaritan stopped and helped the severely beaten traveller, not knowing even so much as his name.

We are fortunate that many brave Canadians have taken this parable to heart. I cannot imagine our not taking the steps in this place, no matter how great or small, to ensure that those who selflessly put themselves in the path of danger are afforded some measure of protection. Whether our modern day Samaritans are heroes by virtue of career or circumstance, they must always be mindful of the fact that helping others must often involve taking risks. The very challenges they overcome to help those in need often make their acts much more heroic.

We know all too well that the modern world has its share of danger. It is hidden from the naked eye but can strike us down as painfully and as deliberately as any danger that is plainly visible.

It is not difficult to imagine that a policeman, a firefighter, a nurse or an ambulance attendant could come into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has been injured. We could even go as far as to suggest it is expected that they would.

I know that because my mother and father, on their 50th wedding anniversary, were in a car accident caused by two young people who were drinking. Their car rolled over and my mother was pinned. Firefighters and policemen had to cut her loose to get her out of the car. She never walked again. Those who looked after my mother and father did have my parent's blood on their hands. They saved their lives that night and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

There are many people in the constituency of Saint John, New Brunswick, which I represent, who put their lives in harm's way. I thank them also from the bottom of my heart tonight. In today's society, when policemen are called out and have to go into a home, they put their lives on the line as they never know whether the person in there will attack them with a gun or a knife.

These bodily fluids can cause the spread of infectious diseases that would in some cases be life threatening. For heroes who might well have come in contact with infected bodily fluids, the possibility exists that they might well live out their days under the looming spectre of a debilitating disease.

When we consider the potential consequences of these selfless acts and the risk to those who undertake them without hesitation, we would agree that the onus falls clearly on us in the House to ensure that every possible preventative measure is in place.

The House is well aware that I am neither a lawyer nor a physician. I am just an honorary doctor. However it seems to be a matter of pure common sense that we would seek to take a blood sample for the single purpose of protecting the lives of those who protect us. We all know that by taking a blood sample medical professionals can conclude whether there is a risk of contamination and can decide whether or not to give the powerful drugs available to them that might well fend off an infection.

When my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough spoke to this legislation he cited an example of a Calgary police officer who was bitten by an AIDS infected suspect in the course of his daily work. The officer, a loving husband, had to endure a barrage of tests and trials to guarantee that he was not infected with AIDS that day.

Clearly there are questions here that go to the heart of individual rights. If it were my cousin, Gordon Fairweather, standing here instead of myself, I am sure he would speak to those issues and those concerns more eloquently than I. Suffice to say, however, that our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly protects each individual Canadian and I see no corruption of those rights by voting in favour of Bill C-217.

I cannot imagine a world where a police officer, a fireman, ambulance drivers or the people in the ambulance must face the daily possibilities of being infected with AIDS. I cannot imagine a world where an ambulance attendant would have to hesitate before giving medical attention to a victim for fear that he or she might contract a disease. The rights of the person who has blood taken are already protected to a large extent. Police officers must obtain warrants and go before a justice before a blood sample can be taken. In most instances there are exceptions.

Bill C-217 has been carefully drafted so as not to go too far afield in breaching a persons human rights. Current sections of the criminal code would also apply to compel those who would use the particular section not to go outside a person's human rights.

There are current sections that apply to impaired driving, sexual assault and the new DNA databank that would come under similar scrutiny in the judicial chambers. It is an important step toward protection and enhancement of safety for everyone.

I again commend the hon. member for Fraser Valley for this initiative. It is a tremendous common sense initiative and one that my party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, wholeheartedly endorses. I encourage all members to do likewise.

I cannot imagine a world where our police officers, our firefighters and our ambulance attendants would have to hesitate before giving medical attention to a victim for fear that they might contract a disease. They never hesitate. They do their job immediately. We owe them a lot. Bill C-217 is one thing that we do owe to them.

I believe that we must take this step. This is the responsible thing to do. It is the right thing to do. Each and every one in the PC Party is in favour of the bill.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2001 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-217, under Private Members' Business.

If I am not mistaken, this bill, the blood samples act, was introduced in the House by a Canadian Alliance member on February 5, 2001.

It arises out of an event that occurred in October 1997, when a police officer, Isobel Anderson, arrested a man for armed robbery. It is useful to explain why the Canadian Alliance member introduced this bill.

While searching for weapons, she reached into his pocket and felt a sharp pain. She pulled her hand out to find a bloody needle stuck in her palm. As she feared, doctors told her that the needle may have infected her with HIV, which leads to AIDS. Then she learned that the robbery suspect had refused to take the HIV test and could not be compelled by law to give a blood sample.

After some negotiations, the suspect agreed to a blood test, and the results came back negative for HIV but positive for hepatitis C.

As a precautionary measure, Ms. Anderson agreed to AZT treatment, which understandably changed her life for several months. Six months later it was confirmed that she had contracted neither HIV nor hepatitis C. Today this policewoman is in good health.

Since the creation of the Reform Party, a group called Front Line and Good Samaritans Rights to Know has been encouraging police officers and other emergency workers to make their voices heard and support the efforts of the party, now the Canadian Alliance, in favour of a bill to protect the interests of people working for others in a service capacity.

Our position on this bill is the following: the bill is essentially aimed at forcing people suspected of being HIV or hepatitis B or C positive, and who could have infected a peace officer, a security guard or a person acting under section 494 of the criminal code, to give a blood sample.

The bill is pitting one fundamental right against another, namely the right to health and safety and the right to privacy and the sanctity of the human body.

We believe that in its present form, the bill might infringe upon the rights of people with HIV or hepatitis B or C by ostracizing them. Moreover, such a bill might lead to abuses against those suspected of carrying one of those diseases. Far from reflecting the values dear to Quebecers, this bill would contravene the fundamental human rights legislation passed by the Quebec government.

Finally, it seems obvious to us that this bill would go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and change the Criminal Code in a worrisome way. It would allow for the taking of blood samples even when no misdemeanour or offence of any kind has been committed.

The bill does not respect the fundamental values of Quebecers, and the government has passed several laws to entrench human rights and freedoms.

It might bear repeating that these values are entrenched in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, at articles 1—dealing with right to life, freedom, security and integrity of person—to 5, which deals with the right to privacy protection. In the Civil Code of Quebec, article 10 states that “Every person is inviolable and is entitled to the integrity of his person”.

If this bill were to be passed, several Quebec acts and codes would be affected by Bill C-217 and would require consequential amendments. That would be the case, for example, for the Professional Code and the Act respecting health services and social services.

When creating the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1974—under the Quebec Liberal Party at the time—the legislator established as a fundamental right that “Every person has a right to respect for his privacy”.

There is in the Civil Code of Quebec, in force since January 1, 1994, a whole chapter on the issue of respect for one's reputation and one's privacy. The new code, after recalling the principle stated in the Charter, provides that only the law or the consent of a person or of his heirs can justify an intrusion in his or her private life.

Moreover, Bill C-217 does not respect the concept of the human body's inviolability provided for in section 10 of Quebec's Civil Code, that says that, except for certain exceptional situations, no one is to be subjected to medical treatment without his or her well-informed and freely given consent.

According to some experts, the definition of medical care is broad enough to include the taking of samples, tests and even DNA analysis. A practice that affects someone's integrity violates all the more his right to privacy. And respect for one's privacy implies that every person can exercise control over personal information concerning him and decide whether to make them public or not.

It is interesting finally to note that the doctors' code of ethics includes under the principle of the confidentiality of medical information two exceptions that would apply to genetic information.

The first exception provides that the doctor can divulge facts that he was personally made aware of when a patient or the law authorizes him to do so, when there is a pressing and justified reason to do so for the patient's health or that of the people around him.

The second exception provides that, unless there is just cause, the physician may not reveal to people who are close to the patient a serious or fatal prognosis if the patient forbids it. However, in this last instance, experts say that nothing indicates what would constitute just cause to justify such violation.

Therefore, these exceptions could not apply to the subject matter of Bill C-217. The bill could be viewed as going against sections 7 and 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of Canada. In R. v Dyment , Justice La Forest noted that “the use of a person's body without his consent to obtain information about him invades an area of privacy essential to the maintenance of his human dignity”.

Finally, we are not convinced that taking a blood sample from the person suspected of having transmitted bodily fluid to another person will enable to determine in every case whether the person carries the HIV virus or the hepatitis B or C virus. Indeed, because of the incubation period, it is very difficult to determine with certainty whether an individual is a carrier of these diseases. Had the tests done on the suspect apprehended by Ms. Anderson been negative, nothing could have indicated that the individual himself was not in the incubation period.

For all these reasons, we must oppose Bill C-217, which, in essence, is an interesting bill. When a peace officer, firefighter, or any other person needs to interact with another in the performance of his or her duties and is left with doubts as to whether he or she may have been infected with HIV or hepatitis, this is unbearable, everyone will agree.

However, when a situation needs to be corrected, the way to do it is not with an incomplete, unconstitutional bill, because the very first inmate required to be tested would take it to the Supreme Court of Canada and would—as I have attempted to prove—win his case.

So we need to find a way to provide these personnel with some peace of mind. We in the Bloc Quebecois do not believe that Bill C-217 is the way to go. We do not feel it is going to provide any piece of mind to those working with the public, who are unfortunately infected by misadventure, by accident, or deliberately by inmates in detention.

We often hear stories of prison guards being bitten by inmates. They are then subjected to a truly unbearable sense of insecurity.

This bill, which is intended to remedy this untenable situation, would not do so.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

March 20th, 2001 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this bill which has significant merit. I should like to give an example from my own life of what the bill would mean.

I had an opportunity to hear a story which troubled me so greatly that I told it to probably 1,500 high school students over my time in parliament. The reaction of the kids in high schools when I tell them this story is dismay.

A young woman was attacked, traumatized and hurt by a sexual predator, a rapist. Luckily her assailant was captured fairly quickly. That capture resulted in his being in custody. The young woman had some medical background and knew she was at risk for infection. She asked the officers who had made the arrest what provisions would be made for the individual to be tested for the diseases that she could be infected by.

The officer said that if the individual agreed, they were fine. The individual did not agree. She said that her rights as a citizen who had been attacked were impacted upon by the individual's rights as a perpetrator.

I have told that story to young people in and outside my riding. I asked them this question. When the rights of the victim and the rights of the rapist collide, whose rights should take precedence? I have yet heard one single youth say that the rights of the rapist should be equal to the rights of the poor victim.

I take that as an endorsement from young people who are not sophisticated in legal matters. They are not lawyers but they have common sense. That common sense is one that I recommend to my colleagues across the way who say they support the concept of looking after the good Samaritan but follow that with a but. That but means the support for firefighters, paramedics, police officers and good Samaritans. It is not going to cut it in the groups I speak with.

I wish to give a more personal example. For those watching television, I have been a practising physician for 25 years. I came to parliament with very specific goals. One evening I was coming home from the hospital on a slippery road and I came across a severe motor vehicle accident.

Prior to my reaching the accident, a young RCMP officer had arrived on the scene. I knew him and I enjoyed his company. We played sports together. The victim of the accident was trapped in the vehicle. He did what he could to get her out. In order to successfully pull her from the vehicle, he cut himself on the broken window. In doing so, his blood came in contact with an open wound on the accident victim's forehead. He told me that he was in trouble because he thought that he could be infected.

Under normal circumstances, we would ask the poor victim to give a blood sample and everything would be fine. There is a period of time when the antibodies are not evident if someone was recently infected. However, somebody like that would never be recently infected. This victim refused. This took me aback. I could not imagine why that would happen.

She happened to confide in me the reason why she refused. She said that when she was young she had done some things with illegal drugs that may have infected her. She said she could not have that known because it would affect her ability to work. It would affect her ability in the community. It would also affect some of the things she did. The victim left the police officer exposed. In my mind, at that instance she completely forgot about a good Samaritan.

Would the bill have an impact on many individuals? It would not. It would have an impact on those individuals who for whatever reason would not willing to be forthcoming with their medical histories. Usually these individuals would be criminals or people with vindictive attitudes. Surely my colleague across the way with his but would not want those individuals when their rights collide to take precedence over the victim.

The bill is such common sense that it should be supported by everyone, even those individuals who say that it is an invasion of privacy for the individual who is the victim. In a case where it is an individual who benefits from the good Samaritan activity, there is an invasion of privacy. Is it an invasion that is too great? In my view it is reasonable, constrained and balanced.

I have watched private members' business since 1993 when I came here. I have watched which proposals from private members that get voted on freely. For those watching in the gallery, the bill will be voted on freely in the House when it finally gets to voting time. Occasionally the government will support a private member's bill that comes from across the way or from its own members, then send it to committee and have it die in committee.

Very seldom does a private member's bill get passed in this place. Perhaps I understand when it is for partisan reasons, but surely there cannot be a partisan reason in terms of this bill. The member and two other members said that the proposals could be improved upon in committee if there are overriding reasons.

This makes such good sense that surely we could set aside those partisan considerations and consider it in committee. For that reason, at this point in time I suggest that we have unanimous consent of the House to send the bill to committee. It is something that happened in the last parliament. The sky did not fall. The bill went to committee and there was some discussion.

I ask for unanimous consent to send Bill C-217 to the justice committee to have it reviewed and for members opposite to improve it if that was necessary.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

March 20th, 2001 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I begin my remarks by commending the hon. member for Fraser Valley for bringing the issue forward and for pursuing it with great vigour and sincerity. By virtue of his remarks and the wisdom behind the particular legislative initiative, it is quite clear.

Bill C-217, referred to as the blood samples act, is for with a very practical purpose. It is for the taking of blood samples for the benefit of persons administering or enforcing the law and good Samaritans. There is a need to protect those individuals and it clearly encourages selfless acts of courage. It is clearly there to safeguard persons who quite often because of their profession or because of their own good will find themselves in harm's way.

Police, firefighters, ambulance attendants, nurses and many other professionals are clearly those who are most vulnerable and most affected by the ill that can come from being subjected to a potentially deadly or lifelong disease, if they find themselves in that circumstance. However, it also goes further than that.

It would also affect and encourage good Samaritans and individuals who find themselves in a situation where they may be called upon to aid someone who has a heart attack, for example, or is drowning. It encourages these selfless acts of courage that many in other professions, like police, routinely perform or routinely find themselves facing.

When an individual comes in contact with another individual's bodily fluids, whether it be by accident or by deliberate contamination, their professional duties, their emergency skills and first aid response is often required. It is demanded of them. It makes good sense to me, and I think to members present, that they should be afforded some protection. Where they are required to act, should we not do everything we can to enhance their safety? The bill goes a long way to achieve that.

There are many people in the constituency of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who routinely put themselves in harm's way. I take this opportunity to thank them and tell them that members in this Chamber fully appreciate what they do. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who perform these acts daily and routinely around the country.

I have already mentioned the broad nature of the bill, where it refers to good Samaritans who might be performing CPR in circumstances where an individual is afflicted by a sudden illness in a public place. The legislation is there to enhance the protection of those who put their own safety second, when trying to administer help to another.

I know there are doctors present who probably have faced that situation on numerous occasions. Police officers, ambulance attendance and others very often have to get a blood sample from an individual who is receiving some kind of emergency service. In the performance of their professional duty, they can get stuck by a needle or they might, by virtue of having a wound themselves, receive a transfer of some deadly disease.

They are very much in a high risk category, just by virtue of their job description, and they may then face the serious prospect of not knowing whether they have in fact been infected by a communicable disease. Intravenous drug users quite frequently are carriers of HIV. They are carriers of hepatitis.

Anyone who might come into contact with this faces a lifelong illness or death. The consequences could not be more grave, which puts greater emphasis on the importance of the bill before us. A high risk person is well within their rights to refuse to give a sample of their blood. On many occasions, as we have seen in the example that the hon. member from Fraser Valley illustrated, individuals currently have the right to refuse to give a sample of their blood.

Blood can be analyzed for communicable diseases. HIV and hepatitis are two that have been referred to. The analysis is to establish a course of treatment for that individual who may have been exposed, that good Samaritan or police officer. This is a basic right that any person would want. Even if the news is horrible, they would want to know rather than be inflicted with this lengthy period of waiting before knowing whether the illness has in fact been transferred.

Without consent, the victim can undergo a series of chemical cocktails within the first six hours of the incident in an attempt to stop it. We know that sometimes the side affects of the treatment are horrific as well. Even with this treatment, this emergency effort to prevent the spread of disease, they may have to wait for years. There are powerful drugs that can produce these terrible side effects, but there are powerful drugs now, at the very least, that can give an individual a chance to fend off this transfer of illness. However, there is still very much an element of a gamble that is involved.

In January 2001, a Calgary police officer was bitten by an HIV positive suspect during an arrest for hit and run. The suspect proclaimed “Welcome to the world of AIDS”. This veteran police office is married and will now have to undergo a year of painful tests, taking the AZT cocktail, which makes a person violently ill and physically weak for months at a time, to ensure that he did not contract this virus. An incredible, debilitating experience, both physically and mentally, for the officer and his family.

There are hundreds of examples that also illustrate this point. An individual rightly has concerns, as do many good Samaritans across the country.

I will give another example. Colonel L.R. Johns, a commandant and CEO of the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires in Nova Scotia, has expressed his concern on behalf of individuals in the private sector industry, who are often working in hospitals, in situations where they are called upon to act for the betterment of others and are in harm's way.

Many people have expressed support for this legislation, including many police officers from the Canadian Police Association, who have gathered here in Ottawa today to make their point on this and other important bills, and the following people from the province of Nova Scotia: Kevin Scott, Gary Thibadeau, Brian MacDougall and Bruce from Kentville.

Those officers and others are here to make the important point that there is a duty upon parliamentarians to listen, to be informed and to change legislation, where possible, for the betterment of all Canadians.

A person who has blood taken from them, their rights are already protected to a large extent. Police officers must obtain warrants and they must go before a justice before a blood sample can be taken. In most instances there are exceptions.

Blood is taken by qualified medical practitioners in most instances where it involves an accident. Blood cannot be analyzed for anything other than the purpose specified in the warrant, which is punishable on summary conviction. This is not just a guideline. There are sufficient safeguards there.

Technology is advancing in the methodology in which blood, DNA, hair and other types of samples can be extracted. This is very much a humanitarian idea. It goes beyond partisanship. It goes very much to the heart of helping individuals who, but for the grace of God, could very much find themselves in this situation: professionals, good Samaritans, or anyone.

The bill protects Samaritans and professionals. It is something that may very well be tested by the courts. This is why the suggestion that it be examined at a committee is certainly another way to safeguard the charter protections that currently exist to vet any problems that may exist from a legal basis.

It is important to note that there are some deterrent effects. Some enforcement provisions are already built into the bill that could be examined in further detail at committee. For example:

No qualified medical practitioner or qualified technician is guilty of an offence only by reason of a refusal to take a blood sample from a person for the purposes of this Act.

There is no criminal or civil liability for anything necessarily done with reasonable care and skill in the taking of such blood samples. That has been contemplated in the legislation. It is fair to say that judges would exercise discretion on the merit of the individual case as to whether or not it was appropriate. All of this is done with the reasonable test to be applied.

Bill C-217 is an important bill that has received the support of many groups which have been listed already, many groups who I know are most susceptible. I hope the government is listening because we are often left wondering.

Bill C-217 has been carefully drafted so as not to go too far afield into breaching a person's human rights. Current sections of the criminal code would also apply to compel those who would use the particular section not to go outside a person's human rights. There are current sections that apply to impaired driving, sexual assault and the new DNA databank that would come under similar scrutiny in the judicial chambers.

It is an important step toward protection and enhancement of safety for everyone. I again commend the hon. member for Fraser Valley for this initiative. It is a tremendous, common sense initiative, one that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada wholeheartedly endorses and I would encourage all members to do likewise.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

March 20th, 2001 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the bill proposed by the member for Fraser Valley raises a number of important issues that must be thoroughly examined. There is no question that he speaks with passion on this issue and I commend him for that.

Bill C-217 provides that a justice may issue a warrant authorizing a peace officer to require a qualified medical practitioner to take or cause to be taken by a qualified technician samples of blood from a person in order to determine whether the person carries hepatitis B virus or the hepatitis C virus or the human autoimmune deficiency virus, which is commonly known as HIV, if the justice is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to do so. These reasonable grounds are subsequently enumerated in the proposed bill.

At first blush, the bill appeals to our desire to help those on the front lines, those individuals who in their daily work confront the possibility of putting their health at risk. We are speaking here of medical practitioners, health care professionals, firefighters and police officers to name a few.

The Minister of Health appreciates the work that has been done by emergency responders in Canada, as we all do. They are an essential component of the Canadian health care system. Health Canada has collaborated with emergency responders on many occasions, leading to the development of a national consensus on guidelines for the establishment of a post-exposure notification protocol for emergency responders.

Those who work on the front lines as emergency responders can be exposed to blood and other bodily fluids in the course of their work. Of concern in this proposed piece of legislation are those injuries that could result in exposure to blood-borne pathogens, namely HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It must be pointed out that exposure to the blood or bodily fluids of a person infected with HIV, HBV or HCV does not necessarily result in transmission of the virus.

In order to properly prevent these exposures and to respond appropriately when exposure does occur, emergency response organizations need an overall occupational health protocol that includes immunization against hepatitis B, personal protective equipment such as gloves, and safe work practices. If possible exposure does occur, emergency responders need to be educated because of the protocols on how to obtain immediate assessment and follow-up.

Bill C-217, the blood samples act, would authorize the drawing of blood samples from individuals who may have been accidentally or intentionally exposed—frontline service emergency providers or a good Samaritan—to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.

After a suspected exposure, an emergency service provider would be permitted to apply to a justice for a warrant. This warrant would authorize a medical practitioner or technician to take a blood sample from the patient in question, test for the aforementioned diseases and provide test results to the patient and to the emergency service provider.

Refusal to submit to a blood test could result in a prison term of up to six months. While we recognize that emergency service providers must act promptly to counteract the negative effects of exposure to serious diseases, it is important to note that previous requests for such testing have been rejected by the courts.

Preventive measures should be taken within hours of exposure. According to Health Canada guidelines published in the Canada communicable diseases report, the option to administer post-exposure prophylaxis should be established within a few hours. It is unlikely that the legal and medical procedures necessary to draw an authorized blood sample, to test it and distribute its results could be accomplished within this brief time frame.

While mandatory blood testing of sources in cases of genuine exposure might assist in making more informed decisions regarding the use of post-exposure medications, there would also be the potential for endangering the health, especially the mental health, of the victim by breaking the rules of patient confidentiality.

The guidelines referred to above and established by Health Canada, in conjunction with firefighters, police and ambulance workers in 1995, demonstrate the concrete actions taken to address the risks, and by consequence have already anticipated the objectives of the bill. These guidelines, which ensure that emergency responders will be notified quickly regarding exposures obtained in their line of work, have been implemented by a number of parliaments, specifically Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, and in other regions and hospitals in other jurisdictions.

In 1997 a second protocol outlining assessment, testing and treatment procedures to be used to promote the well-being of health care workers, including firefighters, police and ambulance workers, was released by Health Canada. By following the second protocol, emergency responders will receive up to date care directed toward reducing the effects of an exposure.

The guidelines recommended by Health Canada for emergency responders reflect the same standard of care given to all other health care workers, including nurses and physicians. The guidelines recommend testing the source in such cases but always with consent. By following Health Canada's notification protocols, emergency responders can be assured of timely, rational and effective assessment and treatment.

The issue of blood testing has been the subject of extensive study in the criminal field in the context of sexual assault. Medical experts advise that the only way a victim of sexual assault can be sure that he or she has not been infected is by undergoing hepatitis B or C or HIV antibody testing, according to recommended procedures. A random test is simply not determinative of the health of an individual.

On its face the bill does not apply solely in cases where an offence is alleged to have been committed, but rather in any case where there has been an exchange of bodily fluids. Thus a warrant to obtain a bodily sample is sought without any offence being committed. There is therefore no nexus for criminal law. This is most troubling.

The bill also raises important concerns relating to privacy, searches and seizures and human rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The taking of bodily substances always raises significant constitutional issues and charter issues. The taking of bodily substances without any charges being laid or before conviction raises considerable constitutional questions under section 7, life, liberty and security of the person, and section 8, unreasonable search and seizure.

The issue of blood testing clearly belongs in the domain of health. The Department of Justice is actively working with other departments, in particular Health Canada, to ensure that there is more done to provide support and assistance to those who may be concerned about the risk of hepatitis B or C or HIV infection.

In conclusion, I support measures to protect our emergency workers, firefighters, police officers and good Samaritans. However, it is questionable whether Bill C-217 does this.

Blood Samples ActPrivate Members' Business

March 20th, 2001 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

moved that Bill C-217, an act to provide for the taking of samples of blood for the benefit of persons administering and enforcing the law and good Samaritans and to amend the criminal code, be read the second time and referred to committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand here today and speak in favour of Bill C-217, the blood samples act. Before I discuss the pith and substance of this legislation and give three excellent reasons why members should support the bill, I would like to tell the story of how this legislation came into being and how it developed to the stage it is at now.

On April 12, 1999, I received a letter from a father who lives in my riding. I will quote from his correspondence:

My eldest son was involved in an incident at work (Canadian Tire in Abbotsford) a few weeks ago which has raised a large question for me. He helped apprehend a would-be shoplifter and in the scuffle some blood from the accused came to be on my son. My son is now on medication from the Aids Prevention Society (St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver). We won't be able to test him to see if he has contracted any disease until after three months (because the HIV antibody does not show up until then). However, all it would take is for the accused to take a blood test to see if he has any such disease (he's a known heroin addict to the RCMP in Abbotsford). The accused refuses to take such a blood test and the law, I've been told, supports him in his refusal. Here again, is a case where the victim is being punished and the accused's rights take precedence over the victim's rights. What can we as a family do? What, as our MP, can you do to help us, to help my son?

I took this father's plea to help seriously and I started researching his very deep and legitimate concerns. What I found was that this father's assertions were correct. When a good Samaritan, a police officer, a health care worker, a doctor, a nurse, a paramedic, a prison worker, a security guard, a firefighter or an emergency personnel worker of any kind is exposed to someone else's bodily fluids in the course of their duties, antibodies for HIV, AIDS or hepatitis may not appear for weeks or months in their bodies after the initial infection.

Therefore, the best way for these individuals to know if they have been exposed to a particular virus at the moment of initial contact is to acquire a blood sample from the person who infected them and then have that sample tested.

The information from the blood test allows frontline workers and good Samaritans to make properly informed decisions about post-exposure treatment and lifestyle activities. It also helps reduce severe anxiety levels for them and their families.

For example, let me read to the House just the known side effects of post-exposure treatment for HIV: potential harm to reproductive capacity; hair loss; coughing; abdominal pain; kidney stones; higher risk of contracting diabetes; total exhaustion; severe headaches; and perpetual nausea. The Canadian Police Association is also tracking one case involving a police officer who is gradually losing his eyesight since taking the treatment.

If frontline workers can discover through a blood test that they have not been exposed to someone who has HIV or hepatitis, they do not have to take the drug treatment that causes these symptoms, symptoms that can last for several months.

Oftentimes blood samples are given voluntarily and people should be praised when they do so. The crux of the debate here today, however, is what should the government do and what should public policy say when someone refuses to give a blood sample to hurt someone else and has the legal right to do so, even when the information being held is extremely valuable to society?

To answer that question, I tabled Bill C-244 in the House of Commons on October 19, 1999. Bill C-217 is exactly the same legislation.

In a nutshell, Bill C-217 allows a judge to order the taking of a blood sample from someone who accidentally or deliberately exposes a good Samaritan, a health professional, an emergency professional or a security professional with his or her blood or other bodily fluids. The blood would be tested for HIV and hepatitis.

The legislation would only be applied on rare occasions when someone refuses to give a blood sample for testing. The information would only be shared with the medical staff and affected individuals. The blood test analysis would only be used for medical purposes, with the highest levels of confidentiality.

At this point, I do want to mention my deepest sympathy for HIV-AIDS and hepatitis sufferers in Canada. The trauma and pain they feel is great. I want to reassure all of them that this legislation does not single out any individual or group who may suffer from a disease in Canada. It will not make life more difficult for people who find themselves in such trying circumstances. Rather, it is designed for those rare occasions when someone refuses to give a blood sample, which will in turn damage someone else.

Bill C-217 is about helping others. It is about compassion.

After Bill C-244 was deemed votable, it received enormous support from thousands of individuals and organizations across the country, including the Canadian Police Association, whose members have been on the Hill today on their annual lobbying day.

Also on the Hill today is a lady by the name of Detective Isobel Anderson, who was exposed to a suspect's bodily fluids a few years ago. She has played an instrumental role in supporting and promoting this legislation.

Let me read to the House part of her story, which was published on November 15, 1999, in the Ottawa Citizen :

Isobel Anderson's nightmarish experience began when she arrested a man for armed robbery in October 1997. While searching for weapons, she reached into his pocket and felt a stab of pain. She pulled her hand out to find a bloody needle stuck in her palm. My first thought was “God, I have AIDS”, recalls Constable Anderson, a mother of three.

As she feared, doctors told her that the needle may have infected her with HIV. She was advised that if she started treatment with the anti-HIV medication AZT within two hours of being jabbed, she might not contract the virus. Then she learned that the robbery suspect refused to take the HIV test and could not be compelled by law to give a blood sample.

In this case, hours later the man agreed to be tested, but only after another police officer—and I hate to say this, but it is the truth—offered the man a hamburger. The man said for a hamburger he would provide a blood sample. Thankfully he tested negative for HIV, although he was positive for hepatitis C. Upon hearing this news, Isobel discontinued taking the drug cocktail that was causing her severe physical harm.

It is because of excellent and supportive people like Isobel Anderson and groups like the CPA, the paramedic association of Canada, hospitals, doctors and emergency workers of all kinds that Bill C-244 received unanimous consent to proceed to committee on March 21 last year. The legislation then went on to receive two days of committee hearings and died on the order paper October 22, 2000 due to the election call. I reintroduced it as Bill C-217 in the 37th parliament and that is the legislation before the House today.

Presently the questions before parliament are the following. Will we continue to support a system that allows those who help others to become helpless? Will we continue to support a system that allows those who sacrifice to become sacrificed? Will we still support a system that allows the heroes to become the victims? Or will we today, in the debate that follows, support cautious, moderate and balanced change in the form of Bill C-217 which will protect frontline workers and good Samaritans? For their sake, we need to send the bill to committee where experts can make suggestions, propose amendments, strengthen the bill and make sure that it is acceptable to the charter.

There are those who would oppose protecting frontline workers and good Samaritans by placing roadblocks in front of the legislation. Let me review some of these hindrances and why they can easily be overcome. I will then describe the three reasons why the House must support the legislation and send it to committee.

First, people will say that Bill C-217 does not meet the criteria for federal criminal law power, but that is not true. Let me explain why. For a law to form criminal law, it must meet three criteria. The first step is to consider whether the law has a valid criminal law purpose. Valid purposes include public peace, order, security, health and morality. Bill C-217 meets these criteria because it is aimed at providing security and protecting the health of those who help and protect society. It also attempts to contribute to public peace by protecting those who enforce the criminal code.

Second, in determining whether the purpose of a law constitutes a valid criminal law purpose, courts look at whether laws of this type have traditionally been held to be criminal law. Bill C-217 meets this criteria because the criminal code already contains two provisions that deal with the non-voluntary taking of bodily fluids: section 487.05, the DNA provisions, and paragraph 254(3)(b), the impaired driving provisions.

Third, the purpose of the law must also be connected to a prohibition backed by a penalty. The bill also meets this standard because it uses a penalty to prohibit the act of harming someone by refusing to give a blood sample. I have heard testimony from many police officers and prison guards who say that they have been confronted by a blood wielding opponent with a needle full of blood or bodily fluid who exposes them to it and then says they have AIDS or hepatitis. The bill tries to eliminate or reduce this harm by letting those officers know whether that is true or not.

Bill C-217 also places a criminal penalty on someone for failure to take a certain step. The supreme court, for instance, upheld the gun registry as criminal law because it penalizes someone for not doing something. In other words, it is not just a commission of a crime, it is also the omission, not doing something, which in that case, of course, was registering their firearm.

The second hindrance that people will put forward is that Bill C-217 would offend charter rights. There is no question that section 7 of the charter, security of the person, and section 8 of the charter, unreasonable search and seizure, are engaged by the legislation. Some argue that the bill should not become law because it would violate the charter in those respects. However, again I beg to differ, for the following reasons.

Bill C-217 provides a fair and proper balance between the charter rights of the sick, injured and perpetrators of crime, and the rights of those in the service of helping others. It is a balancing act. Under the present system, emergency and law enforcement professionals and good Samaritans have no right to the security of their own persons.

Bill C-217 would not violate the charter because it can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. A constitutional expert who appeared before the justice committee last June asserted that the Diment decision established a standard by which compulsory blood testing would be allowed under the charter.

He said the following about the decision:

The Justice writing for the Court said, and he made it very clear, that the invasion of privacy such as compulsory blood testing will only be sanctioned by the charter where societal claims outweigh the privacy interests and where clear rules exist setting forth the conditions under which the privacy right can be violated. Such rules would of course also be subject to charter scrutiny.

To summarize this point, for a case to be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society the societal claims must outweigh the privacy claims, and clear rules must exist setting forth the conditions under which a blood sample could be taken.

Does Bill C-217 meet this standard? Absolutely, yes. Emergency workers and police officers, the very people who help and protect us, receive protection under Bill C-217 and thereby society as a whole benefits.

There is some argument that emergency personnel do not receive any valuable information from the blood tests of those who expose them. I will rebut that argument in a moment, but I also want to say that in regard to clear rules, this legislation is only activated with the approval of a judge and with the utmost sensitivity to people's basic human rights and privacy. It is done in rare cases that warrant this kind of action.

The third hindrance that you will hear from people, Mr. Speaker, is that a blood sample does not offer societal value.

I would like to quote Dr. Shafran. He is an infectious disease expert from the University of Alberta who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice last year on the bill. He said:

I think there are a number of benefits to the proposed legislation. The specific benefit of the legislation is that since the prevalence of infection with all three blood-borne viruses in Canada is low, the majority of individuals, if the source individuals are tested, will test negative and very quickly the anxiety level will be reduced in the exposed individual. Secondly, in the event that transmission does occur, there will be documentation as to how it occurred and this is relevant in terms of issues of occupational exposure.

Third, he stated further that:

The prompt identification of infected source patients will allow the most appropriate and judicious use of post-exposure prophylaxis. In the voluntary testing that happens in the hospital patients, if they test negative, we do not offer post-exposure prophylaxis. It very much influences the way we practice.

However, the best response to this question of societal value is the personal testimonies of the people themselves. Ask those that have been exposed if this has value. Ask Isobel Anderson and the hundreds of police officers who have been on Parliament Hill today. Ask the thousands of groups and people who support this legislation. Ask my young constituent and his father. Ask the police officer who is losing his eyesight. Ask the justice official who represented the Department of Justice before the committee last year when he said:

Don't get me wrong. If I were the one who had been involved in an incident like this, I would be very much interested in getting as much information as I could as to whether or not I had been infected.

In short, it is quite obvious that mandatory blood testing in rare cases would meet the societal benefit standard of the charter.

To sum up, there are three reasons why the House should support this bill. I hope all members will be able to do so.

Bill C-217 is about positive change to the legal system, change that would provide fairness, a better balance between differing rights and assistance for those who are in the service of others.

First, the blood samples act is about fairness. Presently emergency workers and good Samaritans do not have the right to know what blood-borne virus may have invaded their bodies from another person. We need a sensitive, balanced procedure to help those people make an informed choice about their health. Bill C-217 will do that for them. It is a balanced approach, it is fair, and it treats privacy conditions properly.

Second, the blood samples act is about balancing rights. Under the present system, only the perpetrator of a crime or the injured or sick person has the right to the security of their person. However, I believe the same security should also apply to the protector and the caregiver. Bill C-217 will do that. It will balance the rights so that charter rights are protected for both groups of people.

Third, the blood samples act is about compassion and helping those who help others in our society. If people put themselves in harm's way trying to help or trying to arrest someone, there should be some safeguards for them when they are exposed to risk. Let us be compassionate with this legislation and help those who are helping others. Bill C-217 will do that.

In conclusion, this legislation has also been called the good Samaritan act after my young constituent who was covered in blood during his good Samaritan act. Some would say it is also called the good Samaritan act because the bill would benefit the health and peace of mind of thousands of emergency, health and security and paramedic workers who give of themselves every day so that we can enjoy a better life.

I would also argue that Bill C-217 is also called the good Samaritan act because it provides an opportunity for members of parliament to act like good Samaritans. The choice before us today is clear. We can refuse to support the bill and in so doing deny frontline and emergency workers their health and their peace of mind, or we can in, the spirit of good Samaritanism, provide health, compassion and assistance to those who are hurt, needy and give of themselves in the service of others.

We must allow privacy sensitive, human rights sensitive and balanced mandatory blood testing in rare cases to build a system that allows those who help others to be helped and allows our heroes to stay heroes instead of becoming victims. Let us pass Bill C-217 to help those in the service of others.

Blood Samples ActRoutine Proceedings

February 5th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-217, an act to provide for the taking of samples of blood for the benefit of persons administering and enforcing the law and good Samaritans and to amend the Criminal Code.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to reintroduce a bill that I had introduced in the last parliament. The bill would allow judges to order a blood sample to be taken when the judge believes that there is a strong case for either hepatitis C or HIV infection to a good Samaritan, a frontline emergency worker or someone who is helping those people do their jobs.

In the last parliament the bill passed unanimously through the House on second reading and was sent to committee. Unfortunately, the election got in the way and it died on the order paper. I do hope that members will again support the bill wholeheartedly. I have over 70 national and provincial organizations behind the bill. I do hope all members of the House of Commons will be able to support it.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)