An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session and the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Colin Carrie  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of March 9, 2005
(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.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 20th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too, like some of my colleagues today, would like to present a petition, pursuant to Standing Order 36, of approximately 500 names from the Edmonton, Alberta area and I believe Ontario, as well, calling upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-drug preventive and medical options, as well as information about these options, and to sanction the personal choices of Canadians by clarifying the currently vague definitions of food and drugs in the Food and Drugs Act.

It also calls upon Parliament to enact Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 20th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of a number of people from all across Newfoundland and Labrador. The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 20th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition, which is again in two parts, contains about 350 signatures, largely from my riding and the communities I just mentioned, but also some from Alberta and Ontario, including Fonthill, Welland, Burlington, Port Colborne and other communities, and it concerns Bill C-420.

They are calling for changes in enhancing freedom of choice in health care. They want Parliament to recognize that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural products should be classified as food, not drugs, and that scientific evidence now confirms that many diseases and disorders listed in schedule A can in fact be mitigated through the judicious use of natural health products. They are calling for the changes recommended by Bill C-420 that was debated this morning.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 20th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of tabling two petitions today. One is from the regions of Calgary, Edmonton, St. Paul, Beiseker and Whitecourt.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues who spoke this morning to Bill C-420, and especially for granting me the extra couple of minutes.

I appreciate the remarks made by the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, who was the first to speak from the government side to the issue, and for the support from my colleagues from Edmonton North and from Macleod. I know my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan would have been happy to speak as well.

Referring to my colleague's remarks about a third category between food and drugs, in fact, after all the debate that went through the House in 1997 and 1998 with the health committee, the health committee and the transition team made that recommendation. Canadians were led to believe they would be getting a third category, not food, not drugs, but it would be in the middle; physiologically active nutrients that have a health benefit, whether it is identified by tradition, hundreds of years of use with no apparent harm, whether it is identified by scientific investigation or whether it is absolutely proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, as are many health products.

The unfortunate thing is that Health Canada reneged on the legislative renewal that would have created the third category. It simply said that it would have a new health products directorate. The Office of Natural Health Products was set up and NHPs were placed squarely as a subclass of drugs.

Unfortunately, the legislative renewal that was promised to accompany the regulations, which will come into effect in January 2004, has been scrubbed. I see, and I believe many Canadians see, that as a betrayal of the confidence and trust that Canadians put into the process. The legislative renewal would have required addressing the antiquated subsections 3(1) and 3(2) that say one shall not label and advertise that a vitamin, mineral, herbal or natural health product will influence a whole schedule of diseases; schedule A that has been discussed this morning.

If it were only the labelling and advertising issue, I do not think it would be as serious. It is the consequence of that section that is so serious. The consequence is that Health Canada says that as soon as a health claim is made the product is then taken off the market unless it goes through a multi-million dollar drug approval process, which simply is inappropriate for a natural health product that is not patentable.

The point that I have been trying to get across is that natural health products are not patentable. Drug companies make huge investments into products for which they hope to receive profits. The health committee is now looking at this. The industry committee was looking at the patent extensions of 20 years and now, with ever-greening multiple years beyond that, for profits on a patented drug. However natural health products have no such patents. Therefore, the pharma world is not interested, it seems, in promoting that kind of research. It seems to me it is fundamentally wrong for Health Canada to force a natural product through that kind of approval regime.

There has been some confusion about what Bill C-420 would actually do. Bill C-420 would not gut the whole Office of Natural Health Products directorate. It would simply move it from under a drug style directorate to under a food style directorate. We could still have the good manufacturing practices and the inspections. We could still make sure that what is on the bottle is in the bottle. We could still provide assurance of health claims. We could review them to determine whether a health claim is traditional without evidence of harm. We could provide Canadians with assurances that the health claim has some scientific validity.

The question of safety is not really an issue. Where there is an issue of safety we would all be in agreement. Evidence should be brought forth and if it were dangerous then we would address it in a public manner.

What is outrageous is that Health Canada would take products that might improve the health of Canadians off the market. Frankly, I think Canadians would find that unacceptable. A simple mineral supplement like chromium picolinate is absolutely essential for blood sugar metabolism. That is true for all members of the House. We cannot metabolize sugar without chromium. We excrete it when we metabolize sugar. The fact that Health Canada would take that most physiologically effective form off the market seems to be fundamentally perverse and contrary to the public interest.

A mineral supplement, which was developed in Alberta, called E.M.Power+, has been helping Canadians with a mental illness known as bipolar disease or manic depression. There is a tremendous cost to the individuals and there is a high risk of suicide.

We actually have people in the House today who are here because they are concerned. They are watching the debate and many are watching across the country because they are concerned. They feel their lives are being threatened because Health Canada is taking the products off the market simply because people begin to tell others that this could help them with their mental illness. There are over 3,000 Canadians receiving help from this product and yet Health Canada would move to take it off the market. They want to know, why would Health Canada do this when there is evidence of benefit?

I would like to give an example. There was a lady from Ontario who had been on psychiatric drugs for 18 years. Her husband had been on suicide watch for many years. She has been taking this vitamin and mineral product for about two and a half years and she is off her psychiatric drugs. She is not trying to kill herself or her husband any more. She is holding down a job, paying taxes and she is volunteering. She wants to know, why would Health Canada take this away from her? Frankly, so do I.

Folic acid is well known as the best defence against heart attack and stroke. Health Canada knows that and it is reported in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology . If a simple vitamin, folic acid, is a better defence than anything else we know of, would Canadians not want to know about it?

Like the statement from Shakespeare, I feel that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark, with no reference to any member on the other side. But there is something wrong with the way Health Canada manages natural health products. The new Natural Health Products Directorate is maintaining antiquated subsections 3(1) and 3(2), and will continue to take products with a health claim off the market. Health Canada sent the police to raid the computers of a little company in Raymond, Alberta, and has obstructed delivery of the product.

In times when health costs are spiralling, Canadians would expect Health Canada to have an interest in a product that might lower the cost, lower the morbidity of a serious disease, and improve clinical outcomes. That was the approach of the Province of Alberta when it heard about the effect that E.M.Power+ was having on Albertans, it asked to look into this. There are huge costs associated with it. A $544,000 study was set up at the University of Calgary under the leadership of Dr. Bonnie Kaplan. Canadians feel betrayed and certainly the people taking the product who have their lives back feel betrayed when Health Canada hears about this and moves in to shut down the study.

Is there no room for science to progress the treatment of disease? There in an excellent article in the September issue of Saturday Night called “A Prescription for Profit” which talked about the attitude of the drug companies looking at sickness as a marketing opportunity.

Frankly, it is known that mental illness is expected to increase in Canada by about 25% over the next 10 years. It seems that the drug companies are positioning themselves to capture the market. Many of the drug companies mistakenly take a patent on a product that is being used to treat an illness and consider it a patent on the illness itself. There is something fundamentally wrong with that.

That is made even worse if Health Canada is complicit in maintaining that which is contrary to the public interest. It seems to me that Health Canada ought to be on the forefront of advancing opportunities to advance health care in Canada. If a natural health product can do that, Canadians have a right to know and have a right to access low risk products.

I encourage members to think about this issue seriously. I would be quite in favour of a third category. It would mean opening the act. The reason I put it as a subclass of food is because of the response of Health Canada. Under the food directorate we can still have the good manufacturing practices, inspections, and the safety that people require without having the bureaucratic and heavy-handed response of a drug style directorate.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the member for Nanaimo—Alberni for his bill. I have long been a supporter and advocate of the private member's bill and motion system. I myself have had some success through my research to bring ideas to this place and to have good debate. The member has achieved that with Bill C-420.

I also want to compliment the member on the efforts he made over a long period of time to educate the House on the issue. A big part of what we do here is to earn support and respect for issues that we bring forward by providing compelling arguments and evidence that this is something that we should look at. I think the member has been quite successful.

Private members' bills do not often make it through the entire process. Our system in the past has made it extremely difficult for good ideas to find their way into the laws of Canada, but from time to time they do, which is why at this stage it is important that we not be too critical of a private member's bill that may have been crafted a year or two years ago in terms of the thinking, but that as we have talked about it, obviously there are some suggestions on how we can improve it. On this particular item, it is a matter of whether it will go further to the next step. Is this an issue that we should be looking at?

I do not think there is a member in this place who is not familiar with the arguments related to natural health products. It has been with us for a long time. It is relevant in probably each and every one of our ridings. I think our constituents would want to know that we are looking carefully at all the possibilities. I know there are concerns about whether or not health related benefits from certain products are valid or appropriate. I am sure there are arguments about whether these products are a food or a drug.

I was on the health committee for four years and had an opportunity to go through the products when I chaired a subcommittee on Bill C-7 on controlled drugs and substances. I know how difficult it can be to get consensus on some of these fine points. We went the same route on genetically modified organisms. I found Health Canada very rigid in dealing with these matters and I do not think that it should have been.

We have to be a little more open to this. I understand that protecting the health of Canadians is an overarching objective but the evidence of the benefits of natural health products is not just anecdotal. It has been proven in virtually centuries of use, which has been handed down from generation to generation, that there really are clear examples.

Could I explain each one of them? Probably not. Are they applicable and helpful to everyone? No, but I am not sure that there is a drug anywhere in the world that is helpful to everybody to the same degree. We are all different. Our circumstances are different.

This, to me, represents an important option that we as legislators should consider. This is an opportunity for us to say that this is an issue that we need to have a closer look at but that we cannot do that unless it goes to the next stage.

I will be supporting the bill because I think the member has given the House a lot to think about. Members have raised some questions which should be explored further and I think the next stage is where that will happen. I would not want to see the bill die simply because in some people's views it is not a perfect bill at this point in time. The substantive issue in what the member has raised is the important part.

I hope that members will give some due consideration to Bill C-420. It is about time we spoke more frankly and deeply about the issues raised by the hon. member about the benefits of natural health products.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:35 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk on Bill C-420 for a moment and explain my involvement on the issue. I should have a disclaimer, and the disclaimer is as follows: I am not a user of natural health products. I have never, ever taken any of these natural health products, so I would like to say that I am a little bit like the Auditor General in that I am independent of the industry and of those individuals who manufacture and produce these products.

I am also, as a medical doctor, a guy who has had the choice or opportunity of listening to my patients talk about the use of these products. I formed an opinion, consequently, about the use of these products because of my association as a practising GP. I found that a lot of my patients were using these products and had good success with them. In fact, they were somewhat reticent to tell me until they found that I was not negative about their use.

When I queried them, I would often ask them if they were taking any prescription drugs and also if they were taking anything natural. Many of them told me that they were taking the products to boost their immune systems. They felt better and they thought that it prevented them from coming to see me; there was no negative intended, they said, “But we would rather not come to see you at all, Doc”. I think that is the appropriate way to handle medical issues: with preventive measures, to try to stay away from practising physicians.

I came here in 1993 and was surprised to find that there seemed to be, at the bureaucracy level in Ottawa, a real roadblock to the use of these products. I will use an example of two products that I myself found to have roadblocks that I could not explain, either scientifically or just in terms of the regular administrative process.

The first is melatonin, a natural hormone that our body produces from the pituitary. Through scientific research, we have found that melatonin is useful for sleep. People take melatonin for jet lag and for the regular things like insomnia. I had never taken melatonin myself but I knew people who had, so I thought I would ask them if it had any side effects, or whether it made them feel dozy the next day, and the answer was no.

Suddenly that product was taken from the Canadian health food shelves. I went to the regulators and asked if they had found some harm, some side effects or some contamination. The answer was no, so I asked why they took it off the market and, interestingly enough, why did they allow it if a person went to the U.S. and brought it back for personal importation? In my view, there was no satisfactory answer.

The second product was a sweetener called stevia, a natural, plant-based sweetener. It is very sweet. I had an opportunity to taste this stuff, to take a little bit on my finger; it is profoundly sweet. A tiny drop of this in tea, coffee or juice sweetens things up. It is natural. It is from a plant source. Stevia was taken off the market. I did the same thing for this product and asked why it had been taken off the market. I asked if side effects, contamination or harm had been found. There was no satisfactory answer.

Based on that experience, I believe there was some kind of bureaucratic reason to remove those products from Canadian shelves. They were taken off the health food shelves. They had been available to the public and people could get them from the U.S. through personal importation. None of this made sense to me.

I was on the health committee in those days and had an opportunity to go through the hearing process that the House of Commons went through after the 1997 election. During that election it was fascinating, because people who had used a product that was taken off the shelves asked the same questions that I had. They asked if there was a reason to take the items away from them. They did not get a satisfactory answer, and they actively went out and campaigned for freedom in natural health products.

That was a factor in many ridings across the country in the 1997 election. People in my own riding wanted to know my position. I said I was in favour of the most freedom on these products. They said that was good and they would vote for me. I know there were ridings throughout the country where it was actually a factor in the election.

Subsequently, with the health minister aware of that, we went through hearings on the issue that were quite fascinating. We heard from native healers, Chinese healers and very diverse sections of Canadian society. The message to the government was to allow people to take these products for their own health and prevention and not to put up bureaucratic hurdles unless there were good reasons. Recommendations came from the health committee and those recommendations, I believe, were sound, secure, thoughtful recommendations.

What is happening today? This bill is on the table today because of what is happening with Health Canada today. Restrictions are being placed on products because products are making health claims.

I will use an example here, which is not an exact example, to show how absurd that is. When Health Canada bureaucrats search natural health publications they may find a product that says “Vitamin C will prevent scurvy”. That is a scientific and medical fact, but if a company takes a vitamin C product and makes the statement that it is a health claim, suddenly a phone call is made and the company is told it is fabricating a product and making a health claim and that if it continues to do that Health Canada will shut it down or fine it.

Some of these products, quite frankly, have health benefits, preventive benefits in some cases and actual benefits in other cases. That is why I will be supporting this private member's bill at vote time.

Is it perfect? I listened to the constructive comments of my colleagues across the way and down the way. I found those comments to be constructive because this surely is a non-partisan issue.

Do I have a critique to make of Health Canada on this file? I do. These bureaucrats are, in most cases, well intentioned, well meaning individuals, but when it comes to these products I do not think they understand the way they could and should understand the benefits that the products can bring.

I summarize this issue with a statement that I found to be powerful while campaigning: informed consumes are far better judges of their health care needs than any Health Canada bureaucrat in Ottawa.

Where should the bureaucrats be involved? Here is the other side of the coin. The bureaucrats should be involved when there is evidence of side effects, evidence of contamination or evidence of harm.

I challenge the bureaucrats on melatonin or on stevia. If there is new scientific evidence that melatonin has impacts on society over a period of time, surely that evidence should be brought to bear, made public, allowed scrutiny and allowed rebuttal so that if melatonin is not safe for the Canadian public it would be stricken from the market and the importation for personal use would be banned. Surely that is what the Health Canada bureaucrats would want. That is what I as a physician would want and every health practitioner in the country would want.

If there is no such new evidence, if there is no problem with packaging, labelling, side effects, contamination or harm, “Get out of our face” is my message to the Health Canada bureaucrats.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to thank the member for Nanaimo--Alberni for bringing forward Bill C-420 and solving a television commercial mystery for me that I have wondered about for a very long time.

The House will be familiar with the commercial which appears in several forms showing a man coming out of a house one morning, leaping and jumping about, holding hands, jumping over mailboxes and showing great excitement and joie de vivre. We all know, when we see that commercial, that the man has taken a drug that has cured him, at least temporarily, of sexual impotence. He had a nice night before and that is why he is so joyously happy.

I have always wondered why the people who put that commercial together did not just simply say that this was an advertisement for a drug for sexual impotence. However it turns out there was a very good reason why not.

Schedule A in the Food and Drugs Act lists a number of maladies for which it is forbidden to advertise a cure for in the way of any kind of drug or any other prophylactic. Among those various maladies is sexual impotence. Obviously the people marketing this drug are unable to actually name the purpose of the drug.

Bill C-420 addresses this whole question of the list of maladies in schedule A for which it is forbidden to advertise a cure or a remedy. The bill proposed by the member for Nanaimo--Alberni would eliminate the schedule altogether. I have to say that the member has struck a real chord here.

This list was compiled in 1934, before antibiotics were discovered, Mr. Speaker. On that list we can find things like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, depression, gangrene, glaucoma, gout, and it goes on and on. We know there are a number of drugs on the market that address these particular sicknesses. It seems completely unreasonable that the list as it exits makes it impossible to advertise these drugs and their purposes relating to these particular forms of sickness should exist.

That having been said, I still have reservations about simply eliminating schedule A because there is the danger that people without good conscience, shall we say, might try to market cures, remedies and drugs, both prescription and especially non-prescription drugs, which might make claims that are unwarranted.

The bottom line is that schedule A should be scrapped. The member is perfectly right on that point. I realize the Minister of Health has indicated a willingness to overhaul schedule A, but I can see it is completely out of date and should be gone.

The other aspect of Bill C-420 is the member also wants to redefine the word food to include natural health products. I have a lot of problems with that because one thing food is, is food by definition is a natural health product. We all take food because it is good for us. We have this difficulty. If we add natural health products to the definition of food, basically we are defining a word by words that mean essentially the same thing. The difficulty is a semantic difficulty, but a very important difficulty if we actually take this into law.

Natural health products are thought by many not in terms of simply being good for us, but are actually thought in terms of having some curative properties or some properties that might address certain symptoms that one might possess.

In the field of natural remedies, the usage of the words “natural health product” is in this context of something having curative properties that might address a person's symptoms of some kind of malady. But in the strict sense, natural health product simply could mean, and the courts would of course argue this, any kind of food that we might want to take. So eating a tomato or a potato could have curative properties, and I do not think that this is the intention the member for Nanaimo—Alberni has when he wants to add natural health product to the list of foods.

I would suggest that what the member really wants to do and what he should be seeking to do is to add a new definition in the list of definitions in the Food and Drugs Act and have a middle category between drug and food, and that middle category would be medicine. Because what we are really talking about when we move into the field of natural health products and their effect on a person's physical well-being is that we see them as things that can be taken as medicine, and a medicine is not necessarily a drug. A medicine is not necessarily a pharmaceutical.

I have to tell the member opposite that I have great sympathy with where he is going on this, because I am not one who believes that pharmaceutical drugs are the answer to everything. I think one of the big problems, and I think one of the reasons that is driving the member, is that pharmaceutical drugs take a lot of clinical trials, so it takes a long time to get a drug on the marketplace. If a natural health product has to go through clinical trials, then it is delayed in reaching the market.

I point out to the House that a clinical trial is simply a collection of empirical information. Clinical trials are no better than the number of tests that are taken on a particular drug. As it happens, some natural health products are empirically tested over centuries. For an example, I refer to tea. Everyone drinks tea and we know that it has no deleterious side effects. Tea was originally a natural health product that was seen as a stimulant. That is how tea was brought into England in the 18th century when the tea trade developed. We now know that tea does have a stimulating effect and we know now from these very long trials that it has no side effects.

The difficulty with pharmaceuticals is that the public has been led to believe that simply because pharmaceuticals go through a clinical trial of several thousand tests, let us say, that there are no side effects. However, there can be very serious side effects of pharmaceuticals that pass into the open market.

I think we really do need to look in the area that is directed by the member for Nanaimo—Alberni, because I think there is a third category and that third category is medicine, where we do know from long experience there are no side effects to that medicine about which we should be concerned and we know from long experience that it appears to have a positive benefit to the people taking it. There is a middle ground there, which I think we should consider very seriously.

So I am somewhat divided on the bill; I would think that if the bill passed the House and went to the health committee that the committee could strike down schedule A and there would be no impact. As a matter of fact, it might galvanize Health Canada into coming up with a new schedule, which I do not think is possible, actually; I think schedule A just has to disappear because that is the end of it.

As for the question of actually changing the definition of food to include natural health products, I do not think that works. But I think the member has done the House a service in giving us an opportunity to assess the relative values of natural health products and pharmaceuticals. Perhaps there is a middle road, as was mentioned by the previous Bloc speaker, and that middle road is the defining of something called medicine.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-420, an act to amend the definitions of the Food and Drugs Act, brought forward by my colleague for Nanaimo--Alberni.

The bill addresses an issue that is very important to many of my constituents in Edmonton--Strathcona and indeed many Canadians. If passed, Bill C-420 will categorize natural health products as food, as opposed to drugs. It is important to thank my colleague, the member for Nanaimo--Alberni, for his hard work in preparing the bill.

When I was first elected in 1997, I promised to make natural health products a major issue, and this bill addresses the concerns that so many Canadians have with the potential tightening of regulations when it comes to natural health products.

The issue has been important to my party even before the release of the standing committee's final report on health in 1998. After months of review, the committee chose to recommend the continuation of a paternal federal government attitude protecting Canadians from the unknown evils of natural health products. This unfortunate big brother approach to regulating natural health products, products that the committee's own research determined were safe and which uses were, “well known and pose minimal or no risk of harm”, assumes that Canadians cannot be trusted to do their homework and educate themselves before taking natural health products.

Recently the government recommended creating a third category of natural health products to address questions of how these items should be classified. Manufacturers, distributors and average Canadians using the products have concerns that this increased regulation will limit their freedom of choice and product selection and will cause the costs of these treatments to skyrocket beyond what is affordable.

Canadians deserve greater freedom in their choice of complimentary treatments and natural health products. The government has long talked the talk of promoting and emphasizing wellness and prevention. However, it would seem, that when the time comes to walk the walk and make real, tangible and positive change by allowing greater access to safe, natural preventative health treatments, it is too busy devising new ways to tax the Canadian consumer.

It was the health committee's mandate to “consider the objectives of providing consumers freedom of choice and access to natural health products” while ensuring the quality and safety of such products. There can be no question that public safety must always be the first priority when considering any legislation, particularly as it pertains to a food or drug item. However the heavy regulation of these products is inconsistent with the experiences of Canadians, which have demonstrated overwhelmingly an incredibly safe historical pattern of use regarding natural health products.

The health committee's final report noted that both mortality and morbidity rates associated with natural health products use were negligible in comparison with pharmaceuticals. In fact improper use of prescription drugs by trained professionals is one of the largest causes of death in the United States. The bottom line is that the majority of natural health products are safe if used correctly; that is when used for the appropriate indications and in correct doses.

The report also emphasized that it is not practical, necessary or economically feasible to conduct toxicological studies to establish the safety of most natural health products.

Pharmaceutical testing can cost upwards of $300,000 per product. It is clear that testing the 6,000 natural health products currently on the market is simply not realistic. In fact this type of testing is not even particularly desirable given the unavoidable approval costs that will be passed along to the average consumer. These costs will punish Canadian consumers for using safe products that prevent them from having to go to their general practitioners to get a prescription.

Indeed, unnecessary regulation of these products will only further tax the already strained health care system by causing natural health products users, incapable of paying the inflated prices for these safe and conventional inexpensive products, to give up on accessible forms of preventative medicine.

Canadians almost universally recognize natural health products as foods, certainly not as drugs, especially when consumed in the dosage and form recommended.

The bottom line is that existing emphasis on government control, licensing and regulation of mostly benign consumer products could be greatly simplified. Through Bill C-420, we now have the opportunity to accomplish this end.

My party has recommended an organization structure for regulating natural health products. By regulating these products under the purview of Health Canada's food directorate, I believe we could ensure that these substances are viewed by the professionals with the training and experience best equipped to manage their safe distribution.

The government has taken steps to see that existing enforcement personnel receive adequate natural health product training, and I feel this effort is respectable. Unfortunately however, the committee's final report made recommendations for the allocations of these increased resources of natural health products management under the drug directorate.

These enforcement officers regulate these harmless products under the same discerning criteria as they do with strong and often dangerous prescription drugs. This attitude is consistent with the paternal theme in the final report that refuses to give average Canadians any credit in their own decision making abilities when it comes to natural supplements.

It comes down to this. Canadians should have their choices. This has been the constant theme of my colleague and our party on this side of the House.

Insisting on the further restriction of natural health products simply contradicts every principle Canadian natural health product users have articulated. Like most Canadians, the Canadian Alliance believes there are already too many enforcement personnel barging into health food stores with RCMP escort, seizing computers and raiding store shelves for packets of harmless melatonin or stevia, an herb traditionally used as a natural sweetener.

Surely the Government of Canada has more important things on which to spend taxpayer money. Yet under cost recovery for the new natural health products, the government will insist on extracting more taxpayer money. Natural health products consumers will end up paying more for their products.

In the past positive steps have been taken to address the needs and safety of Canadians who use natural health products through the creation of an NHP advisory panel to allow input from experts who are professionally involved with natural health products. Formal recognition of the need for improved labelling of products was made in 1998 and our party supported that initiative.

With the input of the Standing Committee on Health, there was the creation of an open and accountable appeals process, and finally the greater training of inspectors and enforcement officers on natural health products, which I mentioned earlier.

At the end of the day however, the government has followed its longstanding tradition of ruling on the side of a paternalistic and overarching system of controls and regulations which limit the ability of Canadians to access and make use of natural herbal supplements which have been proven to be harmless. There is no justification for this type of increased regulation of these products.

The bottom line is Canadians correctly assume that natural health products are safe and effective. They believe that decades of safe use should be the primary consideration when determining freedom of access. These Canadians are concerned that the government's new rules and regulations will unnecessarily restrict the access to medications and treatments they have safely used for many years. Ultimately their concerns are justified.

We hope the government will listen, because ultimately, as I have mentioned throughout the theme of my speech, natural health products are a preventive and exciting form of health care, especially because so many Canadians have increasingly been using these products.

It would be a shame to encourage going down the road where we would be banning certain products in the future arbitrarily, which would open up a whole new black market, an area which I did not address, of importing in other ways these sorts of products into the country. Canadians who want these products will get them one way or another.

Let us ensure that we have an open approach to this process so it can work for Canadians, one that is cost effective and, as was mentioned by my colleague from Nanaimo—Alberni, ensures these products do not get classified under the drug category.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning we are beginning the last hour of debate at second reading of Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, put forward by our hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance.

Let us remember that in 1997 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health was given a mandate to study all aspects of the issue of legislating natural health products. The committee was charged with holding consultations, making analyses and formulating recommendations concerning the legislative and regulatory regime governing traditional medicines, homeopathic preparations, and vitamin and mineral supplements.

The committee was also expected to consult broadly with stakeholders, including associations, individuals representing consumers, manufacturers, distributors, growers, importers, exporters and retailers.

We see that this bill, like the committee's mandate, has reached a great many individuals who were very concerned about the regulation of natural health products. The committee held many hearings, heard many witnesses, and came to the realization that regulation of natural products was very controversial.

Many of the witnesses lobbied to have the regulations governing natural health products changed. Consequently, the committee members said that it was more than time to review the entire issue, which they did. The same year, a Health Canada survey showed that 56% of Canadians had used natural health products in the previous six months.

Thus we can see that Canadians and Quebeckers are taking more responsibility for their own health and in many cases, this leads to increased interest in and demand for natural health products.

The committee concluded—it set out parameters—that natural health products have their own unique characteristics and must not be treated strictly as either food or pharmaceutical products.

Moreover, the committee said that natural health product regulations must not unduly restrict access by consumers. In addition, it concluded that the authority for decision-making must be given to a regulatory body that has dedicated expertise and experience with natural health products and that natural health product regulatoryapproaches must respect diverse cultural traditions.

These four principles listed by the committee led to the request for the creation of another committee, which could draft legislation on the matter. The bill before us today does not in any way reflect the safeguards or points of reference the committee set out.

The Standing Committee on Health would have liked the current act to be changed because, as it now stands, a natural product can be considered a food or a drug.

The Standing Committee on Health, which received the mandate to study the act, said that natural foods should come under a third category. They have their peculiarities and particularities and, thus, an act respecting food and drugs should not include them. Unfortunately, the bill before us does not correspond with what the Standing Committee on Health had decided.

What we are saying is that a third category absolutely must be created for products that should truly be identified by skilled people. Currently, everyone—whether at Health Canada or in the general public—claims to know the benefits or inconveniences of natural health foods. Unfortunately, far too often, people do not know what impact these might have.

In 1997 or 1998, the Standing Committee on Health had said it would be better if the legislation required us to form a committee with specialists. Thus, a third category must be created for natural health products. This is one of the conclusions of the report of the Standing Committee on Health. Again, to the committee, natural products are neither food nor drugs.

The report stated that regulations alone are not sufficient and that statutory amendments should be made as soon as possible. The report also indicated that the majority of witnesses who appeared before the committee had reached this same conclusion. As a result, the Bloc Quebecois had asked for a certain flexibility, which does not exist under the present legislation.

The Bloc Quebecois, which represents Quebec in the House of Commons, conducted a study and concluded that there are many manufacturers of natural products and many consumers of such products in Quebec. This industry generates over 3,000 jobs in Quebec. So, if a certain level of flexibility is not allowed and if care is not taken, numerous jobs could be lost.

In Quebec too, naturopaths have said that this would mean that some products that do not pass the approval regime applicable to drugs could be kept off the shelves. What is happening at present? Since natural food products have not been defined, they are sometimes classified as drugs and sometimes as food. Our natural products that fit in neither category are quite simply excluded. This is unacceptable.

Yes, statutory amendments are needed. A new category must be created, because natural health products are not food. We need a bill that will create a third category of products. Natural health products should not be subject to the approval regime for drugs, which would mean their withdrawal because they do not correspond to the overall definition of a drug.

The bill currently before the House is therefore vague. The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill because the experts, the committee and the public were ignored. In its present form, the bill must simply be defeated. That is what the Bloc Quebecois is going to do, since it opposes this bill.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 10th, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the second petition I wish to present is signed by a number of people from Manitoba, the largest number being from Brandon. The petitioners would like more access to non-drug preventative medicine options. The petitioners would like to obtain more information on those options and would like clarification of the definitions in the 1927 and 1952 Food and Drugs Act. The petitioners also call upon the government to enact Bill C-420.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 8th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

The final one, Madam Speaker, is on Bill C-420, natural health products. There are approximately 350 signatures here. They come from my own riding, from the communities of Nanaimo and Parksville, and also from Alberta, Ontario and other communities across the country.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to recognize that Canadians deserve freedom of choice in natural health products. They object to the restrictions that Health Canada is currently placing on natural health products by arbitrarily classing them as drugs as soon as a health claim is made.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to recognize the weight of modern scientific evidence which confirms the mitigation and prevention of disease, many diseases and disorders, through the judicious use of natural health products and therefore ask that Parliament support Bill C-420 and implement changes that will enhance the availability of natural health products for all Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 17th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have petitions signed by constituents from my riding of Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

The petitioners are asking Parliament to ensure that Canadians have an updated food and drug act that is consistent with Canadians' inherent rights of informed freedom of choice and access to non-drug medicinal products of their own choosing, as protected by sections 1, 2, 7 and 15 of the charter of rights. This petition is in support of Bill C-420.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 15th, 2003 / 3:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the Food and Drugs Act. Petitioners are declaring that Canadians deserve freedom of choice in health care products and that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be properly classified as food and not arbitrarily restricted as drugs. They state that the weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders through the judicious use of natural health products.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

These petitioners come from across Canada, many from my own constituency of Nanaimo—Alberni. Others are from Salmon Arm, B.C., from Calgary, from Parry Sound and King in Ontario, from Sackville, Truro and Bible Hill in Nova Scotia, St. Andrews, New Brunswick and Montague, P.E.I. Across the country, Canadians are calling for these changes that would be implemented by Bill C-420. That is my private member's bill which will be up for a second hour of debate soon.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 13th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am happy to present a petition today on behalf of Canadians who want their right of informed freedom of choice and access to non-drug medicinal products of their own choosing. As well, the petitioners would like the clarification of the current vague definitions of food and drugs in the outdated 1927-1952 Food and Drugs Act by enacting Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.