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.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, to give the member a bit of my history, I was one of the members who brought forward Bill C-420, which was a natural health products bill. I continue to be involved with that community.

In the original writing of the bill and in the past version, Bill C-52, there was some confusion in the language and stakeholders from the natural health products community required some clarification of it. The minister has written to the chair of the health committee. We will be putting forward an amendment to clarify that exactly so that the stakeholders from the natural health products community know that this bill excludes natural health products and food and drugs under the Food and Drugs Act.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

November 24th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, since you are presiding this evening, let me offer my congratulations to you on joining the Speaker's team and being appointed to assist members of the House not just in this important debate but in managing our House affairs. It is great to see members from Vancouver Island playing a bigger role in the House.

It is a great privilege to take part in the debate in response to the Speech from the Throne, the first debate in Canada's 40th Parliament.

I begin by thanking the voters of the great riding of Nanaimo—Alberni for returning me as their MP for the fourth consecutive term. I am very mindful of the great honour and of the great responsibility that I have to them and so I would begin by thanking them.

I would like to acknowledge my supporters and campaign team who put a lot of effort into our re-election effort. I acknowledge the leadership of my campaign manager, Paula Peterson, who co-ordinated a great effort and ensured that we had a great time working together, and my financial agent, John Ward, who ensured we not only got the job done but given the complexities of financial obligations, that we did it right.

I know the families of every member here make a sacrifice so that we can come from our ridings across this great diverse country to participate in this House. I certainly have to acknowledge the great encouragement, and constant never ending support above and beyond the call that my wife Helen makes in order to make it possible for me to serve as the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

The Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands, has done a remarkable job of not only being re-elected but for the fourth time being elected as the Speaker of the House. I certainly want to extend my congratulations to him. I think one of our members made reference to this today. It is certainly a historic event, being elected as Speaker for the fourth time and with the different sides of the House it is quite a remarkable achievement that is worthy of recognition.

It falls to each and every member, to our respective parties, to our leaders, to participate in this 40th Parliament at a time when our country is facing the challenges of a very troubled world economy and uncertainties unprecedented in modern times.

My riding is one of the most beautiful in the country. It covers both the east and west coasts of mid-Vancouver Island. From the rugged majestic heights of Mount Moriarty or Mount Arrowsmith in the Beaufort Range, one can look down across the oceanside communities to the east with their shallow, sandy warm water beaches, or west to Port Alberni and beyond to the world renowned Pacific Rim National Park with its famous Long Beach, favoured by surfers, and surf and storm watchers. This majestic place we call home is recognized by being the only federal riding to encompass not one but two federally recognized and UNESCO recognized biospheres, the Clayoquot Sound reserve on the west and Mount Arrowsmith biosphere reserve on the east, where we live.

That said, like other regions, the west coast is caught in a time of transition that has engulfed the forest sector, the fishing industry and greatly impacted our resource based economy.

The Speech from the Throne delivered in this chamber just a few days ago, on November 19, is very different from any I have heard or debated in the past four parliaments. The government has laid out its intentions to manage the economy in this challenging time.

The Speech from the Throne is entitled, “Protecting Canada's Future”. The government is committed to ensuring Canada's continued economic success at this time of global economic instability. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada has laid out a five-pronged plan to protect Canada's economic security. I shall briefly summarize those points.

First, there is reform of global finance by working with our allies and trading partners to re-examine and renew the rules that underpin the global financial system. This process has already begun with Canada's participation in the G-20 meetings on November 15 and the recently concluded APEC meetings in Lima, Peru.

It is probably appropriate at this time to mention that the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the best in the world.

I hear someone applauding. That is worthy of note and applause. I appreciate that enthusiastic response.

However, at a time when the world itself is reeling, it is good to know that while we face challenges we have some strong attributes to bring into these unstable times.

Measures taken to allow the Bank of Canada greater latitude in responding to world shifts and economic shifts allowed the Bank of Canada to respond quickly with nearly $20 billion to improve liquidity at a time when the credit crunch was having a devastating effect elsewhere and certainly challenging our economy here at home.

Further measures to protect our mortgage system, with shorter terms and mandatory down payments, helped to prevent the type of meltdown that precipitated the current U.S. and worldwide financial crises.

We want to ensure sound budgeting so that Canada does not return to ongoing unsustainable structural deficits while putting all federal expenditures under the microscope of responsible spending.

I think the operative word there is “all” government spending. It is a time when we need to examine how we are spending. As any family would when times get tough, we need to look at how we are managing our finances and determine that we are making the best investments and strategic investments at a time when times are leaner.

We need to secure jobs for families and communities by encouraging the skilled trades and apprenticeships, supporting workers facing transition and providing further support to the automotive and aerospace industries.

On that point, I was asked to respond to criticisms from the forestry CEOs in my own community objecting to this commitment. Of course they are facing a crisis of their own with an industry in transition. I will return to this point shortly to address their concerns.

Further, we need to expand investment in trade by modernizing investment, competition and copyright laws while working with the United States to address shared challenges and pursing trade agreements in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Canada just recently signed a trade agreement with Colombia that will need to be ratified. Negotiations continue with other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, but we must expand our markets beyond our dependence on one large market south of the border. About 85% of our trade is currently going south and, as we know, at a time when our largest trading partner is in big trouble. It is a good time to be looking to other markets to diversify, stabilize and share our financial opportunities with other nations and to reduce our dependence on one factor. It seems a very appropriate thing to do and I think it is absolutely essential that we do this.

Further, we need to make government more effective by reducing red tape, fixing procurement, improving program and service delivery and improving the management of federal agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations.

Again, I think “efficiency” is the key word in tough economic times. It will be appropriate for all levels of the Canadian economy to examine their efficiency in delivering services and ensure we are doing so without waste.

Returning to the issue of assistance to industry, I think it is fair to say that while details of any assistance to the auto and aerospace sectors are in the process of being worked out, it is important to mention that many steps have already been taken to help all sectors of industry and business. It is a very competitive and challenging time, which is why, in addition to measures to help all taxpayers, measures were brought in to help students, seniors and, indeed, to lower taxes for every Canadian.

However, the government acted in the previous budget and in the previous economic update to lower small business and corporate taxes.

We acted earlier to resolve the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., bringing more than $4 billion back to Canadian forest companies. I think it is a very good thing we did that. Given the challenge that we face now with the U.S. caught up in its own challenges, it is a very good thing that we had that resolved when we did. Even though it is not perfect and there are still challenges for sectors in transition, the fact that we made those provisions beforehand was very helpful to the current economic status of those industries going through transition.

We provided a billion dollar community development trust to help communities with economies in transition and incentives for companies to purchase new machinery and to upgrade equipment.

For the mining industry, the government will extend the mineral exploration tax credit. Further, for the forest and fishing sectors the government has o acted to extend support for international marketing efforts and to provide incentives for creating energy from biomass.

I can assure persons concerned from the coast, particularly those in the forest industry, that there will be no blank cheque to any industrial sector. I am sure that any support offered by taxpayers through the government to the aerospace or the auto sector will only come after all stakeholders also contribute in the transition to a sustainable future. I think an example of that might be the $82 million commitment to Ford to develop an energy efficient engine.

This is not about helping industries that are not producing something that will be of value in a competitive and changing market. It is about creating sustainable opportunities for the future and creating a sustainable auto industry.

An example in my own riding of a company that has made heroic efforts in transition to a cost effective and sustainable future is the Nanaimo Forest Products Ltd. that took over the Harmac pulp mill in south Nanaimo. This company bid on a court ordered sale of the mill. It as an ownership structure that is quite unique in the industry. It has 200-plus employees, each of whom made significant personal investments in the mill to the tune of $25,000 each for a 25% stake in the business, partnering with other business interests. Pioneer Log Homes is a tremendous corporate citizen. Totzauer Holdings and the Sampson Group are successful private companies. They each took 25% shares in the company.

With both employees and management having a stake in the success of the business has led to a very collaborative approach to labour relations. No labour contracts will need to be renegotiated until well into the future.

This mill is in a great location. It has a deep sea port, water resources and water treatment facilities. It has the potential to diversify into energy production. I use this as an example of all the stakeholders collaborating in a tough competitive market to make something happen and to sustain an industry that was in big trouble. We might have lost the mill. I think the community is extremely proud of its effort and we certainly want to see heroic efforts like these rewarded with success.

In a time of transition, we do need to collaborate and work together to ensure opportunities for success emerge from challenging times.

The Speech from the Throne addresses a whole range of other issues. We have a commitment to Canada's environment. We will continue with our process to reduce greenhouse emissions 20% by 2020. I am pleased to see that we are working toward continuing with alternative energy incentives to develop alternative energies.

We will be recommitting the ban on bulk water exports, which I know is an important issue to many people in my riding, and I am glad to see that mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.

Further, our government will be helping all Canadians participate by improving the universal child care benefit, increasing access to maternity and parental benefits under employment insurance and helping Canadians who care for loved ones with disabilities. That is a very important step the government can make, even in difficult times, to help those families who are working with a disabled child or a disabled adult at home and who are giving up other economic opportunities to look after a loved one in challenging circumstances.

We will be continuing to work on keeping Canadians safe by strengthening the sentences for serious criminal offences. We will be putting in place new rules for food and product safety and we will be introducing a new national security statement. We are also continuing to contribute to global security.

I will come back and talk about food and product safety in just a moment but perhaps I will go on to talk a little bit about sovereignty in the Arctic.

I am personally very pleased to see Canada's commitment to the Arctic moving ahead. It is a time when there are unprecedented not only changes in the Arctic but also challenges to our sovereignty and to the wealth and economic opportunities that northern Canada represents.

I am glad to see the commitment to assert our jurisdiction over lands and waters in the Arctic archipelago under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to further expand our jurisdiction over the region under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act requiring mandatory notification of any foreign vessels entering Canadian territorial waters. That will be asserting our control over a 200 mile limit into the Arctic.

I am glad to see that we are also proceeding with a new polar class icebreaker named in honour of the late great Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.

I have already mentioned the bulk water exports and that is important.

I will now return to efficiencies. It will be important for us to visit every sector of the economy to ensure we are actually producing the best product in the most efficient manner. One of my big concerns is in the area of health care. If we look back to the 1990s, British Columbia's budget for health was about 30% of its expenditures. When I first ran for office it was 40% of the provincial budget. It is currently about 44% or 45% of the provincial budget. Even though we are spending more and more of the provincial budgets on health care, it seems the demand is unceasing and the perception is that somehow the government is not delivering on health care.

We have been encouraging innovation in every sector but health care has been slow to embrace innovation. About 30% of our health care is already delivered outside of the public system. I am not talking necessarily about parallel systems. I am talking about efficiencies. I am talking about services that are currently available but perhaps underutilized and not funded by provincial plans under section 2 of the Canada Health Act, extended services.

There are tremendous opportunities. However, in our zeal to regulate I hope we do not become overzealous to the point where we take opportunities away from advancing health care opportunities for Canadians. I would suggest that perhaps status quo forces have been slow to pick up advances in low cost alternatives like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and the way we regulate our natural health products. I think we need to take a very good look at that.

I know a lot of concerns have been expressed in the House not only in the last Parliament but going back to the 37th Parliament when I introduced Bill C-420 addressing issues on how we regulate natural health products. Those concerns were discussed early in the 38th Parliament with the aid of the member for Oshawa and I know there were lots of discussions in the last Parliament under Bill C-51 about how we regulate these products.

I am concerned that opportunities for Canadians to purchase low cost, low risk, non-patentable products are currently being restricted by regulatory practices. I imagine legislation will be coming forward to address a whole range of health product safety issues. I hope that in this Parliament, when we review these issues, that we will get this right and that we will deliver an outcome that will ensure Canadians have access to low cost, low risk and non-patentable forms of medicines that promote wellness and address the prevention of illness and disease in the first place.

Those are some of my concerns and they are in the Speech from the Throne. I know members have been debating issues for several days now and a lot of ideas have come forward. I am pleased with the Speech from the Throne. It gives us the opportunity to move ahead on a whole range of issues that are of concern to Canadians. We will have efficient spending in our government. We will be addressing safety concerns and crime issues. We want ensure we create safe communities so Canadians can live safely.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2008 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that Bill C-51 has attracted a fair bit of attention. We have been debating it again today.

Bill C-51 is an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Needless to say, the Food and Drugs Act definitely needs updating. It is an old act. It goes back to about 1934. It has had a few tweaks along the way, but certainly it is time for some updates to the Food and Drugs Act.

There are some good provisions in the bill, that is for sure, including life cycle monitoring of pharmaceutical drugs and mandatory reporting of adverse events. These are very positive things that need to be done because there are serious concerns about these products.

The public response overwhelmingly on the negative side has been over concerns about what will happen to the natural health products industry under the regulations.

In illustrating some of those concerns, I wish to make reference to a letter that I received recently from a number of very distinguished and concerned scientists, which illustrates the concerns that are out there. I received this letter on May 4. It is a copy of a letter to the minister and states:

We, the undersigned, are physicians, scientists and practitioners of international origin with considerable experience in the use of natural health products. We are gathered in Vancouver at the Fairmont Hotel to attend the 37th Annual International Conference on Orthomolecular Medicine...

We are most concerned that the Bill will lead to loss of access to valuable food supplements and other nutritional products for our patients and for many others, who have often found such products to be essential in maintaining their health.

Another point they make is this:

Nutritional products are qualitatively different from pharmaceutical products and carry an undetectably small risk of harm....

They provide a reference from the journals about that. They continue:

There are therefore no grounds to impose on them the same risk-benefit analysis structure that is proposed for all therapeutic products under this bill.

The majority of organizations and commercial bodies operating in the natural product field are run by individuals or are small businesses. The regulatory hurdles proposed will be too high for many of them to achieve, and the penalties proposed for infringements of this bill are grossly disproportionate and unnecessarily severe.

They go on to state:

We are also concerned at the potential impact on the regulatory climate in our own countries, given the international trend to harmonization.

We encourage your department to open dialogue with our Canadian colleagues in the hope we can find a workable solution.

This letter is signed by scientists from around the world. They are from the Netherlands, Japan, the United States, Finland and Norway. There is a PhD neurochemist from the U.S.A. Others are from Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, and other countries. There is Professor Harold Foster, PhD, from Victoria.

I use this only by way of illustration. This discussion we are having in Canada about Bill C-51 to amend the Food and Drugs Act is being noticed by health care practitioners from other countries. They are concerned about the impact it will have on regulations in their own countries.

One of the points they raised at the end is that they encourage the department to “open dialogue with our Canadian colleagues in the hope we can find a workable solution”.

I know that since the bill has been introduced most of my colleagues here in the House have had a fair bit of representation from concerned citizens. I am sure that most members have heard from constituents. At the latest count in my office, I have had 380 responses raising concerns about the bill. I am sure that others have had dozens if not hundreds of representations and I know there has been a fair bit of concern and discussion.

In response to that, the Minister of Health has launched some consultations with industry across the country. The minister and his team were out in Vancouver for consultations and in Toronto and other major centres as they consulted with industry leaders about how to remedy the concerns that are out there. I know that he is working on some amendments and I look forward to seeing them presented in the House shortly.

At this second reading stage of the bill, it is certainly not possible for the minister to introduce amendments, but I understand that there will be a forthcoming indication of some amendments that our government members will bring forward at the health committee if and when the legislation passes second reading.

Therefore, I welcome those amendments. I look forward to what I understand will include an attempt to create a legislative third category. That is something that people have been interested in. That is one of the major concerns that have been expressed and there will be other substantial amendments to alleviate the way the bill would be applied as well as to clarify concerns that have been raised. We look forward to those amendments coming forward and being able to go over in detail what those changes mean.

The minister stated that it is not his nor the government's intention to restrict natural health product availability in Canada. I am sure and I have every reason to believe that he is very sincere in making those statements. I have no reason not to believe him or the government in their intentions.

The problem is that, given the history of actions by Health Canada over the past several years, the increased powers and the changes proposed by Bill C-51 give informed Canadians a very great cause for concern. In that regard, I would like to review some of the history and illustrate a couple of the concerns related to the bill as it stands.

Going back over at least four previous health ministers, there was an effort to regulate natural health products as drugs under the Food and Drugs Act. By the way, I think everyone recognized that there was a need to bring in regulations for natural health products. Everyone wants to make sure that we have good manufacturing practices, we need office inspections and some quality control measures there, and we certainly want to make sure that what is on the label is actually in the bottle.

So, certainly regulation is necessary. Everyone is in support of regulation. It is the type of regulation that is being considered here and the concerns about whether those regulations are appropriate for the low risk and the natural character of these products. By nature they are low risk, they are low cost, they are non-patentable items, they are more akin to food, concentrated food items, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, which are components of protein, and that is the stuff we are made out of, and therefore by nature it is low risk and well tolerated in biological systems.

Going back through a bit of the history, there was a huge public response out of the attempt by former minister David Dingwall to regulate natural health products as drugs. It was followed up by Allan Rock. Allan Rock, as minister, put the brakes on the process and commissioned the health committee to investigate and produce a report. There were widespread consultations and a report was tabled in 1998, making some 53 recommendations.

That was followed by the creation of a transition team of experts. Some 17 experts came together to try to organize how would this new office of natural health products come together and what form it would take. They made recommendations that were published in a report in the year 2000.

I note that the transition team, in their report, had a vision that they articulated there. They hoped that the minister would be a champion for a new era for NHPs, natural health products; that vitamins and minerals would take their place in improving the health of Canadians and the health care system in Canada, that the minister would be a champion for helping natural health products find their way to taking their rightful place in strengthening Canadians, improving prevention of disease, promoting wellness, and helping keep people off the waiting lists that are so troubling to anyone trying to access health services for serious health failures.

In the 37th Parliament I introduced Bill C-420 which was to move the natural health products department office, which changed names from the office of the ONHP to the natural health product directorate, under the food side of regulations. So we had food and drugs, and we would take it from the drug side and move it under the food side because it was more akin to foods than it was to drugs.

That bill died when the election of June 2004 was called and it reappeared in the 38th Parliament with the help of my colleague, the member for Oshawa, who tabled the bill and we got agreement to keep the name.

The outcome of that was that NHPs were placed not where we wanted them under food, but they remained as a subclass under the drug side of the regulations. So, this is where are we since that day.

Currently, natural health products are regulated as a subclass of drugs for regulatory purposes, although they have their own regulations. That has been the status since 2006. When we started this process there were some 50,000 to 60,000 products on the market. What has been happening in the interim is that there are about 6,000 products that have been approved.

I notice the member for Yukon, who is still with us in the debate, in his speech earlier mentioned there were some 33,000 to 40,000 products backlogged and that is probably accurate. There are about 6,000 that have gone through the approval process of that huge number that were out there a few years ago.

About half of the products applying do not make it through the regulatory process. A lot of good products are dropping off the shelves in Canada under the current regulatory regime. Those that are approved are the simple ones. They are single monograph products, not the combined products. Many of the more effective well-known and popular remedies that are out there are multi-ingredient products. Most of those have not even started into the process yet. So a lot of products are not making it through.

Complicating it further is the fact that many good products that come from outside the country from the United States, for example, are not being shipped into Canada because the producers find the regulatory regime is too onerous and the market is too small. They have just stopped shipping their product to Canada, so we are losing products that way. That is the current situation.

People in the industry are frustrated at the lengthy delays in receiving an NPN and lengthy requests for more information. It seems products like Red Bull or an energy drink gets an NPN fairly readily. They will never have a hope of impacting anybody's health, but they might give people a kick or a little better high, or keep them awake if they are mixed, as some young people do, with alcohol which we would not recommend. We would end up with a drunk who is a little more alert.

Those products seem to make it through the regulatory process in a flash, but natural health products that could have a real impact on serious illnesses seem to be having a hard time getting through.

I want to return to the letter from the scientist. Speaking at a conference just a month ago, so we are not talking ancient history, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan from the University of Calgary spoke about her experience with the product Empowerplus. I know others in the House have mentioned this product already and probably most members have some knowledge of this vitamin and mineral product produced in Alberta. It had a profound impact on people with bipolar disease.

This product attracted some attention in Alberta. The government of Alberta said whoa, there is a huge problem, a lot of people seem to be taking this. It had the Alberta Science and Research Authority examine the product and it commissioned a study at the University of Calgary with some $544,000 in funding. The initial results were very promising. In fact, there were some four peer review articles published.

About this time, Health Canada moved in to shut down the study under the regulations of the day. It called on the RCMP to raid the company and contact 3,000 Canadians, and order them back on their psychiatric drugs even though many of them were taking the product with the knowledge of their physician and many of them had been well for years by simply taking vitamins and minerals.

I want to use that as an illustration of why people are alarmed at the regulations in Bill C-51. It is not simply what is in the bill, it is the behaviour of the department in the last number of years that has people alarmed. Given the tools that are in Bill C-51, it is concerns that with the wrong attitude this could ensure that a lot of very good products will never see the light of day in our country given this response. I mentioned: thousands of Canadians were taking the product, the Alberta response, the early results, and that Health Canada shut down the study, and sent in the RCMP.

Just to go on with Empowerplus for a minute, there was a researcher from Harvard, Dr. Charles Popper, a world renowned psychopharmacologist. He testified at a court case just after the last election. I unfortunately missed it, but I did read his testimony. He testified that he learned how to help people get off drugs from the lay people in this company who have accumulated a lot of experience trying to help people with their condition by taking these vitamins, minerals and amino-acids, and improving their mental health.

I wish members could have been there to hear testimony from a woman named Sabina from Renfrew. She had been on psychiatric drugs for 18 years and in spite of that, in and out of hospital.

Sadly, with the condition she was afflicted with, when she was not trying to take her own life, she was trying to take her husband's life. She had been on vitamins a year and a half, when I met her, and had not had a single failure. That is something that, I think, would attract some attention. Some people may say this is helping, although it is anecdotal evidence, but she was one of about 3,000 Canadians who had improved.

By the time I met her, a year and a half after taking these products, she was no longer trying to kill herself. She was working and paying taxes. I have to admit as a Conservative, I like that. She is also volunteering. She is not on the high needs list but back out in society and producing. When I saw her at the court case, where she testified for this company against Health Canada, she had lost 60 pounds, was off all her medication, and taking nothing but vitamins.

The company she worked for was so impressed with her that it sent her to get a university degree and she is volunteering to train horses on the side. She is a tremendously productive lady, a lady with a tremendous sense of humour. I wish everyone could meet her.

I wish everyone could have met no less than the former deputy prime minister of Norway when he was in Ottawa. He came to meet with Health Canada officials about this product because he had a child that was out of control and nobody in Norway had been able to help him. He heard about this product and ordered it for his child. His child improved so much that he wanted to import this product to help other people in Norway, but he could not because there was a warning on the Health Canada website, which is still there to this day, that says this is an untested and dangerous product. Therefore, even with his connections, he was not able to import the product.

When I had lunch with him, he was later scheduled to meet with Health Canada officials. When they found out why he was here, they cancelled his appointment. It seems, sadly, that no one at Health Canada was willing to meet with Sabina or with this gentleman or with thousands of Canadians. The minister of the day was not willing to meet with them.

Everyone taking the product was concerned when Health Canada was trying to shut down this product at the border because the minister of the day had the attitude or the approach that this was an untested. The minister said, “It could be thalidomide”.

That is disappointing, but that kind of attitude seems to be what is prevailing at Health Canada, even to this day, and that is why people are concerned about the implications in the bill. This is the same Health Canada that could be handed extraordinary and, some might say, draconian provisions by the bill.

There are some concerns. People would like to know that the vision of the transition team would come to pass and that the regulatory regime would be a friendly one that helps natural health products, which by nature are low risk, become more available.

One of the concerns is subsection 15.1(4), which says simply that the minister has the power to put any product or class of products under prescription only status. The challenge is simply that vitamins and minerals, nutritional products, amino-acids are what we are made of. They have always been in the public domain, but under the powers in the bill the minister could simply move something from the natural health product class over to a drug class in certain potencies. The minister has those powers. That is one concern.

Another concern is in regard to clinical trials. The bill says that clinical trials must be approved for designated therapeutic products. We depend on most of the research on natural health products to understand how they work. We found out a little while ago that vitamin D has a big impact on people with multiple sclerosis and now the recommendation is that we should be taking vitamin D to reduce a whole host of other conditions, including many cancers.

We are concerned about the availability of these products. University research could be put at risk. Some would argue that universities could be asked if they applied for a clinical trial for basic research.

Finally, the definition of government has people concerned. I will finish with this simple remark. The government, under this definition, could be another international government or agency that could bring in regulations from the World Health Organization or Codex, for example, and impose them on the Canadian public without due consideration or consultation here at home. Those are some of the concerns.

May 8th, 2008 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Ross Creber President, Direct Sellers Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman and honourable members, on behalf of the 45-member companies of the Direct Sellers Association and our 600,000 independent sales contractors across the country, I want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this consultation.

Our independent businesspeople represent such well-known names as Avon, Mary Kay, Shaklee, NuSkin, and Quixtar, whose retail sales in 2007 approached $2 billion. Some of the products sold include those regulated as natural health products, and as such, the efficient and effective regulation of these products is of great importance to our industry.

I last appeared before this committee three years ago as it studied Bill C-420. At that time, I suggested that the bill was a product of the frustration of Canadians who wanted ready access to natural health products and of the companies who wanted to market those products to Canadian consumers.

Three years later, the frustration continues, with long delays in the approval process and a significant application backlog. However, there have been improvements, and NHPD has certainly made real efforts to increase efficiency in product approvals. These are laudable efforts, but the situation remains bleak.

So what has caused the backlog? We believe that Health Canada was never prepared for the number of applications that came in, and we believe that the directorate is optimistic to think it will have the backlog cleared by April of 2010. To date, the directorate has received product licence applications for approximately 27,000 products.

The reality is that the backlog has led many companies to delay submitting product licence applications or even to pull out of the marketplace altogether.

Let me give you a snapshot of our NHP experience. Our member companies have submitted 380 applications. Of these, 369 have been acknowledged and only 131 completed. However, “completed” does not mean approved; it means dealt with. In this case, 70 of the applications are now licensed, 34 have been refused, and 27 have been withdrawn. So far, only 18% of member applications have been approved and licensed.

Part of the backlog has to do with the standards of evidence required by NHPD. While compendial applications do increase the efficiency of the process, they only work for single-ingredient products, whereas the market is largely made up of multiple-ingredient products. And the evidence required is, in our opinion, excessive. The directorate's statistics confirm that their biggest challenge is dealing with non-compendial, non-traditional product licence applications for multi-ingredient products. Without improvements in this area, all available products will have the same materials, dosages, benefits, and wording on the labels. There will be no perceived difference from one company to the next.

I want to focus now on the thousands of product licence applications that have been rejected by the directorate. While the regulations provide for appeals, the actual process is, seemingly, known only to Health Canada. The directorate continues to promise that this policy will be released, but it has been almost four and a half years since the regulations took effect. Given the lack of transparency about the appeals process, it is no wonder that the industry is frustrated.

I want to offer you one more illustrative example of how deep the problems have become for the direct selling industry. The distribution channel of our industry, multi-level marketing, is regulated by the Competition Bureau under sections 55 and 55.1 of the Competition Act. Some provinces in Canada require a written opinion from the Competition Bureau on the marketing plans of a company before they will issue a licence to the company to operate in their respective province. The written opinion covers all of the provisions in the act pertaining to the operation of an MLM plan.

The bureau is now invoking its powers under other sections of the act to review all materials and product claims relating to product performance, and in order to provide the written opinion it is requesting similar evidence to that required for licensing of NHPs. This is new and troubling for an industry sector that is already regulated in a number of different areas, both federally and provincially. In our discussions with the bureau on this matter, we asked if they were aware that Health Canada regulated these products under similar criteria. The response was that, in their opinion, the process at Health Canada was not working and that they were fulfilling their mandate under the act.

Of course, it makes no sense whatsoever to have two agencies of government duplicating the work of each other. But the inadequacies of the process at the NHPD have driven our industry to this point, and as such, I can see no greater proof of a problem than this.

The DSA is encouraged by the recent activity on Canada's food and consumer safety action plan. The frustration of our industry is matched only by our willingness to work with the government and this committee to effect constructive changes to the Food and Drugs Act and the natural health product regulations.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Direct Sellers Association and its members, I want to thank the Standing Committee on Health for the opportunity to participate in this consultation process.

October 17th, 2006 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I have three specific questions. Let me read them out, because I'd like you to answer them, if possible, in order.

One is a Health Canada issue. I had a private member's bill in the last session, Bill C-420. There were problems with the bill, but we had a compromise solution whereby they would change schedule A and subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act and modernize the regulation. It's been over a year and they still haven't come forward. I've been on the phone with them just up to last week. They're still not moving on it.

So I was wondering specifically who you are dealing with over there and whether you had some information I could ask for. I'm very curious about this, because I've been approached by natural health food producers, herb producers, food producers who are really concerned about trade issues with the United States and how this is going to affect their industry if we don't get it solved.

The second question is on free trade agreements. We're talking about markets overseas. We've had some concern here about Korean free trade, especially with some manufacturing—the auto industry, for example. How would you say a free trade agreement with Asian markets would...? Would they help? Would they hinder you? Do you have any impact studies on where this issue is? That's question number two.

The third one is, what did the previous government do to help fix the regulatory regime, what should we continue with, and are there more suggestions for where we could move ahead as a new government?

Thank you.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition containing close to 100 signatures. Again these signatures come from various towns and cities in my riding of Crowfoot, Rosebud, Stettler and Huxley to name a few.

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 private member's Bill C-420.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 17th report of the Standing Committee on Health. The committee has considered Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act regarding the definitions of drug and the definition of food. Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1 the committee recommends that the House of Commons do not proceed further with this bill.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 27th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table two petitions on behalf of the residents of Windsor West. The first relates to Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. The petitioners support that bill because they want Canadians to have greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and believe you would find consent for the following. I move that the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health, presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420, be concurred in.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second series of petitions contain 2,500 signatures from people across the country who are concerned about Bill C-420. Most of the petitions are from British Columbia but there are others from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec on the subject of Bill C-420, the motion by the hon. member for Oshawa that was just denied.

Bill C-420 refers to natural health products and the way in which we regulate them. The petitioners call on the government to ensure that natural health products are regulated as food and not drugs and remain available as low cost and low risk options for Canadians to protect their own health.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following. I move that Report No. 13 of the Standing Committee on Health, presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, 2005 requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420, be concurred in.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 21st, 2005 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, my fourth petition asks that Canadians b e provided with greater access to non-drug preventive and medicinal options. The petitioners support Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 20th, 2005 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understood I had the agreement of the House to present a motion at this point, in spite of the ongoing debate, because it is a procedural motion: Discussions have been held among all parties, and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420 be concurred in without debate.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to Standing Order 36, I table a petition signed by many residents of my riding of Manicouagan. The petitioners call on Parliament to adopt Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act to clarify the present definitions used for the words “food” and “drugs”.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 7th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition entitled “Health Freedom”. Canadian constituents, primarily from the south Okanagan, desire to have an updated Food and Drugs Act created by Parliament that is consistent with the inherent rights of Canadians to informed freedom of choice and access to non-medicinal drugs products of their choosing as protected by sections 1, 2, 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They call upon Parliament to repeal outdated prohibitions against making truthful health claims for the prevention, treatment and cure of health challenges with non-drug approaches by enacting Bill C-420. They are right to be concerned. It has been a constant battle to keep access to these natural health products.

I hope Parliament, and particularly the government, will stop this attack on people's freedom of choice and agree to the speedy enactment of the private member's bill.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 1st, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health. Your committee has studied Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, which includes the definitions of “drug” and “food”, and requests an extension of 30 sitting days to further consider the bill.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 6th, 2005 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour and privilege today of presenting a few hundred signatures from concerned voters across Saskatchewan from the Qu'Appelle and Regina areas. The petitioners call upon the House to enact Bill C-420, which will ensure that dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products will not be arbitrarily restricted as drugs.

They call upon the House to ensure that the freedom of Canadians to explore health care remedies remains with individual Canadians. They encourage all parliamentarians to enact Bill C-420 as quickly as possible.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 4th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to present petitions from across the country in support of my private member's Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Bill C-420 is now being studied by the Standing Committee on Health, and I am proud and humbled by the support I have received to date in my efforts to give Canadians greater choice in personal health care.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 4th, 2005 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from the residents of Don Valley West, petitioning for health freedom. The petitioners say that healthy medicinal foods, herbs, spices, dietary supplements and other natural health and nutritional products should be properly classified as foods. To do this, they are petitioning that Bill C-420 be enacted to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour of presenting a petition on behalf of a number of citizens who reside in my riding of Palliser, most of whom are from the city of Moose Jaw. These petitioners wish to call to the attention of Parliament the following: that Canadians deserve freedom of choice in health care products; that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be properly classified as food and not arbitrarily restricted as drugs; and 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.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in support of the freedom of choice in making health decisions. These petitioners call on Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-harmful preventive and medicinal options. They therefore urge parliamentarians to enact Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 19th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also have some petitions here on Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, in favour of natural health products.

They are from Montreal, Lachute, Blainville, Laval, Quebec City, and from other francophones in la Belle Province.

They are also from Regina, Kipling, and Corning in Saskatchewan. The signatories are in favour of regulating natural health products as foods and not as drugs. People are calling for more freedom of choice in personal health care.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 19th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to present petitions from across the country in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. The bill is a response to the frustration of Canadians by the overregulation of natural health products and will give Canadians the right of choice in their personal health care.

Bill C-420 will be studied in the coming weeks by the Standing Committee on Health. I am proud and humbled by the support I have received to date in my efforts to give Canadians greater choice in personal health care.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 18th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition to present on behalf of my constituents. These petitioners are primarily from Three Hills, Linden, Carbon and Bashaw. They 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 private member's Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 5th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Dale Johnston Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the third petition, the petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-drug preventative medicine options as well as information about these options and to sanction the personal choice of Canadians by clarifying the currently vague definition of food and drug in the outdated 1927/1952 Food and Drugs Act by repealing the outdated provisions against making truthful health claims for the prevention, treatment and cure of health challenges and non-drug approaches by enacting Bill C-420.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. members for their remarks in the House this evening.

Since the first reading in November 2004, I have received an overwhelming amount of support in my riding of Oshawa and from across the country, including thousands of petitions, letters and e-mails. As many know, Bill C-420 was first introduced in the 37th session of Parliament by the member for Nanaimo--Alberni. During that session, Bill C-420 had the support of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who demanded greater freedom in their choice of complementary treatments, dietary supplements, herbs and other natural health products. The only thing that has changed today is the dramatic increase in support.

With health care being one of the biggest concerns for Canadians, we have to stop dithering and take action. The government has spent the last decade talking about endorsing better wellness and prevention. The time for talk is over. Bill C-420 is a significant move toward promoting healthier and safer choices for Canadians.

This bill would amend the Food and Drugs Act to include herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the definition of food as opposed to drugs, and repealing subsections 3(1) and 3(2) in schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

To date, questions have been raised about the actual effects this bill would have on consumer safety and protection. Bill C-420 would simply recategorize natural health products so that they fall under a food-style directorate rather than under a drug-style directorate while continuing to ensure effective manufacturing processes and inspections. We would recommend establishing a team of experts to review and provide a quality assessment of health claims, ensuring that such claims have scientific validity, such as a long history of traditional use without evidence of harm, some scientific merit or established scientific benefit.

It is generally acknowledged that natural health products are low risk, low cost and offer significant benefits to a wide range of costly health problems. Risk must always be addressed in terms of other risks. Even over the counter drugs could be potentially fatal if taken incorrectly, or sometimes even correctly. For example, such things as cough syrup, Aspirin and Tylenol are responsible for deaths in Canada every year. Even common foods such as peanut butter can cause a great deal of harm. Allergies to peanuts result in approximately 5 to 10 deaths in Canada each year. By comparison, since 1960 not one death in Canada has been attributed to a natural health product.

We must keep all these issues in the correct perspective. As my colleague stated in a news release, “In a day of skyrocketing health costs, all avenues of promoting healthier Canadians need to be explored”. By regulating dietary supplements, herbs and natural health products under Health Canada's food directorate, the government would ensure that these products are free of the limitations they face under the current drug directorate.

I would also like to draw attention to the 1998 report “Natural Health Products: A New Vision”, which included a recommendation to review schedule A and subsections 3(1) and 3(2). Former minister of health Allan Rock and the natural health products directorate also echoed this recommendation in 1999, stating that subsections 3(1) and (2) in schedule A of the act are no longer relevant and do not serve a purpose that cannot otherwise be accomplished through other sections of the legislation or regulations.

In closing, I would like to bring up some personal cases about health supplements. In my career as a chiropractor, I saw many people who took drugs for years that caused serious harms to their own bodies. I recall H.B., a wonderful senior suffering from fibromyalgia and arthritis. She took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for so long she developed a serious allergy to the medication which caused severe allergic reactions. There was P.M., a patient with a similar reaction. His last reaction sent him to the hospital. Thank goodness for natural alternatives to these potentially dangerous drugs.

Bill C-420 will put health freedom back into the hands of individual Canadians. It will help provide a more holistic approach and encourage Canadians to take a more responsible and active role in their own health care.

We need to free up our overburdened resources and enhance the availability of potentially curative resources already in the community. I encourage all my colleagues to support Bill C-420 and help move dietary supplements in the right direction, the direction that Canadians want.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in debate on Bill C-420.

Just as an aside before I begin my remarks on the bill, members may be aware that for years I fought for the votability of private members' business. I must say that the quality of debate now is at a much higher level than it used to be years ago.

It is very interesting to listen to the different points of view. The two speakers I have listened to today have me almost convinced. I am hoping that all members of the House of Commons are listening to this debate, because we have to vote on these bills now. I think some very good legislation is proposed here, legislation that we should take note of. I say that as a prelude to commenting on this bill.

This is really a very important bill. Many of us are very busy, but we should take note of what is happening here today because this bill would provide a viable choice for Canadians who find natural health products helpful. There are many in my constituency and across Canada who use natural health products and find them useful and helpful in maintaining health.

Many Canadians are upset that, for reasons they feel are inadequate, the bureaucrats and the politicians are excessively regulating products they find helpful. I stand here today and agree with those Canadians who do not like the excessive regulation that is taking place.

We spend a lot of money treating illnesses in our health care system, yet when there is an opportunity to prevent health problems and reduce costs, we throw roadblocks in the way. That is not acceptable.

People have been using many of these health products throughout human history. Often they are simply the packaging of herbs or other natural substances found in nature.

Bill C-420 should be supported by members on both sides of Parliament because it would advance effectiveness and cost effectiveness of personal health care and, in the end, improve the personal health of Canadians.

Even if members do not believe that we should allow our citizens to have a choice in personal health care, members should support what we are doing. It would bring down the costs. In effect, if we do not support this bill we could be forcing Canadians to use a health care system they would rather avoid.

I was a grower of echinacea. Echinacea is a natural prairie flower called the purple coneflower. It has helped boost the immune systems of many people. It reduces the length and seriousness of illnesses.

It is not possible to patent this herb. Why then does it have to be treated as a drug? Yes, it could be regulated to ensure its purity, but it should be treated more like a food than a drug. That is what Bill C-420 tries to do. To treat it as a drug makes it harder for ordinary people to obtain. It drives up the cost. Those on low or fixed incomes have a more difficult time because it becomes too expensive.

In 1988, the parliamentary health committee, with members from all parties supporting it, put out a report with 53 recommendations. The government accepted all of them. Included was a recommendation that the Food and Drugs Act include natural health products and that the companies be allowed to make health claims.

A team of 17 experts was then assembled to take the committee's work, expand on it and clarify it where necessary. That was the mandate they were given, but let us look at what happened.

In 2001 the government ignored the committee's recommendations, treating natural health products as pharmaceutical drugs with all kinds of hoops and hurdles for natural health products to jump through and over before they could get the approval, just like drugs. That, we know, can take years. For the companies or the people who put out these products, this make them more expensive in the end, and we have improved virtually nothing by doing this.

Canadians rightfully were upset when this happened. The result was that many of the most effective natural health products were removed from the market and were not available to Canadians to improve their health. This urgent situation needs to be corrected.

We should support Bill C-420 and send it to committee to be dealt with as soon as possible. Bill C-420 would treat herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products as a food rather than have them fall under the definition of a drug or we could create some amendments to have a separate category.

Lest members think there are no regulations that food producers have to comply with, let me give an example of some of the safeguards. I am quoting from our food regulatory system:

  1. No person shall sell an article of food that

(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;

(b) is unfit for human consumption

(c) consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(d) is adulterated; or

(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions...

  1. (1) No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.

We obviously have controls already. It is not like we are asking that everything be thrown wide open so that there is no control over what people buy.

Let me give an example of another terrible thing that has happened. This is something that all members here should note. A vitamin-mineral product was developed in Canada that was having a phenomenal effect on people with a mental disorder called bipolar disorder. The results were published in reputable, peer reviewed scientific journals. Health Canada moved in, however, took the success of this natural product as a violation of the law it created. There was absolutely no evidence that the product was harming anyone.

In July 2003 Health Canada shut down everything. It blocked all access to this natural health product. How many people today are suffering because of this act? Health Canada went in just like the KGB, raided offices, confiscated computers, et cetera. Health Canada told the users of this natural health product to go back on expensive drugs that did not work effectively for them.

This was a low cost solution and is a solution that could relieve great human suffering, yet it was denied to many Canadians. This is just one example of where the rubber hits the road on how harmful our present situation is with the way natural health products are treated.

Bill C-420 can put the brakes on a bureaucracy that is out of control. We need to restore the freedom of choice. It is not like there are no controls if we put it back into the category of food or some separate grouping, as I explained earlier. The Department of Health that should be trying to improve the health of Canadians is doing the opposite.

In conclusion, I appeal to all members of the House to support Bill C-420 because it is designed to do something about a department that does not have as its primary interest the health of Canadians when it comes to the use of natural health products. I have had experience with it. I know of what I speak and I hope all members will take note of this, approve the bill, and send it to committee.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of the principle behind the bill. We support Canadians having reasonable and safe access to these products. However, we are concerned that some aspects of the bill may have unintended consequences, and I will speak to that shortly.

Canadians use a lot of natural health products. In 2003 Canadians spent over $1.2 billion on products, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and so on. Add in more than $3.5 billion spent on organic food products, natural personal care products and functional food and we have a sense of the size of this sector and how important it is to Canadians.

We support the safe access of Canadians to these products. With this much money being spent, it is critical that Canadians feel confident about the products presented, their safety and the efficacy.

I depend on the work of my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, who sat on the health committee in 1998 and helped prepare the report on natural health products, from which I have taken a great deal of information.

We believe that natural health products do not fit in either the food category or the drug category and that Health Canada must move toward a third category that has already been referenced. The definition of food would not cover natural health products that are applied topically, such as a cream, or others that are injected.

The Canadian Health Food Association, in its report to members on Bill C-420, states that:

Pursuing the former Standing Committee on Health's recommendation for a distinct third category would better serve the industry at this time than would redefining NHPs as foods.

The current definition of food prohibits claims, other than basic nutritional information and a few generic health claims for food products. Under the new NHP Regulations industry has the ability to make a wide range of claims for its products based upon appropriate evidence. Without extensive amendments to the food definition and regulations this ability to make claims would likely be lost if NHPs were redefined as foods.

Further, food labelling regulations do not allow for dosing information or for the listing of warnings and contraindications, information needed by consumers to make appropriate product choices.

Industry has invested significant resources, both financial and human, in developing and now complying with the Natural Health Products Regulations. We do not want to see this effort go to waste if NHPs are redefined as “foods”. The existing NDP Regulations may not be transferred over to the food side and may actually have to be recreated in line with existing food regulations if NHPs are redefined as foods.

I think the explanation from the Canadian Health Food Association is pretty clear as to why redefining NHPs as food may have unintended consequences.

However, other parts of the bill deserve some serious consideration. Both CHFA and the Canadian Medical Association would like Health Canada to revisit schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

Its definitions of diseases and conditions is too broad. A product that could help regulate blood pressure could not make that assertion because heart disease is one of the conditions under schedule A.

There are still many conditions for which we do not believe people should be encouraged to self-medicate, so we do not believe schedule A should be completely repealed.

Schedule 3 is also important to the NDP. Recent events, like the Vioxx recall, point to the direct-to-consumer advertising as part of the problem. People saw so many advertisements about this wonderful drug, which would make them pain free, that they pressured their doctors to prescribe Vioxx. We need to continue to regulate direct to consumer advertising as part of overall consumer safety and to reduce over-prescribing that increases health care costs.

I would like to turn to the 1998 report from our previous health committee on “Natural Health Products: A New Vision”. It has a succinct definition of health claims. It states:

Health claims, meanwhile, are statements of the effect of a product on the health of an individual made by the manufacturer or distributor, and displayed on the product label or literature. The Committee was told that there were generally three different categories of health claims. According to the APNHP, they are defined as follows. Structure-function claims report the effect of a product on a structure or physiological function in the human body and are based on the maintenance or promotion of good health. Risk-reduction claims relate consumption of a product to significant reduction in the risk of developing a disease or abnormal physiological state. Risk reduction may occur in two ways. One, the product may alter a recognized major health risk factor or factors of a disease or abnormal state. Two, it may affect a body function or system so as to improve the body's capacity to resist the disease or abnormal state.

Therapeutic or treatment claims report the effects of a product on the actions of a specific disease or its symptoms. Treatment can include the cure or alleviation of either the disease or its symptoms.

There are a couple of examples of health claims, one under structure: “calcium builds strong bones”. Another under risk reduction is that “garlic decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases”. A therapeutic or treatment claim says that “St. John's Wort is useful in the treatment of mild to moderate depression”. This is all from the final report of the advisory panel on natural health products in May 1998.

The NDP agrees with the committee's report, which stated that no health claim should be allowed without evidence to back it up. Their recommendations are reasonable when it comes to making health claims about natural health products. These are some of the report's recommendations:

NHPs be allowed to make health claims, including structure-function claims, risk-reduction claims and treatment claims;

Claims be assessed to ensure that there is reasonable evidence supporting the claim;

The evidence not be limited to double blind clinical trials but also include other types of evidence such as generally accepted and traditional references, professional consensus, other types of clinical trials and other clinical or scientific evidence;

The evidence required vary depending on the type of claim being made, with different evidence being required for structure-function claims and risk-reduction claims for minor self-limiting conditions than for therapeutic or treatment claims;

The label indicates clearly the type of evidence used to support the claim.

We want this bill to come forward to the committee so we can look at the regulations and the recent changes that Health Canada has made to enable natural health product suppliers to move more quickly to get their products approved. We would encourage the House to support the bill going forward to committee so we can have a much fuller debate around these critical issues.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased today to speak on Bill C-420 to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

The aim of this bill, which was introduced and read the first time on October 21, 2004, is to ensure that natural health products are no longer designated as drugs but rather as food.

I want to state right off that my party will vote in favour of the bill to amend the Food and Drugs Act, but on certain conditions. During the short time I have now, I will present the conditions for our support for this bill at second reading.

First, it is essential, in our opinion, to amend the current Food and Drugs Act. Why? So that these new concerns, these new types of uses of natural products, for example, can be included in the Canada Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the use of these natural health products by people in Quebec and Canada. According to a study by Health Canada in 1997, more than 56% of Canadians had taken a natural health product during the previous six months.

More and more, Quebeckers and Canadians believe that we must take a complementary approach and not just limit ourselves to traditional medicine. We must, however, also ensure that the aspects of alternative medicine, complementary medicine, or holistic medicine can be integrated into our decision-making processes. If we observe that our fellow citizens are taking more natural health products, then legislation must be in place.

What has the government done in recent years with respect to natural health products? Instead of amending the Food and Drug Act as it should have done, and as the Standing Committee on Health recommended back in 1998, the government simply adopted or had adopted regulations on natural health products. This of course is a step in the right direction. It was time for the government to acknowledge, through regulation, that the Canadian public is using these products more and more.

However, what do the regulations that came into effect in January 2004 actually do? They cover definitions, licences for marketing, and good manufacturing practices. Still, even with regulations, natural health products will continue to be defined as drugs, or sometimes even as foods. So, depending on the product, these products will not necessarily be considered foods or drugs. There is ambiguity in the way these natural health products are categorized in the legislation.

That is a problem the bill does not solve. Should all natural health products be considered foods? Of course not. Is there not a characteristic, a value, specific to natural health products? Are natural health products necessarily foods or even drugs? The answer is no, not necessarily.

This is why we need to create a new category in the Food and Drugs Act. Why? Because natural health products could, to some degree in the years to come end up excluded from the market. Why so? Because, if considered drugs, these products would be subject to a comparable accreditation process.

Is a natural health product a drug? The answer is no. Consequently, if these products are not drugs, why would they have to be subject to the same registration and approval process as drugs? The danger in the present legislation lies in the fact that these products are at risk of being eliminated from the market. A better balance needs to be struck, therefore, between access and the possibility of access by the public to these natural health products, while assuring the people of Quebec and of Canada of their quality and safety.

The Food and Drugs Act therefore needs to be changed. That is what Bill C-420, which we have before us, permits. This bill would have natural health products considered foods, except where safety and proper labelling obligations are concerned. They would continue to be under the umbrella, if I can put it that way, of drugs.

It must be remembered that this House and its members have analyzed this matter and reflected on it. They have heard a number of witnesses and a number of questions concerning this new issue—a new concern—that is, the use of natural health products.

In a report from the Standing Committee on Health, which contained over fifty recommendations to the government, parliamentarians asked the government for better management of these natural health products because sometimes these can—it must be admitted—deviate from acceptable safety standards.

We have to strike a balance between our obligation as parliamentarians to protect public health and, our allowing people who believe in a new complementary approach to medicine to have access to these natural health products. We have to make sure these people, who also believe in a preventive approach to health, can have access to this type of product that aims at better complementarity.

This is one of the major conclusions the Standing Committee on Health came to. I sat on the committee and was a signatory to the report in 1988, with my colleague from Drummond, who asked to create a new distinct category of natural health products in order to recognize the unique and intrinsic values of the natural health care products.

During the minute I have remaining, I want to say in this House and to the sponsor of this bill that we will support Bill C-420 at this stage. However, we plan to present an amendment at the parliamentary committee to create a new unique and separate category called natural health products. This will be done so that the recommendations made by parliamentarians in 1988, which were included in a report by the Standing Committee on Health, will be heard in this House.

Our support for Bill C-420 is far from definitive. However, at this stage, we will support it, but we will be sure to propose amendments at committee.

Natural Health ProductsStatements By Members

February 7th, 2005 / 2:05 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-420 is back on the parliamentary agenda. With the help of my colleague from Oshawa, Bill C-420 was reintroduced on October 21, 2004. The second hour of debate will soon be occurring before a second reading vote.

The bill is about natural health product regulation. It is about freedom of choice in personal health care.

Canadians want the government to understand that vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids are not drugs. They are what we are made of. They want their natural health products regulated under a food style directorate, not as drugs. That is what Bill C-420 is all about.

Bill C-420 would amend the Food and Drugs Act. It would open the definition of food to include natural health products. It would open the definition of drug and exclude food. It would also scrap antiquated sections 3(1), 3(2) and schedule A that prevent health claims for natural health products, even when they are based on sound science.

Under Bill C-420 we would develop good manufacturing practices, inspections and quality assessments for health claims.

It is time to let natural health products take their place as a foundation for a wellness and disease prevention strategy that can help put Canada on the forefront of real health care reform.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 3rd, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition today on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan from several ridings, including my own, a petition about the modern scientific evidence for mitigation and prevention of disease through the use of natural health products. The petitioners call upon Parliament to support greater freedom and choice in their personal natural health care products. In particular, they are calling for support for the legislation introduced by the hon. member for Oshawa, Bill C-420.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / noon
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Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about this bill.

I believe, having read Bill C-420, that it does not, as it is written, meet the needs of Canadians and would in fact require the development of a new framework for natural health products as foods. This would come at a considerable cost for government and industry alike, but also for the consumers.

Indeed, as the parliamentary secretary who spoke before me mentioned, this bill does not ensure the same degree of safety and access to product information as the current natural health products regulations.

Passing this bill would go against the wishes of Canadians and the Standing Committee on Health, which, in 1998, held sessions on how to regulate such products.

The Natural Health Products Regulations, which came into force in January of this year, are the result of recommendations made in 1998 by the Standing Committee on Health which identified a need to draft a new regulatory framework just for natural health products.

Canadians have asked for suitable regulation of natural health products that are used for therapeutic purposes in order to ensure safety. Comprehensive public consultations were held in preparation of the current regulations, and more than 150 witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Health. Health Canada held its own consultations by handing out more than 21,000 workbooks, responding to 2,300 phone calls and visiting 11 towns from one end of the country to the other, giving some 2,100 participants the opportunity to express their opinion on this matter.

The current regulations reflect the opinions and concerns expressed by Canadians during this process, and these regulations take into account the various points of view expressed by consumers, industry representatives, doctors and specialists in the field and other stakeholders.

The regulation has only come into effect in January of this year. That regulation is the result of extensive consultations, both by the health committee in 1998 and by Health Canada. I would ask the members of the House not to support this private member's bill, and to allow the regulation the time to show its worth.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / 11:25 a.m.
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West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on the subject of this private member's bill, Bill C-420. The bill requests that the Food and Drugs Act be amended to classify dietary supplements, herbs and other natural health products as foods.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to revoke section 3 of the Food and Drugs Act, which prohibits the advertising to the general public of any food, drug, cosmetic or device for the treatment, prevention or cure of any of the diseases listed in schedule A of the act.

The bill attempts to use a very simple approach in dealing with a very complex issue and does not consider all the ramifications which would result. This bill would not ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of natural health products to the same degree as the current regulations.

The current natural health product regulations came into force on January 1, 2004. These regulations were developed after extensive consultations with Canadians, consultations which demonstrate that Canadians want a regulatory framework that ensures an appropriate level of safety and provides accurate information upon which to make informed choices about products. The natural health products regulations meet these demands.

Furthermore, these regulations support consumer confidence in the natural health sector and provide an appropriate and safe regulatory framework for natural health products.

Furthermore, revoking section 3 in schedule A without completing a comprehensive review and analysis of its impact would not be consistent with this government's commitment to ensuring the health and safety of Canadians in a manner that respects their views and opinions.

If this bill is passed, the regulation of natural health products in this country will be worse than at present. At the moment, there are more than 50,000 natural health products on the Canadian market covered by regulations which make them easily accessible and safe, effective and of optimum quality while at the same time providing for freedom of choice and cultural diversity.

Bill C-420 would result in natural health products, which are now regulated as subsets of drugs, being regulated as foods. However, natural health products are taken for therapeutic reasons and not for purposes of caloric intake or hunger. For this reason, natural health products are more appropriately regulated as a subset of drugs, but with their own set of regulations appropriate for products of this class.

The reclassification of natural health products as foods would not ensure the appropriate regulation of these products. Treating natural health products as foods, as proposed by Bill C-420, would not address the true differences between therapeutic products and food products and would not ensure the safety of Canadians in the same manner as the natural health product regulations.

As members are aware, foods, with very exceptions, are not subject to pre-market review and food labels do not provide treatment, dosage or warning information. The natural health products regulations require products to receive pre-market review and market authorization for sale in Canada. They also require site licences and adherence to good manufacturing practices for the manufacturing, packaging, labelling and importation for sale of natural health products.

Equally important, the natural health product regulations contain provisions regarding clinical trials and adverse reaction reporting. Bill C-420 does not address these safety requirements.

The regulations as they stand guarantee that such products are manufactured in keeping with strict safety and quality standards. They also allow natural health products to make numerous health claims, provided these are substantiated.

Pre-sale assessment and good manufacturing processes are measures aimed at ensuring that pertinent information is included on the labelling as well as stipulating exactly what must be on the label. In short, the regulations ensured that natural health products are both safe and effective.

This bill will, for all intents and purposes, eliminate the natural health products regulations, as well as product licences already issued under those regulations, not to mention the ten thousand or so drug identification numbers attributed to products now to be classified as natural health products.

As written, Bill C-420 does not meet the needs of Canadians and would require the development of a new framework for natural health products as foods. This would come at considerable cost for government and industry alike. Indeed, as members have seen, this bill does not ensure the same degree of safety and access to product information as the current natural health products regulations.

The passage of this bill would also not fulfill the manner in which Canadians and the Standing Committee on Health have requested these products be regulated. The natural health products regulations were developed based upon the 1998 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health that a new and appropriate regulatory framework be developed for natural health products.

Canadians have asked that natural health products be regulated in an appropriate manner that ensures the safety of these products. In developing this framework, extensive consultations were undertaken in order to ensure the regulations take into account the full range of input provided by consumers, industry, practitioners and stakeholder groups.

Just as the natural health products regulations were developed only after extensive review and consultation with stakeholders, any changes to section 3 in schedule A should only be undertaken after considering the views of Canadians.

Section 3 in schedule A was introduced into the act as a mechanism to prevent fraud in advertising and labelling, to prohibit the advertisement and sale of treatments for conditions where self-treatment was not considered safe, and to encourage Canadians to seek medical attention for serious conditions.

In this area science and medicine are evolving. While there is still no known cure for many of the diseases listed in schedule A, such as arthritis and diabetes, modern therapies allow these chronic conditions to be successfully managed.

For example. a product could reduce the discomfort resulting from a specific health problem or slow down the progression of a disease. It is possible as well that new products might successfully treat diseases against which today's medicines have not been effective, without in any way diminishing the importance of the role played by the diagnosis , treatment and medical management of serious illness.

In its 1998 report “Natural Health Products: A new vision”, the Standing Committee on Health concluded that the present provisions of section 3 and Schedule A might unduly restrict health promotion advertising from which the consumer might benefit, and prevent self-medication where this might be justified.

However, the committee also found that many Canadians felt that section 3 in schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act still served a useful purpose, but needed to be modernized to reflect current concerns. Canadians continue to express these views.

Health Canada has undertaken significant efforts to review this issue in order to find solutions to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. In 2003 Health Canada initiated a review of section 3 in schedule A through an external working group consisting of representatives from academia, industry, media groups, government and consumer groups.

Consistent with the Standing Committee on Health recommendations, the working groups unanimously agreed that section 3 in schedule A needed to be amended to meet the needs of Canadian society. However, there were differences in opinion as to what would be the best manner to make such changes.

From the outset, the working group recognized that the issues before it were many faceted and would encourage much debate. Health Canada continues to move forward on this issue. The department is currently considering all proposals made by the external working group. For the reasons mentioned and many others, the Government of Canada cannot support Bill C-420 as proposed.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to congratulate my colleague on presenting Bill C-420. It is a very important bill for Canadians.

In the 37th Parliament a similar bill made it to second reading with the help of members from all sides of the House. It was at committee stage when the House folded for the election, but during that interval we have already had over 150,000 signatures on petitions in support of the bill. We are still receiving signatures in favour of the bill, which would change the way natural health products are regulated.

I think it is important for Canadians to understand that the bill would still allow for good manufacturing practices and for office and site inspections. We want to make sure that what is on the label is in the bottle and that the appropriate part of the product is still in the product, that is, the active ingredients and so on. That is part of the bill.

Because the member did not have time to bring it up in his speech, I want to draw attention to a study done by the Fraser Institute on this very thing. They discussed Canada's proposed regulatory framework on natural health products in light of international evidence. The study was called “A Cure Worse than the Illness”.

The report talks about the safety of natural health products and points out, as the member has, that the risk factor is so low with natural health products. With the some 60,000 natural health products that Canadians consume, there are fewer serious adverse reactions than there are to Aspirin or Tylenol alone.

The member mentioned melatonin. I know that with his experience as a health care practitioner he would be aware of the benefits of chromium picolinate for diabetics and folic acid for cardiovascular disease. Would he care to comment on the safety of natural health products and some of the benefits that he has observed in his own practice as a health care practitioner?

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

moved that Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to reintroduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

As we know, the bill was originally introduced by the member for Nanaimo—Alberni in the 37th session of Parliament. In the last Parliament, the bill passed second reading by a vote of 124 to 85, with support from all sides of the House. It was sent to the Standing Committee on Health where the bill was enthusiastically debated. It ultimately died when the House recessed for the last election.

Bill C-420 was a response from Canadians to Health Canada's attempt to regulate natural health products under a drug directorate. Approximately one million Canadians voiced their displeasure toward having natural health products being regulated as drugs. Health Canada has a long history of bias against natural health products. The response to natural health products has been called “bureaucratic obstructionism” by some.

In the 36th Parliament, the minister of the day called on the health committee to look into this. The committee tabled its report, “Natural Health Products: A new vision”, in November 1998, now over six years ago. “A new vision” brought forth 53 recommendations, including:

  1. Natural health products be allowed to make health claims, including structure-function claims, risk-reduction claims and treatment claims.

  2. Health Canada immediately initiate a review of the diseases listed in Schedule A to ensure that only appropriate diseases are included and, where relevant, specific diseases be exempted by regulation from the broad terms found in Schedule A.

  3. Health Canada, subsequently, conduct a study with the participation of representatives from consumer groups, the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, and health practitioners to determine whether subsections 3(1) and (2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed in Schedule A should be deleted.

In the opposition's minority report, drafted by Dr. Grant Hill, Reed Elley and the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, it was stated that the committee's overall report recommends a continuation of the existing situation of a paternal federal government that must protect Canadians from the unknown evils of natural health products. This is inconsistent with Canadians' experience that shows overwhelmingly an incredibly safe historical pattern of use of natural health products.

Canadians universally recognize natural health products as basically foods, certainly not drugs, especially when consumed in the dosage and form recommended. The existing overemphasis on government control, licensing and regulation of mostly benign consumer products could be greatly simplified.

By regulating natural health products under the purview of Health Canada's Food Directorate, the opposition believed we could ensure that these substances are viewed within the culture most familiar to them and thereby never again fall victim to the intimidating practices and procedures of the Drugs Directorate.

The opposition still believes Canadians deserve and will continue to demand much more freedom of choice over natural health products. The opposition, the Reform Party at the time, “believes an informed Canadian consumer will always be a better judge of what is best for them and their loved ones than some distant bureaucrat in Ottawa”.

The NDP minority report also expressed concerns about the reclassification of herbs as drugs, the inability of the Health Protection Branch to regulate in a fair and balanced way, and the need to respect the expressed wishes of Canadians for freedom of choice and access to natural health products.

Minister of health Allan Rock accepted the report's recommendations on March 26, 1999. The government then set up an office of natural health products transition team and accepted their clarification and expansion of the 53 recommendations of the health committee. In its final report, the transition team stated:

Sections 3(1) and 3(2) and Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act are no longer relevant. They do not serve any purpose that cannot be accomplished adequately by other sections of the legislation or regulations.

More importantly, the schedule does not reflect contemporary scientific thought. The weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders listed in Schedule A through the judicious use of natural health products. It is time that the legislation and regulations reflect the prevailing science.

Section 30(1)(m) of the Act grants the authority to add anything to, or delete anything from, the Schedule of Act.

The transition team recommended that subsection 30(1) of the Food and Drugs Act should be invoked to remove all diseases listed in schedule A, and that subsections 3(1) and 3(2) should be revoked through the legislative renewal initiative.

All Canadians are concerned with the safety of herbs, dietary supplements and other natural products, and all Canadians want to ensure that there is accountability in any health claims made by the sellers of natural health products. These safeguards already exist in the Food and Drugs Act:

  1. No person shall sell an article of food that

(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;

(b) is unfit for human consumption;

(c) consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(d) is adulterated; or

(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions.

  1. (1) No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.

Similar clauses exist for both food and drugs and devices.

By bringing herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the umbrella of food by definition, consumers are protected from false or misleading claims, and product safety is ensured.

While the Department of Health stated that “the regulatory regime for drugs under the food and drugs regulation is viewed as far too rigorous for these products, given the history of safe use that most of these products have enjoyed”, it still chose to regulate natural health products as a subset of drugs. This was contrary to the opposition's minority report and the wishes of many Canadians.

The bill is basically taken from the committee's recommendations and further work done subsequently. As I previously stated, the bill seeks to bring herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the purview of Health Canada's Food Directorate by amending the definition of both food and drugs in the Food and Drugs Act and to implement the recommendations of the office of natural health products transition team by repealing subsections 3(1), 3(2) and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

Section 3 and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act were adopted in 1934 when there were no known treatments for many diseases. Things have changed a lot since 1934 and it is long overdue that these changes take place.

The diseases listed in schedule A include alcoholism, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, diseases of the prostate, heart disease, liver disease, et cetera. This means that there is an outright ban on advertising, even if there is scientific evidence supporting the claim.

ASasThe act unintentionally restricts the dissemination of information to the public. Is it beneficial to the consumer and in the interest of good health?

It is generally agreed that natural health products have minimum to no risk associated with them. In the absence of scientific evidence to the contrary, a long history of human usage is generally sufficient evidence to suggest a product's safety.

For example, most people consider aspirin to be safe. When it was first introduced to the public in the late 1800s, little was known about it and there was no standardized testing for safety. Still today every year patients die from taking aspirin, often in the correct doses for the correct ailment. In 1998, 45 people died from reactions to aspirin.

Does the House know that aspirin was originally manufactured from white willow bark, a natural health product commonly used by the country's aboriginal peoples? White willow bark is still a popular natural health product used today. Does it make sense to restrict information on a natural health product but not on the drug made from it when the natural health product is cheaper and safer?

In the standing committee's report of 1998 it was stated:

Although we feel that the government has a responsibility to protect public health and safety, this should not be applied in a way that unreasonably denies consumers access to products that they perceive to be necessary for their well-being.

Health Canada has a history of enforcing and regulating these harmless products as if they were strong and often dangerous drugs. There are already too many enforcement officers barging into health food stores, raiding shelves, escorted by the RCMP. Why do we need to spend so much time and so many of our resources taking harmless products, such as melatonin and stevia, off the shelves? Does the Government of Canada not have better uses for Canadian taxpayer money?

Let us take, for example, a product developed in Alberta: Empower Plus. This product has been helping patients with bipolar disease and manic depression. People with these problems are at a high risk of suicide and are sometimes not very productive in their lives. There are over 3,000 Canadians finding a benefit from this product.

The Province of Alberta initiated a scientific response to this product and the Alberta Science and Research Authority approved and funded a $544,000 study. Preliminary results have already been published in at least four peer-reviewed psychiatric journals. Amazingly, Health Canada interpreted news of this success as a subsection 3(1) violation and shut down the study. Last July, Health Canada, while accompanied by the RCMP, raided the company's offices and began obstructing access to the product. This makes no sense at all.

Many of my colleagues here today are aware of Bill C-420, as it has had a great deal of discussion. I am specifically making reference to the 1998 report to the Standing Committee on Health.

Most Canadians recognize natural health products as low concentrations of foods and, recognizing this, Bill C-420 would regulate them as such. For example, garlic has been used for centuries not only to season foods but for its health properties. Garlic has a number of health promoting benefits, including being recognized for having well known antiviral properties. It would not be far off to say that most people would consider garlic a food.

Another example is the purple coneflower, more commonly known as echinacea. This readily available herb is vastly popular, especially during flu season. It is known to decrease the duration and severity of colds.

Last night I took a well known and researched sleep aid, melatonin. This product cannot be sold in Canada, but it is allowed into this country for personal use. It is ludicrous that this product can be imported for personal use but cannot be sold here.

Because of the way our present laws are written, we cannot advertise or label the effects of well known, researched products.

Bill C-420 is designed to rid us of antiquated laws that were made in the 1930s when little was known about natural health products. It is time that our laws reflect this new reality of the science we now have.

Bill C-420 was also designed to bring Canada into the 21st century. In my own career as a health care practitioner, I saw first-hand the benefit of natural health products.

John L., a patient who suffered from arthritis for years, relied on Aspirin to take away his pain. After years of taking Aspirin, his liver and kidneys were damaged and he developed an allergy to Aspirin. What could he take then? The answer for John was a common natural health product, glucosamine sulphate. This product worked well for John and helped him maintain a reasonable quality of life.

Another patient, Martin K., was told he would have to take cholesterol lowering drugs for the rest of his life. After reading about the serious side effects and the possibility of death, he decided to research an alternative. After several months on an exercise program and a vitamin and mineral regime, he was happy to report that he no longer required the commonly prescribed dangerous drug and his cholesterol levels were normal.

Patients like these deserve the right to have access to information and products to make educated decisions in regard to their own health. Canadians need to be able to make informed choices when it comes to their own health.

I encourage all members to support this bill because Canadians are demanding better access to natural health products in a number of ways. We want better access and more comprehensive information and labelling so that Canadians will know how these products can make them healthy and keep them healthy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 11:50 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Chair, a lot of serious concerns have been raised about what is causing this escalating epidemic, really, of autism; that is probably not the right terminology, but the numbers are escalating unbelievably.

There are concerns about the repeated use of antibiotics for childhood ear infections. That may be a root cause. There are concerns about the vaccines that are administered, about the thimerosal or the mercury that is used in the vaccines. Some states in the U.S. have demanded that they start producing vaccines without mercury derivatives, which are highly neurotoxic.

I hope that there is someone, and why should it not be Canada, leading the world in actually addressing these issues, finding out if there is a root issue, doing some proper studies and making sure we get appropriate intervention for these children. Why should it not be Canada?

That being said, I want to go on to another issue that I believe is very important. We had a little talk today about health promotion and prevention by the member for Brampton—Springdale and the member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

I want to say on the Food and Drugs Act, subsections 3(1) and 3(2) and schedule A, which continue to obstruct delivery of natural health products, that we understand the justice department has indicated that these sections are not constitutional, that they will not stand a constitutional challenge. There is a private member's bill that would change this.

The transition team asked for changes to this law. Is the minister prepared to acknowledge these sections are not constitutional and adopt the provisions of Bill C-420 to change the way we regulate natural health products?

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

October 21st, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to have the bill numbered Bill C-420?

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

October 21st, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Mr. Speaker, the bill I rise to introduce is an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. In the 37th Parliament the bill was known as Bill C-420 and was sponsored by the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

The bill is about freedom of choice in personal health care. It is about changing antiquated clauses in the Food and Drugs Act which have had a perverse and adverse effect on the way we regulate natural food products.

In the last Parliament the bill passed second reading by a vote of 124-85 with support of members on all sides of the House.

I know the importance of the bill to Canadians who want access to safe, natural alternatives that help to build healthy bodies and reduce health costs. I know it is a matter of much interest to Canadians and I hope it will receive support from all sides of the House.

I have spoken to all parties and I would like to ask for unanimous consent to retain the designation of the bill as Bill C-420.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 14th, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present three petitions on behalf of the people of Edmonton Southwest and the surrounding communities.

The first petition deals with natural health products. These petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-drug preventive and medicinal 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 outdated 1927 and 1952 Food and Drugs Acts.

They also call on Parliament to pass Bill C-420.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have about 1,000 signatures on a petition from people right across the country from Cape Breton Island to Vancouver Island. They call upon Parliament to implement my private member's Bill C-420.

The petitioners are protesting subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act that say: “No person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A”.

The petitioners say that is unscientific, antiquated, and it is from 1934. They ask Parliament to update that so that Canadians can have access to safe natural health products.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 23rd, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition involves my private member's bill, Bill C-420, involving natural health products.

The petition contains some 600 signatures, in addition to the more than 120,000 that have already been presented. The petitioners come from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, across the nation actually, and many communities in my own riding.

They are calling upon the government to make sure that natural health products are made available and that they are properly classified as foods and not as drugs. These are low cost, non-patentable items. People want access to the products that they have relied upon. They do not want them regulated, as the government has proposed and has started to implement, as drugs, which makes them unavailable and restricted unnecessarily.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 17th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition with nearly 900 signatures. It is on the subject of private member's Bill C-420.

The petitioners are calling on the government to respect the freedom of choice of Canadians in health care products. They suggest that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be classified as food and not arbitrarily restricted as drugs. They also remind Parliament 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.

We hope that all members will support that bill.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

February 5th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the people of my riding of Yellowhead and as Conservative Party senior critic of health as well as intergovernmental affairs.

We really have to ask ourselves a question before starting out. We have to get a sense of where the throne speech is going because it is a document that looks into the future. We have to first talk about where we are at in health care today. We then have to talk about how we got there and where we are going, as laid out in the throne speech.

I would like to point out, as aggressively as I possibly can, the dysfunctionality of the throne speech in moving us forward into the 21st century in this area. Where are we in health care today? That is a question we all need to ask ourselves, because any day we pick up a paper we find massive problems in health care. We find waiting lists becoming extreme to the point where over a million people are on waiting lists right now waiting for serious surgeries and operations for problems they have. Many of them are dying while on these waiting lists before they can even get to the system that we cherish so much in Canada, this cherished health care system.

We have patients dying in emergency rooms. Hon. members should see the turmoil in Nanaimo, B.C. or Saskatchewan where we have doctors actually mutinying. We have never seen this before in the history of this country. When we talk about health care in Canada, we have never seen so much disunity, but more than that, people hitting the end of the rope and saying that enough is enough and they cannot handle it any more.

I saw the Minister of Health the night before last on television saying that there were no waiting lists in this country, that if people have an emergency problem they will be looked after. He should tell that to the lady who had a miscarriage while waiting over five hours in an emergency room. He should have said that to individuals before they died of heart attacks while on waiting lists or in emergency rooms. These are cases that are not just specific. These things are happening right across this nation as we speak today. They have to be addressed. We have to look at where we are going in health care.

To understand some of the difficulties and how we got here, we also have to look at the human resources problem, the shortage of doctors and nurses. It is interesting that my colleague, who is a doctor, spoke, in response to the Speech from the Throne, about his training. While he was training, another individual, who was an immigrant, was also being trained. That individual came up to the standard of the United States qualifications and was to go back to the United States, although he was trained here. We would not accept him with those same training qualifications here. There is something wrong when we have such dire shortages that we have individuals dying in this country and we are not opening our arms to these highly trained individuals from other countries. We have to do something about the human resources problem. There are two fundamental problems: the waiting lists and human resources. I will talk more about those things shortly.

We had the SARS outbreak that told us an awful lot about what was happening in this country and how we lacked in preparedness for these kinds of situations. We also have looming on the horizon a potential influenza virus. It is to be hoped that will not mutate into human to human contact, but we are watching that with great interest because it could become so serious it would make the SARS outbreak hardly worth mentioning. Nonetheless, are we prepared? Are we ready? What lessons have we learned?

The federal-provincial strained relationship is something I am also very concerned about because of what has happened in the past on health care. Never before have we seen such a situation as we have in health care today in Canada.

How did we get here? That is a pretty good question. Let us look at the legacy of the Prime Minister. He says that health care is a number one priority of this country. That is what the Prime Minister is saying. Yet I wonder if that is true when we really look at what he has done in the past. If we want to know where an individual is going, we only have to look at where he has been. That will tell us where he is about to go. We have seen from the Prime Minister in the past the massive unilateral cuts in 1995. When we talk of unilateral cuts, these are not cuts where we sit down and negotiate and then decide that this is in the best interest of everybody before we cut. These were unilateral cuts, cuts that came just because one individual said that he wanted to balance the budget, and it was on the back of health care.

It is really interesting when we look at the numbers and the priorities. We say maybe at that time the finance minister had no options. Maybe he had to do something with a deficit budget, which he did. It is all about priorities and obviously health care was not one of those priorities, $25 billion. It is unbelievable.

At that same time it is interesting to note that subsidies to businesses rose $700 million or 20%. At that same time the increase in bureaucracy spending was $1.3 billion or another 6% added to the additional budgets.

That was not at the same time that health care was put on back bench. Health care was exploited. That destroyed the fifty-fifty arrangement we had with the provinces with regard to health care. That was something that had been cherished for a number of decades as medicare came into being in the provincial-federal relationship as a national project.

That was destroyed by the unilateral cuts. It destroyed the relationship of the provincial and federal governments. Worse than that, it drove nurses and doctors out of our training institutions because they closed down those training slots and anyone who was working in the system had to go for employment south of the border. Our brightest and best were driven out of this nation.

At that time the country's medical and nursing associations said that in 10 years we would pay a price. Well, here we are, 10 years later and we are paying that price. We do not have the human resources to deal with the problems. What are we going to do about it?

Let us look at our health care system. It is amazing that every time we talk about the health care system in an intellectual dialogue about health care, everyone thinks that the American system is coming. That is absolutely false. There is not a provincial government or a party in this House that is advocating the American system.

In fact, the Americans rated 37th in the world as far as how good their health system is. We should not be bragging much either because ours rates 30th. We should be looking at who are the 29 above us and what can we learn from them to develop the health care system in the 21st century that will meet the needs of Canadians. That is where we need to go.

It is amazing when we look at the Speech from the Throne. We see now what we have. We talked about how we got here. Are we looking ahead? Is the throne speech truly a window into the future as to where the government and the Prime Minister want to take this country as far as health care is concerned? It does sort of look ahead but it does not look back or talk about the past and the failures because it is not a very pretty picture at all. The Prime Minister is the cause, not the cure, for many of the problems we are dealing with in health care.

The throne speech is long on generalities and recycles many old pledges but it is very short on any specifics. There are some specific failures. It failed to mention last year's health accord. It was the first time that we had the provincial and federal governments sit down, hammer out a deal and agree upon it. We could debate whether they got everything they wanted, but they agreed with it. We should be saying there is an agreement and let us at least achieve what both levels of government agreed upon at that time. There is no mention of the failures in the throne speech on that front at all.

There is also a failure to outline a timetable for the creation of a Canadian public health agency. We saw what went on with SARS. We know the potential pandemic that will come some day. All we have is supposedly the appointment of a chief medical officer. I will talk more about that later.

There is also a failure to include the pledges for stable, long term funding for health care. It is really interesting. Why would that be? We may say that the throne speech does not do that sort of thing but that is not true. That is exactly what was announced for the cities. In fact, it was retroactive from the throne speech. Yet looking ahead, health care is not getting any stable funding.

I have to mention the stable funding. I challenge the government to stop playing the numbers game with the provinces. In 2000, just before going into an election by the way, the Liberals announced $21 billion to go into health care, but not a nickel of that money, which is the foundational money that goes into health care, went in until April of the next year. Then it was a five year allotment of money after that period of time.

Then the Liberals came out in 2003, when three years were still left in the original agreement of 2000, and reannounced that same money. They ran around the country saying that they were putting another $34.8 billion into health care.

Why would the provinces sit there and not believe the government? They know the numbers are wrong and they know that old numbers have been reannounced. They know that the government is just playing politics with the numbers. I challenge the government not to play politics with the numbers. That may work for the average citizen out there, but it does not work with the relationship with the provinces which have the mandate to deliver on health care. It just destroys their credibility.

That is what has been done with the $2 billion that was announced in the throne speech. There is not a government in the land, certainly not a Prime Minister that is going into an election, that would not have announced that $2 billion. It would have been political suicide if he did not. Why play coy for the last month on whether that $2 billion was going to be announced this month or not? How ridiculous that would be. There was not a reporter in the country, not a party in the country, not a person in the other party who believed that that $2 billion was not going to go in, so why play this game? It destroys credibility. Credibility is absolutely paramount if we are going to work together in the 21st century on health care.

It is very important that we understand some of the things that should have been talked about in the throne speech but were not. They should have been talked about in the first ministers meeting on the Friday before the throne speech, the failures of the health accord.

If we look at the health accord, there are a lot of things that are good, that reflect some of the views we have and are agreed upon by most people in the House. Those are restoring funding to the core health services, the flexibility of provinces to implement those new services, the flexibility of delivering the options of a new public health care system, and the dedicated health transfers which is to stop the nonsense about what money goes where, to clear that up. All of those things were agreed upon in the health accord. We agreed with those.

There were a lot of things that were agreed upon in the health accord and were not accomplished in the last year. There was supposed to be a minimum basket of services for home care. There was a date in the accord and that had to be accomplished by September last year. Also in September last year, the health services performance indicators were not there at all. They have not taken place to date. It was promised that they would be looked after by last September. Also, the health council was supposed to take place last May and did not actually happen until December. Why would that happen? Even when it was in December and the health council was announced, there were two provinces saying that it was not what they had agreed to at the health accord.

When the government sat down and met with the provinces again, which happened last Friday with the Prime Minister, we would think that the first thing on the agenda would not have been the $2 billion but would have been the issues that were not dealt with which both sides had agreed to just the year before. None of those were even talked about.

There was no talk of the aboriginal health reporting framework which was supposed to be talked about. There was the catastrophic drug coverage for all Canadians. In fact when the minister was asked about that here in November, she said, and this is a quote, “The work there really at this point has not begun”. That is what she said and that is actually the truth.

The reality is that money alone will not save our health care system in the 21st century. What we have to realize is that we have to get serious about dealing with the problems on health care, stop the bickering in the relationship between the provincial and federal governments and those things that destroy the trust. We have to start working on putting the interests of the patient ahead of the system as we move forward in the 21st century. That is what has to happen. That is not what happened when it came to the health accord.

One of the things that should also have happened, and the first thing that should have been in the health accord in looking at the Prime Minister's legacy, is that he should have written in the throne speech “I am sorry” as the first thing he said about health care and apologize to the nation for the way he has treated health care and put us in the state we are in. Then he should have moved forward with a vision of how we are going to fix that situation.

That is not what happened. We should have put a sixth principle into the Canada Health Act which we fought for in the last election so that never again could a Prime Minister unilaterally destroy this nation's number one priority, which is health care.

Do we believe the Prime Minister when he stands and says that health care is his number one priority? I think we really have to question where we have been, where we are at and where we are going in light of those words. I really have some serious concerns about where that should be.

Let us talk about the public health agency that was announced.

Look at the failure of SARS, and I say the failure of SARS because we were absolutely not prepared. When tragedy strikes our nation, whether it is militarily or an infection in a pandemic situation, or a health threat of any kind, we absolutely have to have leadership. It has to come from the leaders who are charged with that leadership in the House. It has to come from the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister of the day. That was not the case when SARS hit the nation.

Do we need a CDC north, an infectious disease centre as in the United States? Perhaps we do. Perhaps we already have that and it is just not coordinated. I think that is more likely the truth. Now we have a new ministry that is charged with that but the government actually was warned by the Auditor General as well as the deputy minister of health who said that we are vulnerable to this kind of an attack in Canada and that we have to do something about it.

The alarm bells went off over the last decade and we failed to deal with it. It is unfortunate that we see what the throne speech had to say about that. It said that we are going to appoint a chief public health officer but there is no timeline on the agency. There is no budget for it. We do not really know if we are prepared today.

Let us say that the bird flu which is in Asia right now happens to move to human to human contact, to mutate to that degree. Are we prepared? Absolutely not. Should we be prepared? Absolutely we should and we should be working a lot harder and more aggressively toward preparing ourselves for that.

That is not in the throne speech. We would have thought there would have been a timeline and a budget for it. Neither is the case. All we are doing is playing politics.

Mark my words. The chief officer will be appointed before the next election. It will appear to Canadians that everything is looked after and nothing will have happened except the hiring of one person who is going to run to the media and communicate how well the government is supposedly doing in case something happens. That is what will happen and it is unfortunate.

We do not need this game of politics when it comes to health care. We cannot afford it. We do not have the time and we do not have the money.

Another thing that should have been in the throne speech but was not there was a bill that the House has been working on very aggressively for the last three years. It is Bill C-13. We need a bill that deals with the threat that is there. Doctors are actually saying that they are going to clone the human being in the next year. We need that legislation but not the Bill C-13 that was so flawed. It had flaws on surrogacy, on gamete donor anonymity, on research using the human embryo and a host of other things, including no accountability for the agency that was going to be set up, the in vitro fertilization clinics and authorization of what should or should not be allowed under the legislation.

We said originally what we need. We would split the bill in half, bring forward a bill that would allow the prohibitions that everyone in the House would agree to, which is therapeutic reproductive cloning, germ line alteration, chimera and a host the others. They are all named in the bill. That would pass in a blink of an eye. We could pass that this month. We could pass that next week if it was brought forward. That is what we should be doing and that is not what happened. In fact there was not even a word of it in the throne speech.

Another thing that really bothers me in the throne speech is that it was a golden opportunity for the Prime Minister to right his wrongs in the past on the hepatitis C file. There is $700 million left in the court agreement to look after those who contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusions through absolutely no fault of their own. The government is liable for this. It arbitrarily chose the period 1986-90 which is false and it knows it. Many of the members on the other side of the House know that every member on this side of the House knows it full well. The money is there but the will is not.

What a golden opportunity for the Prime Minister to correct his wrongs and to do the right thing and to compensate everyone who should have been compensated for the wrongs of the country. As a Canadian I feel badly that the government of my country is not looking after its wrongs.

The other thing that bothers me is when it comes to natural food products and the ability for individuals to choose how they look after their bodies and how they have alternative medicines. There was absolutely nothing on that.

A colleague of mine, the member for Nanaimo—Alberni, has brought forward a private member's bill, Bill C-420. We should have had some commitment in the throne speech from the government to allow freedom of choice in that area, something on natural food products.

I would like to conclude by saying that the throne speech was very deficient. We have a health care system that is in dire straits. We all know how it got that way. I just described it.

Where are we going to go from here? Number one, we have to put the patient first and build a system around the patient in the 21st century. We have to get the relationships right between the provinces and the federal government and agree upon our mandates equally so that we can do what is in the best interests of Canadians.

Business of the House

February 2nd, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
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The Speaker

Members will recall that on October 29, 2003, the House concurred in the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which had the effect of extending provisional Standing Orders in relation to private members' business until the earlier of June 23, 2004, or the dissolution of the 37th Parliament.

To ensure that private members' business will be conducted in an orderly fashion, the Chair wishes to clarify some of the provisions resulting from Standing Order 86.1, the Standing Order that deals with the reinstatement of all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons.

First of all, the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business, established on March 18, 2003, continues from last session to this session notwithstanding prorogation.

This list is available for consultation at the Private Members Business Office and on the Internet.

The items themselves, either in or outside the order of precedence, whether Motions, Notices of Motions (Papers) or Bills, will keep the same number as in the second session of the 37th Parliament. However, considering that he is no longer a member of this House, all the items standing in the name of Mr. Harb will be dropped from the Order Paper.

Ministers and parliamentary secretaries who are ineligible by virtue of their office will be dropped to the bottom of the list for the consideration of private members' business, where they will remain as long as they hold those offices. Consequently, the item in the name of the member for Don Valley West is withdrawn from the order of precedence.

Standing Order 86.1 states that at the beginning of the second or subsequent session of a Parliament, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that have been listed on the Order Paper during the previous session shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation and shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper or, as the case may be, referred to a committee and the list for the consideration of private members' business and the order of precedence established pursuant to Standing Order 87 shall continue from session to session.

So, pursuant to this Standing Order, the items in the Order of Precedence are deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation. Thus they shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper in the same place or, as the case may be, referred to committee or sent to the Senate.

There were five private members' bills originating in the House of Commons referred to committee. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-231, an act to amend the Divorce Act (limits on rights of child access by sex offenders), is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-338, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing), is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-408, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), is deemed to havebeen introduced, read the first time, read the second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Bill C-421, an act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other acts in consequence thereof, is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bills deemed introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to a committee)

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-420 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

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.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a huge petition here from some 27,000 Canadians. It is a very weighty matter. It is on the subject of natural health products.

Canadians are saying no to regulating our nutrients as drugs. They are concerned about natural health products being regulated as a subclass of drugs. They also call for the repeal of section 3 of the antiquated Food and Drugs Act and schedule A.

These are recommendations that my private member's bill, Bill C-420, addresses and that are badly needed. Nine ladies who were today because of the withdrawal of their natural health product that has helped them with bipolar disease, because Health Canada is restricting their product at the border, illustrates the need for this to be enacted. I hope the government is listening to the will of Canadians on this matter.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 11th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, it may come as a bit of surprise that even though I support the positions that have been enunciated with respect to Bill C-250, I am actually going to present a petition on something else.

Pursuant to Standing Order 36 the petition is certified correct as to form and content. To illustrate the cooperative manner of members in the House, this petition relates to an initiative undertaken by a member of the opposition with respect to herbal care products.

The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that Canadians deserve freedom of choice in health care products, that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be properly classified as food and not arbitrarily as drugs and 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 are calling upon Parliament to support Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 30th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a bundle of petitions to present today on the subject of freedom of choice in natural health products and personal health care.

There are approximately 30,000 signatures and more coming in daily from coast to coast. The action called for would be accomplished by passing my private member's Bill C-420.

These Canadians are calling upon Parliament to recognize that natural health products are foods, not drugs, and that access to these safe products should not be unduly curtailed by government bureaucrats and antiquated legislation.

They call upon Parliament to recognize 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 ask Parliament to restore freedom of choice in natural health products by deleting subsections 3(1) and (2), and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

Private member's Bill C-420, currently before the House, addresses the concerns of these citizens, the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health and the Office of Natural Health Products' transition team that reported in March 2000.

It is my hope that all members of the House will support this initiative and give Canadians the freedom of choice in natural health products for which they are looking.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to stand and speak to Bill C-420. Going back to the election campaign, I had a number of people ask me about my support for natural health products. Since that time I have had a number of constituents write to my office or call to ask what has happened with this or why have we not moved on it. I have been asked what we are doing and whether we support natural health products.

I would like to get on the record today to ensure my constituents understand that I support this. The bill is an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. It seeks to bring herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the purview of Health Canada's food directorate by amending the definitions of both “food” and “drug” in the Food and Drugs Act and to implement the recommendations the transition team of the Office of National Health Products by repealing sections 3(1) and 3(2) in schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

Let me go to a personal experience before I come back to the details. With an agricultural background, one may know that when an animal on the farm becomes ill, the first and main treatment veterinary medicine uses to treat that animal is proper nutrition. Usually minerals, vitamin supplements and that sort of thing are recommended to bring the animal back to a proper condition of health.

I believe over the years we have learned that this is a very good practice for us as human beings, to first look after our nutrition and perhaps to go so far as to take supplements, like they do on the farm to supplement the natural food available to those animals and to guarantee their health.

Years ago I was introduced to a natural health product. After having knee surgery, three or four months later my knee was still sore and swollen. There was a goose egg on top of my knee that was like a golf ball cut in half. I was told about a natural health product but I could only be told that it might help because it had been known to help some other people, not because there was something in it that would help.

Recommendation 19 says that natural health products should be allowed to make health claims including structure, function, claims, risk reductions, claims and treatment claims. That cannot be done right now. It cannot be said that this is usually good for arthritis or it is usually good for swollen joints. However people who sell these natural health products can legally say that they knew old Joe over there, that he had an operation on his knee, that it was swollen and that it did not go away for four months. However when he started to take that natural health product and before the week was over, his knee was well, the swelling gone, the lump gone and the limp gone. Those kinds of things are happening with some of the natural health products. However it is against the law to say on the label that this may or may not happen.

I am very concerned that we make a move to have more accurate labelling on these health products to inform people what the products might accomplish for the human body. Right now there is a total lack of labelling on them. The label only says what is in the bottle. No kind of directions or claims can be made other than a recommended dosage. Any move to clarify the labelling and make even better suggestions to that would be welcome.

We always seem to worry. We find the bad news in every situation and we worry about would happen if somebody misused some of these natural health products. The question I would ask is what happens if somebody misuses the doctor's prescription. I believe that is a problem that we need to look at.

We understand the misuse of prescription drugs in North America is rampant and people are dying and yet we act worried because somebody might take a little sampling of garlic or onion in a concentrated dose.

Medicine in this century and in this nation needs to be administered by more than simply drug pushers. I am concerned that when we go to a doctor, we are pointed to one drug but if that does not work we are pointed to another and another until one works, and we call that science. Yet we worry when we are told to eat lettuce or garlic. We worry about the natural products when it is the drug products that are killing us. The misuse of drugs is the problem, not the misuse of natural health products.

My colleague in the Bloc suggested that there might be a third category. That is true, we might use a third category but we might have to go at it a little more scientifically. However we may want to take this baby step first before we get to that point.

I understand in the United States there is a third category being developed. I do not know how far along it is or if the legislation has passed, but the third category is called a nutriceutical. This is where the nutrients are tested scientifically so the health product can then receive a label and be recommended for some very specific health benefits to the body. Perhaps that amendment may have to go to that.

We have the observations that even under the labelling of being a food, we still have protections under the Food and Drugs Act. I think my colleague mentioned those.

He said that it could not be a harmful or a poisonous substance and that it could not be unfit for human consumption. He also said that it could not be filthy, putrid, disgusting or rotten, which l think are things people regularly eat and use. I could put some things, which people pay good money for, into that category right quick, but that cannot be in a nutriceutical or adulterated. It has to be manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged and stored under sanitary conditions. No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading, and on and on they go. So there are protections there.

I believe it is time that we understand that health is more related to what happens and what goes into our body ahead of time than what goes into our body when we go to the doctor and he gives us a prescription of drugs.

I think we need to open this up. We need to allow our people to take responsibility for what they eat and what they choose, whether it be off the grocery store shelf or off the health food store shelf. I think we are headed in the right direction by making this baby step for this natural health product.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, it is an interesting debate tonight. I will make reference to some of the comments made by my Bloc colleague as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and also the member for Nanaimo--Alberni, who I think has to be given a lot of credit for addressing this problem.

We may disagree on some of the finer points of Bill C-420, but I think there is an opportunity here for the House and all parliamentarians. Obviously if we can agree that the bill is worthy of our support it would move on to the committee stage where it could be examined. Some of the difficulties that have been addressed by some of our colleagues here could be addressed at the committee stage, because I think the bill is doable.

With this bill, the member is attempting to allow Canadians easier access to the natural health products that they desire. I will read from the news release of March 20 from the member for Nanaimo--Alberni. I do not think we disagree with this either. It states:

Canadians deserve the freedom to make their own health choices, and not to have those choices randomly curtailed by bureaucrats in Ottawa.

The news release continues:

Bill C-420... an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, would define dietary supplements, herbs and other natural health products as food products, ensuring that natural health products are not arbitrarily classed as drugs and denied to Canadians without the scientific evidence to justify it.

When my colleague from the Bloc was speaking, he identified a problem with the word “food”, but I think that can be addressed and changed at committee, to fine tune the bill, to get around what he observed as a problem.

We have to remember that in 1997 over one million Canadians sent a message to the government demanding that government restore their freedom of choice and access to natural health products. Of course this bill addresses their concerns. The bill also repeals outdated regulations that prevent the advertising of natural products that could address some of the diseases and disorders that we have today. There is no question that they can, that they would and that they have in the past.

There were a number of recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Health in 1998. Recommendations 19, 35 and 36 of the report recommended that:

  1. [Natural health products] be allowed to make health claims, including structure-function claims, risk-reduction claims and treatment claims.

  2. Health Canada immediately initiate a review of the diseases listed in Schedule A to ensure that only appropriate diseases are included and, where relevant, specific diseases be exempted by regulation from the broad terms found in Schedule A.

  3. Health Canada, subsequently, conduct a study with the participation of representatives from consumer groups, the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, and health practitioners to determine whether subsections 3(1) and (2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed Schedule A should be deleted.

The interesting thing is that the then minister of health, the member for Etobicoke Centre, accepted the report's recommendations on March 26, 1999. The government then set up the Office of Natural Health Products, ONHP, transition team and accepted its clarification and expansion of the 53 recommendations, some of which I mentioned, of the health committee. In its final report, the transition team stated:

Sections 3(1) and 3(2) and Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act are no longer relevant. They do not serve any purpose that cannot be accomplished adequately by other sections of the legislation or regulations.

More importantly, the schedule does not reflect contemporary scientific thought. The weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders listed in Schedule A through the judicious use of NHPs. It is time that the legislation and regulations reflect the prevailing science.

One of the points that the member has made, again taking a look at changes to the act, is that all Canadians are concerned with the safety of herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products, and Canadians want to ensure that there is accountability in any health claims made by the sellers of natural health products. He is suggesting that these safeguards already exist in the Food and Drugs Act. He quotes section 4 of that act:

No person shall sell an article of food that

(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;

(b) is unfit for human consumption;

(c) consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(d) is adulterated; or

(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions.

The member, I think rightly so, tells us that under the existing act consumers would be protected. In regard to packaging, the act also protects consumers.

I think there is a way that this can be done. The point made by the Bloc member in terms of identifying it as a food may be problematic, but I think if we look at what the member is doing and how he is trying to make these products available to all Canadians for particular reasons, for wellness and prevention of disease, so to speak, I think it is laudable and doable. I think it is up to us as parliamentarians to find a way to make this possible and make this happen in the House.

Again, the Bloc member mentioned that there has to be another category, a category of natural health products. Perhaps that is the avenue we can do it in. He did suggest that he himself may want to bring in a new piece of legislation or introduce a private member's bill that would in fact do this. I do not think that is necessary. I think this bill can be fine tuned and address that very problem.

Again I want to thank the member for Nanaimo—Alberni for this thoughtful and considerate piece of legislation. I think he truly does reflect the recommendations that the committee made back in 1997-98. We are in a position to support this with the sole purpose of moving it on to the committee for further investigation.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on Bill C-420, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

First, I was pleased to learn that my hon. friend from the Canadian Alliance had proposed a bill to amend the Food and Drugs Act. Why? Because one of the major recommendations of 1998 report of the Standing Committee on Health was that this act should be amended. It is important to understand that one of the purposes of the amendment proposed by my hon. friend is to ensure that natural health products are no longer considered drugs but rather foods. That is my hon. colleague's major recommendation.

Except that, unfortunately, my colleague is mistaken, because a natural health product has a nature all its own. That was one of the conclusions of the Standing Committee on Health' s report. In the report's words,“NHPs [Natural health products] are different in nature from and must not be treated strictly as either food or pharmaceutical products”.

My colleague's bill would mean that a natural health product would no longer be considered a drug, which I would support. Why? Because we cannot impose the same standards of evidence on natural health products as we do on pharmaceutical products. However, at the same time, we cannot say that a natural health product is a food.

Therefore, what should my hon. colleague have done and what does the Bloc Quebecois intend to do? Present a private member's bill that would create a third category, that of natural health products. That was one of the recommendations in the report by the Standing Committee on Health. We take note of the recommendations of the committee, which stated that natural health products were neither drugs nor foods and that therefore it would make regulations concerning natural health products.

These regulations have now been published in the Canada Gazette and have been the topic of cross-Canada consultations.

However, the committee also said that we should not merely adopt regulations and that this must not delay amending the act. This is why we had to create a third category for natural health products. Herbs can be deemed to be food. A drug can be a homeopathic preparation. A vitamin supplement is considered to be a drug under the Food and Drugs Act. Food is dealt with under sections 4 and 7. Drugs are covered by sections 8 and 15. Section C deals with drugs, while section D deals with vitamins. A majority of witnesses told us that a natural health product is neither food nor a drug. I think it is fundamental that we create this third category.

Why is it important to raise this issue? Because a Health Canada survey conducted several years ago showed that 56% of Canadians had consumed natural health products in the previous six months. So, this is a major concern, because natural health products are being used.

It is also important to remember what the report said, namely that, contrary to pharmaceutical products—and that includes drugs—the requirements in terms of evidence that apply to certain claims made regarding natural health products should be more flexible. It is not true that we can require the same evidence for a natural health product as we would for a pharmaceutical product.

Why so? As I have said, natural health products have their own specific nature. There must not be exclusion of the fact that other elements must be taken into consideration, including certain more traditional approaches.

I think that, in the three claims of concern to the Bloc Quebecois, both of structure and of function, this flexibility must be ensured, a flexibility absent from the present legislation. There is one thing that is stated in the legislation: a natural health product is considered a drug. It is dangerous.

The approach taken by the government over there is dangerous also, since it proposes regulation of these natural health products. In Quebec, naturopaths and others tell us that this would mean that certain products that do not comply with the registration criteria could end up excluded.

The dissenting report by the Canadian Alliance, which I read in 1998, is clear and I support it. It says that consumers must be allowed to choose. It is my impression, however, that the government across the way is more concerned with protecting the drug companies' interests than in leaving the real choice up to the consumer.

So I believe changes need to be made to the legislation and I thank my colleague for introducing this bill. In my opinion, however, he is merely exchanging an identified problem for a new one, because natural health products are not foods. I would therefore have liked to have seen—and I make a commitment today to do so myself—the introduction of a private member's bill to create this third product category. It will define a natural health product so as to make it possible for consumers to have access to a certain number of such products.

When it comes to natural health product registration, as well, as I have said, pharmaceutical criteria must not be used. What should? The Standing Committee on Health has enlightened us on that. It has said that the evidence referred to must be based on a broad range of sources, both ancient and recent, on traditional knowledge and contemporary science. This is why natural health products have their own specific nature and are not considered drugs.

Another important aspect is the committee's recommendation asking that Health Canada, together with a new natural health products expert advisory committee set out an appropriate definition of NHPs and amend the Food and Drugs Act accordingly. Therefore, contrary to what my colleague wants to do, which is to use the food definition to include NHPs, the committee said that an appropriate definition had to be established and that the Food and Drugs Act had to be amended to reflect it.

Naturally, the report also added that Health Canada, in conjunction with the new NHP Expert Advisory Committee, examine the status of bulk herbs for legislative purposes. So, in effect, there is total confusion.

On Monday, I met with Health Canada officials in Montreal to talk about this very issue, natural health products. They told me that I was right, that the act needed to be amended to establish a distinction between NHPs and food and drugs. However, they also said that it was not their job to do so. They said it was up to legislators to assume their responsibilities.

In closing, I would like to thank my colleague for introducing this bill. I think that he is starting quite a debate.

However, as I said, I would have liked it if he had created a third category for natural health products and established a clear and precise definition for NHPs, as the Standing Committee on Health recommended in 1998.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, under the Food and Drugs Act, Health Canada is responsible for developing policies, standards and programs that are based on science in the areas of food, drugs, cosmetics and instruments. This is also the approach used by the department regarding the related issues of advertising and labelling.

I would like to say a few words on section 3 and schedule A of the current act, which Bill C-420 seeks to abrogate.

In 1934—this goes back a long time—when section 3 and schedule A were first adopted, there were no known treatments for many diseases. There were no drug prescription systems in existence. In fact, people could get powerful drugs, including barbiturates, freely. Moreover, in the absence of a universal medicare system, people often could not afford to consult a health professional. Such was the reality of the time.

Originally, the sections of the act sought to protect the health of Canadians in various ways, including by preventing fraud, by prohibiting public advertising regarding the treatment of diseases for which there were no treatment, by prohibiting the advertising of treatments when self-treatment was not deemed safe, and by encouraging individuals to consult a health professional for serious problems.

However, the context has obviously changed since then. While we should still support some of these principles, over time, consumers, industry officials and health professionals have made the following statements, among others, regarding the initial objectives of the policy that underlies schedule A and their place in the current context.

These statements include the following:

—the prevention of fraud should be part of the provisions relating to fraud that are already included in the act, instead of being an outright prohibition. However, the current provisions relating to fraud should be strengthened to deal appropriately with fraud, which would require an amendment to the act;

It was also said that:

—numerous diseases can now be treated, even though there is no known cure. For example, a product can alleviate the discomfort caused by a certain condition, or slow down the deterioration of a person's health;

As well:

—there is now a prescription system to control access to drugs for which the intervention and supervision of a physician is required;

Also:

—consumers want to make choices where their health is concerned, and want access to the information needed to make those choices. It must not be forgotten, however, that informed choices must be based on truthful and not misleading information;

Finally:

—Canadians now have access to a health care system and are better informed about their health. As a result, Canadians know they can actively seek medical assistance and are encouraged to do so.

Nevertheless, many stakeholders suggested that schedule A may still be useful and ought therefore to be preserved but—and this is a point they stress—in a clarified and modernized version.

As for the Standing Committee on Health's examination to which my colleague has just referred, the matter of section 3 and schedule A was examined by the Standing Committee on Health during its study of the regulation of natural health products in Canada. The Standing Committee on Health was presented with a variety of views.

In its final report, the Standing Committee on Health made a number of observations and recommendations, as our colleague has already said.

First, it was of the opinion that the provisions as they stand might unduly limit access to health promotion documents that might be helpful for consumers. At the very least, the list of schedule A diseases ought to undergo a thorough review so that only appropriate ones would remain on it.

As well, the Standing Committee on Health commented that a number of the diseases were listed in schedule A in broad terms. It was therefore suggested that specific diseases be exempted by regulation from the broad terms found in schedule A and thus from being banned under subsections 3(1) and 3(2).

Moreover, the committee felt that Health Canada ought to subsequently conduct a study to determine whether subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed in schedule A should be deleted.

This should be done with the participation of representatives from consumer groups, the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, as well as health practitioners.

The committee therefore recommended that Health Canada undertake a review of the diseases listed in schedule A in order to ensure that it only contained relevant diseases, and that specific diseases be exempted by regulation from the broad terms found in schedule A.

The committee also recommended that Health Canada conduct a study, along with representatives of consumer advocacy groups, and representatives from the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, and health care professionals to determine whether subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed in schedule A should be deleted.

Health Canada accepted these recommendations and is about to follow up on them. In response to the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health, Health Canada set up an internal committee to review schedule A with departmental program representatives.

This committee drafted a policy paper that clarifies the purpose and the scope of the current application of section 3 and schedule A. Based on its review, the internal committee also recommended that Health Canada invite an external working group to review the diseases listed in schedule A.

As a result, Health Canada has already undertaken a review of section 3 and schedule A of the act through the external working group that was announced on February 14, 2003. This working group will be made up of representatives from consumer advocacy groups, patient groups, universities, industry and professional health associations.

The mandate of the working group will be to submit proposals concerning criteria that could be used to identify illnesses to be included in schedule A and possible changes to the schedule. The working group's final proposal will be the basis for public consultations. The working group on schedule A will be holding its first meeting in the spring of 2003.

While great progress can be achieved through the regulatory approach that the working group will be using, there is no doubt that an indepth schedule A review of the scheme, like the one proposed in Bill C-420, requires the scrutiny of other aspects of the Food and Drugs Act. These other aspects will be examined as part of the review of health protection legislation under the Legislative Renewal Program.

As you can see, the principles behind section 3 and schedule A remain relevant in the current legislative context, to help protect the health of Canadians.

Considerable work has been undertaken and must continue to ensure that the issues related to section 3 and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act undergo rigorous and appropriate scrutiny.

Repealing subsections 3(1) and 3(2) and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act, as proposed in Bill C-420, should not be considered for the time being, and until such time as Health Canada has had ample opportunity to follow up on the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health in the very spirit in which they were made.

A comprehensive response to the issues related to subsections 3(1) and 3(2) and to schedule A requires an indepth evaluation. It also requires public consultations on the policy directions of the government on this important issue.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to introduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. This is an important bill to Canadians.It is also a simple and clean bill.

Bill C-420 responds to the requests of Canadians, beginning with attempts by Health Canada to regulate natural health products and to put them under a drug directorate that started in the nineties. In 1997 there was a huge outcry from the public in response to this over-regulation of natural health products. Over one million people communicated their displeasure to the government that natural health products such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, were harmless vitamin compounds with low adverse reactions. People did not want them to be brought under the onerous responsibility of a drug directorate.

In the 36th Parliament, the minister of the day called on the health committee to look into this. The health committee heard from Canadians and listened to witnesses from across the country. The committee tabled its report called “Natural Health Products: A New Vision” in November 1998. It contained some 53 recommendations. The provisions of Bill C-420 are taken basically out of the committee's recommendations and out of the subsequent work that was done.

Recommendation No. 36 stated:

Health Canada, subsequently, conduct a study with the participation of representatives from consumer groups, the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, and health practitioners to determine whether subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed in Schedule A should be deleted.

Recommendation No. 53 stated:

The Minister appoint, immediately, a transition team responsible for ensuring that the new framework is established quickly.

Bill C-420 addresses these recommendations. Subsections 3(1) and 3(2) and Schedule A would be deleted.

A transition team was assembled and it carried the ball a little further by creating the Office of Natural Health Products. The final report of the Office of Natural Health Products transition team was tabled on March 31, 2000. The report was the cumulation of a response to the outcry from more than one million Canadians. We know that those concerned are even greater in number today.

The transition team recommended that Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act be removed. It lists a number of diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states for which treatments, preventions or cures cannot be advertised or sold to the general public, and in particular, makes reference to subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act which state:

  1. (1) No person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.

(2) No person shall sell any food, drug, cosmetic or device (a) that is represented by label, or (b) that the person advertises to the general publicas a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A.

With regard to Schedule A, the transition team recommended that “more importantly, the schedule does not reflect contemporary scientific thought. The weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders listed in Schedule A through the judicious use of NHPs. It is time the regulations and legislation reflect the prevailing science”.

A recommendation was made to remove all diseases listed in Schedule A and that subsections 3(1) and 3(2) should be revoked through legislative renewal initiatives.

My bill addresses the concerns of Canadians and the concerns identified by the health committee in the 36th Parliament. It implements the recommendations in the final report of the Office of Natural Health Products transition team.

There has been quite a lot of interest in the bill since its first reading in the House on March 20. There have been responses from across the country already because Canadians are concerned.

Frankly Canadians feel betrayed by what has happened in the interim. The good consultative process was moving in the right direction and Canadians were satisfied that the government had listened. However the Canada Gazette part I came out with the consequences of the implementation.

Canadians were led to believe there would be three categories: food, natural health products and drugs. We are finding that in fact there are only two categories: food and drugs. Natural health products have been put under the drug directorate as a subclass of drugs with the attendant responsibilities for clinical trials prior to any claims being made. This is a betrayal of all the consultation.

The bill seeks to address the concerns of Canadians. These products are ones that have traditional uses and have been in use for many years. The adverse reaction rate is very minimal, hardly measurable compared to drugs.

To put the onerous burden of a drug directorate on this industry will drive the costs up and will remove many products from the market. In fact under the existing regime many very good products have been withheld from Canadians. I will mention a few of the ones that are restricted.

This morning as part of my nutritional supplementation I took chromium picolinate. As a health care practitioner for many years, I recommended that my patients take chromium picolinate. It is essential because chromium is essential for the glucose tolerance factor and that is important for the metabolism of sugar. There are dozens of studies in the medical literature about the effectiveness of chromium and the importance of chromium as a trace mineral in the metabolic pathways of sugar. That product is technically illegal to sell in Canada because there are health claims made by it and of course scientific literature to support it.

L-tryptophan was taken off the market. It is an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are some 22 amino acids. L-tryptophan has a calming effect. It is like a sedative. When we feel sleepy after a turkey dinner it is because there is a lot of tryptophan in turkey. Unfortunately it was taken off the market, a simple building block of protein, because it is effective in calming people down. What is wrong with this picture?

Then there are products like melatonin and stevia, a sweetener that the member for Macleod prefers to use and he is a surgeon.

I would like to compliment the members on the health committee during the 36th Parliament who heard from Canadians. The members for Macleod, Nanaimo--Cowichan, and Saskatoon--Wanuskewin represented the then Reform Party. They did an excellent minority report.

My bill calls for the deletion of subsections 3(1) and (2) which are antiquated and the deletion of schedule A. These are recommendations which the minority report supported, which the committee basically supported, and which the transition team definitely supported.

I am hoping that all members will want to get behind the bill. I know they are going to hear from Canadians. Canadians are concerned about this issue and the tremendous benefits that are being withheld from them for very poor reasons, or no reason at all.

Some communications have come in recently. Martin Hanle from Vancouver wrote, “Safe products do not need undue regulation and my right to make choices without unwarranted and unjustifiable restrictions needs to be permitted”. Alexander from Penticton wrote with similar concerns, as did Grant from Kelowna. Doris Hall from New Brunswick wrote that she is upset that natural products have been withheld while pharmaceutical products such as acetaminophen, which can have drastic drawbacks, are seemingly allowed to roam unfettered.

Inga Hanle from Vancouver wrote, “Please, please vote for Bill C-420”. Lois Flett, a registered nurse from Prince Edward Island, wrote in support of Bill C-420.

Petitioners from Nobel, Orangeville, Burlington, Toronto, Brampton, North York, Goderich, Aurora, Concord, Bobcaygeon and New Hamburg, all in Ontario, are asking for support for Bill C-420. People from Parry Sound, Ontario and from Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver, Errington, my own communities, are sending in petitions.

Jeremy Duggan from Belleville wrote:

--be assured I am in 100% agreement with the majority of my fellow citizens in demanding that our representatives represent us.... Listen to the people that elected you. Allow us the choice - we are intelligent, informed people living in the 21st century, no longer willing to tolerate 19th century politics.

Chris Gupta from London, Ontario wrote:

Like so many Canadian citizens, we have lost trust and respect in Health Canada officials.

He asked that Bill C-420 to be supported.

Trueman Tuck from Belleville said:

Please, help us change the modern medical paradigm from one addicted to pharmaceuticals and surgery, to one focused on treating and preventing the underlying causes of disease--

He supports Bill C-420.

Michael Chamish from Vancouver wrote:

As Canadians we view it as our fundamental constitutional right under the Canadian Charter of Rights to have unrestricted access to these types of products, including information.

A lawyer from Ontario wrote to express her concern. These are all just in the last few days.

Wendell Wamboldt from the Healthwize Wellness Centre said:

Ottawa just slapped our food supplements with GST/HST [according to] policy statement P-240 because of representations of the drug companies.This is a new tax as these things have never been taxed and Ottawa is trying to say it is a “policy clarification” - more government doublespeak.

People are concerned when all of a sudden companies that produce natural health products are being slapped with GST retroactively. One company is facing a half a million dollar penalty from CCRA. It seems that Health Canada has turned CCRA loose on these industries to try and shut them down, or that is the way it seems to them.

I could go on. Many other people are communicating. I expect that members will be receiving a lot of communication on this file. It is something Canadians have been asking for. It is not a question of safety.

I want to mention an excellent report done by the Fraser Institute. The institute published a report in February 2002 on its analysis of the regulatory framework. It is called “A Cure Worse Than the Illness: Canada's proposed regulatory framework for natural health products in light of international evidence”.

It is a 50 page report and I recommend it to anyone interested in this issue. It is a great overview of the proposed regulatory framework for NHPs. It compares the adherence of proposed NHP regulations to the government's own regulatory policy. These overregulations do not appear to be justified according to the government's own policy.

The Fraser Institute compares the regulation of prescription drugs vis-à-vis natural health products and it makes some very significant recommendations.

One of the things it draws attention to is worth mentioning. It talks about part 4 of the proposed regulatory framework which deals with clinical trials. According to the NHPD this component has been developed to recognize the generally accepted principles of good clinical practice. There was no mention in the regulations in any of the NHPD's public consultation documents in 2001 of clinical trials before any claims could be made for effectiveness.

There is a problem. I asked a question of Mr. Romanow because he is considered to be the champion of health care in Canada. He was at committee a little more than a week ago. I asked him about his own report because billions are going in and depending upon who is talking it is $17 billion over three years or $35 billion over five years. There is a lot of money going in but it is all going in on what we call a disease management model of health care.

There is an inverse relationship between a disease management model and a remediation and prevention model of treatment. The more we invest in remediation and prevention, the less we will have to spend on disease management.

Sadly it seems that the whole system has been preoccupied with funding an increasingly failing disease management system. We need to invest in wellness and prevention. We need to allow Canadians the freedom of choice in health care products. It is what they want. It is what they are asking for. It is what they were promised.

The bill addresses the concerns of Canadians. It is my hope that all members of the House will support the bill and will give Canadians what they are looking for.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties as well as the member for Nanaimo—Alberni concerning the debate on second reading of Bill C-420. I believe that you would find consent that should the debate on the second reading stage of Bill C-420 collapse later this day and if a recorded division is requested, the said vote shall be deemed deferred until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29, 2003.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

April 9th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

moved that Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

March 20th, 2003 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Mr. Speaker, the bill is entitled an act to amend the Food the Drugs Act. It is a short bill but a very important bill if Canadians are to lead the world in health care outcomes.

In 1997 Canadians sent a message to the government about freedom of choice in health care. Over one million people signed petitions demanding government respect their right and access to natural health products.

The standing committee of the 36th Parliament heard from Canadians and wrote an excellent report, with 53 recommendations, that was tabled in November 1998. The committee and the transition team report recognized:

The weightof modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases anddisorders listed in Schedule A through the judicious use of NHPs.

It is time that the legislation and regulations reflect the prevailing science.

The bill would remove schedule A from the act and restore Canadians' right and access to natural health products that build healthy bodies and therefore healthy Canadians. This is a priority for many Canadians and I hope that it will be supported by all members of the House.

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