Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-2, which was previously introduced as Bill C-65 at the end of the last parliamentary session. However, it was one of the bills that ended up in parliamentary limbo, with the prorogation requested by the Conservative government. It has therefore come back as BillC-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Mr. Speaker, as is my custom as the justice critic for our party—and having been one yourself, I am sure you will understand—I am looking at this bill as a lawyer. I will not claim to be an excellent lawyer, as I have heard the member for Ottawa—Orléans do in the House, but nevertheless I will have nearly 30 years of experience as a lawyer next year.
This very important bill has quite a striking title: An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I looked at what it was amending and what it would be changing, because I like to understand what we are trying to do in the House.
The bill basically amends section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which I will read. That really enlightened me about the problem we have and often go through in the House. Prior to the proposed Bill C-2, section 56 provided the following:
The Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister deems necessary, exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor or any class thereof from the application of all or any of the provisions of this Act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest.
This short provision seemed relatively clear to me. Everyone in the House agrees that we want to regulate certain drugs and other substances, especially really hard drugs. I therefore wanted to know how the government was amending section 56. I encourage hon. members to read this atrocity. It is truly a legal atrocity. The original provision was five lines long. Now I have lost track of how many pages it is. When I say that it is many pages long, I mean that I could probably spend the next 18 minutes of my speech in the House reading out the changes that this government is trying to make.
In Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, the nine Supreme Court justices rendered a unanimous decision that was a major slap in the face to the government. The Supreme Court told the government that its actions were inappropriate.
This bill is the Conservative government's response to the Supreme Court of Canada. In its ruling, in very plain and clear language, the court said that InSite provides essential services and should remain open under the exemption set out in section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The court ruled that users were entitled to access InSite's services under the charter and that the delivery of other similar services should also be granted an exemption under that section.
The court therefore provided an unequivocal response to what was happening. There is no denying that this was seen as a victory in Vancouver.
No one wants to provide easy access to drugs. No one wants to tell people to go ahead and shoot up and that we will have a big party and sing Kumbaya. That is not at all the issue. This technique was tested and implemented. It has been shown that supervised injection sites have positive effects and result in fewer overdose-related deaths. These sites have even helped people to overcome their drug addictions.
However, this ideological government decided to simply ignore the lesson given by the Supreme Court in Canada v. PHS Community Services Society—a decision that, I repeat, was rendered by 9 out of 9 judges on September 30, 2011.
I encourage hon. members to read the new version of section 56 that will exist if the House passes this bill. It is an atrocity.
I will spare the House subsections 56(1) and 56(2). Instead, I will focus on subsection 56.1(3). I will not be talking about subsections 56.1(1) and 56.1(2), your honour. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker; I have court on my mind. Perhaps I am psychic, Mr. Speaker, and someday you will be a judge.
Subsection 56.1(3) reads as follows:
56.1(3) The Minister may consider an application for an exemption for a medical purpose under subsection (2) that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site [we know what the government is trying to do here] only after the following have been submitted [members will be shocked]:
(a) scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites [that will be easy enough to demonstrate];
(b) a letter from the provincial minister who is responsible for health in the province in which the site would be located that;
(i) outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site,
(ii) describes how those activities are integrated within the provincial health care system, and
(iii) provides information about access to drug treatment services, if any, that are available in the province for persons who would use the site;
(c) a letter from the local government of the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines its opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public health or safety;
(d) a description by the applicant of the measures that have been taken or will be taken to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (c);
Paragraph (e) is about the head of the police force.
I am trying to read quickly because it would take all day to read out what applicants would have to prove in order to be granted an exemption.
56.1(3)(f) a description by the applicant of the proposed measures, if any, to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (e);
To understand these provisions, anyone seeking to provide a service that the Supreme Court has declared necessary to the health and safety of certain individuals would need legal and addictions experts. Good job.
56.1(3)(i) a description of the potential impacts of the proposed activities at the site on public safety, including the following:
(i) information, if any, on crime and public nuisance in the vicinity of the site and information on crime and public nuisance in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located,
I will skip directly to paragraph (m).
56.1(3)(m) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of deaths, if any, due to overdose—in relation to activities that would take place at the site—that have occurred in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;
(n) official reports, if any, relevant to the establishment of a supervised consumption site, including any coroner’s reports;
I will not discuss paragraphs (o) and (p). I will skip to paragraph (q).
56.1(3)(q) a financing plan that demonstrates the feasibility and sustainability of operating the site;
Now I will go on to paragraph (t). I am skipping some points because they are all more things that have to be proven to the minister.
56.1(3)(t) information on any public health emergency in the vicinity of the site or in the municipality in which the site would be located...
Previously, section 56 read as follows:
56. The Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister deems necessary, exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor or any class thereof from the application of all or any of the provisions of this Act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest.
I would like to go back to subsection 56.1(3). I will spare you the rest of the bill. I am at paragraph (y).
56.1(3)(y) if any of the persons referred to in paragraph (w) has ordinarily resided in a country other than Canada in the 10 years before the day on which the application is made, a document issued by a police force of that country stating whether in that period that person
(i) was convicted...
Now I will go to paragraph 56.1(4)(a):
56.1(4)(a) evidence, if any, of any variation in crime rates in the vicinity of the site during the period beginning on the day on which the first exemption was granted under subsection (2) in relation to the site and ending on the day on which the application is submitted; and
(b) evidence, if any, of any impacts of the activities at the site on individual or public health during that period.
This goes on for pages and pages. If the government just wanted to say that it does not want any supervised injection sites, it could have simply said so, instead of having us read all this legal gibberish that will not even pass the necessary legal tests, especially considering the Supreme Court's decision in Canada v. PHS Community Services Society. That decision, I repeat, was like a big slap in the face to the Conservative government: nine to zero. The court told the government that what it was doing was wrong and that it was jeopardizing public safety. Yet, this government professes to champion public safety. It engages in all these little schemes that seem to please its militant supporters. It is sending all the wrong messages regarding the benefits this bill will have.
Reading this bill sends the message that as soon as it passes and comes into effect, in some big cities like Vancouver, for instance, which already has a program that works very well, Canadians will be in danger, much more so than before this legislation. Big cities like Ottawa are taking part in this debate. It is a divisive issue. This government really likes to pit people against one another and especially to run fundraising campaigns. That is what really turned me off about this bill, when I saw the government had used this bill to do some fundraising.
Since I am an opposition member, I am sure people will say that I am pro-terrorist and pro-pedophile, and I will probably be pro-drugs in a few minutes. There will probably be a statement by some member based who listened to my speech and who will say that I am encouraging people to inject hard drugs, which is absolutely not true.
I trust the specialists and the scientists who tell us that this approach is effective and that we must not let people use drugs in our neighbourhoods or in the woods where children can find dirty needles on the ground and prick themselves with them. That can cause all kinds of problems. This situation needs to be controlled in some way, so that we can deal with the serious problem of drug addiction and try to refer these people to services that can help them get out of the hell of drug addiction that no one wishes on anyone.
This government is introducing this bill and it will be challenged again. I guess a decision of nine to zero is not enough for this government. We are going to have to say again and again that what the government is doing will cause serious problems for our public safety. What the government is doing is not fair, and it is certainly not a smart move in terms of public health. No matter which way we look at it, it seems incredibly obvious to me that this is a bad decision.
I repeat: the Conservatives need to read. We are always being told by our opponents across the way that we do not read. On the contrary, we read. In fact, this may be the difference between us: we do not read only the notes prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office. We read our own documents and those that are put forward in the House. We read the bills as they are presented, and we cannot believe it.
The Conservatives claim that these sites encourage people to take drugs and that this is something we must not do, but that is not the goal of supervised injection facilities. What they are meant to do is remove drug addicts or people with problems from public areas that might be frequented by children.
Yesterday, I went to speak to young university students about political life. I went along Sparks Street—I am sure everyone here is familiar with it—and there was a young man lying on the ground. Another person came along and I listened to their conversation.
It was a social worker who went to see this young man. Nobody was paying any attention to him and he was lying on the ground. The social worker went to see him and asked if he was all right. He began talking to him.
In our society, there are people dealing with all kinds of problems. We cannot simply ignore them all and act as if they do not exist. They exist, and we must take care of them, and take care of them the right way.
In its ruling on Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, handed down on September 30, 2011, the Supreme Court said that this was a safe approach to dealing with this issue. I repeat that the decision was made by nine judges to zero. This means it was not a majority decision; it was a unanimous decision. No less than public safety and public health are at stake.
Supreme Court rulings cannot be challenged. I appreciate that the government does not seem to be showing much respect when I see the mess that it made with the latest appointment to the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, there is a limit to how much disrespect can be shown for another pillar of our democracy.
The government is responding to the unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in 2011 with Bill C-2. This is absolutely appalling. It is disrespectful of our duties and obligations as legislators in the House.
I will stand proudly and vote against this bill, and I will support my colleague’s amendment. I commend the member for Vancouver East on her remarkable work on this issue, along with all my colleagues from British Columbia.
It is also an issue that is starting to make headlines in Ottawa. When Bill C-2 is passed, I will not be able to guarantee the people in my riding that they will be any safer in the streets.
In conclusion, in addition to the fact that this bill amends section 56, which was very clear, the most appalling thing about this bill is that it is going to be called the Respect for Communities Act. This is Conservative grandstanding at its best. Unbelievable.
I read section 56 and then I read the amendment that goes on forever. No one will be able to meet these criteria. Then I looked at the title and I could not believe my eyes. Then I listened to the speech by my colleague from Vancouver East, who said that they had raised funds on the backs of people with serious problems in our society. You cannot get any cheaper than that.