Respect for Communities Act

An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Leona Aglukkaq  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of June 12, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things,

(a) create a separate exemption regime for activities involving the use of a controlled substance or precursor that is obtained in a manner not authorized under this Act;

(b) specify the purposes for which an exemption may be granted for those activities; and

(c) set out the information that must be submitted to the Minister of Health before the Minister may consider an application for an exemption in relation to a supervised consumption site.

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.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:25 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a model that is beneficial to the public and local communities. In fact, it has the near total support of the east Vancouver community. Many surveys have shown public support for the safe injection site in east Vancouver.

Many studies have explicitly shown the benefits of InSite for public health and safety. Some of my colleagues have explained in more detail how this site is good for public health and safety. People grappling with drug addictions are in very difficult situations, but if they had access to a safe injection site like the one in east Vancouver, they would be much safer. However, it is worth noting here that the ultimate goal is to get all illegal drugs off our streets.

It is safer for these people to have access to supervised injection sites, like the one in Vancouver, that make resources available to help them get off drugs. That is the goal of safe injection sites. They do more than just tell people to come and get a fix before asking them to leave. They look after them and try to help them get off drugs.

The main point I want to make today is that safe injection sites are more than just a safe haven where addicts get a fix and then leave without having access to resources. These sites make resources available to addicts who want to get off drugs.

Unfortunately, the government used that issue as a campaign tool to raise money from its supporters. I remember that, just hours after the government introduced Bill C-65—the first version of this Bill C-2—in the House, we received a fundraising email asking for political donations.

We therefore have to ask ourselves the following question: is that how a good legislator works? The role of the legislator in the House of Commons and in Parliament is to review and improve laws. Is it appropriate for a government or a legislator to use an issue and change laws for political purposes? The government's top priority should be ensuring that Canadians are safe. However, the Conservative's priority is asking for political donations and introducing partisan bills. That is not how a competent legislator should work.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:20 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise this evening to speak to this rather sensitive bill. I happen to be very familiar with it as I have heard a great deal about it and have spoken about it with members from all parties. The issue is near and dear to me. I am referring to Bill C-2, also known as Bill C-65 before prorogation. No one will be surprised to hear that we will oppose the bill at second reading.

We already debated the issue back in January. Since then, nothing has happened. For reasons unknown to me, the government did not introduce the bill earlier. It certainly seems to be an urgent matter today, however. We are now in June, faced with a time allocation motion to ensure its speedy passage. It seems to have taken six months for the government to realize the urgency of the situation; after five hours of debate, it has decided to set things in motion.

The bill has been gathering dust on the desk of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for months now; he did not seem the least bit interested in putting the bill on the agenda. I am nevertheless happy that the government has finally decided to get moving. Of course, the fact that it had to do so on Bill C-2 is a real shame. The government could have been made to see the light and amend the bill in order to change its content.

That is not the case, and the bill we are debating today is yet another direct affront to the Supreme Court, as a number of experts have said. We are all aware of the strained relationship the government has with the Supreme Court these days. Once again, the government has no problem defying the Supreme Court, which ruled on this issue in September 2011.

Bill C-2 could very likely violate the Supreme Court's ruling. The government itself asked the Supreme Court to rule on the case in British Columbia.

The government had asked the Supreme Court to review the B.C. court's ruling, since the government was hot happy with it. It was not happy with the Supreme Court's ruling either, but that is the highest court. The government therefore decided to introduce a bill that would directly challenge the Supreme Court of Canada's 2011 ruling. That is pretty brazen for the government to move forward like this. As I said, we oppose this bill.

I want to thank the member for Vancouver East, who has been working on this issue for many years. This situation has been dragging on for years. If memory serves me right, it was in 2008 or even earlier that the federal government's health minister at the time refused to grant an exemption to InSite, the supervised injection site in east Vancouver. The reasons the federal government refused to grant an exemption were probably ideological. It seemed to be against the idea of a supervised injection site.

Today, the Conservatives have asked questions, but they have unfortunately not made any speeches. We have only gotten bits and pieces of information from the other side about their position on the issue. Based on what I have heard in the debate today, they seem to be ideologically opposed to the idea of safe injection sites. There is only one in Canada right now, but steps are underway to open others. In fact, some groups in Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto are working to open such sites.

Many groups have noted the benefits of this type of site. Many studies done in Vancouver have shown the same results. More than 30 peer-reviewed studies— it is important to note this—published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal have described the benefits of InSite. Organizations that work on solving the problem of drug use in our communities have noted the beneficial impact of InSite, in east Vancouver. They are trying to replicate Vancouver's positive experience.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 was first introduced in June 2013, a little over a year ago, as Bill C-65 and came back to the House as Bill C-2 in October.

I am proud of the fact that about 50 members of the NDP caucus have spoken to this important legislation. However, I am ashamed to say that what we have heard from the government side is divisive debate. From day one the Conservatives have portrayed the issue of respecting the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on safer injection sites in Canada as a black and white issue.

I go back to January 27 of this year when the government House leader told the Hill Times that he will tell people that opposition parties want drug injection sites to be established in their neighbourhoods without people having any say. He then talked about the extreme position that the NDP was taking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the government House leader to portray our discourse on this legislation in that manner shows first, how the Conservatives like to create division and fear among people, and second, that they know absolutely nothing about North America's only safe injection site, which is located in Vancouver's downtown east side and called InSite. The fact is that InSite was set up over 10 years ago after extensive consultation with the local community.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite and other supervised injection sites must be granted Section 56 exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act when they “decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety....”

Upon reading the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada it is clear that it understood the arguments that were being made by the litigants, that this was a health measure, that it was about saving lives and that it was about preventing people from needless drug overdoses. Over the past 10 years, InSite has gone on to become incredibly successful and has helped improve the health and well-being of many people. It has saved literally countless lives in the Downtown Eastside.

Over 30 peer review studies have been done on InSite. It received its first exemption in 2003. From the extensive research that has been done since it opened, Vancouver has seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime and communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. That is quite remarkable. NDP members have always said that InSite is just part of the solution; it is not the only solution.

It is quite remarkable that this facility has been able to accomplish so much. One would never know that after hearing the speeches from government members. One would think it was just about chaos and law and order, that it was about imposing something on a community.

InSite did get a further exemption under the act for another year. I want to put firmly on the record that InSite has done a remarkable job in Vancouver.

I would also note that over those 10 years, organizations like the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Canadian Nurses Association, never mind the 30-plus peer review studies, have all come out firmly on the side of evidence that InSite is about saving lives. They came to this conclusion upon their analysis of how InSite is operated. They have been critical of Bill C-2 because they know, as we know having examined the bill, that it is really about setting the bar high. So much discretion and subjectivity is given to the minister that it would be very easy for her on flimsy, non-evidence-based opinion to turn down other applications across Canada.

That is the fundamental problem with this legislation. At the end of the day, Bill C-2 would not meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on InSite.

Again we have a familiar pattern, as we just saw with Bill C-36 on the laws pertaining to prostitution. We have a government that is bent on its own ideological agenda and refuses to examine the evidence before it on some of these very important measures that pertain to safety, health, and well-being.

Just to show how important this facility is and that others across the country could provide the same kind of service, in Vancouver, on June 4, I happened to notice an item in the paper that said, “Vancouver Police are issuing a public warning after officers responded to seven reports of suspected heroin overdoses in the Downtown Eastside in the span of a day”. Clearly, there was some really bad stuff on the street and people were really suffering.

The article further stated, “Sgt. Randy Fincham said active drug users need to be 'extremely cautious' and to visit Insite”. There we have it. Even the Vancouver Police Department recognizes that InSite has been a very important health and safety measure for drug users. It provides a safe place to inject, and there is medical supervision and support when it is needed so that people do not die by overdose. As is said so often in the Downtown Eastside, dead people cannot get treatment. I find it very interesting that local police are actually telling people to make sure they go to InSite to take advantage of its services so people can have the medical support and safety that is required.

New Democrats believe that the provisions of this bill before us are very onerous and very partisan. This led us to suspect what research had actually been done in preparing the bill. I put a question on the order paper back in October of last year and asked specifically what kind of consultation the government had conducted before it brought the bill in, particularly for front-line service providers, medical research professionals, and so on. The response that I got from the government, in part, said, “In the development of the proposed legislation, Health Canada consulted with Public Safety Canada, Justice Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and central agencies”. Basically, nobody on the government side actually bothered to talk to the people who are providing the service.

I know that not one Conservative minister of health that I visited and spoke to about InSite over the past years has visited InSite. There is a complete lack of knowledge about what this facility does. I am very concerned that with this bill the minister will confer on herself enormous discretion and power to make decisions based on political opposition and not on the merits of what is what is taking place in the local community and how such a facility can help a population that is very much at risk and marginalized.

There are a couple of other points that I want to make. A very important one is that there was the recent passing of a very wonderful activist, Bud Osborn, a poet, and pioneer at InSite in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He was much beloved in the neighbourhood, a former drug user himself. He understood from the very beginning, through the poetry he wrote and the words he spoke to people, how important this facility was in fostering a united community, where people were not divided between good and bad.

I want to pay tribute to the remarkable life and work of Bud Osborn and what he did not only in my community but across the country. He became a hero to many people for his courageous, outspoken way of putting the truth before people. He convinced politicians of all political stripes and met with the Minister of Health here in Ottawa a number of years ago, as well as the media, lawyers, prosecutors. He had an enormous amount of influence in my community because he spoke the truth from his own experience and believed very strongly that InSite was a lifesaving measure.

As this bill goes to committee, I want to say that New Democrats are very distressed that it is going to the public safety committee and not the health committee. It seems completely in conflict with what the goals of this bill should be in terms of a necessary health measure. We know that the bill is heavily weighted against the acceptance of these medically necessary services, so we will be demanding that there be a thoughtful and thorough review of the bill.

There have been a lot of scientific studies. We need to debunk the myths, the misinformation, and the rhetoric that we have heard about safer injections sites from the government side. When the bill gets to committee, I do hope very much, as we have said earlier today, that there will not be a censor of the witnesses, that there will be a thorough review and that we can make sure that the bill does indeed meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

January 27th, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have risen in this chamber to debate Bill C-2, which was introduced as Bill C-65 at the end of the parliamentary session.

I am still very disappointed with Bill C-2, which I think once again represents what the Conservative government is all about. It governs the country according to its own ideology and not for the benefit of Canadians.

This Conservative government is ignoring the scientific evidence around the ruling of the highest court in our country. It is absurd. This bill is another thinly veiled attempt to put an end to supervised injection sites, as the government has already tried to do with InSite in Vancouver.

This government is not hesitating to use taxpayers' money to appeal rulings that do not tally with its ideologies, as it did in 2008. I have a lot of questions. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized the positive impact that a supervised injection site has had in Vancouver East, and its ruling was unequivocal:

InSite has saved lives and improved health. And it did those things without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area.

I would like to repeat that last sentence again: “And it did those things without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area.”

The Canadian Nurses Association holds a similar view:

In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where the Insite safe injection site is located, business owners, service providers and residents in the neighbourhood agree that the clinic has had a positive impact on the health of the people who use it and on the health of the community.

That is a fundamental issue in this debate. The Supreme Court ruling was based on section 7 of the charter and on the constraints imposed by the law, aiming to strike a balance between public health and public safety.

As a health care professional, I find this bill mind-boggling. I want to add my voice to those of people in the field who have criticized Bill C-2, including the Canadian Medical Association, which fully endorses the existence of harm reduction tools, including supervised injection sites, and believes they should be included in a comprehensive national drug strategy.

The CMA's position is founded upon clinical evidence and not upon ideology, unlike Bill C-2. The CMA, which represents all of the doctors in the country, is very critical of Bill C-2:

The unanimous decision was grounded in evidence, not ideology. The overwhelming clinical evidence is that centres like Insite save lives when it comes to some of our most vulnerable patient populations. In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that “…the evidence indicates that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption.” What we have seen today seems to contradict the essence of the ruling.

Harm reduction works. This method has proven to be effective. In Australia, a report on supervised injection sites found that one site had reduced the number of overdoses, reduced the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and alleviated safety concerns related to users shooting up in public places and needle disposal. The report even indicated that the site served as a gateway to addiction treatment.

If that is not improving safety in the community, I do not know what is.

Many countries now have supervised injection sites: Australia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, just to name a few. These sites work.

It is no wonder Montreal's director of public health recommended, in December 2011, that the city establish such a site in the greater Montreal area. He gave a number of reasons similar to the ones I just quoted concerning Australia's experience. Why? Because they are based on conclusive data that the Conservatives and the Minister of Health have patently decided to ignore.

I would like to quote Montreal's director of public health:

The reasons that justify implementing SIS in Montréal are very succinct: the epidemic of infections caused by HIV and HCV, and the excess mortality among IDU. Cocaine use, the drug most often injected in Montréal, is a major determinant of HIV transmission, as is sharing used needles. HCV infection is also having devastating effects: 7 in 10 IDU have been exposed to the virus and its transmission does not appear to be slowing. As for excess mortality among IDU, the data on hand indicate that the problem in Montréal is alarming.

I urge the government to do its job for once in the health field. Since the Conservatives took power, we have seen the federal government disengage from files where Canadians expect it to play a role. This includes the government's refusal to negotiate a new health accord with the provinces, the shortage of prescription drugs, and diluted chemotherapy treatments.

It is unbelievable and completely unacceptable for a bill such as this, which flies in the face of the Supreme Court ruling, to be introduced.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

January 27th, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have an opportunity to speak on a subject as sensitive as Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. First, we should remember that the government introduced this bill before prorogation. Then, it was Bill C-65; now it is Bill C-2.

This bill is a clear demonstration of the Conservative government’s methods and intentions with respect to public health. It values ideological prejudice over Supreme Court decisions; cynicism over a search for the common good; and scorn over a helping hand for our fellow citizens in distress.

Before continuing, I would like to recall some facts that are essential to an impartial debate. The core of the issue concerns the effectiveness of supervised drug use, and the referral of addicts to appropriate care.

In order to assess effectiveness, let us look at the results achieved by the only safe injection site in Canada: InSite, located in Vancouver’s East Side. It opened in 2003, as part of a public health project undertaken by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and its community partners. The establishment of this safe injection site was a coordinated response to the wave of fatal overdoses hitting Vancouver.

The annual rate of fatal overdoses had increased 12 times between 1987 and 1993, to some 200 cases. Over the same period, the Vancouver area experienced spectacular increases in cases of communicable disease, such as hepatitis A, B and C, as well as HIV and AIDS. From the beginning, InSite has reported conclusive results in terms of public health and safety. The fatal overdose rate in the East Side district fell 35%, as shown in the study conducted by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2001.

The main thing, however, is that the centre provides valuable help to addicts by referring them to detox programs. It has been shown that going to InSite increases by 70% the likelihood that an addict will take part in a detox program. Moreover, the benefits provided by the centre have a direct impact on safety and public order in Vancouver’s East Side. Since InSite opened, there has been a significant decrease in the number of needles left in the streets. Drug use in public places has decreased. The impact of the centre is so apparent that 80% of those surveyed who live or work in the neighbourhood support what InSite is doing. Even the local police recognizes its positive impact.

The success of this centre is recognized not only at the local level, but also at the international level. More than 30 medical journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal, have studied the positive impact that InSite has had on health and public safety and published articles about it. This success is not random or accidental. In fact, 70 cities in Europe and Australia have opened similar centres to monitor drug use, and we are seeing the same positive impact.

Instead of helping InSite help drug addicts get clean, the Conservative government is creating more legal impediments and putting out more ideological propaganda. In 2008, the exemption under section 56 of the act expired. This exemption allowed the centre to exist and operate, but the government refused to renew it, which led to a serious legal battle. The Conservative government went as far as the Supreme Court to oppose InSite's right to provide its services. In 2011, the highest legal authority in Canada issued a very clear ruling on this matter. It called the Conservative government's decision arbitrary and even said, and I quote, “it undermines the very purposes of the CDSA...”.

The court declared that, in accordance with section 7 of the charter:

The infringement at stake is serious; it threatens the health, indeed the lives, of the claimants and others like them. The grave consequences that might result from a lapse in the current constitutional exemption for InSite cannot be ignored.

The court states that the minister must grant InSite in particular, and safe injection sites in general, the exemption provided for in section 56(d), when such a site “will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety”.

The Supreme Court decision completely repudiated the Conservative government's position. However, not content with having lost, the government is implementing a well-known strategy. Driven out through the door, it comes back in through the window. Having lost in court, it is coming back today with a bill that is contrary to the Supreme Court ruling.

Communities will now have to show the benefits of safe injection sites in order to obtain an exemption and be able to work. In order to do so, they will have to go through incredibly complicated administrative procedures and ultimately submit to the decision by the minister, who will do whatever he wants in the end. We are awash in arbitrariness.

The government’s action in the area of public health is based on prejudice, not on fact. The government cannot accept the existence of InSite, even though the benefits of the site have been proven. To support its action, the government is calling on Canadians to support the campaign it calls “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. However, this bill will bring heroin into our backyards, into our neighbourhoods, into our streets and in front of the eyes of our children, because it will be almost impossible to open safe injection centres.

The NDP has a clear standpoint on this issue. We are sensible and responsible people. We have a clear-eyed view of the situation, without preconceived notions. We can draw the necessary conclusions in order to manage it for everyone’s benefit. Desperate people take drugs. It is a fact. There are solutions that can help them recover from their addiction and preserve their health. These solutions work; let us implement them. We must never forget that the true test of a civilized society lies in how it treats its weakest members. Let us not turn a blind eye to them. Let us hold out a helping hand to our fellow citizens, who have stumbled on their path. Let us help them regain their dignity.

The NDP believes in these values. The NDP believes that any public health decision must be based on facts and on facts alone. The NDP believes that any bill put forward by government must abide by the rulings handed down by the Supreme Court. That is why I am calling on the honourable members of this Parliament to listen to what I am saying. We must work together to throw out this bill that will undermine public health and safety. Let us turn the page on ideological assumptions; let us look at reality full on and develop a constructive solution that will benefit all our fellow citizens and lead to a more just society.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2013 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today in connection with Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which I oppose. We will definitely be proposing amendments. Prior to prorogation, the government had introduced Bill C-65, which has now become Bill C-2.

In my speech, I would like to explain how we got to where we are, and why we are examining this bill. The intent of the bill, which is largely hidden because the Conservatives have been actively fundraising since introducing it, is to put a stop to supervised injection sites like InSite. At the moment, the only such site is InSite, in Vancouver. In this bill, the government has introduced an interminable list of criteria to deter people from applying for an exemption.

I am going to put this in context. With the support of the community, scientists and experts decided to set up a supervised injection site. The term "supervised" is very important here. The government decided to challenge the site and intervened, taking the issue to court. InSite won and the government lost. The case went to the appeal court, and then all the way to the Supreme Court in 2011. The Supreme Court ruling is called Canada v. PHS Community Services Society. I strongly encourage my colleagues to read this important ruling, because it explains the state of the law. It is a matter of fundamental rights and the charter.

This government is known for being extremely good at introducing bills and taking action that is contrary to the charter. The government says that it is concerned about the taxpayers' money, and yet it continually pushes cases all the way to the Supreme Court. This costs the taxpayers and the stakeholders a great deal of money. If I have time later, I would like to explore the legal aspects. For the time being, I will focus on the public safety aspect and in particular on public health.

The government acts without paying attention to scientific research or the opinions of experts who have commented on the matter. We in the official opposition are beginning to get used to seeing the government introduce scientifically groundless ideological bills. When the government acts, it is only to be expected that it will exaggerate and oversimplify without really addressing all the important points or taking scientific considerations, or the experts, into account. The purpose of all this is simply to raise funds. This is clearly what it is doing at the moment.

Back to public health. Why is it important to consider that aspect? Of course we want heroin addicts to stop using drugs. There has already been preventive work and education around that. From the community standpoint, it is very important. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we cannot help these people. A centre like InSite provides a supervised environment where doctors and experts can ensure that people are not injecting drugs in the street.

In terms of public health, there are tangible results. Studies indicate a decrease of 35% in overdose-related deaths. If the government cared and if it sought the well-being of the public, it would take these figures to heart. Unfortunately, the Conservatives do not do so. They do not look at this aspect, and they oversimplify the problem.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I have had an opportunity to see that the Conservatives always adopt the same ideological approach. They imply that we are with them or against them, and if we are against them, they call us every name in the book. We are in the same situation here.

When we talk about public health, we have to look to the research. And there is research. Canada is not the only country to have studied this issue. Thirty studies have been reviewed by experts, and there are 70 supervised injection sites in Europe and Australia. Studies have also been published in such highly respected international journals as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal. Actual studies have been carried out on this, and they clearly support the position taken by the NDP, which is that of the InSite people and British Columbia.

We should not forget that all of this has received community support. I am anticipating the question my colleague asks every time. There is support from the community and the authorities in the health care field on this issue. We should therefore pay careful attention.

This is not a free-for-all place to shoot up. In this facility, there is supervision and follow-up, and children are not allowed. The result is that people do not do it in the streets. We must stop burying our heads in the sand. Saying that we do not want this in our backyard will not stop people from doing it. People will continue to do it, and that is a problem. Naturally, there are efforts in the area of education and prevention. In this case, however, we have to rely on facts, and in this respect, the government is turning a blind eye.

Let us talk about public safety. If people do not have access to supervised sites like InSite to inject themselves with drugs, they will do it in the streets, in the parks and in all the other places where it can cause problems. We could have needles lying around, cases that are not monitored, people dying and people doing it in an unsafe manner, reusing needles from other users. This will lead to an increase in blood-borne diseases, and will have a direct impact on the health of those concerned.

The Conservatives tend to say that if we are against them, we will automatically say anything. I would nevertheless like to say that the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and many other organizations support the NDP's position on protecting the health and safety of these people.

In closing, I would like the government to support the amendments the NDP will be proposing, but above all to realize that it has to stop acting ideologically and must finally begin to take the facts and the science into consideration.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are here to talk about Bill C-2, formerly Bill C-65. After prorogation, the bill was reintroduced with a different number.

This bill is a direct attack on supervised injection sites. Once again, we are faced with a government that uses every possible means to impose its political ideology at the expense of the broad social consensus and the positive effects of supervised injection sites.

We must remember that the Conservative government's bill challenges the Supreme Court decision and is just another way for the government to get what it wants and to put its moral values ahead of the lives of the most vulnerable Canadians.

We feel that all new legislation on supervised injection sites must respect the spirit of the Supreme Court decision. The 2011 decision reminds us, among other things, that Vancouver's InSite—the only safe injection site in Canada—has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area. It is also important to note that the police, local businesses and the chamber of commerce support those types of projects.

Evidence has shown that supervised injection sites effectively reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and reduce deaths from overdoses. Evidence has also shown that these sites do not negatively affect public safety and that, in certain cases, they promote it by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour, and drug-related waste.

Supervised injection sites make it possible to strike the appropriate balance between public health and public safety. They also connect people in urgent need of health care with the services they need, such as primary health care and drug treatment services. Those are quantitative and qualitative facts that describe a reality, not an ideology.

We believe that harm reduction programs, including supervised injection sites, must be granted exemptions based on the evidence that they will improve public health and save lives, not based on ideology. Pragmatism and humanitarianism must be the two principles underlying the reality of drug use, a reality that goes against our moral values. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives do not feel that this debate in the House is useful and that they prefer to have the conversation by themselves.

In order to clearly understand the purpose of supervised injection sites, one has to take an interest in the people who need the service and remember that they have rights and that we have responsibilities toward them. Drug consumption has significant effects on people's lives, including debt, a breakdown in communication with friends and family, isolation, crime, medical problems and stigmatization. We need to support these people, not send them to prison. We must support them, not exclude them. They need to be given an anchor so that they can regain control of their lives, not left adrift without a purpose while we turn a blind eye to their problems.

Supervised injection sites are an innovative response to the expectations of an advanced and enlightened society. The philosophy of harm reduction gives priority to the personal and social management of drugs and high-risk behaviours and their negative consequences.

It is therefore important to have a pragmatic dialogue and approach. In other words, we need to look at the situation with a critical eye and assess the social costs and benefits of our laws and practices for humanism, which places human development at the heart of economic, environmental, political and social decisions.

What is more, the Supreme Court's 2011 ruling warned the government against any law that would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The discretion vested in the Minister of Health is not absolute: as with all exercises of discretion, the Minister’s decisions must conform to the Charter. If the Minister’s decision results in an application of the CDSA that limits the s. 7 rights of individuals in a manner that is not in accordance with the Charter, then the Minister’s discretion has been exercised unconstitutionally. In the special circumstances of this case, the Court should go on to consider whether the Minister’s decision violated the claimants’ Charter rights. The issue is properly before the Court and justice requires that it be considered.

What is more, in this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the charter guarantees Canadians the right to access supervised injection sites and that such services should generally exist when the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

A 2004 study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction indicated that supervised injection sites reach out to vulnerable groups and are accepted by communities. That is what social acceptance is. The study also showed that these sites improve the health of their users, reduce high-risk behaviour, and reduce fatal overdoses and the consumption of drugs in public places.

Canadians do not understand the Conservative government's lack of empathy towards citizens living with this difficult reality, and the dearth of recognition and support it shows towards organizations working day after day to improve the well-being of those citizens.

Canadians see a government that imposes a course opposite to that recommended by various qualified stakeholders working with safe injection sites.

Bill C-2 will establish a process that is so burdensome that it may well deter applicants from even trying to open a safe injection site.

What would happen if an applicant should accidentally forget to include something? Could the application be turned down automatically? Even if an applicant had all the required documents and the full support of the community, it would still be possible for the minister to deny the application.

It is important to remember that a number of projects are on hold in major Canadian cities and that Bill C-2 is an obstacle to their implementation.

Speaking about safe injection sites, on June 7, Dr. Richard Massé, the director of public health for Montreal, said in Le Devoir:

…These services save lives. It is too early to say what will happen, but… [this bill] appears to me to create significant barriers, even though the Supreme Court clearly said that not providing these services was a violation of human rights.

Also in Le Devoir, the Canadian Medical Association said it sees a bill that is built on ideology. As to the objection that establishing a place where drugs obtained from illegal sources are consumed could cause a lot of harm in the community, Quebec's health minister says that the studies that have been conducted on the subject do not bear that out. He said that the bill should be studied further, specifically with the justice minister of Quebec.

Many groups are concerned about this bill that challenges the Supreme Court decision. It is designed as a way to undermine the court's decision and to find another way to close safe injection sites because they go counter to this government's ideology.

Why do the Conservatives not simply admit what this bill is about? What are the real reasons behind the bill? How far are the Conservatives prepared to go to jeopardize health, safety and the dignity of human life and when are they going to admit that this bill really is based on ideology?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak today to oppose Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. As you are aware, this bill had been introduced as Bill C-65 at the end of the previous parliamentary session. It has now been reintroduced in its current form, as Bill C-2.

We are the only party to comment on the subject today. The NDP is the only party standing up to give a voice to the least fortunate in our society.

The Conservative government has missed a fine opportunity. It should have taken advantage of the House prorogation to consign this bill to oblivion. It is a thinly veiled attempt to stop supervised injection sites from operating, in direct defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on these sites.

The bill sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would have to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria will make it much harder for organizations to open supervised injection sites in Canada.

For new supervised injection sites, preparing the application would be so onerous that it would likely deter applicants from opening such a site. The department's representatives have told us that if an applicant were to accidentally forget to include any detail, the application would automatically be refused. Even if all the required documents were included with the application, and it has the full support of the community, the minister would still be able to refuse the application.

If the bill is passed, new applications will have to include the following: scientific evidence demonstrating a medical benefit; a letter from the ministers responsible for public health and safety, municipal governments, local police chiefs and senior public health officials; information about infectious diseases and overdoses related to the use of illicit substances; a description of the drug treatment services available at the public safety site; a description of the potential impact of the site on public safety; a description of the measures that would be taken to minimize the divergence of controlled substances; information on loitering in a public place that may be related to certain activities involving illicit substances, drug trafficking and crime in the vicinity of the site at the time of the application; a report of the consultations held with a broad range of community groups from the municipality, including copies of all written submissions received and a description of the steps that would be taken to address any relevant concerns.

Needless to say, drug addicts could die 15 times in that timeframe.

Some requests may also take forever for no good reason, which means groups could be kept waiting for months or even years. The bill mentions there will be a 90-day public consultation period when a group requests an exemption, but it does say how long it could take for Health Canada to process a request, or for the minister to reach a decision.

The bill also lays out principles that the minister will have to consider before accepting a request. These principles, stated in section 5, essentially list all reasons why a request could be rejected. I quote:

The Minister may only grant an exemption for a medical purpose under subsection (2) to allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site in exceptional circumstances and after having considered the following principles:

(a) illicit substances may have serious health effects;

(b) adulterated controlled substances may pose health risks;

(c) the risks of overdose are inherent to the use of certain illicit substances;

(d) strict controls are required, given the inherent health risks associated with controlled substances that may alter mental processes;

(e) organized crime profits from the use of illicit substances; and

(f) criminal activity often results from the use of illicit substances.

I am not sure what kind of circus the Conservatives are living in, but they seem to act as if we were still in the 20th century, rather than fully in the 13th year of the 21st century.

I encourage them to open their eyes, and to see that drugs have infiltrated communities all across the country. I encourage them to put on new glasses, and to realize that Canada exports a lot of drugs, mainly to the U.S.

To back up that statement, I would like to quote from an article by Tom Godfrey published on the Canoe network on January 30, 2012. He said:

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale, police say. The RCMP have seized tonnes of illicit synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and methamphetamine being shipped abroad after being “cooked” in make-shift labs in apartments, homes and businesses in the GTA.

Police are now seizing more chemicals and synthetic drugs, which they say is favoured by young people, at Canadian border checks rather than the traditional cocaine, heroin or hashish that officers call drugs of “a last generation”.

According to a Radio-Canada report broadcast on November 8, 2013, Colorado was about to legalize the free consumption of marijuana for all adults over 21. This is a North American first, and it is happening in a country that has always officially waged war on drugs, including cannabis. The state is unmistakably planning to legalize it, not decriminalize it. We are talking about recreational marijuana use, not medical use. This is unique, and Uruguay and Washington state will soon be doing it too.

Before wrapping up, I would like to talk about an experience I had. I was living with my two daughters in an apartment with a back alley. I frequently found needles in that alley. When the kids found needles, they gave them to us. That is why I would really have appreciated having a place in the community that I could have referred people to when they came to shoot up behind my apartment building.

When people are sick, they get care. When people are using drugs, they are sick and need care. That is why specialized care has been made available to help these people get the unique care they need. That is what Vancouver's InSite provides.

This is a deeply flawed bill based on anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is the latest attempt to rally the Conservative base. The Conservatives' “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign, launched just hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament, makes that very clear. That is what I call turning a blind eye.

This bill will make it practically impossible to open safe injection sites, which will put heroin back in our neighbourhoods. The Conservative government is increasing barriers to providing a service to those in need in a safe place, rather than in an alley where needles can be found by young children. There are many risks associated with that.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to stand in the House and follow my colleagues in speaking on such an important issue and one that relates to the piece of legislation that we have before us, Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

First of all, I would like to indicate, as my colleagues have done, that we in the NDP oppose the bill. Essentially Bill C-2 is a thinly veiled effort to stop supervised injection sites from operating, a direct defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on these sites. The legislation sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would need to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria would make it much harder for organizations to open safe injection sites in Canada.

I am proud to be part of a party that has long advocated for safe injection sites and a party that has indicated that we need to find ways to be able to support people who have fallen through the cracks, who suffer with addiction, who are keen to get out of the trap that so many face and who need help to do so.

The NDP believes that decisions about programs that may benefit public health must be based on facts and not ideology. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite provided life-saving services and should remain open with a section 56 exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The court ruled that it was within InSite users' charter rights to access the service and that similar services should also be allowed to operate with an exemption. Over 30 peer-reviewed studies published in journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and others have described the beneficial impact of InSite.

Furthermore, studies on over 70 safe injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown similar benefits. InSite is one of the greatest public health achievements in our country. We in the NDP believe that it and similarly beneficial sites should be allowed to operate under proper supervision.

That is why we are so concerned to see Bill C-2 in front of us here today. This is a bill that is fundamentally based on ideology and is not based on evidence. It is certainly not based on what we are hearing from people in the medical profession who are saying that InSite and other operations like it are extremely important in being able to lead to harm reduction, to save lives, to get people on the right path to heal from their addictions, and to integrate back into their communities and into a life of dignity.

Bill C-2 is a deeply flawed bill based on an anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the fundraising drive entitled “keep heroin out of our backyards” that started hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament. However, the bill, which would make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites, will actually put heroin back into our neighbourhoods.

Another reason we find the bill extremely problematic is that Bill C-2 directly defies the 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites based on a balance between public health and safety. It called on the minister to consider all the evidence on the benefits of safe injection sites rather than setting out a lengthy list of principles by which to apply judgments.

We in the NDP believe that any further legislation on supervised injection sites should respect the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision, which is not the case with this bill. The NDP believes that harm reduction programs, including safe injection sites, should be granted exemptions based on evidence of their ability to improve a community's health and preserve human life, not ideology.

There is currently only one operational supervised injection site in Canada, InSite, which is located in Vancouver. Since it opened, Vancouver has seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime, communicable disease infection rates, and relapse rates for drug users.

InSite, as many people will know, opened as part of a public health plan by the Vancouver Coastal Health authority and its community partners following a twelvefold increase in overdose deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. At the time, the Vancouver area was also seeing drastic increases in communicable diseases among injection drug users, including hepatitis A, B, and C and HIV/AIDS.

InSite was originally granted an exemption in 2003 to operate under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for medical and scientific purposes, to both provide services and to research the effectiveness of supervised injection facilities. Section 56 of the current Controlled Drugs and Substances Act grants the minister authority to approve operations utilizing drugs for medical, scientific, or law enforcement purposes. In 2007, the OnSite detox centre was added to the site.

The InSite organization and the work that happens on the Vancouver east side is something that leads to better lives, not only for people who suffer from addiction but also for the broader community. I want to read into the record what people who support InSite and harm reduction measures based on medical evidence have said.

Pivot Legal Society, the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition issued a statement on Bill C-2. It was a statement first made when Bill C-65 was introduced. They said:

The bill is an irresponsible initiative that ignores both the extensive evidence that such health services are needed and effective, and the human rights of Canadians with addictions....

It is unethical, unconstitutional and damaging to both public health and the public purse to block access to supervised consumption services...

The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association have both criticized the government for bringing forward Bill C-2. The Canadian Medical Association said:

Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.

Let us move on to other practitioners in the health care field. The Canadian Nurses Association said:

Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations—especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness. A government truly committed to public health and safety would work to enhance access to prevention and treatment services—instead of building more barriers.

Based on the validation of these positions we have heard from people who are involved in the medical field, based on people who work and live in Vancouver's east side, and based on the figures that overdoses have decreased by 35%, the evidence is clear. There is a great deal indicating that the government is going down the wrong path.

What is especially disconcerting is that the government is willing to ignore and disrespect a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that has ruled on this very issue. I wish I could say that this was shocking, but the government has shown great disregard for the work of the Supreme Court, certainly when it comes to areas that, ideologically, the government does not see eye to eye on. It is deeply disconcerting and problematic for a lot of people who are tuning in, whether to this debate or to Parliament, frankly, every day to see a government that was elected to represent the best interests of Canadians make decisions that are not based on evidence, science, or respect for the Supreme Court, the highest court of our country. It bases them on ideology and fearmongering.

I think of the people in my constituency who suffer from addiction, who are in a cycle of poverty, unemployment, and living in third world conditions, in many cases. They are unable to access help, because the same federal government has cut funding for important healing programs, including the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and other initiatives that helped people in my part of the country. I think of the many people across Canada who are increasingly struggling as the cost of living goes up, as employment leaves their regions, as they struggle to make do with what little they have. Often they are vulnerable to some of these same cycles of addiction and violence. I think of the fact that the government has a chance to act by retracting Bill C-2 and standing with us on the opposition side for harm reduction and healthier, better lives for people and communities across this country.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2013 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

I cannot talk about Bill C-2 without making a reference to Bill C-65, the former bill introduced at the close of the last session of Parliament, which, need I remind the House, ended when the Conservatives prorogued Parliament. All of the bills left on the table when the last session ended needed to be reintroduced and renumbered. That is why we find ourselves now completing the task at hand.

I might as well say it upfront: Bill C-2 is a thinly veiled attempt to put an end to supervised injection sites. This proposed legislation goes directly against the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision that called on the minister to consider exemptions for supervised injection sites, in an effort to reconcile health and public safety considerations.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the only supervised injection site in Canada. It is located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I do not know if my colleagues have ever been there, but it is certainly a neighbourhood where truly disturbing things happen. Everyone deserves to know what I am talking about.

InSite was set up as part of a public health initiative launched by the City of Vancouver and its community partners, after the number of overdose-related deaths in Vancouver increased twelvefold between 1987 and 1993. It took many years to get the InSite centre up and running, and each stage of the process was closely scrutinized, both locally and nationally.

The supervised injection site has the support not only of the Vancouver police, something which is by no means insignificant, but also of local businesses, the chamber of commerce and municipal politicians. The project has been the focus of over 30 scientific reports and studies that have described the benefits of InSite. These findings have been peer-reviewed and published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal. Studies of over 70 analogous supervised injection sites in Europe and Australia have recognized similar benefits.

When InSite opened in 2003, it secured an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities with medical and scientific applications. It is worth noting that since then, InSite has had a positive impact. It helps save lives, minimizes the risk of accidental overdoses and above all, makes the neighbourhood safer for everyone.

However, in 2008, the exemption granted to InSite under the law was set to expire. The Conservative government rejected InSite’s application for renewal. The debate went all the way to the Supreme Court, which held that InSite was a key stakeholder in the health field. In its ruling, the court called upon the minister to consider all of the probative elements of the matter, bearing in mind the benefits of supervised injection sites, rather than set out a lengthy list of principles on which to base conclusions.

I would like to quote a critically important excerpt from the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision, since the bill now before us is supposedly based on this ruling. Here is what the Supreme Court had to say in its decision:

On future applications, the Minister must exercise that discretion within the constraints imposed by the law and the Charter, aiming to strike the appropriate balance between achieving public health and public safety. In accordance with the Charter, the Minister must consider whether denying an exemption would cause deprivations of life and security of the person that are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Where...a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption.

That is what the Supreme Court stated. In my opinion, this ruling is quite clear.

In my riding of Québec, I have had the opportunity to meet several times with stakeholders and volunteers, including those from Point de repères, a community organization that I would like to commend. The organization's mission consists of health promotion, prevention and the delivery of care and services, especially for people dealing with addiction. It is important to understand this difference: an organization like Point de repères does not encourage drug use, but, rather, it advocates a harm reduction approach. As the Point de repères website indicates:

The harm reduction approach is a community-based approach to health that focuses on helping people with addictions develop ways to mitigate the negative consequences of their behaviour, rather than on eliminating the use of psychotropic drugs.

I think it is important to understand the fine points of this often sensitive subject. Again, as explained on the Point de repères website:

Drug use has a significant impact on both the user and the community. Often, lack of knowledge, misconceptions and prejudices about people who use drugs lead to a series of inappropriate actions that cause additional harm to the user and the community.

I had the opportunity to watch a documentary entitled “Pas de piquerie dans mon quartier” about people's resistance to safe injection sites in their neighbourhood. The documentary shed light on the addiction issue in a city like Quebec City, for example.

The documentary's introduction, which unfortunately reflects the glaring truth, states that “the war on drugs often turned into a war on drug users. It is a bit like the war on poverty—we have to be careful not to turn it into a war on the poor”.

Why is the government so lacking in objectivity when it comes to this very sensitive issue? Why are the Conservatives refusing to recognize the facts laid out before them? The NDP believes that decisions about programs that could enhance public health should be based on facts, not ideological stances. We are not alone in thinking that. According to the Canadian Medical Association:

Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.

For its part, the Canadian Nurses Association said:

Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations—especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness.

A government that truly cared about public health and public safety would do everything in its power to improve access to prevention and treatment services, not create more barriers. Evidence has shown that supervised injection sites reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and the number of overdose-related deaths. Evidence has also shown that they do not adversely affect public safety. In some cases, they actually promote it by reducing injection drug use in public, reducing the amount of violence associated with that activity, and reducing the waste associated with drug use.

Supervised injection sites strike a balance between public health and public safety goals. They also connect people who urgently need help with the health services they need, such as primary health care and addiction treatment.

The NDP believes that any new legislation about supervised injection sites must honour the spirit of the Supreme Court decision, which this bill does not do. As my colleague from Vancouver East has said, Bill C-2 contains as many criteria as there are letters in the alphabet, and those 26 criteria are so restrictive and biased that they are practically impossible to comply with.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2013 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, could you let me know when I have five minutes left rather than one minute? I fear that the 10 minutes I am allotted today will not leave me enough time to express how aggravating I find the government's approach to this issue.

That being said, I am pleased to rise in the House to discuss Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I want to state clearly that the NDP will be voting against this bill at second reading. During the previous session, last June, Bill C-2 was known as Bill C-65. We are now coming back to the debate after a prorogation that was very costly for Canadian voters, as the government used it not to start on a new path, but to hide from its responsibilities during the Senate scandal.

I would like to clarify a few things for those who are honouring us by watching us on CPAC at home. Bill C-2 is a government bill. As it is now past 5 p.m., the House has already spent more than five hours debating this bill today alone, and not a single Conservative has spoken for 10 minutes in favour of the bill. Not a single Conservative has done so in five hours of debate on a bill introduced by their own government.

Like my colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, they just keep saying that supporting supervised injection sites makes the NDP an accomplice of drug pushers and who knows what. Their reasoning reflects their bad faith. According to their logic, social workers are also complicit in crime, as are the Supreme Court judges, who rejected the government's interference in supervised injection sites. Their childish, black and white thinking means that everyone in our society, except the Conservatives with their incredible ethics, is complicit in organized crime in Canada.

What is happening today is another example of the worst failure of the Conservative government: its unwillingness to fulfill its duties as the government, which include consulting. As shown by the lack of speakers and the lack of answers during question period, the Conservatives are breaking with the principle of responsible government. They are showing complete disregard for their duty to protect a vulnerable minority, in this case people who are addicted to hard, intravenous drugs. The government is disregarding the consensus among leading experts and even the decisions by the judges of our country's highest courts.

The contents of Bill C-2 and this government's attitude fit in with the Conservatives' appalling tendency to scorn what should be defended as state responsibilities, especially by a government leading a lawful society. This government will go down in the history books as being increasingly dogmatic and really, completely narrow-minded.

Bill C-2 addresses a truly sad reality. In fact, it tries to deny this reality. Politics is the art of the possible in a world that is never perfect. How can we know in an imperfect world if the decisions we make in this House as elected representatives are the best possible decisions? Well, we have to base our decisions on the real situation and implement changes that are likely to bring the least amount of harm to the largest number of citizens. That is what we are reduced to doing. It is our duty to ask ourselves if our actions and our decisions are likely to make fewer people suffer or make more people suffer.

Bill C-2 is a perfect example of a bill from a government that chooses to ignore its duty to make fewer people suffer, in spite of all the facts, in order to please the ideological perceptions of its supporters. This is evidenced by the debates and extremely negative press this government received when it launched its “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign. Coincidentally, this was in line with the court challenges brought against InSite.

It is important to get back to the facts, which are serious, striking, sharp and clear on this issue.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that InSite, which is in Vancouver and is currently the only such site in Canada, provides an essential service. It was not the NDP or the nasty leftists who said so; it was the Supreme Court.

Over 30 peer-reviewed studies published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal have described InSite as a very good thing.

As was previously mentioned, the InSite supervised injection site is located in Vancouver. Since this site opened, Vancouver has seen a 35% reduction in overdose deaths. The Conservatives have to remove their narrow little ideological glasses; they have to take them off at some point and see the world as it really is. The idea is to ensure that, beyond our ideologies, there will be fewer people who suffer as a result of our decisions. That is an idea.

Is it good news that we have to consider opening supervised injection sites in several major urban centres? No. Will not doing this cause exactly the opposite effect of what we should do, in other words, cause more human suffering? Yes. The proof is that there was a 35% decrease in Vancouver after the city started taking care of people struggling with serious addictions to intravenous hard drugs.

Vancouver has seen a decrease in crime, as well as the rate of infection of sexually transmitted diseases. This also means that the costs for a site like InSite may turn out to be zero. We need smart studies to look into this, not ideological perspectives. Indeed, if we leave these people in some back alley to inject drugs and catch all kinds of diseases, where will they eventually end up? In the health care system, that is where. These people end up costing a fortune to treat.

The Conservatives like to brag about their great economic skills, saying that they are the best in the G8, but they should take a good look and start calculating the costs of public services under their approach, which is bad.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the minister of health's decision not to renew the exemption and close InSite violated the rights of its patrons under the charter and that the minister's decision was arbitrary and undermined the very objectives of the Act, namely, public health and safety.

Once again, we heard the same two arguments that come back time and time again, that are completely childish and simplistic. I know my colleague is an intelligent man. I am quite sure that he is having trouble with his party’s talking notes, as we call them. He must have trouble believing the lines himself when he reads them. He must say to himself, “That cannot be right, that cannot be possible, we are not in grade 7”.

The other idea is that it would be detrimental to public safety, while even the Supreme Court concluded that such facilities were beneficial. That was clear with what happened around the only supervised facility currently in operation in Canada.

I heard another of my Conservative colleagues say that he had sent out a letter to his constituents and that most of the people who answered were against it. Among the people who worked to set up the InSite facility, the people of Vancouver, 80% of those asked who lived or worked in Vancouver’s downtown eastside supported InSite. They saw the benefit of not leaving people outside in the back lanes with all sorts of consequences—used needles on the ground and people who become ill—but having a safe area where there is a chance that some of them might recover from their addiction, or at least suffer a little less from it.

Injection drug users who go to InSite are 70% less likely to share needles. Again, it is about health and public safety. Of course, this is not a perfect solution. In an ideal world, I would like to live in a country where, for all sorts of reasons, because of the social systems, everyone has a perfect childhood and no one is addicted to hard drugs. But this is not the case. As a government, we must deal with the real situation.

The Conservatives’ hypocrisy on this issue, especially over the past few weeks, has been remarkable and incredible. The current health minister said that she did not judge Rob Ford and that she hoped he would receive some help. One week earlier, she said she wanted to ban prescriptions for heroin, which are supported by the doctors who help people who want to recover from their addiction.

Are we to understand that supervised crack houses would be acceptable to the minister, but that supervised drug injection facilities would not? Do you see how utterly nonsensical this reasoning is? Perhaps the Conservatives would agree to a supervised drug site reserved strictly for Conservatives. This is nonsense, and it must stop.

Let us make decisions based on facts and let us make sure that in Canada there are fewer, not more, of our fellow citizens who are suffering.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the bill, which was formerly Bill C-65 and is now Bill C-2.

The bill is on something about respect for communities, but that is not really what is going on here. It is an attempt to undermine a Supreme Court decision by putting in rules and regulations, which the Supreme Court has asked the government to do, that would make it virtually impossible to actually abide by the Supreme Court decision, which says that these places should be permitted to exist.

Once again, we have a government that ignores facts, statistics, and evidence. This is a government, do not forget, that wanted to eliminate evidence by closing down such things as the long form census and the Experimental Lakes Area. The Conservatives do want there to be evidence. They do not want Canadians to know what they are up to by there being evidence of what might happen.

We have a government that acts, time and again, in opposition to evidence-based decision-making. It acts in opposition to science-based decision-making. It acts in opposition to decision-making that is for the public good. Instead, its actions seem to be knee-jerk reactions that give the Conservatives opportunities to raise money to get elected and to continue this practice of doing things that are not in the interest of the public.

This is yet another example of an action by a government that is attempting to raise alarm bells for citizens about what might or might not happen in their neighbourhoods.

So far, only three communities I am aware of have actually asked for the authority the bill would grant, albeit without going through some pretty steep hoops. They are Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa.

My riding is in Toronto, in one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Ontario. It is against that context that I want to talk about why it is the NDP believes that the bill is completely wrong-headed. In fact, the bill would be defying the Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court ruling directed the government to come up with mechanisms to allow these things to happen. Instead, we are getting a bill that would make it well-nigh impossible for a community, a public health agency, doctors, and respected members of a community to actually put in place a safe injection site where public harm and harm to individuals would be reduced.

If the Conservatives are opposed to reducing harm, why are they in government? The whole point of us being here is to try to reduce harm. However, the bill would actually increase it in places where we should be trying to reduce it.

The government has taken its cue, based on the questions I have been hearing so far today, from the notion that people do not want one of those things in their neighbourhood. Well, I walk in the park in my neighbourhood. It is a big, beautiful park on the banks of the Humber River, and there are needles in that park from drug users who have not had a safe place to inject, and therefore they litter the ground. One cannot walk safely in my little park, because there is no place for harm reduction in my neighbourhood. There is no harm reduction place where people can go to inject the drugs safely.

An addiction is recognized by medical authorities, the public, insurance companies, and even the reputable sources of disability recognition as, in fact, a disability, not a crime. It is not something to be looked down upon. We need to find ways to help individuals who have addictions.

One way to help these individuals, which has been successfully promoted in Vancouver, is a safe injection site. It is a place where it has been found that harm is reduced for the public, both the individuals who are addicted and the public at large, by providing them with a place they can go to safely inject themselves with what we otherwise understand are dangerous drugs.

We would all love it if these things did not exist, but they do exist. They exist in a manner in which the outcome of the use of these drugs in unsupervised ways, in unsafe ways, has led to significant increases in other diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. Who is going to look after those individuals when those diseases get the better of them? Those diseases will eventually get the better of those individuals, and it is the public, not the individuals themselves, that will pay for their health care.

We are dealing with a government that is preaching about the government having to watch every penny. Here is a situation in which the taxpayer, which Conservatives claim to be on the side of, will end up paying more because of this shortsighted bill. The taxpayer will have to look after the individuals who eventually come to hospitals and medical facilities as a result of diseases we could have prevented and limited had we been dealing with them in a more proactive way early on, when these individuals started to inject themselves unsafely.

We should be doing more to try to deal with the addictions themselves. As we have seen in the press very recently, in a big and public way, addictions are a real problem for individuals in my city. One of the first things that happens to addicts is that they deny it. They do not have a problem.

I was a union representative for many years, and many were the individuals who claimed they had no problem. Some we were able to help. Some got treatment. Others did not, and unfortunately, they became a burden to the health system first, and then, in some cases, they passed away. Those individuals were a burden on society, not because they were not able to get the help they needed but because they denied that they had that problem in the first place.

The same is going to be true of individuals who are seeking help at the safe injection sites. Some of them do not believe they have a problem. How are we going to convince them to get help unless we lead them to the help? That is part of what the safe injection sites do. They provide a safe place where addicts can get counselling and where they can get attention from nurses and doctors. They can therefore be exposed to the help to get them free from their addictions.

That kind of thing is being asked for by the City of Toronto as part of its request to the federal government. In fact, the City of Toronto will be speaking on this matter when the bill goes to committee, because it has recommended that the Board of Health make a submission to the federal government to register its opposition to Bill C-65. This is a recommendation from the medical officer of health of Toronto, by the way. It will also recommend the development of a more feasible CDSA exemption application process for supervised injection services, in consultation with relevant provincial public health, public safety, and community stakeholders, including people who use drugs.

The Board of Health urges the provincial government to fund the integration of supervised injection services on a pilot basis, but they cannot do that if the federal government will not give its permission. That is what we are up against. We are up against a government that, as evidenced by the questions I have been hearing so far, is fundamentally opposed to the existence of these things anywhere. It has put into the bill such blockades or walls to get over that it will be virtually impossible for any of the cities in our country to create a supervised injection site with permission from the government.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2013 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret: the Conservatives' Bill C-2 is the product of this government's opposition to the decision by the Supreme Court, which found that the government should uphold the exemption that allows Vancouver's supervised injection site, InSite, to remain open.

InSite is North America's first and only legal supervised injection site. It seems obvious that despite the many people speaking in favour of opening at least three more sites elsewhere in Canada—in Toronto and Ottawa in particular—Bill C-2 is simply meant to create obstacles for anyone wishing to undertake such initiatives.

Even the Canadian Medical Association said in its press release that it “is deeply concerned that the proposed legislation may be creating unnecessary obstacles and burdens that could ultimately deter creation of more injection sites”.

The Supreme Court, medical community experts and street workers all agree that this type of approach “is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion”.

In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the evidence indicated that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and where there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the minister should generally grant an exemption.

The Conservatives have managed to inflate statistics on crime, repeat offenders and abortion, and are simply continuing to impose their political and moral agenda and ignoring all the evidence and trends before them.

These situations show the problems associated with cuts to statistical and psychosocial studies, the collection and analysis of information and the social sciences in general. This results in decisions being made solely on the basis of beliefs and prejudices, not facts.

A number of groups believe that this bill is irresponsible. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition issued a joint news release, and had this to say about Bill C-2:

The bill is an irresponsible initiative that ignores both the extensive evidence that such health services are needed and effective, and the human rights of Canadians with addictions. In essence, the bill seeks to create multiple additional hurdles that providers of health services must overcome.

The bill imposes about twenty conditions that must be met in order to obtain an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, especially with respect to the consultation of experts and groups. Proponents of the project would be solely responsible for fulfilling the requirements for consultations with government and community stakeholders.

The irony is that when InSite was being established in 2003, the Mayor of Vancouver claimed the following:

[It] was launched after extensive dialogue in the local area, and with thorough city-wide debate, and its programming continues to be shaped with ongoing input from nearby residents, businesses, and service organizations.

This bill is based entirely on bad faith and stereotypes and has been promoted through a fearmongering campaign. The very day the previous bill, Bill C-65, was introduced, the government began a shock advertising campaign entitled “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. The campaign speaks out against supervised injection sites in utter disregard for all the scientific arguments, statistics and research that managed to convince every judge who sits on the highest court in the country.

On the campaign site, it reads:

Yet, as I write this, special interests are trying to open up these supervised drug consumption sites in cities and towns across Canada—over the objections of local residents and law enforcement....Add your name if you demand a say before a supervised drug consumption site is opened close to your family.

The government did a good job of scaring people.

This campaign was strongly criticized by organizations including the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, which felt that the Conservatives' initiative was clearly:

...an attempt to stir up opposition to these life-saving services and to the people who use these services.

The coalition also criticized the language used in the campaign, which directly targets families by calling into question the safety of their loved ones.

That is irresponsible and dishonest. InSite is not located in a residential neighbourhood right next door to an elementary school. It is located in one of the poorest and most violent neighbourhoods in Canada, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Many experts testified in committee about the benefits this centre has brought into the lives of those who use it and the positive impact it has had on their environment. I would like to quote Ahmed Bayoumi, a doctor and researcher who continues to fight for the establishment of other supervised injection sites. He had this to say about InSite:

[InSite] has been associated with a reduction in public injecting, no increase in drug-related loitering or drug dealing, no changes in crime rates, no evidence of increased relapse among people who had stopped injecting drugs, and decreased fatal overdose in neighbourhoods near Insite. Among people who used the facility, there was an observed increased rate of referrals for drug treatment and a decreased rate of sharing of injection equipment.

Needless to say, there was no shortage of reactions when this bill was introduced, and those reactions were not really complimentary to the government.

Let us begin with the Supreme Court, which in its September 29, 2011 ruling basically accused the government of acting in an arbitrary manner and overestimating the risk associated with these types of facilities as compared to the positive effects they can have. According to the Supreme Court:

According to the Supreme Court, applying the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to InSite was:

...arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the CDSA, which include public health and safety. It is also grossly disproportionate: the potential denial of health services and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users outweigh any benefit that might be derived from maintaining an absolute prohibition on possession of illegal drugs on Insite’s premises.

Along the same lines, Dr. Bayoumi had this to say about Bill C-2:

...sets up barriers and puts in place opaque mechanisms that could lead to narrow perspectives dominating the decision. It is a step backwards for informed health policy decision making.

In a press release issued in response to Bill C-2, which was Bill C-65 at the time, the Canadian Medical Association stated that this bill:

...is founded upon ideology that seeks to hinder initiatives to mitigate the very real challenges and great personal harm caused by drug abuse.

In fact, even Vancouver's Mayor Robertson defended the centre, saying he considers it a key resource and part of any good public health policy. He concluded his press release by saying:

Especially in light of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the program’s proven ability to prevent overdose deaths and the spread of disease, I am strongly opposed to any legislative or regulatory changes which would impede Insite’s successful operations.

In the way it has managed this issue, the Conservative government has demonstrated its utter contempt for the Supreme Court, which had to act as a counterbalance to the government's ideological policies.

The Conservatives never hesitate to lower the standard of debate around real arguments in order to spew rhetoric or propose strategies simply to achieve their own ends.

This is not only appalling, but unworthy of someone who is supposed to carry the responsibilities of the Minister of Health.

This government is ignoring the Supreme Court's clear, unanimous decision by introducing a bill that distorts the nature of the rationale given by the judges.

Using our role as legislators in this way is unacceptable and proves only one thing: the Conservatives will do anything to achieve their own ends.

In his book on the Prime Minister and his model of governance, author Christian Nadeau said something that rang very true and still holds true today: the Prime Minister is giving himself four years to:

...overhaul the country's institutions so that the Conservatives have the maximum possible room to manoeuvre in terms of citizens’ rights and security, freedom of conscience and social justice...

When we are dealing with supervised injection sites, we should be listening to and supporting the experts and the people on the front lines, the people who work with drug addicts every day. We should take their advice.

The government has no scientific studies to back its claims. Sites like these are not there to encourage drug use. Far from it. It has been proven that these kinds of sites can help decrease drug use and addiction. If we keep these people underground, how will street outreach workers and health care experts be able to help the addicts who want help?

These kinds of sites bring addicts out of hiding so that we can make contact with them, provide support and eventually help them rebuild their lives.

I urge the government to rethink its approach. I urge them to withdraw Bill C-2 because the official opposition will clearly be voting against this bill at all stages.

In my opinion, this bill will do some very serious damage to the fight against drug addiction.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to speak for 10 minutes to BIll C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Before prorogation, it also went by the name of C-65, for those who have been following this matter, which has after all been in the public domain for some years.

In 2007, unfortunately, the Conservative government sought to close the only supervised injection site in Canada, InSite in Vancouver. At each stage in the legal process, the government faced defeat. The courts—both the appeal courts of British Columbia and the Supreme Court—stressed that these sites served a purpose in Canada and that they followed the guidelines available to users in this country.

I deplore the ideology behind this. In Canada, after all, we do have an anti-drug strategy, like many other governments, except that an incident occurred in 2007. Before the Conservative government came into power in 2006, we already had an anti-drug strategy with four pillars. It was based on prevention, treatment, enforcement and, fourth, harm reduction.

I say “had” because in 2007, the government updated its national anti-drug strategy, and it mysteriously rested on just three pillars. Harm reduction had disappeared. That is where ideology comes in, because the InSite supervised injection site in Vancouver was intended precisely to reduce harm.

It is therefore understandable that the Conservative government should endeavour to make such a change by all possible means, both legal and legislative. The matter went as far as the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court informed the government that it had lost its case on three occasions. Under the law, people have a right to access a supervised injection site. A little later in my speech, I will explain why such sites can be a good thing for the public.

Obviously, the government has turned around and used the last card it held: changing the law so that it becomes illegal and unacceptable to have such sites in Canada, without even considering the studies done over the years.

InSite has been in operation for many years. It is the first, and the one and only supervised injection site to have been set up in Canada. Its purpose is to research ways of helping addicts who have reached the end of the road and who, unfortunately, use drugs. These are not people who use drugs recreationally, but people who have, for a variety of reasons, reached a point in their lives where they really cannot stop. Such people should not be left to their own devices. They need help.

In the NDP, we are really going to ensure that no Canadian is left behind. I thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for sharing our belief that the people of Canada deserve a government that cares about Canadians, and not just about their Conservative Party buddies.

This is a thinly veiled attempt by the Conservative government to put an end to supervised injection sites across Canada. Vancouver is not the only city that wants one; Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa do as well. Other Canadian cities have looked at the same scientific studies as we have and have concluded that it is a part of Canada’s anti-drug strategy to provide assistance for people who—let us face it—may continue to use drugs.

My colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles was speaking earlier about apartment buildings she owns in upscale suburban neighbourhoods in Quebec City, where people were unfortunately shooting up in the alleyways.

They left their potentially contaminated paraphernalia in the alleys, near places frequented by young and not-so-young members of the public.

It is therefore burying our heads in the sand to believe that the solution is to close injection sites in Canada and that our streets will be safer and our neighbourhoods less dangerous for our children. That is not true. It has actually been demonstrated that if these people are not using drugs in supervised injection sites, they will do so anywhere, even in places that cause concern. I am referring, for example, to playgrounds in this country.

I do not wish to oversimplify either, but I am genuinely convinced that my Conservative colleagues would prefer to have heroin addicts using drugs in a supervised injection site, with nurses and social workers who can help them overcome their difficulties, rather than in neighbourhood parks where children play.

I said that there had been studies on the subject, and it is true. More than 30 peer-reviewed studies have been published in such journals as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal. The writers describe the benefits of InSite in Vancouver. Moreover, studies of more than 70 similar supervised injection sites in Europe and Australia report similar outcomes. InSite constitutes one of the most important public health breakthroughs in Canada. We believe that this site and other sites in Canada can generate similar benefits and should be allowed to provide services under appropriate supervision.

The word “supervision” is really important here. I will provide some explanation of how InSite operates. First, it is open seven days a week, from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. There are 12 injection stations. Users bring their own substances. People at home should not get the idea that the government pays for people’s drugs through InSite. On the other hand, staff members provide injection equipment. It is this that is so important, because we know that there are many health risks if users use the same needles or share them around. People in utter misery are not overly careful.

People can develop and transmit blood-borne infections. I am talking about diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. This is a huge burden on the Canadian health care system. However, the Conservative government decided to cut $31 billion from health care transfers to the provinces. It will be harder and harder for the provinces to balance their health care budgets. Of course, it is even more difficult for the provinces to treat people with HIV or hepatitis A, B or C.

I really wonder whether the government has a heart. Where is its compassion? Does the idea of helping one's neighbour still exist? Helping one’s neighbour should be a universal value, but perhaps the Conservative members prefer helping their neighbours only if their neighbours can help them back or only if they have never in their life made a mistake.

However, people do find themselves on the street, they become prostitutes or they use drugs, if not both. Some of them have had a difficult life. Sometimes, they were abandoned by their family or they experienced violence and sexual abuse in their childhood. It is no secret that adults take drugs, and it is not surprising that children take drugs. People who find themselves on the street join together, and unfortunately sometimes they fall into the hell of drug use. We must do more to help them.

The Conservative government thinks that it will solve the problem by closing supervised injection facilities in Canada. In fact, the reverse is true.

I am going to end on this note. I really think the government’s anti-drug strategy—a strategy I hope it will soon change—should include the fourth pillar I mentioned: harm reduction.

Prevention is important, but I would like to stress the fact that treatment is just as important. It is important to punish drug dealers, but when people are needy and destitute, they need help finding a way out. They need help, and this help can come from supervised injection sites.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2013 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

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.