Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)

An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Rona Ambrose  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Food and Drugs Act regarding therapeutic products in order to improve safety by introducing measures to, among other things,

(a) strengthen safety oversight of therapeutic products throughout their life cycle;

(b) improve reporting by certain health care institutions of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents that involve therapeutic products; and

(c) promote greater confidence in the oversight of therapeutic products by increasing transparency.

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.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Routine Proceedings

June 16th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations with respect to the final stages of Bill C-17, Vanessa's Law, and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, shall be deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, following the comments of the opposition House leader, I hope that we can get unanimous consent for the following:

I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would like to say that we are glad that the government finally got its act together after six months and finally asked the question. Of course, our response was, as it has been for six months, yes, let us move it to committee.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for asking. No, it does not. As I mentioned earlier, it is the issue of the precedence around not asking us the question and then pretending that the government needs to bring in time allocation. That is something that is seriously a matter of parliamentary rights and privileges.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats stand firmly behind our democracy and our democratic rights and privileges that all Canadians enjoy.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this bill, but to support sending it to committee. While this bill is a substantial improvement on the status quo, it has still taken the current government eight years, even though as Liberals we have pushed the government to change the way it regulates, the way it develops, and the way it looks at drug safety for Canadians.

However, the Conservatives have put the bill forward and there are some pieces of the bill that we like, but we think it falls short. There are other things we would like to see in this bill, and the minister herself has said in the House when she introduced the bill that she is open to amendments. So we are taking the minister at her word, and we are going to say we would like it to go to committee, and we hope the minister will be true to her word and will look at our amendments then.

Here are some things we like about the bill.

We think that the minister getting the power to recall drugs is a very important piece that has been a long time coming. The minister has to be able to do so without first getting the manufacturer's approval. Before this, the minister had to get the manufacturer's approval to recall a drug or to say that a drug has severe side effects. The new language says that “If the Minister believes that a therapeutic product may present a serious risk of injury to human health...”. That is good language, and we support the minister getting those powers.

The minister used to have to overcome the reluctance of the companies to want to give that information. Now the minister would have the ability to compel industry to provide the information about the drugs that the minister wishes to either seek a notice of compliance on or that are actually out there in the public, and be able to recall them. This is all common sense, but it is crucial because nobody but the company itself knows the background of the clinical trials, of how the company formulated the drug and how that innovation occurred. Therefore it is important that the company is made to be forthcoming with some of that information.

What we also like about this bill is that the minister would compel health care providers and pharmacists to mandatorially report at-risk drug reactions. As a physician, I can say that was a difficult thing to do because it meant that physicians, after a whole busy day of seeing patients, at the end of the day then had to report all these things. It can take sometimes two hours out of their day. Now that the minister would provide an electronic means by which this could be easily done, it would make it much easier for physicians to comply with this.

The minister's ability to enforce conditions on market authorization and to compel changes to product labels is also very important, and the ability to move that forward would ensure patient safety. We think that is important, but we also want the minister not to do so in a hurry so that it would stop due diligence in terms of the ability to get the kind of information we need.

The fines of up to $5 million a day for the failure to remove a drug or the failure to obey the enforcement measures by the minister is also a very positive area.

Members will notice that we are saying that there are some very positive things about this bill. However, before this bill came about, I was writing a bill on this very same thing because we got a little tired of waiting for the government to do this after eight years; so I had some round-table meetings with experts on the issue. Here are some of the major elements that these experts feel are missing from the bill, which would make the bill stronger: better implementation of the ability to ensure patient safety, to ensure that there are appropriate regulations, and to ensure pre- and post-market surveillance of drugs.

This is about the precautionary principle, which should give the minister the power to ensure that the first and foremost thing she or he is concerned about, wherever possible, is being sure that on reasonable grounds, to prevent potential injury to a person or a citizen, the minister has that power to recall or remove a drug or not allow for notice of compliance. “Reasonable grounds” is sufficient. The minister should be protected for her ability to do this, using the term “reasonable grounds”. The minister's power should not just be limited to those who sell the drugs, because we know that in some areas the people who manufacture the drugs are not the people who sell the drugs.

They have different production arms and different distribution arms that distribute their drugs under different names. Therefore, it is important for the minister to look at the whole chain of distribution not merely at the manufacturer when recalling a drug.

Right now I think that the definitive issue of injury or harm is up for interpretation. For instance, let us look at the birth control drugs that did not work recently. No one felt that this was an important reason not to allow the drug a notice of compliance or to recall it, because they felt that if women became pregnant when using a contraceptive that did not work, it was not an adverse reaction and it did not cause severe injury or harm, because pregnancy is a lifestyle choice. I think that was a bending of the interpretation of what harm is. If women are taking a contraceptive, it is because they do not want to get pregnant. If they get pregnant, that is an adverse reaction. I think the ability to define what is injury or harm should be more clearly spelled out for two reasons: one, to protect the patient; and, two, to protect the minister from any kind of reaction from the company because it is clear what she means and what the legislation means by injury or harm. That should be clearly spelled out. It should be based not on subjective but on objective criteria that are in keeping with what we know about risks and harms pertaining to drugs. That would provide the minister protection and give her broader powers.

As well, we know that we cannot tell the adverse effects of a drug purely from the clinical trials. When a drug is undergoing clinical trials, it is done with a cohort of people who have been chosen, and out of that cohort it can be decided what the negative and adverse reactions are to the drug. However, when the drug goes out into the main community, into the citizenry at large and the general public, individual reactions to drugs can differ. While people may not have had reactions during the clinical trial, others in the main community may show adverse reactions. Therefore, the minister must have the ability to say that, although the government gave the drug a notice of compliance, due to the new reporting requirements for physicians and pharmacists it has noticed that after a year or six months there are adverse reactions that were not intended and did not show up in the clinical trials and that the drug will be recalled temporarily while we check on these. Then, ensuring that the precautionary principle is in place, the government can look at the drug and either put it back on the market if changes have been made or permanently recall it before it does any further harm.

To clearly define what we are doing is in the best interests of the minister. It would protect her from any kind of legal suit and so forth. That is an important piece we would like to see included.

The Auditor General has spoken on many an occasion about the lack of transparency in Health Canada's decision-making process. For instance, Health Canada publishes only very limited information on drugs and high-risk medical devices for which a notice of compliance is applied for. However, it does not tell us why it did not allow a drug a notice of compliance. It does not tell us what its opinions are about the drug, even though it may give it a notice of compliance and say that it is generally safe. There may be other clinicians who have said there are some concerns about the drug. Health Canada should put that out there to the public, so that pharmacists, prescribers, and patients would know that there could be some conditions under which the drug was allowed to go out there. There may be some potential negative effects with which the minister and the department are concerned, but they are releasing the drug anyway. That was in the bill when it was put forward as Bill C-51. I noticed it has been removed. I wonder why, because it was a very good piece in that legislation that we agreed on and that the Auditor General wanted to happen. That enhances the transparency of Health Canada in terms of its regulations and looking at drug safety.

We cannot afford to use the fact that the manufacturer does not want us to give out trade secrets. We do not have to give out trade secrets when we are saying that we think there may or may not be a problem that we have in the back of our mind even though we have put the drug out there. It is an important thing to do. Europe is doing it. The European drug agency is putting out what the negative opinions are on a particular drug, even though it felt that the benefits outweighed the risks and that is why it put it forward.

There should be a legal requirement to register clinical trial data. This should be open to physicians, patients, and pharmacists so that they are able to know what clinical trial data shows. Now, I know that the government thinks that would let out trade secrets. However, the European drug agency is doing this.

The clinical data that is put out in terms of the clinical trial does not have to disclose proprietary issues regarding the drug itself or its trade secrets. It is about the ability to ensure patient safety, which is foremost in the mind of Health Canada, as it should be. Therefore, to release the full report of pre- and post-clinical trials and surveillance on an ongoing basis is an absolute necessity, but it is not in the bill. Not only is the European drug agency doing this, it is thinking of expanding it to bring in anonymous or non-nominal general patient responses to the drugs so that, again, there is full knowledge and full disclosure. Also, the FDA has just tabled its intention of doing the same thing.

Canada is way behind both Europe and the United States in terms of looking at patient safety, in terms of full disclosure, and in terms of acquiring full disclosure by the manufacturers, who do not seem to be worried about the proprietary issues of trade secrets because they know what to put in and what not to. Clinical information is not a proprietary trade secret. The formula of the drug and how the innovation occurred are proprietary trade secrets, but not clinical trials or data about them.

It is important for the minister to strengthen the bill by doing this and to do everything under the rubric of good independent research, and not just the companies' research. There should be an independent body that looks at those clinical trials, and not just Health Canada. Again, Europe is doing that, and the FDA has tabled its intention to do that. It has to be done in the name of public safety and good evidence-based information.

We would like to see more transparency from Health Canada on why it gives a drug a notice of compliance and why it does not. What are the reasons? Again, we need to know that about certain drugs. People read about drugs, and when they find out that other countries use certain drugs, they wonder why Canadians cannot get it. They want to know why they are not allowed access to drugs that could save their lives, et cetera.

Good information helps people understand why certain decisions are made. However, right now we do not know anything about why Health Canada approves a particular drug or not, why certain drugs are suspended, and why some drugs remain on the market in spite of adverse reactions in other countries. These are some things that we feel would strengthen the bill.

Disclosure in the name of public safety is always very good. We need to ensure that the first thing in the mind of Health Canada when it approves a drug, or not, is that people can trust Health Canada to make good decisions in their best interest, and be able to do so in an objective and clinical evidence-based response. I think that right now Health Canada faces a great deal of mistrust from the public and drug prescribers because it is not transparent in some of these things.

Why would the bill allow government and cabinet to impose stringent rules favouring data protection of manufacturers under the Food and Drugs Act? We do not think that should be able to stand alone.

We have seen issues where people have asked for drugs, but the government has said that the Food and Drugs Act is the reason it is not doing certain things. However, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled very clearly that the issues of right to life, liberty, and the security of the person trump any piece of legislation, which is under section 7 of the charter. Patient safety should be foremost in anything that the bill would bring forward.

We oppose the amendment to the Food and Drugs Act in the bill to protect manufacturers' data. It should only be for proprietary data protection and not for anything else. The government should be protecting the patient, and Canadians.

The Liberal Party thinks that the bill is long overdue. There are some good points in Bill C-17 that move forward, with some steps we approve of, to enhance patient safety and knowledge of drugs for therapeutic prescribers.

The minister said that the bill should be open to amendments. We have, as I said just now, about five amendments we would like to see that would strengthen the bill. We approve of big chunks of the bill, and we would like to see the bill go to committee. We hope that the minister will be true to her word and allow for amendments to come forward so that the bill can go to the House and be accepted by all of us unanimously, because it is in the best interest of patient safety.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague that this legislation is actually a good first step towards a comprehensive plan. There have been many calls from health professionals and advocates. The bill will finally grant the Minister of Health the necessary power to pull unsafe drugs from the market and ensure better labelling and possible adverse effects of drugs.

We have to remember that in 2011 the Auditor General warned that consumers are not receiving safety warnings about pharmaceutical drugs fast enough because Health Canada is slow to act on potential issues that it identifies.

New Democrats feel we need optimal prescribing practices. We want to make sure that Canadians are prescribed the most appropriate medication, that they know the medication they are taking is safe, that it is necessary, that it is prescribed the right way for the problem, and that negative side effects and drug interactions are avoided where possible. Every Canadians wants to make sure of that, but there have been situations where that has not been the case.

The Liberals had 13 years to do something on this when they were in power, and they failed to act. Does my colleague believe that Health Canada should increase the resources of the Common Drug Review, so that it can expand its work in evaluating the cost and effectiveness of prescription drugs? I think that would be a move in the right direction. Can she let me know whether or not she agrees with that?

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is a good one.

One of the reasons we see such a delay, as the Auditor General pointed out, in telling adverse effects is because there are insufficient resources, but also because there was not any mandatory adverse drug reporting by physicians and pharmacists. The bill will go a long way to do that.

However, as the member heard, it is really important that the government be able to implement the elements of the bill when it is put forward and it has the resources to do so, and that it has some sort of independent advisory group that can look with a very clinical and objective eye at the drugs coming out, look at the clinical trials and say whether that drug is appropriate, whether it is needed, and whether its benefits outweigh the risks. There is no drug without a risk, not a single drug I know of that does not have a risk. It has to be benefit versus risk, but resources would go a long way to ensuring that all of this is done.

If we do not have resources, we see the same delays the Auditor General talked about. It is almost a year sometimes in getting some of that information out to the patient and the prescriber.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is very knowledgeable about health care in general and recognizes the importance of pharmaceuticals that are affordable and safe. We try to ensure that patients receive the type of pharmaceuticals, prescription medications they need, but cost is becoming more and more of an issue.

Could the member comment on the ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs in Canada?

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, having a drug is one thing but the ability for people to access the drug is another.

Recent studies have shown that one in five patients with a chronic illness is not able to afford prescriptions so the medication is taken sporadically, which means that the medication is not doing the good it should do. People are getting sicker. When they go into a hospital this increases hospital costs and acute care for the patient. The ability to afford prescriptions is an important factor.

Canada is the only country in the industrialized world with a universal health care system that does not have a universal pharmaceutical strategy. One of the core objectives in the 2004 accord was to look at a national pharmaceutical strategy. The government, in its wisdom or lack thereof, completely ignored that in 2006. What we now have is one of the most costly and non-accessible pharmaceutical systems in the world.

We should be looking at what other countries are doing. New Zealand, for example, has a system whereby when the government buys a drug for a formulary, the cost is so much lower than the cost in Canada. We are paying the second highest cost for drugs in the world. This is really ridiculous.

We need to look at a good pharmaceutical strategy. If we had the United Kingdom's national pharmaceutical strategy, we could save $14 billion a year. If we had the New Zealand pharmaceutical strategy, we could save more than that. That money could be put into the health care system in terms of health promotion and disease prevention, palliative care, mental health, all of the pieces that are missing right now.

It is like being penny-wise and pound foolish. I do not understand why the government has not let that happen and has let it lag.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I am sure she is very knowledgeable about many health-related issues.

As she probably knows, in his 2011 report, the Auditor General pointed to problems with Health Canada's timelines for informing people about problems with drugs. Up to two years can go by before Health Canada even finds out about problems.

The report was released in 2011, but it was not until December 2013 that the government introduced this bill, which is a step in the right direction. As my colleague said, Bill C-17 was a long time coming. However, I wonder why previous Liberal governments did not tackle this problem when they had the chance.

Were they not aware of the problem? Can my colleague enlighten me?

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker. The system was not as bogged down when the Liberals were in power as it is currently. The system now takes a long time to move. It takes a long time to get notice of compliance to approve drugs. It takes a long time to get out adverse reporting and that is because the government has severely cut back on the resources needed to move it forward. It has been shown that by voluntarily asking manufacturers to okay whether a drug can be recalled or whether various restrictions can be put on a drug, industry has to agree and that takes a long time.

We have learned certain things over the years. One can go back as far as the 1920s and ask why certain things were not done then. Body of knowledge information, what other countries are doing, best practices, allow us now to see where we should be going.

We should be making the strong changes that are in this legislation and we should be adding the ones that would make it stronger. We need to ensure resources are available to do so.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remember when OxyContin was first prescribed in Ontario. At the time it was supposed to be a miracle drug because it was not supposed to be addictive. We found that it was heavily over-prescribed, leading to all manner of problems in the general community. In my region, people who would never become addicted to opiates or that were given OxyContin without explanation of the effects. It raises the question of optimal prescribing practices and the need to work with the medical community to ensure that when doctors are given new medicines on the market that the issue of side effects and the implications of those drugs are properly explained.

The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health currently operates the optimal use program. It produces clinical guidelines and disseminates them to physicians, but it seems that there is an insufficient relationship between the impact of drugs and how this is being explained to physicians.

Given my hon. colleague's experience in the medical community, what does she think we need to do to ensure that when drugs are brought onto the market the issue of side effects and implications of those drugs are properly given to physicians on the front line?

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It shows why this bill is important and why some of the measures have talked about to strengthen the bill would make this bill different.

For starters, when a drug goes through clinical trials before it gets to Health Canada and gets a notice of compliance, all of that information is kept absolutely secret. No one knows about it. Physicians are not warned. Pharmacists are not warned. Nobody knows how the clinical trials went, what the reasons were for accepting the drug, or what the problems were with the drug.

That is what we are asking for. They are doing it in Europe, and the FDA has now tabled its desire to do that and has put it forward.

At the same time, clinical trials are limited, in that they only go to a certain cohort of people. When the drug hits the general public, adverse reactions and risk factors, as in the case of OxyContin, do not come forward until it has been in the marketplace for some time. It is then that we suddenly find that people are finding very specific uses for it out there.

Every single opiate is addictive, and so was OxyContin. Everyone knew that, but the fact that people could take OxyContin and syringe it and add various things to it and inject it was not known in the clinical trials because they were not doing it in the clinical trials. That is another reason we want complete surveillance of drugs. It is to provide a warning, over the course of time, as to what the new adverse effects are.

It therefore blows my mind, knowing all of this, that the government would approve the generic production of OxyContin to six different generic companies within the last year, knowing what it now knows about OxyContin and having been asked not to do it.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Conservative

Dan Albas Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.

I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-17, which proposes to amend the Food and Drugs Act to better protect Canadians from potentially dangerous and unsafe drugs.

Over the past three years I have served on the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations and have come to appreciate first-hand the importance of regularly reviewing and carefully scrutinizing regulations in our legislation. Often the results can be quite surprising when reviewing regulations, and that is certainly apparent in the Food and Drugs Act. In my view, that is why the amendments proposed in Bill C-17 are extremely important to Canadians.

I would like to highlight this with an example. Under the current act, if a drug or medical device poses an unacceptable risk to patient health, only the drug and medical device manufacturers can initiate a recall, and that is only after they become aware that a risk exists. In other words, under our existing laws, it is up to the manufacturers to determine whether or not there is a health risk serious enough to warrant a recall. Health Canada plays a secondary role. The current law only requires a manufacturer to notify Health Canada of the manufacturer's decision to issue a recall after the fact.

However, it does not end there. Under our current laws, government cannot step in and order a manufacturer to recall a drug or medical device that is unsafe. Where our existing law becomes more bizarre is that if something like a candy bar is deemed unsafe to the public, the Minister of Health can issue a recall. To summarize, the Minister of Health can issue recalls for dangerous and unsafe foods, but not for dangerous and unsafe drugs. In my view, this situation is completely unacceptable.

Bill C-17 proposes to remedy this situation by ensuring that the Minister of Health has mandatory recall power to compel a manufacturer to recall a drug or medical device if it is determined that it presents a serious or imminent risk of injury to health. This authority provides government with the power to initiate a recall instead of leaving the decision to the manufacturer or requiring Health Canada to negotiate with industry when the health and safety of Canadians is at stake.

I should also add that under this recall provision, once a recall is ordered, anyone who sells a drug or medical device and is aware that the product has been subject to recall may be convicted of an offence. There is also a provision for an exemption to this penalty, an exemption that allows for Health Canada to have the flexibility to authorize the sale of a recalled product with our without condition. Why does that make sense? It is because it is conceivable that in some circumstances a patient may have unique medical needs for which no alternative to a recalled drug is available.

I should also point out that under the new recall measures there would be no changes that would limit a manufacturer's ability to issue a voluntary recall. However, if a manufacturer fails to act quickly and decisively, the Minister of Health would have new powers to better protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Recently I met with a constituent who shared with me the importance of quality control in diabetes testing strips. How much insulin to take is determined by these strips, and serious failure in these test strips could result in death. The need for increased protection for Canadians in this area, and many others, is important, and that is why I will be supporting the bill. The health and safety of Canadian families must absolutely come first, and serious risks at the manufacturing level have to be treated seriously.

While researching the bill late last evening, I was struck deeply when I came across the number of Canadian families that have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of a dangerous drug. Indeed, a colleague of ours in this place knows all too well the serious need for Bill C-17. In fact, the more I researched this area, the more apparent it became of the need for Bill C-17 to become law.

In my view, this bill is long overdue. It is simply not acceptable that drugs that could pose a risk to patients remain on the market at the arbitrary discretion of the manufacturer.

To give some further perspective on how out of date these current regulations are, fines under the act are $5,000, while under Bill C-17 these fines can be increased to up to $5 million a day. Even jail time can be imposed under very serious circumstances. These are protections, I would argue, that Canadians need.

Before I close, here is some brief history I also believe is relevant and that I am sure many members of this House would appreciate hearing. Canada's Food and Drugs Act was first passed in 1920. Significant changes were made in 1947. Further changes were made in the 1960s, after a dangerous drug that was legal at the time resulted in the death and deformation of thousands of infant children.

I believe that Bill C-17, which amends the Food and Drugs Act, is long overdue. Protecting Canadians from unsafe therapeutic products without delay or administrative red tape is a priority that I believe all members of this place should share.

I would also note that the Minister of Health has stated that she would be open to amendments to Bill C-17 if ideas are brought forward that would better protect Canadian patients.

From a regulatory perspective, the mandatory recall measures proposed in this bill are consistent with mandatory recall measures for therapeutic products in other countries, including the United States and the European Union.

I submit that it is time that Canada joined the list of countries with mandatory recall legislation, and I ask that all members of this House join me in supporting Bill C-17. I thank all members for taking the time to hear my thoughts on this piece of legislation.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law)
Government Orders

May 27th, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the text of this proposed legislation is important, but so is enforcement. Unfortunately, Canada has one great weakness: it passes bills but does nothing to enforce them. Just yesterday, we talked about rail safety issues with the distinguished member. In theory, there is a law that protects Canadians, but the Auditor General discovered that the law is not enforced. There is no real oversight, just a smokescreen.

The member indicated that the minister is open to amendments to improve what is a necessary and useful bill. My question for my distinguished colleague is this: will measures also be taken to enforce this law on the ground? Passing a bill without doing anything to enforce compliance is pointless. What guarantees can my distinguished colleague offer about the idea behind this excellent bill?