Respect for Communities Act

An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances 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 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.

Votes

March 23, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
March 9, 2015 Passed That Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be concurred in at report stage.
Feb. 26, 2015 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
June 19, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
June 18, 2014 Passed That this question be now put.
June 17, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
Nov. 26, 2013 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this house decline to give second reading to Bill C-2, an Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, because it: ( a) fails to reflect the dual purposes of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to maintain and promote both public health and public safety; ( b) runs counter to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, which states that a Minister should generally grant an exemption when there is proof that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and when there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety; ( c) establishes onerous requirements for applicants that will create unjustified barriers for the establishment of safe injection sites, which are proven to save lives and increase health outcomes; and ( d) further advances the Minister's political tactics to divide communities and use the issue of supervised injection sites for political gain, in place of respecting the advice and opinion of public health experts.”.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to add my words of support for Bill C-2, the respect for communities act.

Before I go on, I would like to advise you and the House that I will be sharing my time with the distinguished member for Whitby—Oshawa.

I want to thank all colleagues for their participation in this debate, especially those who are doing it in a measured manner.

Also, I was very pleased that my friends on the committee for public safety and national security were able to conduct a thorough review of this legislation and to return it to this House without amendment.

The opposition’s constant delay tactics—including almost 18 hours of debate at second reading alone—will not stop your government—the government that I support in the House of Commons—from ensuring that Canadian communities get a say before supervised injection sites open in their communities.

Bill C-2 reflects the concern that the government has for Canadian families and communities, and our commitment to their protection. The rigorous criteria set out in the bill and the principles articulated within it are a reasonable and responsible approach.

This approach is based on the premise that any exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site should only be granted after an applicant seeking an exemption has addressed rigorous criteria.

This is as much for the protection of our communities and the respect for residents as it is an assurance that the Minister of Health is provided with the information she needs to carry out her duties in considering the applications to open supervised injection sites.

Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, is an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The provisions would be incorporated into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act known as the CDSA.

What I propose to add to the dialogue today is a glimpse into what would be next for Bill C-2, and to reflect upon how provisions of Bill C-2 would be implemented when they are incorporated into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Anyone wishing to undertake activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site must apply for an exemption from the CDSA. Under this legislation, a new regime will be established for such applications. Under this new regime, the criteria that would need to be addressed before the Minister of Health could consider such an application would be set out.

These changes are in line with a Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in 2011, and codify the court’s ruling that community opinions must be considered by the Minister of Health with regard to supervised injection sites.

Indeed, the court stated that its decision is:

—not a licence for injection drug users to possess drugs wherever and whenever they wish. Nor is it an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a “safe injection facility”.

The bill's changes would provide any potential applicant seeking an exemption for activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site with greater clarity concerning the application process.

In exercising her discretion, the minister would have to balance public health and public safety considerations.

All members of the House can agree that our communities deserve to have a say if someone would like to build a drug injection site, where illegal drugs are used, in their own neighbourhood.

All we have been getting from the opposition are delay tactics every step of the way.

What members of the opposition fail to realize is that this legislation is a necessary follow-up to the ruling made by the Supreme Court as well as a method for the Minister of Health to receive the information she needs to make an informed decision on supervised injection sites.

This is an important point to note for anyone who might argue that the criteria in Bill C-2 are onerous. The Supreme Court was quite clear that the Minister of Health must consider certain criteria when judging applications. It is only reasonable that applicants provide her with that information.

The applicant would compile the letters, reports, studies and other information set out in the legislation.

Health Canada would review the information provided in the application package to verify that all the criteria had been addressed.

Once a complete application package has been received, the Minister of Health would also have an option to post a notice of application. If a notice of application is posted, it would invite comments from the public on the activities being proposed in the application. The consultation period would be 90 days.

This option is another element provided for in Bill C-2 and would put in place a mechanism for the general public to have its say regarding the establishment of a supervised injection site as also mandated by the Supreme Court.

In considering an application, the Minister of Health would be informed by the information provided by the applicant in their application, and by the public during the public consultation period.

The minister also has the authority to request additional relevant information from the applicant if further detail is needed. With the amendments to the inspection authority specified in Bill C-2, Health Canada would also have the authority to conduct a pre-inspection of the proposed site to verify any of the information provided in the application. In making a decision to grant or not grant an exemption, the minister would balance public health and public safety considerations.

These are very dangerous substances that we are talking about here. The dangerous and addictive drugs that are used at supervised injection sites tear families apart, foster addictions and destroy lives.

It is only prudent that the Minister of Health take very seriously her duties when evaluating the individual merits of each application that comes across her desk for such sites.

In the event that an exemption is granted, the exempted party must adhere to the terms and conditions set out in the exemption. If the terms and conditions are not adhered to, or if there is a risk that controlled substances might be trafficked or diverted for illicit purposes, an exemption can be suspended or revoked in order to protect public health and public safety.

Safeguards for preserving public health and safety are also built into the process for seeking a subsequent exemption. Under the new legislation, when seeking a subsequent exemption, the applicant would be required to address all of the criteria in the proposed legislation as well two additional criteria. Specifically, they would have to provide information on changes in crime rates in the vicinity of the site and evidence of the impact of the site activities on individuals or public health during the period of the previous exemption.

As I have previously stated, this comprehensive legislation reflects the government's commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities.

Even more than that, Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.

My speech is not finished, and I am not a fast talker, but I will respect the restrictions imposed by the Speaker, and look forward to questions.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my learned colleague's remarks. He asked a lot of reasonable questions. However, all of those conditions combined make it impossible for people to obtain these services.

It is the same thing we are always criticizing the government for: having a double standard. Canada Post did away with home mail delivery. Did the Conservatives ask seniors, health care providers and the municipalities whether this was a good idea or not? No. They made the decision for them.

Now, you are imposing conditions on people who want to provide services. Why are you always around when it comes to cutting services, but when it comes to providing them, you are always coming up with bogus conditions?

Why do the Conservatives have such a double standard?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, you saw that the member just ascribed all sorts of motives to you. I did not know that you had such intentions.

To come back to the subject at hand, the hon. member seems to believe that the conditions set out in this bill are too onerous. Since we are trying to introduce a balanced bill that will protect public health and safety, I would like to know which of these measures my colleague would like to remove from the bill.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is worth noting that the one injection site we have in Canada is located in Vancouver. This site has received universal support in its creation. Different stakeholders were involved. First responders, health care professionals, security and law enforcement officials and community leaders, including federal, provincial and municipal levels of government were all involved. Years after the fact, there has been virtually no criticism. It has been a huge success story, which has demonstrated the system works.

Outside of having a bumper sticker out of the Prime Minister's Office to give an appearance that it is just not true, why has the Prime Minister taken this direction, which clearly seems to be at odds with what has been a huge success story in Vancouver on many different fronts?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the hon. member for Winnipeg North approves of the injection site in the lower east side in Vancouver. However, I believe the people of Winnipeg North are going to appreciate, before such a site is established in his electoral district, the extra conditions the minister would have to look at that would protect the communities in his district.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know every community across the country. I know the community I represent in the House. I can assure the hon. member that the people of Orléans, Blackburn Hamlet and Carlsbad Springs would want these conditions to be imposed before the Minister of Health approved an injection site in any of those communities.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to add to the discussion in support of this important bill. My comments today will highlight the work that is already being done in this area throughout our great country.

Under this strategy, our government has spent well over a half a billion dollars on drug prevention, treatment and enforcement. That is an outstanding sum of money and should highlight for members the importance our government places on addressing drug use and addiction in Canada.

The national anti-drug strategy provides a focused approach aimed at reducing the supply of and the demand for illicit drugs. It is addressing prescription drug abuse and the crimes associated with illicit drugs. To accomplish this, the national strategy has implemented three action plans, which are focused on prevention, treatment and enforcement.

Under the treatment action plan, the province of Quebec has received $11.8 million from 2011 to 2014, which has resulted in a number of positive outcomes. These outcomes include the establishment of new partnerships and formal agreements to support integrated rehabilitation services and continuity of post-rehabilitation services by developing agreements between addiction treatment centres and partners, such as hospitals and community organizations, as well as the establishment of a substance abuse and homelessness pilot project to implement concerted interventions by all concerned stakeholders in 12 health and social service regional authorities.

Another investment under the strategy's treatment action plan is the $7.68 million the government has provided to the province of British Columbia from 2009 to 2014. This has had funding for many positive outcomes, including improved medical student education by expanding a student's education in addiction medicine, from two hours a week to two weeks in rotations; the co-creation with aboriginal partners of the content and design of motivational dialogue workshops; and the creation of a community-based integrated health service for people with substance use and mental health concerns.

In addition, funding is also being provided to support priorities under the prevention action plan. For example, Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg is being funded for $223,000, from 2014 to 2016, and is assisting youth 14 to 19 years of age at a higher risk for substance abuse. There are three main components: an illicit and prescription drug use prevention workshop for youth; a training program with an emphasis on drug prevention for peer support volunteers; and training to enhance the ability of Manitoba-based service providers to deliver prevention education to high-needs youth.

Another project supported by the prevention action plan is a project with the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research. This centre will receive funding of $481,000, from 2014 to 2016, to enhance the ability of teachers to deliver effective drug education to our youth. To support professional development, the project will create and use online training modules as well as resources for face-to-face training such as lesson plans, learning activities and existing evidence-based drug prevention resources.

Our government also continues to work hard to prevent drug addiction and improve the accessibility, quality and effectiveness of treatment services for first nations, and Inuit youth and their families. To this end, in 2014 through 2015, $80.9 million is being provided to support a network of 44 treatment centres and community-based drug and alcohol prevention services in first nations and Inuit communities across Canada. Included in this funding are $12.1 million from the national anti-drug strategy to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of addiction services for this population.

Investments have also improved access to community-based, client-centred, multidisciplinary mental wellness teams. These teams provide comprehensive addiction and mental health services to first nations and Inuit communities across Canada. They are owned, defined, and driven by the community and include aboriginal traditional, cultural, and mainstream clinical approaches to mental wellness services that span prevention to aftercare.

Investments made through the national strategy also helped to develop “Honouring our Strengths: A Renewed Framework to Address Substance Use Issues Among First Nation People in Canada”, which has been highly successful in strengthening the system of addiction services for first nationpeople.

The recovery and rehabilitation of people living with addictions is another critical element in addressing substance abuse. The Minister of Health participated in two national recovery round table discussions with physicians and leading addiction recovery specialists to discuss practical solutions to support Canadians in recovery.

People in recovery are dealing with many complex issues related to their addictions. Some of these issues may include untreated mental health problems, family problems, environmental factors, employment challenges, or legal problems related to addiction. This type of dialogue is vital in reducing barriers to accessing treatment so that the people battling addictions, and their families, can get the help they require.

We must not forget about research. The Government of Canada invested over $126 million in addiction research between 2006 and 2014 through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR. It was part of its overall investment, approximately $4.5 million in funding, to support 28 research projects focused specifically on treatment systems for illicit drug use and overall treatment strategies for substance abuse and addiction. Strategy funding also supported the launch of the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse. This network will address relevant research questions related to substance misuse.

Research and investment in recovery and treatment services will continue to be a priority for the government in its effort to help people and communities in Canada suffering with the issue of drug addiction.

Substance abuse and addiction affect people of every race, age, economic status, and background. Effective treatment and recovery programs need to be multi-faceted to ensure that components such as physical health, culture, family, community, and mental health are all part of an integrated solution. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of collaboration in this regard and continues to work closely with the provinces, territories, and key stakeholders to help individuals and families living with addictions.

We all have a role to play and contributions to make. Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, would expand on the Supreme Court's decision regarding Insite. It is another tool the federal government would use to better protect and maintain the health and safety of Canadians. The government's commitment to the protection and safety of Canadians is also reflected in its significant investment in prevention and treatment funding.

The proposed legislation acknowledges that street drugs have serious health effects and that organized crime profits from the use of illegal substances. It is only common sense that activities with illegal drugs would be permitted only once rigorous criteria had been addressed by an applicant seeking to open a supervised consumption site.

I urge all members to vote in favour of Bill C-2. Our communities depend on our support.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to share a story with members from the end of last year. In 2014, a Canadian Press story mentioned that six individuals in the Durham region died from suspected overdoses. There was probably bad heroin on the streets.

In light of that story, would it not be better for the government to accelerate safe injection sites so that the people could be at a site where they could be monitored, rather than letting them shoot up in their living rooms or backyards and having them pass away tragically without any supervision or being known? Would the member not agree that maybe we should be facilitating the process to open these sites so that these victims of drugs do not have to pass away in loneliness anymore?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question, but I do not believe that an injection site is going to prevent people from, as the member put it, shooting up in their living rooms. He is asking us to take six drug deaths and create an injection site for people so that they do not have to shoot up in their living rooms. That does not reconcile with me.

The fact of the matter is that communities need to be part of the decision. This is the issue, not whether they shoot up in their living rooms or shoot up anywhere. It is about communities having the right to say where they would have them, where they would not have them, and whether they would approve of an application to put one in perhaps next door. We need to have community input. Communities need to be respected.

As a former mayor of a community, if people decided they were going to put in an injection site without contacting our community and allowing us to hear from the people who live and work in our community and letting them decide, I think there would be an absolutely huge backlash from every community in the country. It is intolerable.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, when the opposition members ask questions or make their remarks, they frequently say that we are not taking an evidence-based approach. They talk about Conservatives being hard-hearted and not caring. Quite frankly, I find that very insulting. This legislation specifically talks about the need for scientific evidence.

Everyone in the House has family, friends, or colleagues who have suffered the terrible ravages of addictions. I do not know that there is anyone who is not impacted.

What I particularly like in this piece of legislation is the linking of some intervention with the site, intervention in terms of rehabilitation or opportunities to help people break the path of addiction. Could the member talk about not only that but about some of the concepts the opposition members are putting out that are simply not true?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate those comments and certainly the question. It is very difficult to move in a positive direction when people are looking to do nothing but find negatives. This is about engaging our communities. It is about respecting our communities and allowing people to have a say. I do not think we should heavy-handedly allow these sites to be implemented in places where they just would not be welcome.

It is only respectful for us to go to our communities and get input to make sure that medical officers of health, provincial governments, municipal governments, and all of the people who have a stake in this have an opportunity to say what they agree with and what they do not.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak once again about Bill C-2 on supervised injection sites.

I wanted to mention that because we have been talking a lot about health in the context of this bill. The Minister of Health appeared before the committee. However, oddly enough, this bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security because that is what the Conservatives wanted.

Even though this bill has to do with health, I sincerely believe that the Conservatives wanted to politicize the issue by demanding that it be sent to that committee. Everyone here knows that, and nobody is falling for it. However, that did give me the opportunity to hear from excellent witnesses who came to talk about this bill in committee. We had some very enlightening conversations about the issue.

With respect to the debate on Bill C-2, nobody here is a fool, and Canadians are not fools either. My Conservative colleagues have a lot to say about the problem of addiction and drugs, and they think that supervised injection sites make it easier for people to get drugs on our streets. They have created a climate of fear around supervised injection sites. What is even sadder is that the Conservatives are also using this issue to raise funds for their election campaign. That is truly deplorable.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

I think it is inappropriate to use something as serious as the addiction problems of the less fortunate in our society and make money from it. I hope that Canadians will realize that the Conservatives are not acting in good faith. I will try to use what little time I have to elaborate.

To use the issue surrounding supervised injection sites in order to raise money, the Conservatives came up with the slogan “keep drugs away from our children”. That is nothing new for the Conservatives. We saw that recently with Bill C-53, Life Means Life, introduced by the government. A few hours after announcing this very important justice bill, they launched a fundraising campaign for the upcoming election. Frankly, their way of using very sensitive issues to try to make money on the backs of poor people is deplorable. No one is fooled: we know that the Conservatives are using Bill C-2 to try to score political points.

I listened to a number of speeches from both sides of the House, and I paid particular attention to the speeches by the government members. They keep saying that this bill addresses the problem of drugs in our streets. Is obstructing groups like InSite in Vancouver East really the best way to eradicate addiction problems? Of course not. This makes no sense.

If the government really wants to address problems related to addictions and mental health, as well as access to drugs and other illicit substances in our communities, there are much simpler ways of doing that. For example, it could invest in our police forces across the country.

I am thinking of what happened in Montreal, for example. The Conservatives allocated $400 million to special projects across the country. I do not remember the exact amounts and I am not going to get into that, but several million dollars were granted to Quebec. The province decided to create the Eclipse squad to deal with the problem of street gangs and, by extension, addiction and access to drugs in its communities. The Eclipse squad worked miracles for five years. Unfortunately, the Conservatives decided not to renew the funding. If they really wanted to address the problem of access to illicit substances in our communities, restoring funding for projects like the Eclipse squad would have been a much better way of doing that than standing in the way of groups like InSite, which is only trying to address certain health issues and help people overcome their addictions.

Other than parliamentary procedures, which I do not want to get into, I would also like to mention something that was talked about in the last speech, and that is the need to respect our communities. That is what we must do. In Montreal there was a project that the mayor, elected officials from all levels of government, the police, community leaders and health leaders were participating in. They were in the process of setting up a project like InSite, in the typical Montreal way of doing things. Unfortunately, if Bill C-2 is passed, it will create obstacles for our communities.

I would like to ask the Conservative government to reverse its decision, rethink its strategy for dealing with addictions and access to illicit substances, and completely dismiss the idea of moving forward with Bill C-2.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to support the proposed legislation, the respect for communities act, otherwise known as Bill C-2. I do not think that anyone can deny the enormous public health harms associated with illicit drug use. In some way, we have all seen the damage that illicit drug use can cause, not only to the health of the user, but to families, friends, and communities.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the CDSA for short, is the federal legislation that controls substances that can alter mental processes and may produce harm to health and society when diverted or misused. The CDSA has the dual purpose of protecting public health and maintaining public safety.

The substances covered by the CDSA have a risk of abuse and pose serious risks to individuals when they are misused or abused. Those risks are significant. They increase when the controlled substance is unregulated, untested, and obtained from illegal sources. That is an important point that often gets lost in this debate. The drugs that would be used at any proposed supervised injection drug site are bought on the black market. We are not talking about drugs that are prescribed by a doctor and have the needed medical oversight. These drugs are purchased on the street and then used by people suffering with addictions.

Our government takes safety very seriously, and we have a number of controls in place when it comes to prescribed drugs. In fact, this House recently passed Vanessa's law in order to strengthen the safety of prescription drugs. Given this, I think it is only appropriate that we give all Canadians an opportunity to comment on the measures which could be needed to protect health when a site is proposed to allow the injection of illegal street drugs.

Our government believes that exemptions from the CDSA for activities involving illegal substances at supervised consumption sites should only be granted once rigorous and relevant criteria have been addressed by the applicant. The criteria that are outlined in the bill stem directly from the five factors laid out in the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada decision on lnsite. The court's decision requires the Minister of Health to consider the following five factors when assessing an exemption application for a supervised consumption site: evidence, if any, on the impact of such a site on crime rates; local conditions indicating a need for such a site; the regulatory structure in place to support the site; resources available to support its maintenance; and, expressions of community support or opposition.

All of the criteria proposed in Bill C-2 relate to one of these factors that I just referred to. Much like the dual purpose of the CDSA, which is to protect public health and maintain public safety, the criteria in this bill balance both the public health and public safety considerations of the operation of a supervised consumption site. The criteria included in this bill are relevant to matters of public health or public safety, and some of the criteria address both.

Today I would like to focus on some of the public health criteria in the bill and discuss how each one relates to the factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. One criteria requires that an applicant provide a letter from the provincial minister responsible for health in the province in which the site would be located, which outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site and describes how those activities are integrated within the provincial health care system. I can guarantee that the health minister in my province of Alberta would want to be consulted on proposals for a site like this. It is only appropriate that provincial ministers be afforded an opportunity to have their views heard. This relates to the Supreme Court factor that requires that community expressions of support or opposition be considered.

These criteria allow the professional opinion of the respective provincial minister of health to be a part of what the federal minister would consider when assessing or assigning an application. Moreover, information about access to drug treatment services, if any, could help to understand how drug users would be supported within the provincial health care system.

Other public health-related criteria fulfill the court's directive to look at evidence, if any, on local conditions indicating a need for such a site. These criteria are asking for relevant information on things like the number of people who consume illicit substances or have infectious diseases in relation to illicit drug use in the area of the proposed site.

Another requirement for applicants which contributes to the minister's understanding of the local conditions is official reports, if any, that are relevant to the establishment of a supervised consumption site, including any coroners' reports. These reports, including those from a coroner, could be used to support evidence of illicit drug problems in the area, indicate important drug use patterns, and identify the demographic of the individuals who could benefit from the services provided by a supervised consumption site.

We all know that the best laid plans can sometimes run into local circumstances that present unexpected challenges to a plan, so it is critically important that the bill require that the facts on the ground be considered when any proposed site is being looked at.

Additionally, following an initial exemption, if an applicant wishes to continue activities at a supervised consumption site, subsequent exemption applications would have to inform the Minister of Health of evidence, if any, of any impacts of the site's activities on public health during the period that the site had been operating.

This information provides the minister with an understanding of public health impacts that the site has had and would potentially continue to experience with a future exemption. This criterion builds on the Supreme Court factor requiring the minister to consider local conditions in the area where a site would be located.

In its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the discretion of the Minister of Health to grant or deny exemption applications and to request information for this purpose.

This proposed legislation clearly identifies information to be addressed in an exemption application to assist the minister in considering the information relevant to the Supreme Court factors. Her decision must balance the protection of public health and maintenance of public safety in accordance with the charter.

Moreover, the criteria serve to add clarity and transparency to the exemption application process. With this legislation, all persons wishing to open a supervised consumption site would know exactly what is expected as part of their application.

While the focus of my speech today has been related to public health, it is important to note that the proposed legislation balances both public health and public safety. Indeed, Bill C-2 would amend the CDSA to create a more robust legislative structure to balance protection of public health and maintenance of public safety with respect to supervised consumption sites.

It is imperative that there be strong controls around activities with these dangerous drugs, and I urge all members to vote in favour of the bill.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech, and if he and his party are so concerned with public health, the HIV West Yellowhead is holding seminars into harm reduction in March.

My first question would be whether he will attend these meetings and actually consult with HIV West Yellowhead to see what its members think about the bill. After that consultation, if an organization like HIV West Yellowhead has problems with the bill, will he bring forward amendments to the government bill?