Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to debate Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which was introduced by the Conservative government.
So much has been said about this bill on supervised injection sites. As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I was quite surprised to see that the government chose to send this bill to that committee even though the better part of the bill is directly related to health. It should have gone directly to the Standing Committee on Health. It is sad. I suspect that this is for partisan and political reasons, so I felt I needed to speak up about it.
We did study the bill, but not in quite as much detail as we would have liked. I will say more about that in my speech. After the speedy study that the Conservative majority forced the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to do, we have no choice but to oppose Bill C-2 as written.
That being said, I would like to congratulate my colleague fromVancouver East for her excellent work on Bill C-2 and supervised injection sites in general. She represents the riding that is home to InSite, the supervised injection site that people often refer to in connection with this bill and that has the support of the majority of the community. I will say more about that later.
For the people watching at home right now, I will explain what Bill C-2 is all about. The bill, in fact, is a thinly veiled attempt by the Conservative majority to stop safe injection sites from operating, simply for partisan, political reasons. It runs directly counter to a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding these sites.
We know that the Conservatives do not necessarily worry too much about abiding by Supreme Court decisions, but I consider the court an essential body when it comes to these decisions. We should not go against decisions made by the highest court in the land.
Bill C-2 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. The exemption already exists, but the bill makes the list of criteria extremely complicated. In addition, the bill puts discretionary powers directly into the hands of the minister. This is unacceptable when it comes to an issue as important as supervised injection sites and drug addiction in general.
The minister could therefore prevent a supervised injection site from opening its doors, even if all the criteria are met. This is just another arbitrary, partisan decision. We must not take this matter lightly and turn it into a partisan issue. That is what the Conservatives are doing with Bill C-2. Under the new criteria, it will be even more difficult for organizations to open supervised injection sites in Canada. City officials and the public have been increasingly calling for these kinds of supervised injection sites.
I am saying that the Conservative Party is making this a partisan issue because it had a major fundraising campaign called "keep heroin out of our backyards”.This bill will make it virtually impossible to open supervised injection sites. Furthermore, several addiction and legal experts told the committee that this bill would have the complete opposite effect and that it could make drugs even more accessible in neighbourhoods.
Instead of basing policies on an ideology that has nothing to do with the real facts associated with this problem, the NDP believes that policies must be based on evidence rather than ideology. Furthermore, we believe that harm reduction programs, including in this case supervised injection sites, must be exempt based on proof of their ability to improve the health of a community and to save human lives, and not on ideology.
The Conservatives have been trying to close supervised injection sites for years. They do not hide this and everyone knows it. They have spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on court proceedings that have come to the same conclusion. InSite and similar supervised injection sites must be allowed to provide services in Canada.
As I mentioned, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of supervised injection sites like InSite, but the Conservatives have decided that they will not listen to reason and will continue to defend their personal ideology in a bid to raise more money for their next campaign. That is utterly disappointing in this type of debate.
We examined this bill in committee. I was a member of the committee, along with my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We were also fortunate enough to have our wonderful colleague from Vancouver East help us examine this bill. Five committee meetings were held to study this massive bill. I want to point that out because over the past few days at meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we have been having a lot of discussions about the importance of bringing in a large number of witnesses to talk about various bills.
We had two four-hour meetings to hear from witnesses and discuss Bill C-2, which addresses such an important issue. Only two meetings were scheduled to hear from witnesses. That is not very many since a much larger number of meetings have been held to hear from witnesses on other bills. In this case, the Conservatives told us that they thought two meetings were enough to examine Bill C-2, even though we were against the idea of hearing from so few witnesses.
I can give my colleagues opposite an example. When they were not in government, a study was conducted of the same-sex marriage bill. A total of 32 meetings were held. Hearings on this important bill were held across the country. According to the Conservatives at the time, 32 meetings were not enough, so I hope they will not tell me that they really think that two meetings to hear from witnesses were enough to examine such an important bill.
It is often difficult to explain exactly how committees work. It can seem relatively complex if a person does not attend committee meetings regularly. I completely understand that. The fact is that the Conservatives limited debate on every part of the study of this bill in committee. For example, we were given a maximum amount of time to examine the bill clause by clause, propose amendments and discuss them. Once again, the Conservatives were trying to limit debate as much as possible in committee.
Sixty-two amendments were proposed by all the opposition parties. The official opposition, the NDP, and the Liberals proposed more than 20 each, while the Green Party proposed a dozen or so amendments. The Conservatives not only ignored the expert testimony, they also rejected the 62 amendments. That is sad. I will close my remarks on that. I would have liked to go into more detail. I hope my colleagues will ask questions about this.
Montreal is currently trying to open supervised injection sites. The city consulted the public, police services, communities and addiction experts in order to develop something like what Vancouver has right now. Everyone said that it was extremely important for Montreal to have a supervised injection site like InSite, to have our own, similar model to address the addiction problem. Unfortunately, Bill C-2 will delay the efforts of the Montreal community to achieve such a result. I find the Conservative approach with Bill C-2 regrettable, and that is why the official opposition will vote against the bill.