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

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

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize that the hon. member has had a long career in law enforcement and working with communities to resolve safety issues.

I wonder if he could express his opinion, from his own life experience, on why local communities ought to have a say if someone is considering having what is called a safe injection site with illegal drugs, perhaps in a residential neighbourhood, and why law enforcement officials, municipal leaders, and others in the area might need to have a say on a site opening up in their neighbourhood.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

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

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question. As a former police officer, serving 35 years in the force, I know how important it is to get that information from within the community to the appropriate officials. As a former police officer, I would want the Minister of Health to know exactly what my officers know on the street level. We would want to pass on information from our town council, which knows what is going on. We would want to pass that information from the community, from the people who run the businesses on the streets to the local residents. In particular, the residents of that community would have to pass this on.

It is imperative that this information is part of the whole focus that the minister can look at to make a decision whether to grant or deny the site.

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, this is a supplementary question to what was mentioned before. I just want to elaborate on the consultation that is happening.

There are dates in March in Edson, Hinton and Whitecourt. The member could be proactive and not wait for an invitation to consult with people involved in harm reduction in West Yellowhead. He could register right now, today.

Will the member register for this conference and find out what the community is dealing with in terms of addiction and harm reduction? You can do it right now. You can register right now, online.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I will not do that right now because I am in the House. I will do it after I leave the House. I will look into it and ensure that it does not conflict with my other responsibilities within my riding. However, I would really enjoy going to one of those meetings. I will endeavour to attend in one of my communities, because it is being observed in several of them, as I understand from my hon. friend. I will endeavour to be there.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

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.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned a couple of things that I took note of. One point that I would like to bring to light is that there is not one point of heroin that is ever purchased legally anywhere in Canada, yet that illegal purchase of heroin is taken to a site where the person can inject it without prosecution. Insite provides services that can be obtained in other parts of the Lower Mainland as well. The fact of the matter is that Insite provides a safe place for someone to inject an illegal drug. When we talk about fighting addictions, the fact of the matter with Insite is that it is an enabler, because we are not trying to get the users off the drug. We are actually allowing them to come in with the illegal drug and inject it. That is extremely problematic.

Insite allows for an illegal drug to be administered, basically legally, within its confines without prosecution. Is the NDP looking for a place where people can purchase an illegal drug and then administer it without prosecution?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it sad that members on the other side of the House do not truly understand what a complex issue drug addiction is.

We do not support anyone engaging in illegal activities. However, I do not think that the best solution is to put on blinders, believe that the problem does not exist and shut down supervised injection sites, which help drug addicts recover. All this does is hide the problem and undermine the existing solutions that have proven their worth.

I would like to share some facts about InSite with my colleague on the other side of the House.

A 2006 study conducted by Tyndall et al. revealed that over the course of a year, 2,171 InSite users had been referred to drug addiction counselling services or other support services.

Here is how InSite works: the supervised injection site is located on the first floor, while on the second floor, a whole range of people work to help these drug addicts overcome their addiction. Furthermore, in committee we heard some clear examples of people who managed to overcome their addiction with the help of those working at the InSite supervised injection site.

If the member reads the “blues” from the committee, he will even see that most of his Conservative colleagues were quite moved by this testimony and agreed with what the witnesses had to say on this topic.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Insite location received a great deal of debate during second reading. When the bill mentions community consultation, let us recognize that the federal government at the time, the provincial and municipal governments, as well as many different stakeholders and even communities, all participated in one way or another in what has been deemed as a very successful program. This is something we should be giving credit to.

The bill seems to say that when we have a site of this nature, there needs to be more consultation. Would the member not agree that there was a great deal of consultation regarding Insite and that it is wrong for the government to try to give the impression that there was no community consultation done and that, in fact, the whole issue surrounding Insite has been nothing but a resounding success?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not repeat everything my colleague from Winnipeg North said, but I fully agree with what he just mentioned.

When it comes to supervised injection sites, it is extremely important to hold consultations and there were plenty in the case of InSite. A lot of follow-up goes on to check in with the community to see if it agrees with what is happening. A number of studies were done in this case. Among other things, I can say that roughly 80% of the people asked, living or working in downtown Vancouver, support the InSite supervised injection site.

This brings me to the many consultations that were held in Montreal with a number of health groups, law enforcement representatives, community members, citizens and elected officials. Everyone agreed that Montreal should have a supervised injection site like the one in Vancouver. Consultations were held.

Let us not create obstacles and let us certainly not give a minister discretionary power over this type of supervised injection site.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be a part of the debate today about such an important bill, Bill C-2, the respect for communities act. I suspect that we all agree that illegal drugs have a terrible impact on our communities. There may be different opinions on how the challenges they pose should be addressed, but we all know that the worst drugs such as heroin have a terrible impact on our communities and destroy lives. These drugs also cause serious harm to public health and public safety.

Bill C-2 forms an important piece of our government's effort to protect public health from the serious and negative effects of drug abuse and to maintain public safety from the impacts associated with drug use and addictions.

It is always good to have the facts when we are debating important topics like this, so I would like to briefly mention a report from Justice Canada entitled, “The Cost of Crime in Canada”. The report estimated that the direct health care costs associated with illicit drug use in Canada totalled $1.3 billion in 2008. It is estimated that over $2 billion is spent annually on justice-related costs, such as law enforcement, courts, and correctional services as a result of illicit drug use. These are enormous expenditures and costs to society.

Even worse when we consider the terrible impact on individuals, communities, and Canadian society, where the costs are enormous. These are the direct costs to the health and justice systems only. The impact on the individuals who suffer and the negative consequences for their families is immeasurable. No parent should have to suffer as their child gets involved with drug abuse and end up worrying about the broken dreams and perilous, uncertain future that addiction brings.

This government is committed to preventing drug abuse and breaking the cycle of drug addiction so that our communities can be healthy and safe and that no family has to watch a loved one suffer from addiction. Part of our plan to address addiction is the national anti-drug strategy that was launched in 2007 as the federal government's comprehensive response to combat illicit drug use in Canada.

With its three key action plans, the strategy focuses on preventing illicit drug use, treating drug dependency, and combatting the production and trafficking of illicit drugs. Today I would like to elaborate on our government's commitment to preventing illicit drug use through the strategy's prevention action plan.

The prevention action plan contributes to reducing illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse in key target groups such as youth. It does this by funding the development and implementation of community-based interventions and initiatives to prevent illicit drug use and abuse of prescription drugs, especially among youth; discouraging illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse by providing information directly to youth, parents, and concerned adults; and supporting the development of awareness materials and the provision of awareness sessions to school-aged youth, parents, professionals, and other community members.

The government also supports prevention activities through the drug safety community initiatives fund. This funding program supports Canadian communities and their collective efforts at health promotion and prevention of illicit and prescription drug abuse. The projects supported through the fund focus on informing and educating Canadians on illicit drugs and prescription drug abuse and their adverse health and social effects; offering tools to foster resiliency and coping skills among youth to deal with peer pressure regarding illicit drug use; and promoting healthy behaviours and supportive environments that discourage drug use among young people.

Projects take place on the national, provincial, territorial, and local community levels and can include a wide range of activities, such as school-based and peer support programs and outreach. Project activities can also include the development and distribution of resource materials as well as the sharing of best practices.

Since 2007, Health Canada has provided $75 million to fund some 140 projects to discourage and prevent illicit drug use among youth. As part of our ongoing commitment to curbing drug abuse in Canada, the government is supporting projects across the country to address a wide range of illicit and prescription drug abuse issues, especially among vulnerable youth, who have a higher risk of substance abuse and dependence.

Many of the projects serve to equip young people with the knowledge and skills required to recognize and avoid situations where there may be peer pressure to use drugs. Others are designed to provide parents and those who work with youth with drug education and prevention strategies that will help families and communities deal with the growing problem of substance abuse.

In addition to providing financial support for prevention work, our government also completed a successful five-year, $30 million mass media campaign known as “DrugsNot4Me”, which was aimed at youth and their parents. A key part of the DrugsNot4Me campaign was developing awareness by providing prevention materials for use in elementary and secondary schools. We also provided facts and background information for parents to help prepare them to engage in conversations with their children about substance abuse and staying off drugs.

The campaign made a difference. There were over one million visits to the DrugsNot4Me website, and one in four parents reached out to the campaign and took action by engaging in discussions with their children about drugs. Even more importantly, there was an increase in the proportion of youth who said they knew about the potential effects of illicit drug use on relationships with family and friends, and they sought information on how to avoid drugs or to deal with drug-use issues.

However, despite these prevention efforts, the challenges are far from over. Illicit drug use in Canada is changing, with prescription drug abuse becoming a concern. In 2012-13, more than 80,000 Canadian kids admitted to using prescription drugs to get high. This is a very serious and alarming situation. The misuse and abuse of prescription drugs carries the same health and public safety concerns as illicit drugs do.

To combat the concern about prescription drug abuse, our government has committed an additional $44.9 million in funding over five years to expand the national anti-drug strategy to target prescription drug abuse.

The health committee has recently been studying these issues and heard from a large number of expert witnesses. In fact, the committee recently completed studies both on prescription drug abuse and the health risks of marijuana.

I know that my time is coming to an end and perhaps this is a good place for me to stop. I imagine I will have a little time left when the debate resumes after question period.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, for anyone who is just tuning in now, before question period we were discussing Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, and I was raising the point in the debate that the health committee had heard extensively on these issues from a large number of expert witnesses.

The committee recently completed studies on both prescription drug abuse and the health risk of marijuana use. During these studies, a number of witnesses called for increased action by the government in order to raise awareness of the health problems associated with drug abuse. It is costing us an enormous amount in society in the form of non-productive citizens. People are developing increasing health complications and leading non-productive lives, and it is placing a real burden on the health care system. There is also the terrible destruction of their own lives and families and all of those who love and care for them.

Given the committee's work in this area, I was very pleased that in October of 2014, the Minister of Health launched a preventing drug abuse media campaign. That campaign's purpose was to equip parents with the information tools needed to talk with their teenagers about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse and marijuana use.

That program is part of our prevention plan that we are working toward. Bill C-2 would provide a framework for communities to discuss so-called safe injection sites before they are implemented. It would give law enforcement, municipal leaders, and residents an opportunity to address the circumstances in the neighbourhood before such a program could be considered by the minister.

I thank the members for the opportunity to speak to this bill and I look forward to questions.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge my friend's comments at the end. We can agree on his statement that that proliferation and use of some very harmful drugs are affecting lives in our communities.

Where we part company is on how we deal with that problem. He has probably looked at all of the evidence-based research on why we need to have safe injection sites and places where people can get health care at the same time.

No one is looking at trying to proliferate. We are trying to reduce the use of harmful drugs.

Has my friend read all of the evidence from other countries? The issue has been looked at in Germany, Switzerland, and right here in Canada, and the evidence says that this is a health issue and that we need to provide safe support for those people who have these problems so that we can have first contact with them and not abandon them. I think that is where the government's problem is.

I just want to know if he has read all of the evidence-based reports that say that the direction of the government is the wrong direction.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Ottawa Centre for his intervention.

I think there is a lot of discussion about harm reduction. I had a whole career as a health care professional, and the focus of my career was always on helping people have productive lives, restored lives. I think we have not exhausted the possibilities of actually delivering people from these addictions.

In fact, I would point the member, as I know he is interested in solutions to these vexing problems, to some promising work being done with low-grade, non-invasive treatments, such as magnetic therapies, so-called transcranial magnetic stimulation, for PTSD victims. There is a former army sergeant discussing PTSD treatment at a brain treatment centre in the Washington Post. Here is another report from the Canadian Press, from November 2014. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto is treating depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation. This is a low-cost, low-risk intervention that helps people with addictions and with depression.

Rather than reinforcing someone's addiction and keeping a person in that state, although there is a measure of harm reduction there, would we not want to exhaust opportunities to help people be delivered, be restored, live full and productive lives, be restored to their families, and join the rest of the human family on a path to a better future?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his statement, as well.

I guess the reason we have the respect for communities act is that we are concerned about public opinion on these kinds of places and are concerned about the neighbours in the areas these places are going to be, in effect, operational. That is why we think it is important to solicit their feedback, along with that of police organizations, et cetera. For us, especially as elected officials, it is pretty obvious that we need public support for these kinds of things and whether they should go in certain areas. That is what the act is about. It is about soliciting support and input on facility location.

I would like to ask the hon. member what he thinks about that. Is it a good idea to solicit public opinion, or is it good, as the opposition would suggest, to just have a one-shot approach and make this happen, regardless of peoples' opinions?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the act would provide is a framework for that discussion to take place so that local law enforcement, municipal leaders, and residents would actually have a say when someone wanted to establish a facility that, after all, would be dealing with illegal drugs being provided for a safe or legal injection. The drugs themselves are illegal. They could become, in fact, magnets for criminal activity in the region. I think people need to have a discussion. They need to consider the impact of the facility on crime rates, et cetera.

Vancouver, a few years ago, after Insite, was branded the bank robbery capital of North America. That is not the kind of branding we want in our community. Yes, many of the robberies were for small amounts of money, but the same guy would be coming in, time and again, robbing banks, trying to get money to support the addiction.

Would it not be better, colleagues, to exhaust the mechanisms for helping people be delivered from these addictions and going on with productive lives?