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

November 4th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Vancouver East for her question and I want to applaud her for her constant advocacy for safe injection sites in the Downtown Eastside.

I am a former city counsellor. We had these discussions when I was on council. The council that I sat on said it was much better for us to zone for public health care services, such as injection sites, and have public hearings and get the public out to express where they would like to see these services located. My council felt it had a responsibility to take its share of those public health services and address these problems, rather than trying to leave them to the police to address or leave them to neighbourhoods where they became a problem with things such as needles in parks and school playgrounds.

Therefore, we would have been hard pressed to find people in my community who were opposed to this reasonable approach to dealing with injection drug use.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale.

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians, we are blessed with safe streets and communities in which to live our lives and raise our children. Indeed, Canadian families expect and deserve safe and healthy communities in which to live and work. That is why our government has consistently delivered the tools needed for all parties to contribute to keeping our streets and communities safe. These include legislation passed during this Parliament, such as the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Other acts, such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are important tools for ensuring that our communities remain safe. This act provides the legal framework for the control of dangerous and addictive drugs that can tear families apart, lead to criminal behaviour, and destroy lives.

What is important to appreciate in framing this whole debate on the bill before us and the NDP's amendment is that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act applies to both substances that can be obtained legally and those that cannot, both licit and illicit substances.

All controlled substances have the potential to be abused. That is why they are called controlled substances. However, the risks are increased when those substances are unregulated and untested and are bought on the street, as illegal drugs often are.

For this reason, our government is recommending amendments to the act, through the bill currently before the House, that would strengthen the legislation and better protect Canadian families and communities.

Before I get to the substance of my speech, I would just like to mention how disappointed I am with the NDP. I find it completely irresponsible that the NDP, through the member for Vancouver East, has chosen to try to prevent Canadian parents, through the amendment tabled just recently, from having a say before drug injection sites open in their communities.

Now, as highlighted by my colleagues earlier, under our current laws, activities involving controlled substances are strictly prohibited. These include possession, import, export, production, and distribution. However, there is a caveat to the prohibition, which is the minister's ability to issue an exemption under section 56 of the act. This section allows the Minister of Health to grant exemptions from the application of the act or its regulations for activities that, in the opinion of the minister, are necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or are otherwise in the public interest.

Today we are proposing changes to this section to ensure that Canadian families and communities are shown the respect they deserve in the process. Through the respect for communities act, those who are seeking an exemption to use controlled substances obtained from legal, or licit, sources would follow the same process set out in section 56 today.

Most of the exemption requests received by Health Canada are for routine activities, such as clinical trials and university research. These trials involve controlled substances obtained through licensed pharmaceuticals, pharmacists, and hospitals. What is being proposed in our bill is a new approach to dealing with exemption applications for activities involving dangerous and addictive drugs sold on our streets.

Currently, exemption requests for illicit substances are assessed in the same manner as licit ones are. The respect for communities act would include a new regime to assess applications for activities involving these illicit substances. It would include a section specific to supervised injection sites that would outline rigorous criteria derived from the 2011 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

These drugs are inherently dangerous. They are illegal for a reason. We know that the proceeds from the sale of these substances contribute to organized crime and make our streets and communities less safe.

In the 2011 Supreme Court decision, five factors were identified that must be considered by the Minister of Health when assessing any further exemption applications for supervised injection sites. The factors that must be considered include 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 and opposition. These criteria need to be addressed by an applicant seeking an exemption to undertake activities involving illicit substances at a supervised injection site before the Minister of Health can properly consider the application.

Ensuring that families and communities are kept safe has been an important consideration when assessing an application. For example, the applicant has to provide detailed information on how public safety risks will be mitigated. They have to provide information on security measures, criminal record checks, record-keeping, and procedures for the safe disposal of any controlled substances, and anything that facilitates their consumption, left on-site.

I find that when using catch-all word phrases, such as “substances”, “consumption”, and “facilitation”, it is easy to lose sight of what we are talking about. I can tell members, from personal experience in my former career as a police officer, that heroin is, without a doubt, one of the most addictive drugs known. It is physically and psychologically addictive. It is one of the worst, if not the worst, drugs to come off of. Think about the worst days and times anyone in this place has had, and multiply it by 100. People addicted to this drug will do anything for their next fix, including, but not limited to, shoplifting, robbery, break and enter, assault, and many other Criminal Code offences.

That is why the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Minister of Health needs to hear from those who put their lives on the line every day to protect communities from harm. They include local police and social workers as well as other key stakeholders in the area where the proposed site would be located. The applicant has to respond to the concerns outlined by local police. Information about crime, public nuisance, public use of illicit drugs, or inappropriately discarded drug-related paraphernalia, such as needles, also has to be provided in the application.

I have highlighted some of the criteria in the new regime that address matters related to public safety. The respect for communities act considers the issue from multiple perspectives and requests that information be provided on a wide range of relevant topics so that potential threats are identified and addressed.

One of Health Canada's related responsibilities under the current Controlled Drug Substances Act is to monitor the distribution of controlled substances and to inspect facilities, as needed, to verify compliance with the act and the terms and conditions of the exemption. This is done to minimize the risk of diversion and any negative impacts on public safety.

Through the respect for communities act, we would make changes to extend these inspection authorities to validate information on any exemption application related to supervised injection sites. These amendments would authorize inspectors to enter any supervised injection site for which an exemption was granted to verify compliance with current laws.

Our government also believes that the public should have a voice in the process. Every community is different, and public consultations provide a unique window into understanding the public health and safety impacts on that community. Valuable input and local perspectives would be sought from provincial ministers responsible for health and public safety, the head of local police, the lead public health professional in the province, and the licensing bodies for physicians and nurses in that province. All of this information would need to be collected as part of the consultation required under this bill.

I urge all members of this House to stand and support the respect for communities act and help give Canadian families safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. If there is support in the local community, whether it is Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Toronto, or Victoria, where we know there has been a lot of consideration given to setting up safer injection facilities, would the member be supporting those applications?

I know that the Minister of Health has that decision to make. However, if it were in the member's local community, and he could see that it had local support, if he could see the statistics from East Vancouver, where the rate of overdose deaths has dropped by 35% since InSite opened, would he then be supporting such a facility in his own community?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was the essence of the question I was going to ask, and I appreciate the boldness of the answer.

I am a little surprised, given the many stakeholders who have a caring, compassionate attitude and want to deal with the social issues surrounding substance abuse, which destroys lives and families. It is a cancer within the community. A fairly significant group of people believe that safe injection sites will not resolve all the issues but that they are a step in the right direction. Some communities want to see this happen.

I now know what the member's position is. Can he indicate whether his position is the same as the government's position?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for the Minister of Health or any other member of Parliament in this place, but I do know, from personal experience, as a police officer for 20 years as well as three years in drug enforcement, that heroin is, if not the worst drug, one of the worst drugs people can inject or ingest. It is a dangerous drug. As far as I am concerned, it has no useful purpose in society.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. We served together on the Standing Committee on Health.

In an article on the Conservatives' website, the government is asking for our help in keeping heroin out of our backyards. How does it propose to do that, when this bill will send injection drug users back onto our streets and into our neighbourhoods?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that heroin is illegal, and whether we have safe injection sites or not, it is still purchased illegally and taken to that safe injection site illegally, because it is an illegal substance. We are not going to stop anything with safe injection sites.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member may have worked with youth, but he is not the only one. I, too, have done work with youth shelters and street outreach workers, who often meet people involved in the drug scene to try and get them to leave it.

There is broad consensus in Quebec: the best way to do that is to offer people places where they can meet with someone who is there to help them get out of that hell.

If they do not have an appropriate spot, there will still be the parks, the barns and all of those other places where we do not want to see those people. That is my comment. I find the member's attitude appalling.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and address Bill C-2. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. That is why our Conservative government is moving forward with the respect for communities act to ensure that parents have a say before any drug injection sites open in their communities and the most rigorous criteria apply.

Why is this necessary? It stems from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2011, which rendered that any application for a supervised injection site must, among other factors, be considered with an understanding of the circumstances in the community that had led to the need for a site, as well as the opinions of the community in which it would operate.

However, the court was also clear in its ruling that it was not “an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a “safe injection facility”. That is why the government is acting on this Supreme Court ruling. Given the inherent risks in using dangerous and addictive drugs obtained on the street, exemptions to use them at a supervised injection site should be granted only in exceptional circumstances, once rigorous criteria have been addressed by an applicant.

Specifically, the bill would amend the existing Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the federal statute that restricts the usage of dangerous and addictive drugs. Under this act, activities involving controlled substances, including possession, import, export, production and distribution, are prohibited, except as authorized through an exemption obtained through section 56.

As I just said, we believe that exemptions should be granted only in exceptional circumstances and subject to rigorous criteria. That is why this bill, the respect for communities act, would divide section 56 into two distinct categories. Street drugs, or illicit substances, would have a section specific to supervised injection sites. Applications to use illicit substances at such a site would need to address rigorous criteria before such an application would even be considered by the Minister of Health.

One of the criteria an applicant would have to address would relate to the treatments for the proposed site's users. The applicants would have to provide letters from their provincial minister responsible for health, describing their opinion on the proposed activities, how the activities would be integrated in the provincial health care system and any treatment services that would be available in the province for individuals who would use the site. An application would not be considered by the Minister of Health without this information. In addition, an applicant would have to provide a description of the drug treatment services available at the site, if any, for persons who would use this site and the information that would be made available to them in relation to drug treatment services available elsewhere.

These criteria demonstrate that our Conservative government takes the harm caused by dangerous and addictive drugs very seriously. We need to support those in need with treatment and recovery programs. Drug treatment and recovery programs must be focused on ending drug use.

That said, I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House of other actions the Government of Canada is taking to address dangerous and addictive drug use.

In 2007, we launched the national anti-drug strategy. The strategy's goal is to contribute to safer and healthier communities by reducing and eliminating illicit drug use in Canada. Like the bill before us today, the national anti-drug strategy is designed to protect public health and maintain public safety. That is why its three pillars are prevention, treatment and enforcement.

Today, I would like to focus specifically on the treatment aspect of the national anti-drug strategy and outline some of the services that are part of it. The strategy supports innovative approaches to treating and rehabilitating those with illicit drug addiction who pose a risk to themselves and the community. Health Canada also works to increase access to and improve the quality and effectiveness of addiction services for first nations and Inuit youth and their families. Specifically, it aims to enhance treatment and support for first nations and Inuit people, support treatment programs for young offenders with drug-related problem, enable the RCMP to refer youth with drug-related problems to treatment programs and support research on new treatment models.

While responsibility for the delivery of most treatment and rehabilitation services remains with provincial and territorial governments, the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of continued investments in drug treatment programming and works closely with the provincial and territorial governments and other key stakeholders. Our end goal is always to help treat and end the scourge of drug addiction that plagues communities and families. The drug treatment funding program is one such example of this multilateral approach. This program supports provincial and territorial governments, as well as other stakeholders, in making strategic investments in three key areas.

The first area is through the implementation of evidence-informed practice. Health Canada supports the uptake of best practices such as continuous knowledge development and information sharing to improve service delivery.

The second is in strengthening the evaluation and performance measurement capacity and activities. While all jurisdictions collect performance information pertaining to their treatment, services and programs, the type and nature of the data collected as well as the approach to data collection and analysis vary considerably. With the funding in this area, projects are in place to identify and standardize best practices, evaluation and performance measurements.

Third, the program supports linkages and exchange among the funded projects. This is an essential element of the work undertaken in the first two investment areas and includes enhancing knowledge sharing and disseminating lessons learned. For example, in some of these projects, work is under way to implement knowledge-exchange mechanisms for concurrent mental health and substance use best practices. Other tools are also being developed to improve linkages between the specialized addiction sector and other health and community service providers.

Since 2007, this program has provided over $100 million in funding to provinces, territories and key stakeholders.

To highlight one particular project in Alberta, community agencies that serve youth were supported by providing a manual and curriculum to improve staff skills around basic addiction, counselling and screening practices as well as mental health knowledge. The result of this project demonstrated that community service providers improved their skills and confidence in evidence-based addiction practices. In addition, at-risk youth had greater access to addiction information and basic services through the community agencies that they frequented.

Another approach has been taken by Saskatchewan, a project enabled services directed at youth by building upon a strong pre-existing framework. Through these services, individual assessment plans are developed followed by brief interventions and referral to more formal services. Through community partnerships, the project is tracking the impact of its services and moving youth into recovery programs. The program provides between 30 to 50 brief interventions every month with between 200 to 335 participants.

Additionally, as part of the national anti-drug strategy, our government provides almost $10 million annually to improve access to quality addiction treatment services for aboriginals. These investments are targeted in four key areas: improving the quality of services by increasing access to certified training and supporting treatment centres to become accredited; increasing the effectiveness and relevancy of services by supporting these centres to re-profile or strengthen services in response to recognized service gaps; improving access to services by piloting community-based multidisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive additions and mental health services to aboriginal communities; and a comprehensive review renewal process for first nation addiction services carried out in partnership with first nation communities and leadership.

Our government remains committed to addressing dangerous and addictive drug use through the national anti-drug strategy and will continue to invest in prevention and treatment. The respect for communities act is consistent with this strategy and, once more, it takes action in the wake of the Supreme Court decision ensuring that parents have a say before drug injection sites open in their communities.

To me, this is an important point in the bill. It gives local law enforcement, municipal leaders and local residents a voice before a permit is granted for supervised drug consumption sites. Communities must have a say.

All told, the bill would provide the Minister of Health with the information necessary to balance public health and public safety considerations, including how the proposed site would fit within a province's overall approach to treatment services.

Why the NDP, through the motion of the member for Vancouver East, is seeking to kill this bill is beyond me. What NDP members are saying through their motion is that they are against giving parents a say before drug injection sites open in their communities, that they are against the Supreme Court's ruling on this matter and that they are against ensuring that addicts are provided the treatment and support they need at these sites.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the respect for communities act and give the Minister of Health the tools she needs to do her job.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my Conservative colleague a question.

In writing a bill, we always look to achieve some kind of balance. In this case, it is a balance between public safety and health. However, it seems to me that the Conservatives are shifting the balance in favour of public safety, away from health. Places such as InSite, which are found around the world, are safe and give due consideration to the importance of health.

I would like to ask my colleague to talk some more about the importance of health in this type of project.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member referenced the bill. I have the bill in my hand and I am on page 8. I am trying to figure out what criteria the member feels is too onerous.

Here is how the bill begins, as far as the criteria is concerned. Scientific evidence is one of them. I wonder if the opposition is okay with our obtaining scientific evidence. The provincial minister is one of them. Is the opposition okay with the provincial minister weighing in on a safe injection site? Local government, municipal governments and, I am certain, my councillors would want to have a say in what goes on as far as supervised injection sites. The police force is one. I am certain my police chief wants to have a say.

The list goes on. I am reading directly from the bill. What criteria do the opposition members want to remove? Frankly, there was virtually no framework at all for these sites before. If we were to go to average people, certainly my neighbours in the community, and say that there was no framework for this, no legislative criteria to be met, they would be appalled.

Finally, we are getting the job done, as the Supreme Court asked us to do.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague opposite who said that the NDP does not support this bill as it pertains to regulating drug use.

The NDP finds that Bill C-2 flies in the face of the 2011 Supreme Court ruling. The NDP believes that harm reduction programs, including supervised injection sites, must be based on evidence that they will improve public health and save lives, not on ideology.

We are talking about supervised sites, sites that will prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as hepatitis A, B and C, HIV-AIDS, and others. How can we reach injection drug users in the future without these supervised sites?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, people who go to these sites commit an illegal act of purchasing the drug first. Then they go to the site to inject it and they leave the site jacked up on drugs.

In the past I was attacked by a person, who was jacked up on drugs, with a razor knife. It was not a fun proposition. That is what we have to deal with along with all the other issues within communities.

The member says that the bill somehow does not meet the criteria of the Supreme Court. The fact is the Supreme Court specifically said that we had to address things like the impact on crime rates, wherever it was going to be sited; local conditions indicating a need for such a site; the regulatory structure in place to support such a site, and I already mentioned that this is finally putting some structure there; resources available to support its maintenance; and expressions of community support or opposition.

If we look at the bill, it does all of that.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I start my presentation, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from LaSalle—Émard.

I am very proud to rise in the House today to oppose Bill C-2 and to support the very important amendment presented by my colleague from Vancouver East. I would like to thank and congratulate her, first for presenting this amendment, and also for the work she does in representing her constituents in the riding of Vancouver East. We have seen in this chamber that she cares about all her constituents, whether they are the most vulnerable or from different walks of life. My colleague knows very well what is at stake with Bill C-2 because, in her riding, there is a major problem when it comes to people living with addictions. Unlike the health minister of this and former governments, she has visited InSite. She does a good job, and I would like to congratulate her.

To be frank, I am disappointed to have to speak to Bill C-2 today. We should not have to deal with such a bill, particularly given the very clear decision rendered by the Supreme Court in 2011. Supervised injection sites, such as InSite in Vancouver, are an important way to guarantee better public health and safety, and the closure of such sites would be detrimental to those who benefit from these services.

Unfortunately, we are dealing with a new and fairly underhanded attempt by the Conservative government to violate the Supreme Court's 2011 decision. The government is trying to meet its objective of closing InSite in Vancouver, and to make it impossible to open any new sites.

Before I became an MP, I earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Université Laval. During my studies, I spent some time learning about addictions, including alcohol and drug addictions. Today, the harm reduction approach is scientifically recognized, and many of that approach's techniques are currently being used by the scientific and medical community. They produce proven results.

InSite in Vancouver is a very practical and effective application of the harm reduction approach, which was unfortunately rejected by the Conservatives in 2007 when they reviewed the national drug strategy. They decided to simply do away with the harm reduction approach, despite scientific evidence and conclusive data showing how effective it is. As someone with a degree in psychology and expertise in that area, I am extremely disappointed to see the Conservatives ignoring proven scientific studies that show the importance and the effectiveness of supervised injection sites such as InSite.

If the bill is passed as it exists today, there will be a long and tedious list of criteria that new supervised injection sites will have to meet in order for the minister to grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria will make it extremely difficult to open new supervised injection sites, even though there is a demand for them. Other municipalities in the country are considering setting up such sites to help people with addictions—people who deserve our support and compassion—and to give them access to the resources they need to overcome their addictions. These resources are offered at InSite when people make use of those services.

In fact, more than 30 studies, some of which were reviewed by peers in the scientific community, were published in renowned, highly esteemed journals. I am talking about The New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal. We should not disregard these authoritative sources, which have described at length the benefits of supervised injection sites, more specifically, the benefits of InSite in Vancouver, the only supervised injection site in Canada at this time.

Studies have also looked at the more than 70 similar supervised injection sites in Europe and Australia. Those studies show similar results. They were able to prove that the supervised injections sites are a major breakthrough in terms of public health, that they provide important benefits and must continue to exist in order to provide their services under appropriate supervision.

The most ironic thing I have heard so far in the Conservatives' comments is that to them, closing supervised injection centres, which help people with addictions and give addicts a safe place to use the substances they need, is a way of protecting children and families. The Conservatives are suggesting closing these sites and sending addicts back into the streets instead of giving them an enclosed space that would be out of sight from children and mothers who are going shopping or running errands.

We will end up in the same situation Vancouver was in at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. At the time, between 1987 and 1993, the number of deaths by heroin overdose went from 16 a year to 200 a year. However, with the arrival of InSite, the overdose death rate was reduced by 35%. That is significant because they also managed to reduce the waste that comes from drug use, including the problem of used needles. In addition to reducing waste, they also managed to reduce the spread of disease among those who inject drugs. Having fewer people share needles means fewer cases of hepatitis A, B and C and of HIV-AIDS.

To put this in economic terms the Conservatives will understand, this is a way to significantly lower our health care costs. However, last week I heard one of the parliamentary secretaries tell us that our emergency rooms offered the best care available to treat these people.

I had the opportunity to attend meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for a few weeks last session. We were looking at how to reduce demand for police and health care services in order to save money on public safety, while still maintaining the most effective public services possible.

One thing we heard from many police chiefs from across the country was that police forces, social services and health care services should work together to avoid revolving door situations, in which people end up on the street, then back in the ER, then back on the street, and so on. That is a huge burden on our health care system and costs taxpayers a lot of money, considering that health care is available in the community and can truly help people living with addictions.

I think it is completely ridiculous that the Conservatives are once again trying to circumvent a Supreme Court decision to guarantee public safety and security for Canadians, not only those living with addictions, but also the Canadian families who may have to deal with problems involving addicts.

One way to improve the quality of life in our communities is to offer appropriate services to people living with addictions, and that is what centres like InSite do.

Mere hours after introducing the bill, the Conservatives launched a fundraising campaign among party members, encouraging them to keep heroin out of their backyards. That is misleading.

Members joined this campaign and perhaps even donated to the Conservatives thinking, somewhat naively, that this bill was intended to enhance public safety. However, the Conservatives failed to tell them that, as a result, people living with addictions would have to go back out on the street to inject themselves rather than using the InSite services. When people use these services, they are often referred to detox centres and manage to finally attain the lifestyle of abstinence that the Conservatives would like them to have. However, the Conservatives are now closing the door in their faces and asking them to fend for themselves and to go back out on the streets in full view of the children, families and mothers doing their grocery shopping.

This bill makes no sense at all. This is indisputable evidence of the backward nature of the Conservatives' anti-drug program. They are willing to completely discard an evidence-based approach that has been proven to reduce harm, for the sole purpose of pleasing their base. I find this really disappointing.

I again thank my colleague for the amendment she proposed. A bill like this should never go to second reading.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we look closely, the real objective of the bill is to give the health minister the basic information he or she needs to make an informed decision on protecting the public.

My colleague also commented in her speech that there are many communities that want to open these sites. The bill allows for those communities to have hearings, to have a say. It allows parents to have input into those communications.

My question to the member is this. Why would she not agree to at least allow parents to have a say into whether or not an injection site opens down the street from them? Why would she deny parents that right?