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 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-2. As we have said on this side of the House, this bill is ill-considered and a reaction, frankly, to the government's inability to address a serious problem. As we know, the Supreme Court has had to intervene to guide the government to do more than it has been doing.

However, it is more than that. If we look at the legislation, it tries to address a major void in the approach of the government in dealing with what is a health issue. I would like to underline that point at the start. This is about health, the health of our neighbours and the people we represent as members of Parliament. Too often, this issue has been dressed up as a drug issue, invoking the kind of images we see on TV. Somehow it has been torqued to the point where we forget that we are talking about human beings who are facing addictions.

Recently I met with people who were with the recovery movement in Ottawa. I sponsored a motion, which I would love to have the rest of my colleagues support, with respect to designating a recognized recovery month in September. One of the important topics they spoke of was the people who had taken on an addiction, gone down that brave road and, with the support of many people, been able to deal with it, whether it had been alcohol or drugs. Their point was that we need to take this out of the shadows when we are talking about addictions and celebrate when people have been successful with recovery. We need to talk about it and celebrate it, not hide it or be ashamed of it. That is something we have seen with mental health. We have come a long way when it comes to mental health. However, we need to do the same with addictions.

When people are addicted to drugs, we need to see that as a health issue. It could be my kids who could become addicted, or the kids of other members, our neighbours, or friends. We have seen that pattern.

Before my mother entered politics, her first job was as a public health nurse. One of the things she had to deal with in the 1970s was the kids who were getting addicted to hard drugs and had nowhere to go. She was their first point of contact in dealing with that issue. The problem then was acknowledging that it was a problem. People were hiding behind closed doors and suffering in silence. We have made some progress in that area by now. However, when I look at this bill and listen to the government side, I think we need to take back that approach that we thought we had learned and instead say this is a health issue and that we can solve it if we work together.

It just so happens that this is timely for me. I was very lucky this past week to meet with all the executive directors of all of the community health centres in Ottawa. They were not just community health centre executive directors from Ottawa Centre—I am lucky to have four community health centres in my riding—but also from other areas in Ottawa.

I met with the executive director of the community health centre in the south end of Ottawa, which is not in my area; and from the Queensway Carleton area, which is west of me; as well as Simone Thibault, executive director of the Centretown Community Health Centre, who coordinated it. I want to give her a special mention because she hosted the meeting. Jack McCarthy from the Somerset West Community Health Centre was also there, as was the executive director from Sandy Hill.

It was David Gibson who underlined the point that we have to get smarter when it comes to dealing with addictions, and hard drugs in particular. He laid out a convincing argument on why we need to take a different approach than what is laid out in Bill C-2. Essentially, he said that we have to acknowledge that we have harmful, powerful drugs being used by members of our community. Therefore, the first thing we need to do when dealing with any addiction is to recognize it. The second is that we have to understand what the drugs are, who is taking them, and where they are taking them. Therefore, we must do an analysis. The third is to come up with solutions. It is a fairly straightforward approach that he talked about.

However, he also added to the briefing that he sent me, which I thank him for, the legal piece here, because we know that the Supreme Court has been involved.

I will read some of that report into the record for the benefit of our debate. One of the things he says is the following:

I consider Bill C2 as an important reminder of the lessons of the 2011 Supreme Court's ruling: that governments, and all health and public health organizations, have a duty to act in ways that enhance the health of individuals and their communities.

I do not think anyone in this House would disagree with that statement.

He does go on to say how we can improve that response to achieve the goal he laid out. One of the things he has laid out was from that Supreme Court ruling:

The effect of denying the services of [safe injection sites] to the population it serves and the...increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.

That was from Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in her decision in 2011. It goes on to say:

These sites are evidence that health authorities are increasingly recognizing that health care for injection drug users cannot amount to a stark choice between abstinence and forgoing health services.

This is the key for me. We cannot take people who are hiding in the shadows with their addictions and using injection drugs and say that we do not have any role. They are people in our communities. They are people who need help.

We cannot just say get off the drugs. The ads are fine. I have seen them, and they can have some effect, but if an individual is addicted to hard drugs and is using injection drugs, that campaign will not help. It will not do the job.

The Supreme Court was saying that we cannot lay it out and say that abstinence or denial of health services is all that is left for an individual who is a drug user. We have to look at who this person is and how we can help, as I mentioned earlier.

The image I will now tell the House about is from the report I received from one of our community health centre executive directors. It is an actual story. I think it is important, because it lays out what some of the challenges are.

This story is about a person we will call Michael, to protect his privacy. In August 2012, at the age of 19, the same age as my eldest son, Michael visited the downtown City of Ottawa community health centre to exchange his used needles for clean needles. Having declined further support that day, Michael left the community health centre. There is an accompanying photo, which I cannot show the House.

What happened next was that just steps away from the community health centre, Michael was found in an overdosed state. He was found by one of the people in the community health centre, fortunately, because if he had not been found, he would have died of an overdose.

He woke up in the hospital emergency department and was told that he was clinically dead when the paramedics arrived. I will just underline the point that he was 25 metres from the community health centre, and they were able to be there to help him. However, what happened to his friend was not so lucky. A week later, one of his closest friends died of an overdose.

What I am trying to say is that this is preventable. When we have people, and they are in all of our communities, make no mistake, who are dying because of overdoses and the use and misuse of injection drugs, there is a model that is not one-size-fits-all. It is an opportunity for us to deal with it.

In closing, this is not about naming and shaming. This is about taking people out of the shadows and putting them in front of our health care services and providing the supports they need.

It is 2015. The evidence is out. The studies have been done. We know that supervised sites can work. It is not one-size-fits-all. Yes, I agree with the government that it has to have community support, but if we fail to provide that support, we are turning our backs on people.

This is about people's lives. This is about the fact that people are dying in our streets because we are not doing enough, and it would be an abject failure, not only of our duties as members of Parliament but our collective duties as a caring community.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Ottawa Centre a question.

The Conservative member who spoke before him said that he did his studies in the field of health. He should therefore understand that supervised injection sites exist because drug addicts need this help. Hospitals exist because there are people who are sick. More people do not get sick because hospitals are built. We do not want to create supervised injection sites so that more people will get addicted to drugs. That is ridiculous. That is the wrong way of dealing with the problem.

Does the member for Ottawa Centre think that the Conservative government should address the underlying causes of the problem? We know that billions of dollars' worth of drugs are exported from Canada to the United States and from eastern Canada to Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, France. Would it not be better for the Conservatives to address the underlying causes of the problem rather than going after sick people?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. Our party's view on the approach to take is completely different than that of the government. We recommend an approach that focuses on prevention and on investing in community health centres, such as the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre in downtown Ottawa and the Carlington Community Health Centre.

It is a good idea to invest in local community health centres so that they can do prevention work and provide this type of care. That is what makes us different from the government. The government would rather act after the fact by investing in a large hospital. That is a bad idea.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my hon. colleague's speech. Behind many of his words was compassion, and that is something this debate needs more of. When I spoke on this particular bill, I highlighted many of the points that he did.

Something the other side of the House needs to recognize is that these substances are not natural. They are highly addictive substances. They break the will of most human beings when they are taken several times, and that is what creates addiction; it creates a disease. There is much research that shows that a lot of these people come from difficult backgrounds and have turned to drugs because of various situations. The answer is more compassion, not less.

This is also a fundamental health issue. Does it make sense to take people who are already addicted and put them in an environment where they can catch even more deadly communicable diseases that can essentially kill them? I do not think so.

I would be interested to hear from my hon. colleague as to what he thinks the solution is.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to put on the record a couple of statistics on Ottawa regarding this issue.

The most recent research for Ottawa finds that 73% of people who inject drugs test positive for the hepatitis C antibody, and 13% test positive for HIV. These infection rates are attributed in part to the sharing of drug injection equipment. The research finds that one in five people who inject drugs in Ottawa has injected with a needle that was previously used by someone else, and that the rate of needle sharing is more than double this rate among street-involved youth.

In other words, this is clear fact and evidence of why the status quo is not working, not only for individuals' health but the community's health. It is a community health issue and it deserves a better response from the government.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians we all have a great deal to be proud of. We live in a country where protection of public health and the maintenance of public safety are at the top of our government's priorities. Much of what we do and the decisions we make here in the chamber serve to ensure that all Canadians continue to enjoy a country with sound public safety and public health policies.

Whether it is supporting a strong response to the public health threat of the African Ebola outbreak, or taking action to protect all of us from the very real public safety threat represented by recent terrorist activities, I think Canadians are reassured that our government takes these public health and safety concerns very seriously.

We are also aware of the very real public safety risks that dangerous drugs like heroin represent for our communities. That is why I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of the respect for communities act, a bill that contributes to our efforts to protect public safety and health by ensuring that all perspectives are heard when it comes to the proposals for sites that would use dangerous drugs in our neighbourhoods.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is Canada's federal drug control statute. Its purpose is to protect public health and maintain public safety. Under the CDSA, activities with controlled substances are prohibited unless these are specifically allowed under the act, its regulations, or are authorized under a section 56 exemption.

Section 56 of the CDSA allows the Minister of Health to grant exemptions from the provisions of the CDSA to provide access to controlled substances for unanticipated purposes. For example, in the past a section 56 was issued to enable individuals to provide humanitarian aid. Using this section of the bill for international humanitarian efforts is quite a different thing than the plans put forward for supervised injection sites.

I think we can all agree that improved consultations would be a positive step when the CDSA is being used to control an area that it is not intended to address in the first place. Bill C-2 before us today proposes to add a new section to the CDSA to specifically address supervised consumption sites. The new section would outline the specific area, which would have to be addressed by an applicant seeking exemption from the CDSA for activities involving illicit substances at a supervised consumption site.

There has been a lot of debate thus far, and we have heard a lot of criticism about these criteria. However, they are simply an expansion of the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2011 decision regarding Insite, the supervised injection site in Vancouver. In its decision, the court said that the minister should take into consideration evidence, if any, of five factors when assessing future section 56 exemption applications for the operation of a supervised consumption site.

These five factors are, one, the impact of such a site on crime rates; two, local conditions indicating a need for such a site; three, the regulatory structure in place to support the site; four, resources available to support its maintenance; and, five, expressions of community support or opposition to the site.

In its decision, the court also emphasized the need to balance public health and safety with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-2 proposes to outline information to be provided in an exemption application to satisfy the Supreme Court of Canada's requirement to consider these factors. If we split the criteria up under public health and public safety headings, we would see that the proposed criteria are almost equally divided under each.

I would like to use the rest of my time to outline some of the public safety criteria in the bill, as well as to explain how these criteria will assist the minister into taking into account the factors outlined by the court when assessing section 56 exemption applications for supervised consumption sites.

One criterion suggests that the applicant provide a letter from the head of the police force responsible for policing the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public safety or security. This criterion expands upon the Supreme Court of Canada's factor that outlines the need for “evidence of community support or opposition”.

It just makes sense to consult with the head of local police in the area where the site is proposed, to hear from the official who would be charged with securing the perimeters around the site and keeping the surrounding community and the people at the site safe.

This criterion is a small extension of the communication that would no doubt exist between the site applicant and the local law enforcement agency. The head of police might also be able to provide valuable insight into the exemption application itself, including measures that an applicant might wish to consider to address any potential security and public safety concerns. Dialogue with the head of the local police might also help the applicant obtain information to address other criteria, for example, a description of the potential impacts of the proposed activities at the site on public safety, including information, if any, on crime and public nuisance, information on drug consumption in the area, and law enforcement statistics on these facts, if they exist.

The Supreme Court of Canada said that the minister of health needs to consider the local conditions that indicate a need for a supervised consumption site in the area, if any exist. Given the serious risks to the public health, public safety, and communities associated with the use and production of illicit substances, exemptions to undertake activities with them should be granted only after rigorous criteria have been met.

This criterion is a part of the information used to assess these applications on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the unique circumstances surrounding any proposed site. To further expand on that, these substances are unsafe and can be the subject of criminal activity. It is in the minister's interest to know how the applicant plans to address the security of the substances at the site, as well as the safety of the staff, users of the site, and people in the vicinity. Therefore, the bill would require an applicant to provide a description of the measures that would be taken to minimize the diversion of controlled substances, and the precursors and risks to the health and safety and security of persons at the site or in the vicinity of the site, including staff members.

Again, given the serious harms of illicit substances and the criminality that is often associated with them, it is reasonable for the minister to be aware of the measures in place to protect those who work at the facility and those who use it. The Supreme Court of Canada asked the minister to consider the regulatory structure in place to support the facility, if any. How an applicant plans to minimize diversion and keep the staff and clients safe is a logical piece of information that the minister needs in order to address this Supreme Court factor before granting an exemption.

To summarize, the criteria included in Bill C-2 balance public health and public safety and are consistent with the factors identified by the Supreme Court of Canada. I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of these legislative changes, as the proposed approach will strengthen our laws and enable the government to continue to protect the health and safety of all of our communities.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to share with the member information from 2013 that people in Prince George have the highest rate of HIV-AIDS from injected drug use in Canada. Has the member consulted with the HIV-AIDS reduction partners, community service partners, and needle exchange people in his riding on the bill?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think people of Prince George are concerned. The bill is meant to address that any facility that is going to be proposed as a safe injection site would solicit public feedback and police feedback for its site application. The bill is meant to address the concerns of the whole community, not just one small part of that community.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

, seconded by the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting the long title.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting the preamble.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting the short title.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 7

Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

She said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to the abuse of process and contempt for Parliament that is embedded in this bill. Bill C-2 does nothing less than take a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and treat it with contempt, and in doing so treats Parliament and Canadian citizens with contempt.

How we arrived at this issue was a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which is now well known, relating to the Pivot Legal Society and its attempts to defend what is called the InSite harm reduction centre in Vancouver. Abundant evidence shows that this harm reduction facility is saving lives. It is important with respect to public health. The Supreme Court of Canada gave the current administration very clear guidance as to how a bill should be constructed that would not violate the charter.

I will just revisit for a moment what the Supreme Court said. Members will recall that the minister was refusing to provide an extended exemption that would allow this facility to use otherwise prohibited narcotics and drugs in order to prevent the threat of death and further illness of people who are suffering from addictions and living on the streets.

The InSite facility works, and the Supreme Court found that. It looked at the minister's refusal and stated this in its judgment:

...the Minister must exercise that discretion within the constraints imposed by the law and the Charter, aiming to strike the appropriate balance between achieving public health and public safety. In accordance with the Charter, the Minister must consider whether denying an exemption would cause deprivations of life and security of the person that are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

The Supreme Court's ruling was clear, but it is equally clear that the current administration's response, the so-called safe communities act, was designed to do indirectly what the Supreme Court had said the administration could not do directly. In other words, it has created a law that is designed not to meet the purposes of the law for which it was being drafted. This was supposedly a law in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision, which would create opportunities for harm reduction facilities such as the one in Vancouver called InSite, and in other communities as well.

There are other communities that would benefit from having a harm reduction facility like this. However, this piece of legislation is so contemptuous of due process that it offends Parliament itself. Unfortunately, this is part of a trend with bills that are being drafted and promulgated in this place, and pushed through with time allocation, primarily for public relations benefit in a future election. Surely, the government has been warned by Justice department lawyers that this bill is susceptible to the same Supreme Court challenge as the one that gave rise to the decision of the Supreme Court in the Pivot case.

How is the government doing indirectly what it cannot do directly? This bill sets out such an onerous series of requirements for any person, organization, or charity considering opening an InSite facility that it makes it a joke to imagine anyone could possibly meet all these requirements.

I will provide an example. The list of requirements exhausts the alphabet. They go (a) through (z) and then there is the addition of a (z.1), et cetera. They require that anyone who wishes to open such a facility provide in advance, per requirement (w):

the name, title and resumé, including relevant education and training, of the proposed responsible person in charge, of each of their proposed alternate responsible persons, and of each of the other proposed key staff members;

I do not know if the drafters of this legislation have ever tried to open anything, but one cannot open a community day care centre and know the names of all the staff who will be hired before one can even get a permit or put a shovel on the ground. It simply does not work that way.

They also want to invite anyone who wants to open a harm reduction facility to conduct consultations that are clearly aimed at finding people who might object to such a facility, and giving them the obligation to prepare letters to tell the minister responsible if there is a reason for an exemption or whether the community would rather not deal with people on the streets who have addictions. It does not provide any proportionality about the kind of evidence it seeks. It seeks to direct fair-minded people who are concerned about public health. In the interests of public health, as found by the Supreme Court of Canada, it would force them to go out and try to seek evidence from people who will oppose these facilities' purposes and ends.

I want to speak about the following for a moment, because there are so few opportunities to explain to Canadians what is happening in this place. The legislative process has become an exercise in farce. The bills are drafted in the Prime Minister's Office. I cannot believe they come from any kind of evidence-based public policy in the various departments. They come forward with titles of legislation that are clearly designed for public relations purposes and future pamphlets for use by the Conservative Party, such as this one on the respect for communities act. This is supposed to be legislation about public health and harm reduction, but it is called “respect for communities act” and has been designed not to function as legislation to allow harm reduction.

We could name any one of a number of absurd acts. One of my favourites they titled the “safeguarding our seas and skies act”. It made it sound like it might be something to do with the environment. I read it avidly. The “safeguarding the skies” part dealt with forensic investigations of airplane crashes. It really was not something we could call “safeguarding our skies”. The “safeguarding the seas” part dealt with existing treaties we had already accepted for marine liability regimes in the event of disasters at sea, such as oil spills and chemical spills and so on. These examples are the daily fare of this place.

Then they go to committees. Thanks to the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert, we now know that what I inferred from watching the behaviour of Conservative members of Parliament at committee is actually how it functions. The hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert has written a book called Irresponsible Government, in which he describes how he as a Conservative member of Parliament was given talking points and told how to vote in parliamentary committees.

I worked in this place from 1986 to 1988 in the Mulroney administration. I was not a member of that party nor at the time was I enamoured of the moves of the Prime Minister. I have to say in retrospect that they hold up quite well. However, the parliamentary committees actually functioned in the interests of public policy at achieving consensus and the very best-possible legislation for the greatest number of Canadians. Members of Parliament from all parties were not scripted. They rolled up their sleeves and worked together, made amendments to many acts, and took their time with witnesses. I never saw a witness' credentials or good-faith effort to show up at a committee denigrated until the current administration.

This is one of those bills that cries out for this place to say enough; to say enough with time allocations, enough with ignoring the clear directions of the Supreme Court of Canada, and with putting forward legislation that is simply intended to thumb its nose at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court, and Parliament itself.

I have tried to bring forward these amendments to the committee responsible. As members will know, 20 different committees simultaneously passed identical motions by Conservative members of Parliament to circumscribe my opportunities to present real, substantive amendments here at report stage. It has probably doubled my workload, which I did not think was possible. On top of that, of course, it means that I run from committee to committee for the ritual slaughter of my amendments.

I know you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that this opportunity means that I no longer have rights at report stage for substantive amendments. I have to repeat for your benefit, Mr. Speaker, that I am afraid it is not working as an opportunity for me; it is working out as a coerced additional workload that I do not welcome.

This is an opportunity for the current Parliament to do the right thing, to vote down this monstrosity of a bill, reread what the Supreme Court said, and look at the medical evidence, that harm reduction at InSite works and that we need to create a legislative framework that lets it function in the interests of our society. Do not let this bill pass.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her comments. I know she was at the committee. Like us, she tried to move a number of amendments but was shut down. I wonder if she would agree with me that really, our only goal has been to establish a level playing field and set out criteria, guidance, and fair rules around safe consumption sites.

The way this bill is currently written, it is so stacked that it would make it virtually impossible for any organization in Canada to successfully have an application approved. I do not know if the hon. member recalls the criteria, literally from a to z, an applicant would have to meet. Even if those criteria were somehow, amazingly, met, it would still be at the minister's discretion whether an application were approved. I wonder if the hon. member would comment on that.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Vancouver East, the official opposition health critic. She is someone who has represented a very troubled community with enormous dedication and commitment.

Yes, indeed, I think I mentioned that not only are there conditions from a to z, but the government has added z.1. It has created many obstacles for any organization that seeks to open a harm reduction clinic. I will read more into the record. An applicant would need:

...a letter from the head of the police force that is responsible for providing policing services to the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines his or her opinion...[as regards] concerns with respect to public safety and security;

...a description by the applicant of the proposed measures...to address...[those] concerns...;

...a letter from the lead health professional...;

...a letter from the provincial minister...;

...information, if any, on crime and public nuisance in the vicinity of the site....

It is not information on the particularly vulnerable populations, those people most likely to suffer if harm reduction strategies are not available to them. Everything about this legislation is designed to prevent the facilities the Supreme Court of Canada has found are in the public interest and are charter protected. This legislation attempts to tie the shoelaces together of anyone who thinks they can walk forward and open a harm reduction site.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the leader of the Green Party has put on the record this afternoon, especially on the manner in which the government presents its legislation, whether it is time allocation or the manner in which the government titles its bills.

My question is related to the need for a higher sense of co-operation. If we look at the example of the InSite centre in Vancouver, there was a great sense of co-operation among the federal government, the provincial government, the municipality, and many different stakeholders, including police services, non-profit groups, and so forth. That is what made it happen.

At the end of the day, those same stakeholders, minus the federal government, seem to understand the issue and want to explore opportunities in the future. Could the hon. member provide some comment on that sense of co-operation and how it is being lost?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely the case.

It can be scary to adopt public policy that is so vulnerable to being twisted and presented in an ugly fashion for the purpose of dividing Canadians and gaining votes. Co-operation works in the other direction: How can we work together?

At the time, the provincial minister of health in British Columbia, the hon. Terry Lake, responded to the decision not to allow InSite to go forward, before it was defeated at the Supreme Court, saying:

We're reluctant to close the door on innovation and creativity when it comes to tackling these very challenging problems. We have to think out of the box sometimes. I know that the thought of using heroin as a treatment is scary for people, but I think we have to take the emotions out of it and let science inform the discussion.

That is what the previous federal government and provinces did. That is the approach of stakeholders from non-governmental organizations and the medical community, people who work the streets and know what is needed to save lives.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on the debate on Bill C-2, especially after the previous member spoke.

We saw that the amendments provided by the Green Party followed the same basic line of debate it has shown on other bills in this House. If we do not agree with the Green Party members, then we must be wrong. Those Canadians who disagree with the opposition must all be wrong.

Not to shift too far off topic, but we saw that very same approach in a recent debate about the Rouge Park, in my riding. Farmers, who had land expropriated from them by the Liberal government 40 years ago, asked for their land to be protected so that they could farm forever. That is what the people in my community wanted. That is what the farmers wanted. That was what they all asked for. What did the Green Party members want? They did not care what farmers wanted or what the people in my community wanted. They actually wanted to listen to someone else. They wanted to listen to outside influences and those environmentalists who want to throw these farmers off of their land.

That is why I find the comments of the leader of the Green Party so troubling. My word. In this bill, we are asking people to consult with the community before they put something in their community. Imagine that. What did the leader of the Green Party say? It was that consultations are just a way of finding objections. That is all they would do. They would just find objections.

Let me get this straight. We are not supposed to consult, because people might be opposed to what is being forced on them in their community. This is obviously not something we are going to do on this side of the House. I am sure she would agree, and members of the opposition would agree, that if what they are talking about is supported throughout Canada in communities across this country, including in my own small-town community of Stouffville and Markham, then really, there should not be a lot of objections.

Honestly, we have to take in the opinions of the people who actually live, work, play, and pay taxes. We have to take in the opinions of the business owners, the people who create jobs and create economic activity and opportunity. We have to put them in the line of consulting on something like this. That is why we brought forward this legislation, which, of course, respects those aspects that were brought forward by the Supreme Court.

The member said that we had to add a letter to the alphabet. It went from a to z, and then we had to add z.1. Yes, absolutely. It is because we want to make sure that the people who are proposing these sites and the places they are proposing to put these sites meet certain minimum standards.

The member talked about having to provide resumes of the people who would be working there. Of course we are going to want to make sure, as this legislation would, that the people who work in a proposed facility have the ability to do what they say they are going to do. If we are going to bring illicit drugs into small towns, villages, and communities across this country, then I think the people who live in those small towns have the right to know that this is what is coming to their Main Street and that these are the people who would be working there. Do they have the ability to do what they say they can do or what they are being hired to do? Do they have criminal records?

I think it is just common sense that if we are going to bring this type of facility into small towns and communities across this country that we know the people who are sponsoring this and that the people who will be working within the facility have the ability to do what they say they are going to do in a professional manner and can protect the communities in which they apply to do this. I think most Canadians would agree with that.

The member took exception to the fact that the bill would also ask that the proponents seek comments from the local police chief. Far be it from me to suggest it, but obviously the local police chief and the local police know the community. In my town of Stouffville, in York Region, Chief Eric Jolliffe and the local superintendent of No.5 District actually know what is happening in communities.

When a proposal for a development is brought forward in my community, I know it is done by the town. However, I often go to the police and ask what they think about what these people have brought forward in terms of development, safety, and how police, fire, and ambulance would work.

When we talk about bringing controlled substances like heroin into a community, people might want to ask police if it is the right spot to do it. What are the things the community needs to be worried about? I do not know of any Canadians who would suggest otherwise. Actually, I do. Opposition members would, because they are afraid that there might be instances when the community does not agree, local police do not agree, the people who live in the community do not agree, and business owners who hire young people do not agree. Opposition members are afraid there might be objections. In fact, the leader of the Green Party suggested that this is the reason there should be no consultations whatsoever and that Canadians should be completely left out of the process. Clearly, that is not something we are going to do. We are going to involve Canadians in these decisions.

As part of this legislation, we must also provide information on security measures and record keeping. If a community accepts a facility like this, I think it stands to reason that it is going to want to know what security measures will be put in place so the community can be assured that it is safe for the people who live in the community and safe for the people who will use the facility. That is obviously an important part of the process of making sure that communities are involved.

As I said earlier, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about criminal record checks being too onerous and that it is impossible to find out who is going to be working in a facility. I suggest that if people are going to be hired in a facility like this, it is probably a good idea to get criminal record checks to make sure that the people can work in that facility. That is a common-sense addition. I think most Canadians would agree with that, with the exception of the opposition.

The bill would also allow the minister to put a notice of application on a proposed site. In Ontario, as in all jurisdictions across this country, when someone applies for a liquor licence, a notice goes on the window so that the community knows and can comment. It is common sense. People need to know what is going on in their communities.

Apparently the opposition does not agree that when someone is proposing a heroin injection site, there should be a notice for the community. Imagine the surprise of people in the community when all of a sudden the site opened up. People would ask why they were not told what was going on. Imagine the people who would then try to use this facility in an area where people in the community were not consulted. They would have to face the fact that people might be protesting because they were upset by the process that went on.

Obviously, keeping people informed of the process from start to end is a good idea. Letting municipal politicians, those elected municipally, know what is going on and having the opportunity to comment, I think Canadians would agree, is a good idea.

The bill would allow for inspections. Once a facility like this opened, if it was doing good work, people would want to make sure it continued to do good work. Again, that is a very common-sense addition.

The things that have been brought forward in this bill would strengthen the ability of communities across this country to participate in something like this if that is what they wanted. It would allow them to have a say. It would not push things on communities they did not want.

It has been the hallmark of this government, since we were elected in 2006, to listen to the people who pay our bills. When Canadians send almost 50¢ of every $1 they make to politicians at all levels, and thankfully, under our government, I think tax freedom day is now 28 days earlier than it was before, all they ask for is a say in the things we are doing.

When something like this is going to be put in a community, if it actually helps, if it makes a big difference, it should be the proponents who are prepared to stand by what they are doing. They should be the ones to bring the community onside. It should not be forced on any community.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary very carefully and I find it so astounding. On the one hand, he says that if the issue of a safe consumption site is so supportable, then public opinion should not be a problem.

The problem is that within hours of introducing the bill in the House, the Conservative Party put out a huge propaganda machine and used it as a fundraising tool. What it was called? “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. How is that a level playing field? How is that an environment whereby we can have any confidence or faith that the government is willing to look at applications in a serious, meritorious way?

The fact is that it does not care about public opinion. In fact, the public opinion process that the government has laid out is contained to the local community where an application would be situated. That is fair, and extensive public consultation did happen at InSite. Under the bill, the public consultation can be all across Canada and the minister can weigh that however she wants.

I take serious objection to the parliamentary secretary somehow saying that if it is supportable, that public opinion is not a problem when the Conservatives have so manipulated this process and have used it as propaganda to their own base to raise funds. How despicable is that?

I would like the parliamentary secretary to answer that.