Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
This is the first time I have spoken in the House since Parliament was prorogued. I would therefore like to take a moment to say hello to my constituents and tell them that I am ready to return to the House and I look forward to participating in the debates. I am also pleased to speak about health because I am now a member of the Standing Committee on Health and this is an issue of particular interest to me.
That being said, I was very surprised this morning to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health give the first speech, since the government had decided to send this bill to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for review. There is a slight imbalance in that respect. Of course this bill is related to the health and public safety of Canadian communities; however, it would have made sense for it to be examined by the Standing Committee on Health. I wanted to take the time to say that.
I am pleased to speak to Bill C-2 or former Bill C-65 today. Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is a very thinly veiled attempt by the Conservatives to put an end to supervised injection sites. They want to give the minister more power, as we have already seen with immigration and other portfolios. This government wants to hold all the power.
If we add a long list of criteria that must be met in order for a supervised injection site to be opened, we will end up not having any more such sites. Right now, there is one such site in Canada called InSite, which I will talk about a little later. This bill shows that, sadly, we are still dealing with a very ideological government that puts its own thoughts and values ahead of scientific facts. We know that the Conservative Party is very anti-drug. Of all the Conservative bills, this one is aimed at pleasing the Conservative base by proposing to eliminate drugs in Canada.
It is unfortunate, because this bill will not have the effect they want. There was a big Conservative campaign this summer called “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. It is a shame, but heroin exists. Like all other Canadians, I am against it and I would love to be able to say that it no longer exists, but it does. There is a problem.
Deciding not to address this problem or not to create health centres to deal with it will not solve the problem. That is very irresponsible. By preventing communities from building supervised injection sites, the government is saying that instead of putting all injection drug users in one place so they can get clean syringes and be supervised, it would rather have them shoot up in churchyards, in parks where children play and in schoolyards. That is what the Conservatives are telling us.
Personally, I would rather know that there is a supervised injection site in my neighbourhood than know that these people who are unfortunately using drugs could be anywhere. That is what I understand from this bill. Supervised injection sites do not provide drugs. Earlier I heard a Conservative member say that they do, but that is untrue.
People who use these sites go there with their drugs and ask the people there to help them with their injections so that they can have clean equipment and access to experienced staff who can help if they overdose or if there is a problem.
This is a huge health problem. The government has made huge cuts to healthcare. We are talking about $31 billion in cuts. The government should take this seriously. I think these injection sites can help with prevention. We can try to prevent diseases and stop them from spreading instead of having hospitals treat countless cases of AIDS or hepatitis A, B and C.
Currently in Canada, there is one supervised injection site, namely InSite, in Vancouver. I would like to talk about what InSite does. Facts and figures can really help people understand what a supervised injection site does. People often have unfounded biases or preconceived notions about this.
To use these services, users must be 16 years old, sign a user agreement and follow a code of conduct. This is clearly not a place with a free-for-all philosophy. Not at all. There is a code of conduct and a focus on safety. Obviously, patients cannot have children with them.
InSite is open during the day, seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has 12 injection stations. Users bring their own drugs. Drugs are not provided.
Nurses and paramedics who supervise the site provide emergency medical assistance if necessary. Overdoses can occur. Personally, I prefer that this be done in a supervised injection site with trained staff rather than out on the streets.
Once users have injected their drugs, their condition is assessed before they are sent to a post-injection room and before returning to the streets. If there is a problem, they will be treated by a nurse. Staff members also provide information on health care, counselling and referrals to health and social services. Users can then be referred to Onsite, which is located in the same building as InSite. This is a place that provides detox treatment.
Some of my family members have had to go to drug treatment centres, so I know that they are essential. When people are struggling with this problem, they often have no choice. I am not saying that 100% of addicts are going. There are those who, sadly, want to stay on drugs, and that is very unfortunate for them. However, there are some who want to try to get clean.
I find it very interesting that in one year, 2,171 InSite users were referred to addiction counselling or other support services. I think this is very positive. If the 2,200 people who were referred for drug treatment had injected their drugs on the street, they would not have received this service.
In 2006, Wood et al. published another interesting statistic: those who used InSite at least weekly were 1.7 times more likely to enrol in a detox program. Once again, this shows the influence that InSite has had on people who use the service.
In addition, the rate of overdose-related deaths in Vancouver East has dropped by 35%. This means that one in three lives were saved thanks to a centre like that.
I know that some Conservatives will say that they think it is bad for communities. My colleague just asked a question. Of course, no one wants this in their backyard. I live in a very cool little neighbourhood in Lachine. If someone told me that such a centre existed near my house, I might have some concerns at first, and that is only normal.
That being said, when asked, 80% of the people who live or work in that area of downtown Vancouver support InSite. Furthermore, the number of discarded needles and injection paraphernalia and the number of people injecting drugs in the street dropped dramatically one year after InSite opened. These are all positive aspects.
In closing, I do not have enough time to laud it properly, but an organization in my riding called Head & Hands in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce does some work with people who are unfortunately addicted, and it distributes injection paraphernalia. Once again, the entire Notre-Dame-de-Grâce community supports this. Since the organization's inception in the 1970s, crime has decreased and the number of people using detox services has increased. I think that is important.
Of course I will be opposing this bill, because I think we need these supervised injection sites in our communities in order to reduce crime and help people who are suffering from addiction.