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.”.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me put on the record, because I do not want there to be any confusion, that in my riding, in my small town of Stouffville, I do not want a site like this on my main street. In Markham, I do not want a site like this on the main street. As the elected member of Parliament, I would fight something like this coming to my communities because I do not approve of it.

Having said that, the bill would offer an opportunity for communities to consult. I recognize the fact that not everybody might agree with my opinion on this. That is why the bill would allow for consultation.

It is the member opposite who has suggest that actually going to the people in communities is wrong. Somehow, if we do that, they will not agree. The bill would allow that consultation.

Let me very clear. If something like this were proposed in the communities I represent, I would certainly be standing up against it because I simply do not agree that this is the best way to address this problem.

However, I appreciate that she has a difference of opinion and the bill would allow her and other people who might disagree with me and those who agree with me the opportunity to actually have a say in the process for the first time.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the phrase “common sense” used repeatedly. It is a phrase we are not used to hearing in Ontario since it was last used in that province and it became the hallmark of not doing consultation, amalgamation being perhaps one of the most prolific examples where no consultation was ever done by a party that happened to also call itself “Conservative” and liked to bandy about that phrase.

However, the government is now talking about public consultation. It is interesting. The common sense gun bill that is front of us has not had any public consultation, yet the member and other members have spoken about how the police should be involved in the injection sites but should not be involved in deciding whether weapons are in the hands of certain individuals. I guess the notion of consultation only reaches so far when we use common sense.

As well, when the government talks about consultation, the omnibus bill in front of us has provisions changing the powers of courts in our country, no consultation. Where we do have consultation? If we talk to the folks who run InSite, what they talk about is the need for housing as part of a third stage of dealing with people with heroin addiction. Repeated consultations across the country have called for housing. Why has the government not listened to those public consultations, if consultation is now the order of the day and that is common sense?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am actually glad that for once I have the ability to agree with the member opposite. Since 2003 and the election of the Liberal government in Ontario, there has been no common sense in the Province of Ontario. If there were common sense in the Province of Ontario, it would not be running a massive deficit, it would not be increasing taxes on its taxpayers and it would not have to make disastrous decisions that will cost all Canadians. We would not be in the situation we are in Ontario, where it now receives equalization. It is only because of the efforts of this government that we actually have a housing strategy that takes people off the street.

The Minister of State for Social Development has outlined a number of initiatives that we have done to make a difference on housing.

The other consistent thing is that every time we bring something forward, those members vote against it.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel so disgusted by the parliamentary secretary's completely misleading comments in the House in regard to Bill C-2. We would not be opposing the bill if it actually lived up to the decision that was made by the Supreme Court of Canada. We would welcome the bill if it lived up to that decision, but Bill C-2, now at report stage, is an absolute travesty.

As I will point out in my remarks, this is so far away from what the Supreme Court of Canada said on safe consumption sites and the right, under the charter, for people to have access to those medical services that were provided in the safe injection sites. It is really quite shocking that the Conservatives have gone to such lengths in Bill C-2 to stack the deck and make it virtually impossible for any applicant, in good faith, who does all the work required to get an application in, to ever be approved by a minister as it is laid out in this bill.

I wish I was not speaking today at report stage on this bill, but I am afraid we have to because it has come back from the committee. It really bothers me that we have moved so far away from an evidence-based public policy and that this political mantra from the Conservative Party has now taken over.

As I pointed out, when the Conservatives first introduced this bill, within hours they set up a website called “No heroin in our backyards“ to raise money. It is the politics of fear. It is the politics of division. It is the politics of exploiting people's concerns instead of dealing with something in a rational way and looking at serious issues in various communities across Canada, not all communities, where they feel it is warranted to have a safe consumption site for injection-drug users so they can uphold good public health and stop the spread of HIV-AIDS, stop people from dying and get people into treatment. That is what safe consumption sites do.

The Canadian Nurses Association summed it up for me, when it said:

Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations — especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness...A government truly committed to public health and safety would work to enhance access to prevention and treatment services — instead of building more barriers.

I would wholeheartedly agree with that.

When the bill was at committee, we were only allowed two meetings to hear witnesses on a bill that was so important. The boom was lowered. Censure was brought in and two meetings were held to hear from witnesses. We heard from maybe 13 witnesses overall.

The NDP brought forward 23 amendments to this bill. These amendments were reasonable, based on trying to ensure that the bill actually did meet the terms set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. Many of our amendments, for example, responded to concerns that had been put forward by provincial and territorial officials and were designed to ensure that during the application process, as laid out in the bill, when officials brought forward information about an application, it would be based on evidence and research and not opinions, as is laid out in the bill.

Imagine any other health facility being approved in Canada, first with such an incredible number of people who have to weigh in on the matter. I do not know of any other health facility that would require that. However, in this case, not only is there a lengthy list of officials who have to weigh in on it, they are only required to give their opinion, so it is not actually based on evidence or research.

The other thing we are very concerned about, as has been pointed out earlier in the debate, is that the so-called public process in this bill is absolutely absurd. It is proper to do public consultation. Again, the parliamentary secretary in his comments just now was entirely misleading and incorrect when he said that the opposition did not believe there should be public consultation. Of course we do, but we believe that public consultation should be done in the community where the application intends the site to be.

Yes, in the little town about which he spoke, of course there should be public consultation. As an MP, he can weigh in on it and say whatever he thinks, but in this bill the public consultation can be right across Canada. It can take place for 90 days. There is absolutely no suggestion in the criteria as to how the minister should weigh that so-called public consultation. If there was an application in Toronto, she could take public consultation or opinions from people who live in Calgary or northern Alberta and say that people are opposed to this, so she had better turn it down. It is an absurdity and a travesty of process.

I would like to put on the record some of the key witnesses who appeared before the committee.

For example, Adrienne Smith with Pivot Legal Society, the Health and Drug Policy staff lawyer, said in her testimony that she believed:

It will likely not withstand constitutional scrutiny, and it invites an expensive and pointless charter challenge.

As a representative of the Pivot Legal Society, an organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and marginalization... this bill will restrict access to a proven health care service, which will result in needless human suffering for some of the most vulnerable Canadians.

What a waste. This bill has come all this way. It is now at report stage, it is going to be approved, it is going to go to the Senate, and it is likely going to then go through another expensive course of litigation. Maybe it will go back to the Supreme Court of Canada because it is so flawed. I find that a travesty.

Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said in his testimony:

We are very sorry that this legislation is not coming before the Standing Committee on Health. After all, the primary purpose of supervised consumption services is to intervene in urgent public health contexts where vulnerable citizens are at high risk of serious and sometimes deadly consequences of injection drug use. Consumption services can mitigate this risk, including improving the health and safety of the communities where they might appropriately be located.

I know that commentary from Mr. MacPherson is based on his extensive experience as the city of Vancouver's drug policy coordinator. I know it is based on his review of probably more than 70 studies worldwide now, but at least over 30 in Canada about InSite in Vancouver's downtown eastside. He is entirely correct that these consumption services are about a very urgent public health intervention to save lives and improve the health and safety of the communities in which the facilities are located. In fact, that has very much been the evidence about InSite.

A third witness who I would like to quote for the record is Dr. David McKeown, Toronto Board of Health, medical health officer. He said:

My perspective is somewhat different from that of my law enforcement colleagues, because I come at it from a public health point of view. Toronto is one of several cities in Canada looking to implement supervised injection services as part of an evidenced-based, comprehensive approach to health services for people who inject drugs.

He went on to say that the Toronto Board of Health:

—also feels that the proposed bill is not consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada... If Bill C-2 is passed...it will be a significant barrier for any community...

The New Democrats put in amendments at report stage to delete all sections of the bill. We had no other choice. We tried to bring in amendments at committee to improve the bill so it would meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada. I hope members of the House will oppose this bill. It needs to be shut down, rewritten and it needs to uphold the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the health critic and member for Vancouver East, for her speech. Every time I hear her speak to Bill C-2, I always learn a bit more.

With this being the final stage, I would like her to talk a little more about the vocation and mission of the InSite centre specifically, as well as the way it has helped the people in the surrounding area in the neighbourhood she represents and how it has made the Vancouver East communities safer. The member also alluded to the government's response to the Supreme Court ruling.

Would she like to elaborate on those issues?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, InSite has now been up and running for 10 years, so it does have quite a long record that can be examined. I think members would be hard pressed to find any organization in Vancouver that would not say that InSite is part of the solution. It is not part of the problem. In fact, testimony at committee from the Vancouver Police Department representative made it very clear that InSite is very well known to the Vancouver police and that they actually refer people to it.

In regard to public health and safety, when we had a recent spat of bad heroin on the streets in Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department put out a public advisory urging injection drug users to go to InSite, where they could at least inject safely and not die of an overdose, and could go into treatment if they so chose.

InSite has been very important, and not just in terms of saving lives and improving the health of people who are at the very edges of society and sometimes very hard to reach; it has also been shown that InSite has not increased crime and is a resource that has actually become a very important response to drug policy in the Downtown Eastside.

The record is there and it is very clear, yet with the Conservative government and the bill before us, unfortunately no other premises of this nature will likely be able to be set up in Canada.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I think the consultation process is essential. It is important not only because the courts have actually asked us to provide a regulatory framework for these sorts of things, but also because, as the member has already mentioned, we are in fact looking at authorizing the use of illegal and very dangerous drugs. The member just mentioned a dose of bad heroin.

I have asked members in my own community of Cambridge whether or not they want an injection site in Cambridge. They do not, and I do not think it is a great thing to have. I have asked the NDP and the Liberals if they intend to put an injection site in Cambridge, and they have refused to answer that question, so my concern goes beyond a consumption site where folks come to get clean needles, because they bring illegal drugs into it.

The member is on record as supporting medicalized heroin. I want to know from the member whether the next step is to have the federal government make the heroin and supply it to the heroin addicts along with clean needles.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, what absurdity. Neither the NDP nor anybody else is saying that the member should have a safe injection site in Cambridge. What utter nonsense.

This is about a local community itself feeling that it is an appropriate situation for an injection site, and yes, it should then have to go through a process for approval. Nobody is saying there should not be public consultation, but it should be consultation within that local community. I should not be able to weigh in on an application in the member's riding. It is up to the public health officials and so on in his riding to look at the appropriateness in that riding.

There is so much information being put out here. In terms of medicalized heroin, again, people had to go to the court system to uphold their right to have what was given under the special access approval. It was given under the current government's process and then overturned by the minister. I am glad that they did go to court and got it upheld, because now at least it is helping people.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the things my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, was just saying is that this particular piece of legislation far oversteps what the Supreme Court of Canada ruled.

The Supreme Court of Canada gave five very clear factors that the government must look at if it is ever to approve another safe consumption site in any particular place that applies for one. It is not imposing it on anyone. It is any place that applies for a safe consumption site. That is the first thing.

What we feel, and what many witnesses have said, is that this so oversteps that directive that it intrudes into provincial jurisdiction, into municipal jurisdiction, into the jurisdiction of the local police forces, into the work of that region's public health officer, and into whatever the public health officer is doing based on criteria set by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

What we see is that when the government is asked a question about health, it continues to say that we should not talk about it because delivery of services is a provincial jurisdiction. Then all of a sudden the government posts 26 very specific pieces on its legislation, factors that are going to intrude so much on the jurisdictions of other levels of government and on other police forces and on physicians that it is unbelievable.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the right to life, liberty, and security of the person under section 7 of the charter overshadows any decision based on the Food and Drugs Act. That was noted.

I was there. I was in fact the designated minister to look after this issue when we were in government. What we found was that when the Downtown Eastside, during the Vancouver agreement, asked for the safe consumption site to be put in place, it was put forward by the province and by the mayor of the city. The police agreed to have a bubble zone whereby people could use an illicit substance only in that particular area. Everything was taken into consideration.

Let me give some facts.

Prior to the safe injection site being put up in Vancouver, there were about 234 overdose deaths per year in the prior two years. There were 234. After the safe injection site was set up in 2010, there were 2,395 overdoses, and not a single one of them resulted in death. That is why the Supreme Court of Canada said that this safe injection site actually saves lives.

When I listen to what is said around here, I realize that this particular government seems to think that somebody who is using substances and who is going to die is probably disposable, but obviously these people are human beings. They are Canadians. Their lives are worthwhile.

As a physician, I can say that every single life is worthwhile when we look after our patients. People stand here in this House and talk about the fact that this is not wanted in their particular region, but as the member for Vancouver East has said, nobody is inflicting or imposing anything on anybody's town or village or city.

There was a situation in which 234 people were dying from overdose deaths. The rates of HIV and hepatitis C in that little place called Vancouver East were up to extraordinary levels. There were 2,100 new cases of HIV prior to the setting up of this safe injection site in Vancouver. Today there are 30. That change from 2,100 to 30 means this form of harm reduction works.

However, the idea of the 26 pieces in the legislation that the government brought forward is so intrusive that it is going to make it absolutely impossible for any city to ask for a safe injection site, for any police to okay it, for any public health officer to give the details and the data for why it is needed, and for any province that wishes one to be able to say so.

We brought in amendments. Between the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, there were 60 amendments brought to this particular bill, Bill C-2, but not one comma was changed. Not one. This is what happens in most parliamentary committees right now under that particular government: no one listens.

We pay extraordinary amounts of money for people to come as witnesses, and they are expert witnesses. They come to present to Parliament, but so much for consultation. We listen to what they suggest, and when the majority suggest particular amendments, the government just says no.

The government runs a parliamentary committee, which is made up of parliamentarians from all parties. It is not an arm of the government but an institution of Parliament, and therefore should be completely non-partisan in what it delivers. It should listen to experts and factor in what they say. That is what consultation is about. It is not about listening to a whole bunch of people and then telling them, “Thank you very much, but I do not think I care about what you said. I do not like it and I am not going to do it.”

The government's ideology opposes harm reduction. Harm reduction is a term that has been expunged from every single piece of language the government brings about. It does not like the idea of harm reduction.

As a physician, I will tell the House what harm reduction means. When someone is suffering from a disease that can threaten their lives, harm reduction is an intervention that brings down the harm so that the person does not die as a result of that particular illness and is able to continue on until a cure or some other way to help them live properly is found. We have seen exactly that in the safe consumption site in Vancouver.

In Australia, Spain, and Portugal there are safe consumption sites. It is as a result of what was done in Europe that we decided to do this particular pilot project in Vancouver. “Evidence-based” is a term that is thrown around by the government. “Evidence-based” means that when one does something, one looks at the outcomes to see what the evidence shows. What is the rate of mortality? What is the rate of morbidity? What is the harm done? How is that harm alleviated? That is the meaning of “evidence-based”, and it is very clear that the safe injection site in Vancouver showed that evidence of success.

The fact that the government has put up all these barriers means there is never going to be another safe injection site in this country. The one in Vancouver has been extended for a year; I see that as a really obvious ploy to wait until this bill passes so that the government can stop the safe injection site in Vancouver from even existing.

These are people's lives. For me as a physician, it is untenable that a government would stand in the way of saving lives. It is also untenable that within an hour of the time this bill was tabled in the House by the Minister of Health, a letter went from the Conservative Party of Canada to all its members and donors that said the Conservatives had just put forward a bill that was going to stop junkies from shooting up in their neighbourhoods.

When that comes from a government, it is extraordinary. As far as I am concerned, it is absolutely disgusting that people's lives should be so meaningless to the government that it would send out such an absolutely callous letter asking for money.

All I have to say is simply this: the word “consultation” is a joke. Parliamentary committees are a joke, currently, under this government. People can come to say whatever they like; the government never listens.

When we hear people say that this bill has been brought back exactly as it went to committee, with not even a comma changed, I think that tells us the state of Parliament at the moment in this country: it is no longer a democracy.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:20 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 very difficult to listen to a Liberal talk about consulting and listening to Canadians. The member talks about the fact that we want consultation in this bill and said that because our opinions might be different than hers we do not care about people. By that measure, the government that she was a member of, which cut $50 billion in health care, really did not care about Canadians because it did it unilaterally. The minister of state also talked about hepatitis C. I guess the Liberals really did not care about Canadians then. This is coming from a member who won the election in her riding by 33% or 34%. Therefore, 67% of the people in her riding do not agree with her.

The reality is that this bill gives people the opportunity to have a say. The real reason that the Liberals do not approve of that is because they know that Canadians will not always agree with their position. That is the real reason they are having trouble supporting this bill.

I do not need an answer from the member; it is more of a comment that the Liberals never have and never will ever respect what Canadians have to say. That is why they were increasingly reduced, election after election, from opposition to third-party status. I am sure after the next election, Canadians will put them out into the lobby and the dust.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will not fall for that kind of ridiculous answer from the parliamentary secretary. We are talking about evidence-based decision-making. Evidence does not depend on the member's opinion or his subjective attitude to things, or on the government's opinion or its subjective attitude to anything. It depends on outcomes, on what happens when we do something, and what the evidence shows as a result of it.

Evidence is clearly showing—

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to be able to answer the question and have the member stop heckling. He had his say, and he was very personal about what he had to say.

Evidence-based decision-making is something that has nothing to do with opinions and has nothing to do with subjectivity, yet the government continues to make decisions based on subjectivity. It ignores evidence. It ignores expert advice. I could list how many times the government has done that, but I do not have the time.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that is very rich coming from the parliamentary secretary. To my knowledge, only 40% of Canadians voted for the Conservatives. That means that 60% did not vote for them. Therefore, I do not think that he can talk about a majority there because it has nothing to do with the percentage of people who voted for someone or for a government.

We are talking about saving lives. Let us see this from a perspective of public safety. We all know how the government likes to brag about being hard on crime and how it wants to protect communities. For a community that has a problem with respect to these kinds of situations, how would having these kinds of injection sites help make to its streets safer?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the important thing about any kind of public policy is evidence, which has shown, not only in Europe, but also in Australia, and in Vancouver East, that these safe injection sites save lives. We know that all of the people who have lived may not be important to the government, perhaps because they are intravenous drug users or suffer from HIV or hepatitis C. The government does not seem to care about certain people in this country. That is evident from all of the decisions it makes. The point is that the injection sites saves lives. Every HIV case costs the government $500,000 a year per patient. Therefore, it not only saves lives; it saves money.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Conservative

Bernard Trottier ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to add my perspective, as the member of Parliament from the great city of Toronto, to today's debate on Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, and to stress the importance of passing this proposed piece of legislation.

It is important to note that this bill is in essence, as its long title implies, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or CDSA, for short, is Canada's drug control statute. The CDSA has two purposes: to protect public health and maintain public safety.

Today, I want to highlight the aspects of the bill that relate to public health, and to most especially reinforce the comments made by my Conservative colleagues on the importance of community consultations. Before I do so, I want to speak for a few moments about the threat that illicit drug use poses to the individuals using them, to the families and loved ones of those who use them, and to broader communities across Canada.

I will start by talking about the impact of illicit drugs on individual users.

Illicit drug use can pose a great risk to a person's physical health, both immediately and over the long term. Drugs like these tear families apart, foster life-threatening addictions, and destroy lives.

Obviously the greatest immediate risk is the potential for a fatal overdose. We know that illicit drug use also presents an increased risk of infectious and communicable diseases, such as HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C, which are associated with major morbidity, mortality, and health care costs.

The issues associated with illicit drug use reach far beyond the individual user, and often have very serious impacts on families and communities. Just ask any parent or loved one of a person with a drug or substance abuse problem about the devastating impact that these addictions have had on their lives. I am sure that many members in this House today are aware of very personal stories about how illicit drugs are negatively impacting the life of a community member, or perhaps even a friend or family member.

Rest assured that our government is steadfast in its commitment to protecting the public health of Canadians. It is vital that we work first and foremost to prevent illicit drug use, especially among our young people who are particularly vulnerable.

Where addictions exist, it is imperative that measures are put in place to make treatment available, which is why our government put in place the national anti-drug strategy. This strategy is contributing to safer and healthier communities through coordinated efforts to prevent illicit drug use, to treat dependency, and to reduce the production and distribution of illicit drugs.

Our government has invested over half a billion dollars in prevention, treatment, and enforcement activities under this strategy. This represents an unprecedented level of funding for anti-drug initiatives, and this strategy continues to evolve in response to the increased pressures being felt by Canadians and their respective communities.

Most recently, prescription drug abuse was added as a priority issue to be addressed under the national anti-drug strategy. In economic action plan 2014, our government announced almost $45 million in new funding over five years, to address prescription drug abuse.

This funding will be used for educating people on the safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription medications; enhancing prevention and treatment services in first nations communities; increasing inspections to minimize the diversion of prescription drugs from pharmacies for illegal sale; and improving surveillance data on prescription drug abuse.

Our government recognizes that prescription drug abuse is a serious public health and safety issue that is having a significant impact on communities across Canada. Addressing this issue under the framework of the national anti-drug strategy keeps Canada's focus where it needs to be: on prevention and treatment.

I also want to point out that last year alone, our government committed over $95 million through the federal initiative to address HIV-AIDS in Canada, and the Canadian HIV vaccine initiative. This investment supports research and prevention, and facilitates access to diagnosis and treatment, particularly among vulnerable populations. It also supports Canadian researchers who are working to prevent infections, improve treatment, and ultimately find a cure for HIV and AIDS.

In Canada, this means preventing new infections and making a difference in the lives of more than 71,000 Canadians who are living with HIV and AIDS.

This government takes the responsibility to protect the health of Canadians very seriously. The bill we are debating in the House today, the respect for communities act, is consistent with our government's approach to addressing illicit drug use in the national anti-drug strategy. That is why passing Bill C-2 is important.

Bill C-2 relates to section 56 of the CDSA, which permits the Minister of Health to exempt a party from the application of the CDSA for certain activities. Bill C-2 proposes two separate exemption regimes. The first would be for licit substances, and the second would be for illicit substances, including a specific regime to undertake activities with illicit drugs at a supervised consumption site. Such an exemption would be necessary to protect the staff and clients at the site from charges of possession under the CDSA.

It is imperative that the Minister of Health give careful consideration to any application for such an exemption. It is also an important principle that the minister be provided with all of the information needed to make an informed decision, on a case-by-case basis, for each application that comes across her or his desk. The substances covered under this act can pose serious risk to the health and safety of individuals and communities if they are abused or misused. We know that the risk is amplified when the substances are accessed illegally, as may be the case at a supervised consumption site.

Such an exemption would only be granted once rigorous criteria have been addressed by the applicant, which includes the perspectives of all relevant stakeholders, such as local residents and businesses. Only then would the Minister of Health be able to verify that adequate measures are in place to protect the health and safety of staff and clients, as well as community members in the vicinity of the proposed site.

Many of the criteria included in the bill are for the protection of public health. For example, an applicant for such an exemption would have to provide scientific evidence to demonstrate the medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities at a proposed supervised consumption site. The applicant would also have to provide a letter from the highest-ranking public health official in the province or territory, outlining their opinion on the proposed supervised consumption site. The applicant would also have to provide a letter from the provincial minister responsible for health, indicating how the proposed activities of the site would be integrated within the provincial health care system.

Every one of the criteria included in this legislation is meant to capture information that is relevant to the minister in exercising her or his duty to protect public health and public safety.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the respect for communities act. As I mentioned earlier, illicit drugs can have far-reaching and devastating impacts on individuals and communities. The respect for communities act would further strengthen our government's ability to protect the public health and public safety of Canadians. Most importantly, Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.

This bill would give local law enforcement, municipal leaders, and local residents a voice before a permit is granted for a supervised consumption site. Communities deserve to have a say if someone would like to build a drug consumption site where illegal drugs are used in their neighbourhood. Canadian families have a right to this input.

The minister needs to have the information that she or he needs to exercise her duties as mandated by the Supreme Court, and our government will continue to keep our streets safe.