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 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague’s speech and quite frankly I found it to be ironic. I heard him say just how much the government cares about the safety and well-being of Canadians, families and communities. He talked at length about how drug use can harm people and their families.

Meanwhile, by introducing this bill, the Conservatives are taking services away from people and endangering not only the health and safety of people with drug problems, but also that of their families and different communities.

My colleague seems to forget that requests for the construction of supervised injection sites are coming from areas of Canada that are already affected by drug use problems. No one is asking for supervised injection sites to be built near schools. The Conservatives are being asked to provide services where they are most needed.

How can my colleague opposite justify closing facilities such as InSite or making it more difficult to open them in areas such as east Vancouver? These are places where people who really need help can turn to. These are not sites where people go to use drugs, but sites where people receive services.

How can he keep saying that he is protecting Canadians' health with a bill that is so flawed and so ridiculous?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems that my colleague is adding provisions to the bill that simply are not there. This bill is in response to a Supreme Court decision stipulating that the bill must explicitly set out the consultations that are to be held in communities.

These consultations include local police forces, municipalities and health agencies. That is important. This needs to be explicitly set out. Right now, it is not clear how one goes about obtaining an exemption from the Minister of Health. The Supreme Court ruled on exactly that. There must be consultations. In the words of the Supreme Court:

Nor is it an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a “safe injection facility”.

This is not carte blanche. Consultations must be held with people in the community before these sites can be opened. It makes sense to consult the community.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it very interesting that my colleague spoke a lot about public health. If this is meant to look at public health, why did the bill go to the public safety committee when it was introduced by the Minister of Health and should have gone to the health committee? However, that is not the question I want to ask.

Illicit drugs impact on a person's health. The member said so. Harm reduction is very important because it tries to minimize that impact on a person's health. When we see rates of HIV drop from 2,100 to 30 and deaths go down from over 240 a year to zero, does the member not think that is a positive impact on health? The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Public Health Association all believe this is an important bill.

When InSite was started, the Liberal government ensured that local people, the province, the city, the police, everyone, did their due diligence, and we accepted that. There were huge public consultations that went on for over a year before this was agreed on. Why can this bill not do exactly that? Why does it intrude as much as it does?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Conservative Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting the hon. member talked about consultation as some kind of intrusion. We need evidence obviously, so various stakeholders will be consulted, including local health officials and people who have actually had experience running safe consumption sites. This is the kind of evidence that a minister of health would need to make an application for an exemption. There is also the health of the local community that needs to be considered, which is the reason local police officials would be consulted in these kinds of endeavours.

It is important to get as much evidence before arriving at a decision, and that is exactly what this bill would do. The reason we say we should consult with Canadians in their municipalities and locations is so they can weigh in on very important decisions that affect not just the health of the people who are affected by this terrible affliction of drug addiction, but also the health of the community.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity today to talk about Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Vancouver East for her speech and her work on this file. The member's rigour, and especially her compassion, are a real inspiration to me, and I wanted the House to know that.

Personally, I think this bill is not only a thinly veiled attempt by the Conservative government to put an end to supervised injection services in Canada, but also a direct attack on this country's institutions and a blatant lack of respect for them too. Driven by their regressive and sanctimonious ideology, the Conservatives are utterly incapable of relying on simple facts to make the important decisions they have to make as a government.

Like many of my constituents in the Montreal community of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, I am deeply concerned about drug addiction and its negative repercussions. As such, this bill is obviously of great interest to me.

It should be understood that I rise here today not only to argue against passing the bill in its current form, but also to set the record straight, since the Conservatives have been deliberately denying the facts and doing everything in their power to twist them.

The facts, which I am going to talk about in the House today, have been studied by numerous researchers; the Supreme Court of Canada relied on these facts to render its important 2011 decision stipulating that the supervised injection services offered by InSite in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside could legally and legitimately be offered to injection drug users.

Bill C-2 is based on the Conservatives' presumption that the services offered by organizations like InSite pose a risk to public safety. However, in its 2011 decision, which the Conservatives decided to violate by means of this bill, the Supreme Court of Canada clearly ruled that it was not simply a question of public safety. Indeed, that decision called on the government to consider exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in an effort to reconcile health and public safety considerations.

Once again, the Conservatives decided to do things their way and draft their bill by putting their ideology ahead of the principles established by the Supreme Court. They are making the process for obtaining an exemption from the law so complex that it will create a disincentive to opening new centres. By way of evidence, they decided to send the bill to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, where they brought in a series of police officers, whose work is obviously to fight drug trafficking, and representatives of groups with ties to the Conservative Party. In so doing, they deliberately disregarded the entire public health aspect of this issue. If that is not a rejection of the Supreme Court and its rulings and proof that the Conservatives are blinded by their ideology, then it can only be contempt, in my opinion.

The comments by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness alone are enough to show that all of their decisions are based on this ideology. In fact, in response to my questions at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, he said:

Basically, opening a supervised injection site leads to an increase in criminality, an increase in police resources and an increase in social disorder. That has been proven and that is reality.

I did not really understand why he was talking about that, because I explained to him and to another minister who was there that some people from a low-income housing unit in my riding organize a clean-up every spring. I participate in the clean-up with my team. We clean up the area, which includes removing needles from a nearby park. A supervised injection site could help make this less of a problem. At least this helps back up what I am saying.

If the government truly wanted to make this a public safety issue, I would suggest that a supervised injection site in a neighbourhood like Hochelaga-Maisonneuve would help reduce harm.

I want to take this opportunity to invite the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health to come take a walk in a park in Hochelaga with their children, so they can understand why some parents back home are afraid of letting their children play outside and why some groups go through the parks in the morning to ensure that there are no needles lying around.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the government to take public health into account when making decisions about services similar to those offered by InSite. Accordingly, we must recognize that the health of intravenous drug users is cause for alarm.

In Montreal, 68% of users have hepatitis C and 18% are living with HIV. Not only are these serious life-threatening diseases, but they also represent an enormous social cost in terms of health care alone.

According to the statistics, when specialized addiction prevention services can prevent even just one case of hepatitis C or HIV infection, they automatically make their annual budget cost effective. That says a lot. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the fact that between 2006 and 2009, 72 injection drug users died of overdoses in Montreal.

Just like the mayor of Montreal, SPVM police officers, the public health branch and several community groups in my riding and across Montreal, and in light of scientific studies—which rely on facts to reach conclusions—I believe that supervised injection sites are a vital means of tackling the problem in the interest of both public health and harm reduction.

Contrary to what the Conservatives think—since they have such a hard time acknowledging scientifically proven facts—this is not an opinion. There are many well-documented scientific arguments that weigh in favour of supervised injection sites. Centres in Barcelona, Sydney and Vancouver, which have existed for years, are good examples. The list of benefits is impressive: harm levels have been reduced or have remained the same, the number of intoxicated people wandering the streets has dropped sharply, the number of users has stabilized and so on.

It would take a fairly regressive ideology to keep someone from seeing the fact that safe injection sites are an effective and affordable health care service. Some of those in blind opposition to this include the witnesses invited by the Conservatives to appear before the Standing Committee on Health. What a circus.

On one hand, the government refused to invite important witnesses who made it known that they were interested in appearing before the committee and who could have explained to us the public health aspects of injection sites and the benefits they provide from a harm reduction standpoint. Those witnesses include the Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care and the Canadian Bar Association, which represents 37,000 members across the country. This is what that association had to say in its submission:

However, other parts of the Preamble reflect a continued emphasis on prohibiting illicit drugs. This approach ignores overwhelming historical and current evidence that prohibition drives the drug supply underground and increases violence and deaths associated with drug activity and overdoses. Not only dangerous, this approach has proven expensive and ineffective, even after decades and endless public funds to allow it to succeed. The CBA and many others have argued for a harm reduction approach to instead be used in dealing with illegal drugs and addiction.

That is exactly the opposite of what the Conservatives are saying.

Worse still, they invited organizations espousing an unabashedly Conservative ideology to appear, such as Real Women of Canada, an organization I definitely wish to dissociate myself from even though I consider myself to be a real woman. That organization was obviously invited for the purpose of discrediting studies that recognize the benefits of InSite and supervised injection services in general.

Not only did the witness attempt to discredit the studies, but she went so far as to accuse the researchers of professional misconduct. She was lucky to be given immunity during her testimony. That immunity is obviously not intended to give witnesses a chance to say whatever they want.

What does it say about the credibility of an organization that has appeared before the Supreme Court more than once to plead that a fetus is a person and has the right to life, but is unable to see that an addict is also a person with the right to life?

In its ruling, the Supreme Court recognizes that addiction is an illness and that drug addicts are citizens who have the right, like everyone else, to life, health and security, which are constitutional rights guaranteed under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Our role as a society is not to lecture people, but rather to show them compassion and help them in order to give them the best possible options.

When it comes to supervised injection services, the days of Conservative bigotry are over. It is time for our country to show compassion toward injection drug users and give them the health care they are entitled to.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, reducing harm is exactly what we do want to do. I want to make that very clear. Maybe I could just maybe explain to the member the issue that we do have.

We know that the Liberal Party wants to legalize marijuana. I have asked the medical association what legalization would mean in terms of prescribing marijuana. Now, the medical association actually does not know. It is going to want very reduced quantities of THCs and extreme regulations of the drug before it would ever prescribe it. That makes sense. That reduces the harm.

My concern, and I think the concern we have on this side of the House, is that while safe injection sites of course reduce harm, they are injecting an illegal drug that no one knows where it was made or how potent it is. What I am hearing members of the Liberal Party say is, “Well, that doesn't really matter because if they overdose, they're at least at a site”.

My question now, based upon what some of the member's own colleagues have said, is whether the next suggestion will be that the federal government itself, on the tax dollar, make and prescribe the heroin and do the whole thing. Will the next agenda be that the federal government make and supply the illegal drugs, not just heroin because we know this is for everything? Are we now getting into supplying illegal drugs?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I never suggested anything like that.

Secondly, I will give an example. My sister was a smoker from a very young age. Every year, every day, I told her she should stop smoking, but she never quit. Then one day she suddenly decided to quit and has not smoked since.

Supervised injection sites can offer people support. I agree completely that substance abuse is a scourge that destroys lives. However, addicts can get help at supervised injection sites. Eliminating these services will not make substance abuse go away; quite the contrary. It is important to provide services to people in order to be able to help them quit when they are ready. Only then will there be no drugs in the streets and no syringes in parks.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting listening to the preamble of the previous question referencing the Liberal Party's position with respect to marijuana. The member might want to ask one of his own colleagues who went to a school and declared that he, too, favours legalization of marijuana. He might be interested in finding out what sort of response he gets from that particular member.

My question for my colleague, the New Democratic member, is about this whole sense of federal co-operation. Consultation is something that we saw take place when InSite came into being. That consultation was exceptionally thorough and included the federal government, the provincial government, the municipal government, the different stakeholders, non-profit groups, and some stakeholders, including our police, first-time responders, and so forth.

Would the member not agree that there is and was a great deal of consultation done in connection with InSite and that it would be ludicrous for any member of the House to believe that there would not be any consultation done if, in fact, there were a community that wanted to move ahead with something similar to the InSite in Vancouver?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course there must be consultation; that is clear. However, if we frighten business owners by telling them that there will be more drug addicts in their area, of course they will say no during consultations. They have to be told the real facts. This has to be based on science, not on scare tactics.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to support Bill C-2, the respect for communities act. As I do this, I reflect on the Governor General's words in the Speech from the Throne that opened the second session of the 41st Parliament of Canada, where he spoke of parliamentarians' abiding concern for the common good of our neighbours in each community. It is this abiding concern that is the driving force behind the respect for communities act. Put simply, Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.

The respect for communities act would give local law enforcement, municipal leaders, and local residents a voice before a permit is granted for a supervised injection site. A key priority of our government is the protection of public health and maintenance of public safety, and I am very proud of the many measures that we have already put in place and will continue to put in place to improve the health and well-being of all Canadians.

Today I want to highlight the government's specific actions against illicit drug use in Canada and describe how the respect for communities act is a vital component in achieving these objectives. Most importantly, I want to drive home that communities deserve to have a say if someone would like to have a drug injection site where illegal drugs are used in their neighbourhood.

The national anti-drug strategy, as many of us in the House know, guides the government's actions against illicit drugs. Through this comprehensive strategy the government continues to support and protect Canadians, their families, and their communities by implementing measures that reduce or prevent the use, production, and distribution of illicit drugs.

Since its launch in October of 2007, the federal government departments of justice, public safety, and health have been working collaboratively to achieve the three main objectives set out in the strategy, which include contributing to safer and healthier communities by reducing and contributing to the elimination of illicit drug use in Canada, reducing the supply of and demand for illicit drugs, and addressing the crime associated with illicit drugs.

Our government has since invested over half a billion dollars implementing activities under this strategy in three priority areas: prevention, treatment and enforcement. This represents an unprecedented level of funding for anti-drug initiatives and reflects our government's commitment to addressing the issue of illicit drug use in Canada.

In a moment I will share some of our success stories to date, but first I would like to highlight how the national anti-drug strategy continues to evolve in response to emerging trends and changing needs.

In the Speech from the Throne, our government committed to expanding the national anti-drug strategy to address the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. This commitment was reaffirmed in economic action plan 2014, which allocated almost $45 million over five years to expand the focus of the strategy to also address prescription drug abuse in Canada.

As we move forward, we can build on the success of our past activities in prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Take for example our accomplishments to date with preventing drug use. When the strategy's prevention action plan was established in 2007, our government was responding to some disturbing trends, particularly among young Canadians. We were seeing an increased level of drug crime and increased substance abuse issues at earlier ages. Drug use among our youth was clearly identified as a real concern, and for many Canadian communities it still is. These dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart, foster addiction, and destroy lives.

It has long been recognized that prevention is best achieved by the coordinated efforts of multiple players. With this in mind, the government invested over $70 million in community based prevention initiatives under the drug strategy community initiatives fund. This contribution fund program directly supports community-based programs aimed at preventing illicit drug use. I am proud to say that under this program, the government has launched over 130 such projects across Canada. Going forward, these projects will also respond to the issue of prescription drug abuse.

Just last December, the Minister of Health announced $11.5 million in funding over five years for a health promotion and drug prevention strategy for Canada's youth. This is a national project led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse as part of the national anti-drug strategy. The goal of this project is to prevent drug abuse among Canadians between the age of 10 and 24, through education, national prevention standards, and the building of sustainable partnerships.

We are now a couple years further into the strategy, but even by 2012 an evaluation indicated that it was increasing awareness of illicit drug use and its consequences. It enhances supports for at-risk populations and improves community knowledge. In particular, the mass media campaign, DrugsNot4Me, and the RCMP's organized crime awareness services showed a major impact in increasing awareness about and understanding of illicit drug issues.

A second key priority has been treatment. Back in 2007, the strategy's treatment action plan under the national anti-drug strategy was established to address the lack of treatment capacity for those in need of support, and the need for innovative and relevant approaches to drug treatment. As part of that action plan, this government invested in the drug treatment funding program to support provincial and territorial governments and other key stakeholders in their treatment efforts.

The strategy has provided over $145 million to the drug treatment fund. Evaluation findings from 2007 to 2012 show progress in a number of areas, including increasing the accessibility and availability of early intervention treatment services for at-risk youth. I am pleased to say that the scope of the drug treatment funding program has been expanded to address the issue of prescription drug abuse.

The third and final priority I want to highlight is this government's enforcement capacity. In 2007, the enforcement action plan was established to address the illicit production and distribution of marijuana and synthetic drugs, as well as the diversion of precursor chemicals. Efforts were made to target organized criminals and others who profit from the manufacturing and distribution of drugs that endanger Canadian youth and communities.

When the national anti-drug strategy was evaluated in 2012, it showed that the enforcement action plan had increased the capacity of drug enforcement and prosecutors to gather and share intelligence, to analyze evidence, and to control and monitor controlled substances. In addition, the enforcement action plan has raised awareness of illicit drugs and precursor chemical issues among enforcement officers in Canada and abroad through workshops, training, and information sessions, as well as joint law enforcement efforts.

The enforcement action plan has also contributed to increased safety in dismantling illicit drug operations. It should be noted that addressing the manufacturing and production of illicit drugs will require a long-term concerted effort, and this government will sustain its efforts on this important work.

The bill that we are debating here in the House today, the respect for communities act, is aligned with and strengthens the government's approach to addressing illicit drug use as initially set out in the national anti-drug strategy. This government is addressing the causes of drug addiction by implementing measures that seek to prevent Canadians from using dangerous and addictive drugs in the first place, and by supporting efforts that provide treatment options to those who have developed addictions. In addition to this, our government will be working to reduce the drug-related issues that organized crime seeks to perpetuate in our communities.

By supporting Bill C-2 we are demonstrating our abiding concern for the common good of our neighbours across Canada. I encourage all members to vote in favour of this bill.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated my colleague's speech.

I know that he was formerly a police officer and he is quite familiar with what goes on. However, in his speech he spoke only about crime reduction and drug addiction, as well as about making our communities safer. Scientifically speaking, everyone who has been involved with supervised injection sites—in Canada or elsewhere—agrees that this is exactly what those sites do. These sites help treat addiction and save lives. They decrease the number of overdose deaths and make our communities safer.

Why would my colleague have us vote in favour a bill that will prevent such sites from opening? Not only would these sites provide advice and help people recover from addiction, but they would also save lives. There is a paradox here. Drugs will not simply disappear overnight, as much as we would like that to happen.

Why does the member want to prevent the public from having access to these services? Could he explain that to me?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, InSite in Vancouver was created because there was a significant problem that had evolved in east Vancouver, and that was the use of heroin and the fact that there were a lot of overdoses.

InSite has not prevented overdoses. In fact, it has encouraged people who use the illegal drug to use it in the facility. The problem I have with that is that there is not one point or one-tenth of a gram of heroin that is purchased anywhere in the world that is legal. As a result, we are encouraging illegal drug use in a facility that will protect them from having any recourse. That is the problem.

We should not encourage people to use the drug; we should encourage them to get off of the drug. The only way to do that is to intervene through means other than a safe injection site.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is really hard to know where to begin because of the very unfortunate approach taken by the government on this extremely important public health issue.

The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia is a former peace officer. He knows all too well that we have so many connections between crime and substance abuse in this country that it is not funny.

Here are some facts around InSite usage in Vancouver in the Downtown Eastside. We know that there were 20,000 referrals to health services in 2008-09, over 50% of which were for detox; that InSite users are 30% more likely to engage in addiction treatment than non-InSite users; and that 3 out of 10 injection drug users in Downtown Eastside are HIV positive and that there were 30 new HIV cases in the Downtown Eastside compared to 2,100 in 1996. We know, for an apparently fiscally responsible government on the other side, that every time we prevent one new case of HIV infection we save $500,000 in health care costs and treatment.

This bill flies in the face of a Supreme Court of Canada decision. It is a bill that, unfortunately, is being torqued and spun by political handlers in the Conservative Party because they want to fundraise and frighten people. I think it is very unfortunate that in 2014 Canadians are subjected to this kind of nonsense.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question in there.

I know this: for all of the heroin users, and for that matter any person who is addicted to drugs, there is not one who does not want to get off of that drug. They would all like to live clean and be healthy. The fact of the matter is that safe injection sites do none of that because a person still brings an illegal drug into a safe area to inject that drug, which they know is illegal.

I would rather see recovery centres and treatment centres that can encourage people to get off of the drug rather than encourage them to continue with the drug.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill we are debating today on supervised injection sites is, quite simply, a very bad bill—and there is no other way to describe it. There are three major problems with this bill. First, there is a problem with the essence of the bill. It is obviously not based on fact, experience or knowledge about such centres. It is based on a Conservative ideology and on a desire to frighten people in order to raise funds for their party.

This bill is also a good example of the Conservatives' tactics for circumventing the Supreme Court. This bill is yet another sad example of the Conservatives' lack of respect for our our laws, for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and for Canadian institutions.

Let us get back to the essence of the bill. Some may think it is silly, but the NDP thinks that decisions should be based on facts and experience. Let us look at the experience we have right here in Canada.

There is InSite in Vancouver. The results obtained by this site have been studied in depth in more than 30 studies published in well-known journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and The British Medical Journal, which are all peer reviewed. As a former social scientist, I know that these publications are very prestigious.

All of these studies highlight the benefits of InSite. Notably, there was a 35% drop in overdose-related deaths. As well, there are fewer needles in public areas and downtown, for one. That is one aspect of this issue that really interests me. I have participated in needle pickups in the riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie. There are areas where needles are found just about everywhere, including places where children might pick them up and hurt themselves with them. It makes people in the area very uneasy.

With a place like InSite, there are fewer needles in the streets and fewer people shooting up in parks, public places and public bathrooms. There is also a fairly significant drop in communicable diseases.

Finally, these studies contradict what we are hearing from our Conservative colleagues, who are saying that these sites encourage rather than discourage people from using heroine. Those who use InSite at least once a week are nearly twice as likely to sign up for a detox program. InSite is often a stepping stone to give them access to a detox program or other medical services. Often these people have many issues. This is their entryway into the system, a way to help them deal with their problems.

The Conservatives say that there is a negative impact on the community. After having read the studies, I see a positive impact: fewer needles and fewer communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. It is fitting that we are talking about this today, since it is World AIDS Day. Those are some of the benefits.

We have to ask people what they think. One study showed that 80% of those who work or live near InSite support the program and think it is a good idea. Now, 80% is almost three times the percentage of people who support the Conservative government's policies. I think it would be worth listening to them. I know that this government is not in the habit of listening to people, but I think it is important. The people who have direct experience with the situation support the program.

Such sites exist elsewhere in the world, in places like Europe and Australia, and all of the studies confirm the positive impact of this approach. For example, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction has shown that supervised injection sites are accepted by the community, contrary to what the members opposite would have us believe, and that they reduce high-risk behaviour and drug use in public. Those are just some of their many findings.

In short, this is good for people in general, and of course it is good for those struggling with addiction. That is why the Supreme Court slapped the Minister of Health on the wrist when, in 2008, for strictly ideological reasons, he turned down InSite's application to renew the exemption allowing it to operate.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the minister's decision to close InSite violated the rights of its clients under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was “...arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the CDSA, which include public health and safety.”

We have a Minister of Health who acts contrary to public health. The Supreme Court also said:

The infringement at stake is serious; it threatens the health, indeed the lives, of the claimants and others like them. The grave consequences that might result from a lapse in the current constitutional exemption for Insite cannot be ignored.

I think it is pretty clear, but how did the Conservatives respond? Instead of saying they would heed what the Supreme Court told them, what Canadians were telling them, and what the experts were telling them and going back to the drawing board, as usual—and this is so typical—they decided to go against the Supreme Court, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I might add, by introducing the bill currently before us.

Through this bill, they are creating an obstacle course of sorts. It would be practically impossible to meet all the demands and criteria and provide all the documents and details this bill requires. It is a bureaucratic obstacle course for organizations like InSite or other similar organizations that would like to set up shop.

The worst part is that, even if any organizations managed to complete the obstacle course, the minister can always simply say no, no matter what. We are seeing this everywhere. Ministers are getting more and more discretionary powers. These decisions are being made behind closed doors, without any transparency or fairness, and for ideological reasons. Indeed, rather than face a real debate based on facts, the Conservatives prefer their little backdoor schemes. I think that is because they know that otherwise they would lose the debate.

I would like to read a few quotes, and this one is from the Canadian Nurses Association:

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.