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

March 13th, 2015 / 10:05 a.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my voice to the ongoing dialogue on Bill C-2, the respect for communities act.

Since Bill C-2 was introduced in the House of Commons, it has been the subject of much debate. Over the past few months, we have heard many different opinions about the proposed legislation. At the same time, there are aspects of the bill I believe we should now all agree on. They relate to the bill's contribution to maintaining public health and public safety in all of our communities.

As this is my first opportunity to speak about the bill, I will take some time to review the important points raised by the members of the House, the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, who led the consideration of this bill at committee stage, and the expert witnesses who were called before that committee to share their knowledge and views on the substance of this bill.

The health and safety of Canadians is something our government is committed to protecting and maintaining. It is an important issue, which we campaigned on. It is why Canadians elected this government and why we stand on this side of the House working to bring forward bills that allow us to do just that.

What is this bill about? In its decision regarding Insite in 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Minister of Health's discretion to grant or deny exemption applications and to request information for that purpose. In exercising her discretion, the Minister of Health must take into account public health and public safety considerations in accordance with the charter.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision also stated that the Minister of Health must consider evidence, if any, of the five following factors when assessing an exemption application related to activities at a supervised injection site: one, the impact of such a facility on crime rates; two, the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site; three, the regulatory structure in place to support the facility; four, the resources available to support its maintenance; and five, the expression of community support or opposition.

Why are supervised consumption sites considered to impact both public health and public safety? Let us look at what is actually at play when it comes to providing an application for an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or CDSA, for activities at a supervised consumption site.

As we have all heard, the CDSA controls activities involving controlled substances and precursors to minimize the risk of diversion to an illegal use. The CDSA and its regulations do, however, allow access to controlled substances for medical, scientific, and public interest purposes. One way the CDSA makes this possible is through exemptions under section 56 of the act. Section 56 provides the Minister of Health with the authority to grant an exemption from provisions of the CDSA for activities involving controlled substances.

Bill C-2 would amend section 56 to create a distinct regime for an exemption for activities involving illegal substances that are obtained on the streets and are then used in supervised injection sites. This is the reality of what is going on now, every day, at Insite. I hope we can all agree that a solid framework is needed when we are overseeing the use of street drugs in this way.

According to a 2008 report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, supervised consumption sites are described as specialized facilities that provide injection drug users with sterile consumption equipment and “a clean, unhurried environment”. The clients frequenting these sites typically have a long history of drug use and drug abuse and often live on the margins of Canadian society, untouched by traditional health or social services.

It has been argued that these types of sites serve to meet the needs of those who use drugs by serving as a point of entry into health and social services. However, it is also important to remind listeners that the drugs used on the grounds of the facility are illegal and that these pre-obtained illegal drugs are acquired on the black market, usually from drug dealers and others who are exploiting the addictions of Canadians. This market presents obvious health and safety risks, so it is only right that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act should lay out a framework to address this.

That is why the bill is clearly needed. The current system does not provide the tools needed to adequately consider the complex risks associated with supervised drug injection sites.

The respect for communities act would provide the minister of health with information needed to properly assess section 56 exemption applications and to balance public health and public safety considerations, in accordance with the charter.

To be more specific, the bill sets out the criteria that build upon the five factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. These criteria would provide clarity to the applicants on the type of information the minister would consider in an exemption application related to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Given the serious risks to human health and public safety associated with illegal drugs, and given that substances obtained from illegal sources are known to contribute to organized crime, our government believes that exemptions to undertake activities with them should be granted only once rigorous criteria, identified in Bill C-2, have been addressed.

Under Bill C-2, the minister of health would continue to have responsibility for granting the exemptions. However, to provide clarity and transparency in the application process, the bill sets out the information requirements to inform these decisions.

I have looked at this very carefully through the lens of being both a former mayor of a small town and a health care practitioner. I believe that what the minister has created in the bill is a positive and appropriate framework for these decisions.

Bill C-2 specifically identifies the type of information the minister would need to support informed decision-making. It would ensure that the Minister of Health would have access to community perspectives from a broad range of relevant stakeholders so as to give consideration to the potential impact a site could have on a particular community. To take that local government perspective, they are often looking at zoning applications and uses for different pieces of property, and there are frequently very strong opinions on both sides. Again, it is the community that has the ability to express those opinions. The ability of people to express their opinions to help inform the decision-making is absolutely critical.

Applicants would have to provide a report on consultations with the licensing authorities for physicians and nurses as well as with local community groups. As well, letters of opinion would be required from, for example, provincial ministers of health and public safety, the head of the local police force, and the lead health professionals of the government of the province. These individuals would be consulted in their professional capacities so that the minister's decision could be informed by leading experts from the local area. These letters would contain their opinions on the proposed activities and any public health and public safety concerns they might have.

The applicant would need to provide a report outlining the views of these groups and describing how they would respond to any relevant concerns raised during the consultations. The applicant would also be required to describe proposed measures to address relevant concerns raised by the head of the local police force, the local government, and community groups.

Available information about crime and public nuisance, public use of illicit drugs, or inappropriately discarded drug-related litter, such as needles, would also have to be submitted, along with any law enforcement research or statistics on the subject.

In addition, to address the safety of individuals and communities, the applicants would need to provide a description of the potential impact of the proposed activities at the site on public safety. This would include available information on crime in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality and a description of measures to be taken to minimize the impacts.

Applicants would also be required to provide information on security measures, record keeping, and the establishment of procedures for the safe disposal of any controlled substances or the devices that facilitate their consumption. Criminal record checks for key employees would also need to be provided.

Members on the other side of the House have raised a variety of concerns regarding the proposed legislation and the information required to support an application for an exemption for activities conducted at a supervised consumption site.

I would like to point out that we need to balance the obligations being placed on applicants with the needs of the Canadian public, meaning the individuals, organizations, and businesses that would become the eventual neighbours of any supervised consumption site in their communities.

A typical and appropriate community process should happen at a local level. That is what this bill is about. It would set up clear parameters and would require a thorough consultation process to ensure that applications for these supervised drug-injection sites were thoroughly reviewed by local experts and community members as part of any decision.

Our government believes that it is important to give members of the public an opportunity to provide input into proposed activities that could impact their communities. That is why, under Bill C-2, the minister would also have the authority to post a notice of application for a 90-day public comment period to seek direct input from community members. It is not unlike a rezoning application, whereby a large sign is posted to inform everyone who is local that it will happen. It is part of the local community consultation process.

That is what I have found so surprising about the debate on this bill until now. The opposition members continue to delay and drag out the debate, when the single largest accomplishment of the bill is simply consultation with local communities. To be quite frank, to me it is incomprehensible. Members in this House need to pride themselves on local grassroots input, whether it is for an environmental assessment process or a rezoning, so I am surprised that there seems to be such resistance to providing what is normal due process in important decisions a community makes. I am pleased to see that we are making some progress on this today.

Consultations are not the only improvement contained in the bill. There are also important new clarifications that would be brought to the inspection regime to monitor these sites following their establishment. This would ensure that the government had the tools needed to monitor any injection site that may be established following the new consultation process.

One of Health Canada's responsibilities under the CDSA is to monitor the distribution of controlled substances and to inspect facilities, as needed, to verify compliance with the act, its regulations, and the terms and conditions of an exemption. This is done to minimize the risk of diversion and any negative impact on public safety. I do not think anyone should argue about the importance of having that measure in the bill. As someone who was responsible for a health centre, there were many different groups that had the ability to come in and monitor the work we were doing, whether it was on our work with controlled drugs and substances or the privacy commission. Again, these are appropriate and necessary safeguards.

The proposed legislation would amend the CDSA, which sets out the powers of inspectors. The amendments would provide authority for inspectors to enter supervised consumption sites for inspections to validate information on any exemption application received by Health Canada. These amendments would also authorize inspectors to enter a site for which an exemption was granted at any reasonable time to verify compliance with the terms and conditions of the exemption. Again, these are appropriate measures and safeguards that would be put in place. If the conditions of the exemption were not followed or the act or regulations were not complied with, there could be a danger to public health or safety, and an exemption could be revoked.

That brings us back to the real issue at play, which is the danger to public health and public safety. It is no secret that when illicit drug activities take root in neighbourhoods, the health and safety of individuals, families, and communities are put at risk. Illicit drugs that are bought and sold on the streets are inherently dangerous and present dangers in the communities in which they are found. For example, we know that the proceeds from the sale of illicit substances often contribute to organized crime, and the use of these substances can increase the risk of harm to health and safety, especially when these substances are unregulated and untested.

While a supervised consumption site aims to reduce the risk of illegal drug use, it is also important to keep in mind that no level of oversight can ever make illegal, untested street drugs completely safe.

That is why I also want to note that the bill will require applicants to provide information regarding the drug treatment facilities that may be associated with the injection site. I think all members of this House can agree that the true goal of the program designed to help those of us struggling with addictions is to end drug use in a safe way. That is what any of us would hope for family or friends fighting an addiction. It is only right to analyze the drug treatment facilities that are proposed and associated.

We often hear about safe injection sites being a pathway to treatment, to care. As someone involved in the health care business, I too frequently saw people who were desperate to have detox, to have rehabilitation, to have support with nothing being available to them. If this is to be a pathway to supporting people in their recovery, then it has to be associated with those pieces of the treatment puzzle.

Everyone in this House probably has family and friends who are aware of enormous dollars that have been spent to send their loved ones to treatment centres because there are no public options available as they were desperately struggling with recovery.

These changes are in line with our government's balanced approach to tackling illegal drug use in Canada. In 2007 we introduced a national anti-drug strategy. The strategy focuses on drug prevention and access to treatment for individuals who suffer from drug dependencies. It also focuses on combatting the production and distribution of illicit drugs by targeting drug dealers and producers who threaten the health and public safety of our communities, and more particularly important, of our youth.

One of the key components of the strategy is the enforcement action plan, which has increased the capacity of law enforcement to proactively target organized criminal activities. For example, under this plan, funding was provided to the RCMP to expand its dedicated anti-drug team to help locate, investigate and shut down organizations involved in the production and distribution of illicit drugs. Funding was also provided to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute offenders.

Through these and many other activities under the national anti-drug strategy, we have made great progress in helping to protect public health and safety.

To emphasize just how much the issues related to public health and public safety are intertwined, both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to address questions raised by members in their consideration of this bill.

During her testimony, the Minister of Health clearly stated that, “This legislation was not prepared overnight or on a whim”. It was “...drafted to specifically codify a detailed ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in September 2011 on a supervised injection site”. As I have said, that ruling identified the specific factors the Minister of Health must consider when reviewing applications that grant exemptions from Canada's drug laws to allow such sites to be established.

There are many things I could say about the process. I know 20 minutes is a long time, but it can also be a short time. Most people in the House, I expect, have had families and friends who have struggled with addiction. We heard a very powerful statement yesterday from one of our colleagues. We are trying to create a balanced piece of legislation that will really, as I say, take care of the public safety issues, to look at the public health issues and respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member across talks about the opposition dragging out the debate, and she also underlined the importance of consulting with community groups.

In terms of the consultative process regarding Bill C-2, has she gone to the grassroots community partners around her, places such as ASK Wellness, Henry Leland House, Crossroads Inn, the Phoenix Centre? Has she talked to the president of ASK Wellness, Elizabeth Harris, about the bill? Has she talked to the president of the Phoenix Centre, Fawn Holland?

I am just wondering what their input was in her own community and whether she has consulted closely with them in Kamloops.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have ongoing dialogue with many members in Kamloops, including ASK Wellness, on many pieces of legislation, whether it is our prostitution legislation or others.

The member is missing the point. The point is that there are criteria giving consistency to how applications will be received. Most importantly, what it would do is say that if there is ever a proposed site in Kamloops, all of the groups that the member mentioned would have the ability to speak very directly to it, as would the local government and police force.

Again, what we are talking about is the ability of communities to have consultation and be able to determine what is appropriate and what is going to be helpful to deal with what is a very difficult challenge.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is clear with this particular bill that the Prime Minister's Office is trying to give the impression that we are going to have all of these injection sites scattered across the country unless we pass this legislation.

If we take a look at the one injection site that we have here in Canada, there was immense consultation. We had federal, provincial and municipal cooperation that had all sorts of other stakeholder and community involvement. The stakeholders included first responders, health care professionals and police agencies. The whole nine yards was brought in together to put this one site into being.

It is ludicrous to believe that communities and others would not be consulted. The real reason is that this is nothing more than Conservative spin to try to create an issue that is just not there.

Why does the member believe that this legislation is even necessary?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is making my own point. This legislation would take the Supreme Court of Canada decision, which lays out five things that need to be looked out. The Minister of Health needs to give the exemption.

It is our responsibility to ensure that with those criteria, there are processes and systems around it. Again, to be quite frank, the member is making my point that this legislation would create the system that is needed to address the important issues.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, we talked a little bit about barriers in getting programs like this off the ground and having community confidence. Some of that is a lack of legislative direction. What we would provide here is that legislative direction, which has that criteria.

One of the pieces of criteria that I was most interested in hearing about, and I wonder if the hon. member could expand on it a little, is the criteria around ensuring that plans includes treatment plans to go along with the safe injection sites. Communities can understand and invest in that. Could my hon. colleague expand a little bit on that piece in plainer English terms?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have worked in small northern communities and I have seen the decimation that addictions can create in those communities. I also saw the huge lack of appropriate detoxification and rehabilitation services. I can remember time after time when people came to me and said, “Listen, we are ready to quit”. I had to say, “I am sorry, but there no are beds or services available”. I told them that in six months, we may be able to give them the support that they need. That was a shame, because six months later, those people might not have been ready anymore.

Treatment and prevention services that are directly associated with the site is an enormous and absolutely critical piece of this complex and comprehensive puzzle.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member's comments on a speech given by Dr. Julio Montaner, the director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. He said that the government “just doesn't get it”. He said:

...instead of complying with the Supreme Court of Canada, they are making it even more difficult for people to access a service that has been shown to be lifesaving.

Dr. Montaner is one of our leading world experts on AIDS and believes that this bill is wrong-headed. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to comment on that, and ask her how many safe injection sites the department of health is projecting to be exempted in the first year after this law is proclaimed.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest of respect for Dr. Montaner in terms of some of the work he has done around HIV/AIDS. I have listened to him speak here on Parliament Hill.

The point of this legislation is that we would put in place some appropriate parameters around the minister determining whether to give an exemption. There is even a process around rezoning applications. When a mining company is looking at establishing a mine, there is a process around it. We have created straightforward criteria that look at a balance, include prevention and safety, and include community consultation. To be quite frank, I think all opposition members should be on board with us on this particular piece of legislation.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem with this bill is that it is now harder to set up a supervised injection site than it is to build a pipeline. Want to build a pipeline? Do not bother asking permission from the mayor, fishers or farmers. Just do it.

Want to set up a centre to help people who really need help, because life as a drug addict is not easy? You will have to come up with the sun, the moon and the starlit sky.

Will someone please explain to me why it is so easy for oil companies to do what they want and why insurmountable obstacles are put in the way of people who want to help folks who are suffering? I would really like to know why that is.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely have to disagree with the hon. member. He needs to look at what is in this bill. Consulting with communities is perfectly appropriate. Making sure there are criminal record checks of the people who are going to be running these operations is absolutely perfectly appropriate. Having plans in terms of what will be done with the needles so that they are disposed of properly is absolutely appropriate. Having inspectors make sure that people are complying is absolutely appropriate.

I look at every single element in this bill. They are not overly onerous and they are appropriate protections for the health and safety of communities.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to participate in such an important debate.

I wish we had longer to discuss such a critical issue, but the government, of course, has issued another one of its time allocation motions. I cannot remember if it is 91 or 92 times thus far. We will have a grand total of two and a quarter hours to debate this pressing public health issue, but that is the way it is.

In my remarks today, I want to first examine how we got here on safe injection sites. Second, I want to talk about the bill itself. Third, I want to talk about the ideological underpinnings that are self-evident in this legislation.

I cannot do better, frankly, than to start with an almost poetic description of the crisis that led to this. This is from the Supreme Court of Canada in its famous 2011 judgment relating to the Insite centre in Downtown Eastside Vancouver:

In the early 1990s, injection drug use reached crisis levels in Vancouver’s downtown eastside.... Epidemics of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C soon followed, and a public health emergency was declared in...September 1997. Health authorities recognized that creative solutions would be required to address the needs of the population of the [downtown eastside], a marginalized population with complex mental, physical, and emotional health issues. After years of research, planning, and intergovernmental cooperation, the authorities proposed a scheme of care for drug users that would assist them at all points in the treatment of their disease....

Operating a supervised injection site required an exemption from the prohibitions of possession and trafficking of controlled substances under s. 56 of the CDSA, which provides for exemption at the discretion of the Minister of Health, for medical and scientific purposes. Insite received a conditional exemption in September 2003, and opened its doors days later. North America’s first government-sanctioned safe injection facility, it has operated constantly since then. [...] It does not provide drugs to its clients, who must check in, sign a waiver, and are closely monitored during and after injection. Its clients are provided with health care information, counselling, and referrals to various service providers or an on-site, on demand detox centre. The experiment has proven successful. Insite has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area. It is supported by the Vancouver police, the city and provincial governments.

The court ordered the minister of health to grant a “constitutional exemption”, as it called it, to the Insite facility, so it could continue to operate free from federal drug laws. The minister was then ordered by the court to grant an exemption under section 56. That is what happened.

The government responded with Bill C-2, which is before us today. It is my strong belief that the bill before us will be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada. Many lawyers and experts have said the same thing. Why? Because it is a thinly veiled attempt to not do what the Supreme Court of Canada required.

This is a public health emergency, and the response is to provide a list of criteria that is so vast that no one believes there will ever be a safe injection site as a function of this legislation. It is absolutely opposed to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision.

The parliamentary secretary just spoke about the criteria being perfectly normal. Of course, it was all very much in place when the city of Vancouver got its Insite facility.

No one is suggesting that there should not be public consultation and the like. I have had a raging debate with my colleagues as to just how many hoops will have to be jumped through to ever get one of these safe injection facilities under Bill C-2. I cannot decide. There are 26 criteria listed in the bill, but, as they say on television, there is more. After the 26, the long, many-paged list of criteria that has be jumped through before the exemption can be granted, there are two at the end that raise a number of eyebrows.

I will just read them, so members can see why it is so difficult to know. One of them at the end is “any other information that the Minister considers relevant to the consideration of the application”. I have no idea what that means. It is entirely subjective. She could consider the price of tea in China and that might be considered relevant.

However, there is more. It says, “any prescribed information that is submitted in the prescribed manner”. I guess they can make a regulation and prescribe a bunch more. It is 26-plus open criteria, plus a whole list of others that might be prescribed later. This is not a normal series of criteria for granting an exemption.

It then goes on and provides a series of principles that seem to swallow the entire thing. It states, in part, “The Minister may only grant an exemption for a medical purpose” to allow these safe injection sites in exceptional circumstances and after considering a whole bunch of other principles, including criminal activity, organized crime, risks of overdose, and unadulterated controlled substances.

We cannot read this legislation without basically saying that the government is trying to make it as hard as possible to do what the Supreme Court ordered in one of Canada's leading public health emergencies ever.

There is no need to take my word for that. The British Columbia Medical Journal had an article, before this legislation, by a number of leading AIDS researchers. It starts with this, “Our current approach to the epidemic has been an utter failure”.

The article then lists the costs for people having to go to the hospital, There is a cost of $500,000 per patient to deal with AIDS, and the cost of emergency care in hospitals, not to mention the homeless. That is why the police have been so strong in Vancouver in support of Insite. The article goes on to talk about how it has been a failure because of the traditional law enforcement paradigm of the current government: more crime, more legislation to deal with crime, more police. It has been an utter failure, according to the police themselves.

I had a chance to meet with Dr. Simpson of the Canadian Medical Association yesterday, and the CMA is strongly in favour of this kind of harm reduction approach. It is reflected in the strategy that Vancouver, the Vancouver Board of Trade, and small business have embraced. It seems that everyone has embraced it but the Conservative government, which seems to think it will help its base in passing a law that is so obviously contrary to the spirit of the Supreme Court.

The four-pillars approach has been what Vancouver has embraced. Those four pillars to dealing with the crisis are the following: one is enforcement, that is granted; second is treatment; third is prevention; and fourth is harm reduction. It is harm reduction of the kind that is reflected in the Downtown Eastside Insite facility, and a very comprehensive plan was put in place by the city to address this.

At this point, I must pay tribute to the retiring member for Vancouver East, in whose riding this occurred. She has been utterly amazing in her advocacy on behalf of the poorest people in our community: aboriginal people, frequently; people from cultural communities; people who have come from all over the country to live in the Downtown Eastside and deal with addiction. They are dying at overdose rates that are absolutely staggering.

I want to pay tribute, as well, to Senator Larry Campbell, who was then the mayor of the City of Vancouver. He embraced a harm reduction strategy from the start and deserves a lot of credit for helping implement the four-pillars strategy in Vancouver.

All that the health advocates have been saying is that we need this in other communities. We need it in my community, and I will come to that. The public health officer of Toronto has been pleading for meaningful legislation. What they are getting from the current government is a farce. They know it, and the courts will soon know it. We will have wasted a lot of time doing something that is so obviously not a public health measure but simply a sop to the Conservative Party base. I will demonstrate the truth of that in a moment.

That is where we have landed with Bill C-2. This is a government that is more concerned with punishment than compassion; a government that is putting ideology over evidence.

Let me speak about the Canadian Medical Association and its members response to this legislation. They were asked, like so many, to be consulted on this, and they were. What they said was quite staggering. They said the following:

The CMA fully endorses harm reduction strategies and tools, including supervised injection sites....

Bill C-2...proposes new, far reaching, and stringent conditions that must be met by a proponent who is applying to establish a supervised injection site. The CMA maintains that safe injection sites are a legitimate form of treatment for the disease of addiction, that their benefit is supported by a body of research, and that the conditions proposed under Bill C-2 are overly restrictive.

That is what the doctors are telling us. It is obvious to them, and it is obvious to most Canadians who have had an opportunity to read this thinly veiled effort to stop supervised injection sites.

When the government looked at the evidence and consulted on this, it was self-evident that it needed a harm reduction strategy, that it needed to make exemptions possible under section 56 more readily available. What it ended up with is what has brought us here today.

The number of people who are opposed to this legislation is staggering, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association. However, we also need to address those people who are trying to get safe injection sites in their communities. There is only one in Canada, and it is in danger now I suppose, but certainly Toronto wants one. Dr. David McKeown, the Medical Health Officer of that great city said:

I come at it from a public health point of view. Toronto was one of several cities in Canada looking to implement supervised injection sites as part of an evidence-based, comprehensive approach to health services for people who address drugs. The board feels the proposed Bill C-2 is not consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court on supervised injection. If Bill C-2 is passed as written, we believe it will be a significant barrier for any community or health system in any province that has come to the decision that those services would serve both the public health and public safety interests of local residents.

Good luck trying to get one, Toronto. Good luck, Victoria.

I happen to represent the city of Victoria, and I am proud to do so. Let me tell everyone what is going on in my city. Many local agencies have expressed an interest in opening a safe injection site, but there is no application because it is considered that there is no way they would get it. Why bother? There are so many conditions that are required, that they do not think there is any chance.

Nevertheless, people are dying in the streets. Katrina Jensen, AIDS Vancouver Island executive director, in 2013, said:

We have had eight overdose deaths in the last six months and those are deaths that could have been prevented if we had a supervised consumption site....

Good luck getting one, Victoria. I am here to say that the chances of doing so are remote at best.

That is where we are. That is why I asked the parliamentary secretary whether or not Conservatives had any projection as to how many of these facilities would be up and running a year later. I did not get any answer at all.

I will refer to something that I know many people have been concerned, which is why it is taking this long to get here, and why it is that the Conservative government has done everything it can to thwart this legislation coming forward.

Stephen Maher, a journalist, wrote the following in 2013:

On the afternoon of Friday, September 20, [2013, the health minister] sent out a news release announcing she was taking action against Health Canada officials who had approved an application from doctors who wanted to give heroin to addicts.

“Our policy is to take heroin out of the hands of addicts, not to put it into their arms,” she said.

It was odd. Why would [the health minister] issue a news release attacking her own officials? The next morning a clue landed in the inboxes of Conservatives across Canada.

Fred DeLorey, director of political operations for the party sent an e-mail to supporters: “Drug treatment programs should be focused on ending drug use--not giving illicit drugs to drug addicts. That's why I was shocked to learn today that Health Canada approved funding to give heroin to addicts--against the wishes of the elected government.”

There was a link to surprise, surprise a Sun News story:

“What the heck is Health Canada on?”, the anchor asked, throwing to a reporter who said that “government bureaucrats, many are saying, have used a loophole to allow individuals to legally receive prescription heroin”.

DeLorey's email ended with a link to a Conservative Party website with a big picture of a hypodermic needle and a place for people to enter their name and email address.

Here is the punchline. If one enters one's data, half an hour later DeLorey will send an email with a warning “If the NDP or Liberals are elected in 2015, you can bet they would make this heroin-for-addicts program permanent”, and then hits readers with a pitch for $5 to help the Conservatives fight back.

I guess it is clear why we have taken this long. We know about the fundraising efforts on the backs of people who are dying. This is a public health emergency, yet the Conservatives are trying to use it as a fundraiser. I do not know what to say except that people deserve better than such a mean-spirited government addressing the legislation in this kind of way.

I need to go back to the criteria. The parliamentary secretary was making it sound, and I will use her word in her debate, “typical”. However, as a lawyer, I have never seen anything like the criteria the Conservatives have put forward in an apparent attempt to implement the Supreme Court of Canada's response to this public health emergency. Here are the criteria in the new and improved bill, Bill C-2, to get one of these exemptions to allow a safe injection site.

Let me be clear. Talking to the police and the neighbourhood, and doing full consultation is a no-brainer. Everybody understands that. How could any municipality get away with doing otherwise? It is what Vancouver did so effectively. However, there is more criteria set out in the bill, such as:

The Minister may consider an application for an exemption...that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site only after the following have been submitted:

Here I will paraphrase.

First, there is the requirement for scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit. Duh, there have been 30 studies already on Insite. Europe and Australia have learned about this, but I guess we need more science on this.

The second is the requirement of a letter from the provincial minister, a letter from the local government, a description of the measures that have been taken to address any relevant concerns in the letter, a letter from the police force saying it is okay, a description of this and that. I am only at five, but there are 26 criterion, including this open-ended thing.

I do not want any Canadian to think this is somehow an ordinary list of relevant criteria, because that would be to misstate and distort the evidence before us.

Speaking of evidence, I need to talk about what happened after the safe injection site was opened in Vancouver.

First, there had been a twelvefold increase in overdose deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. There had been an astounding increase in communicable diseases among injection-drug users, such as hepatitis A, B and C, as well as AIDS. However, when the safe injection site was opened, there was a 35% decrease in overdose deaths, a decrease in crime as well as communicable disease rates and infections and relapse rates for drug users. That was because a science-based, evidence-based approach was taken.

People were now saying, and the Supreme Court of Canada was persuaded, that this health service would save lives. It would save a lot of money as people were no longer presenting at emergency centres and hospitals. It would reduce the amount of crime. That was evidence before the Supreme Court of Canada, and it was why it decided that a constitutional exemption was required by the minister.

The bill before us is public health legislation, although one would never know it. It was sent to the public safety committee, not the health committee, by the government. Public health does not get a lot of mention in the legislation nor in the parliamentary secretary's speech.

If we are to face a public health crisis as adult Canadians, then we need to face up to the fact that the four pillars work, that a comprehensive approach is required, that safe injection sites must be licensed and welcomed into communities when reasonable consultation has occurred, rather than the legislation before us, which thwarts this, sadly, for nothing but political purposes.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest. As the critic and my colleague was going through the list of what he called onerous things that would have to be done to get a safe injection site going, not one of them seemed unreasonable: scientific data, the ability to have criminal record checks, community consultation, a letter from the police. The opposition is fearmongering around what is an appropriate and reasonable framework.

I have to pick up on one of the member's comments. Does he also believe we should provide the heroin and the illicit drugs in these sites? Is that something he believes should also be part of this proposal?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think I just heard the parliamentary secretary ask whether we should provide heroin at these sites. Did I understand that? The evidence before the Supreme Court was that people would bring their own drugs in for safe injection. They would be provided services, counselling, detox and so forth to try to get them off these drugs. I cannot believe anyone involved in this debate would ever make such a suggestion.

As to the reasonableness of the criteria, it is the astounding amount of information that must be provided. Critics are concerned about that. There is a stacked deck, to use the words of my colleague from Vancouver East, designed to frustrate. That is the reason I went after the number of criteria, coupled with principles that later seem to fly in the face of even granting such an exemption in the first place.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for all her efforts on health reform in Canada. I much appreciate her comments.

Why this bill was sent to the public safety committee rather than the health committee is simple. It is because the government does not see this as a health issue. It sees it as a law enforcement issue. It wants to spend more money to maybe put more addicts in jail, and maybe that will make the world a better place. That is contrary to the evidence of Dr. Julio Montaner, a world expert on AIDS, who says that the government “just doesn't get it” and has put up roadblocks with this stacked deck of criteria.

That is why the government sent it to the public safety committee rather than the health committee, because it does not even accept that we have a public health crisis in our cities.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his great analysis.

When he was speaking, I was harking back to 2011 when I was invited to Oakland for an international conference on HIV-AIDS prevention and how to deal with it. Guess who was the keynote speaker? It was the model of prevention, our friends from Vancouver. We were on the international stage, but, meanwhile, back home the government was challenging them. I was asked as a Canadian politician to explain that and I could not. However, at the same time, Oakland had declared a state of emergency because of HIV-AIDS. The people were saying that we had to stop locking up people for drug use and start helping them. They were really looking to Canada as a world leader in this area because we were seen as a model.

How is this health approach important versus the public safety approach? It is despicable that people would try to make money off victims. Maybe you could talk about the different approaches of health versus public safety.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to come from British Columbia, which has the first safe injection site in North America, welcomed by the police, the province and business. It makes me proud.

However, it makes me sad and angry at the same time, because a few kilometres away from where I live people are dying on the streets. When people come to my community, they ask me about this public health measure. They ask me if I think they can get one of those facilities in Victoria. I look at the legislation, shake my head and tell them I do not see how they can. We have to wait for the lawyers to once more take this to the Supreme Court of Canada, and once more get it struck down. In the meantime, this is no joke. People are dying.

I am proud my colleague went to Oakland and saw Vancouver featured on the international stage. I am hopeful that in the Senate, Senator Campbell, who has been such a champion of this, will do what he can do to see if we can get back on track with such an important initiative.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with every word in the speech by my friend from Victoria. Bill C-2 is not so much a disguised attempt but a blatant attempt to do indirectly that which the Conservative administration could not do directly, which is prevent the building of any new Insite clinics.

As for use of this issue politically, I harken back to when the former minister of foreign affairs—now we must refer to him only as the member for Ottawa West—Nepean—was in the Mike Harris cabinet. He said that they wanted mandatory tests of drugs for welfare recipients because “We don't want to see them shooting their cheques up their arms”. It is a long-standing use for propaganda and for fundraising.

I want to draw his attention to one of the many criteria that are there for purposes of defeating the building of an Insite clinic. They are listed as A through Z and Z1. There is one that says before a clinic is built an applicant must provide the CV and work history of senior employees.

Could the hon. member for Victoria recall any instance in his experience where a facility that does not yet have a permit to be built knows the names and has the CVs of every senior employee?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague and friend from Saanich and the Islands for all her work on this important initiative. We tried to have amendments she brought forward, supported by the NDP, to have this entire travesty repealed, but we were unsuccessful.

I have never heard of a criteria requiring CVs for every employee in any such statute. When the member talked about A through Z and Z1, I am still debating with myself just how many criteria there are. A through Z is 26, but then there is one that seems to say anything can be prescribed, anything the minister considers relevant.

We do not even know how many criteria there will be. We do not think there will ever be any safe injection sites as a result of such a wrong-headed and mean-spirited statute.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments carefully. I was involved in this debate when I was parliamentary secretary and before that, as health critic. The terminology is important. It is not a safe injection site in Vancouver. It is called a supervised injection site. Would the member agree that there is no such thing as a safe injection site or safe injections?

If I understand the member correctly, he wants facilities to be BYOH, “bring your own heroin”. Is that what he is suggesting?

Is he offering up his riding for a supervised injection site that he is promoting so valiantly today?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, those are three questions, but I will try to be short in response to my hon. colleague.

“Supervised injection site” is the right terminology. They are safe, however, because no one has died at Insite as a consequence of injecting there.

BYOH is insulting. This is not what I want. The Supreme Court of Canada addressed the fact that people were allowed to bring their drugs there for safe injection under supervision.

My riding will not have any sites because this law will not allow, in the real world, any such facilities to be licensed.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, at third reading.

I have a couple of other suggestions for the name of this bill. It could be called “the refusal to honour the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada bill”. How about “the pursuing ideology versus evidence act”, or “the refusal to save the lives of people with addictions act"?

This bill was introduced in response to the Supreme Court of Canada 2011 ruling that Insite, in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, had been proven to save lives and reduce harm, and that the government's efforts to close Insite would violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to life, liberty, and the security of the person. It is clear that the government did not like this ruling, and therefore has tried to go about refusing to honour the ruling by another route.

It is also clear that this bill will not fulfill the spirit of the court's ruling. Rather, it would make it cumbersome for a group or municipality to apply for a section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which allows a facility to operate. However, the likelihood of any future sites opening in Canada would become slim to none. Making matters worse, Vancouver's Insite would have to apply for a renewal based on the same 26 different criteria as new applications, as well as two additional provisions.

Section 56 of the CDSA gives the Minister of Health discretionary powers to grant exemptions from the act under one of three categories. They are medical purposes, scientific purposes, or in the public interest. Of the exemptions that have been granted for activities with illicit substances, two types are for law enforcement purposes. These are to train sniffer dogs using seized drugs in the public interest and to allow the Vancouver Coastal Health authority to operate Insite. It was initially for scientific purposes, but since the Supreme Court's decision, it is considered a medical exemption.

The government's intentions have been clear from the beginning. It has always opposed Insite and has been trying to close it down since it formed government. Thankfully, the work of the community of Vancouver and the courts have stopped these attempts.

I would also like the opportunity to thank the member for Vancouver Centre and the Liberal Party of Canada health critic for her tireless efforts on this file to ensure that public policy is based on evidence and not ideology.

This is an ideological bill based on crass political motivation from a government that has always opposed evidence-based harm reduction measures such as safe injection sites. Only an hour after the legislation was introduced, Conservative campaign director Jenni Byrne issued a crass and misleading fundraising letter to supporters, stating that the Liberals and the NDP wanted addicts to shoot up heroin in the backyards of communities all across the country.

Despite this bill being tabled by the Minister of Health, it was given to an enforcement department, the committee of public safety and security. This is further evidence of the government's view of addiction as a criminal act. The public safety and security committee heard witnesses from three meetings, with many expressing concern that this bill would effectively shut down the current safe consumption site in Vancouver and deny the creation of further sites.

There were amendments suggested by the Province of British Columbia, the chief public health officer of British Columbia, and the City of Vancouver, which were consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada criteria. Even witnesses in favour of the legislation expressed concern that in some parts the legislation is too restrictive. Over 60 amendments were moved by the opposition parties to bring this legislation in line with the Supreme Court ruling. However, the legislation, as usual, was not amended.

The Liberals proposed amendments to the legislation at committee to amend clause 5, which outlines the criteria that new and existing applicants for exemptions must meet by deleting measures that were not outlined in the Supreme Court ruling. Due to a motion passed by the Conservative majority at the public safety committee, a party can only have five minutes to speak for each clause of the bill while moving amendments. Clause 5, which is the majority of the legislation, required several amendments.

Due to the time constraints, the Liberal Party was unable to speak to the majority of the amendments, as time had elapsed. This is undemocratic and restricted our right to speak and to explain our amendments at committee.

Liberals recognize the need for some form of legislation based on the Supreme Court of Canada ruling. However, this legislation does not reflect the spirit nor the intent of the court's decision.

As stated in the 2011 Supreme Court ruling:

The factors considered in making the decision on an exemption must include evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates, the local conditions, indicating a need for such a supervised injection site, the regulatory structure in place to support this facility, the resources available to support its maintenance, and expressions of community support or opposition.

Instead, of the five criteria listed in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, Bill C-2 lists 26 different prescriptive criteria that must be met, including the areas that are intrusive into provincial and municipal jurisdiction. It also interferes with the jurisdiction of regulatory bodies on health care providers, as well as provincial and municipal police forces and provincial public health officers.

Liberals support the need for broad community consultation for the establishment of any safe consumption site, which is how the Liberal government established Canada's first safe consumption site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. When the Liberal government gave the exemption to Vancouver's safe consumption site, we consulted broadly and worked in conjunction with provincial and municipal governments, public health authorities, business associations, and the public.

Insite was the product of co-operative federalism. Local, provincial, and federal authorities combined their efforts to create it. The Vancouver police support Insite, as well as the City of Vancouver and the British Columbia government.

It was initially launched as a scientifically based research project based on experience with SCS in Europe and Australia on very high, at-risk and resistant groups, which had proven to be successful. It has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area.

lnsite has an average of 700 to 800 visits a day, and over 275,000 visits annually. As of March 2010, there have been over 1.5 million visits, over 12,000 unique individuals registered, and an average of 11 visits per month, per person

It has been proven to reduce harm. There has been a total of 2,395 overdoses since the facility opened, with zero fatalities. There were 20,000 referrals to health services in 2008-09, and over 50% of those were to detox.

lnsite users are 30% more likely to engage in addiction treatment than non-lnsite users. It has also dramatically reduced the rate of new HIV infections in the Downtown Eastside. There are three in ten injection drug users in the Downtown Eastside who are HIV positive; 18% of lnsite clients are HIV positive. There were 30 new HIV cases in the Downtown Eastside in 2011, compared to 2,100 new cases in 1996.

I would like to highlight the four pillars of any effective drug strategy: harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. The bill underlines the government's misguided decision to remove harm reduction from the equation and from an effective drug strategy.

As Liberals, we support evidence-based policies that reduce harm and protect public safety. Liberals established Vancouver's safe consumption site, which has proven to be effective in supporting those suffering with mental illness and addictions, reducing crime and protecting public safety.

Across Canada, medical officers of health, such as David McKeown, in my home community of Toronto, need this public health approach to get on with creating new life-saving facilities such as this.

Unfortunately, the bill raises the criteria to establish a safe injection site to such an extraordinary high level that it would be nearly impossible for any future site to be established in Canada.

Legislation proposed in this House must adhere to the rule of law. The ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada was clear. This legislation would put lives at risk and would likely be challenged in the courts again.

We cannot support the legislation. To put it bluntly, we cannot help people if they are dead.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague. I know she has a huge passion on the issue. However, to be quite honest, I have listened to the opposition for many hours now on this debate and I look at the framework we have provided. The framework is very practical and appropriate around community input. I have to liken it again to a zoning application that municipal councillors regularly hear when something is proposed, having some basic health and safety measures in place. This is very appropriate.

Does she not think that the community should be consulted, that there should be criminal record checks done and that there should be the powers of inspection? Again, these are concrete practical steps that look at the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling and ensure that the minister has appropriate information when she makes a decision around an exemption.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the community consultation has always been part of, and was indeed essential to, the success of the Vancouver downtown east side site. It was done with consulting the community. It was done with the support and the efforts of all three levels of government and the local police.

What is more than irritating about the bill is that instead of using the five criteria that were listed in the Supreme Court ruling, these 26 new prescriptive criteria that must be met are actually intrusive into provincial and municipal jurisdiction. They interfere with the jurisdiction of the regulatory bodies on health care providers, and interfere with the choices of provincial and municipal police forces and provincial public health officers.

It is clear the government just does not want these things to happen. Communities want them to happen. The government should get out of the way.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate the comments from my colleague. I would like to know if she could perhaps expand on what I think is a very important issue during this debate and that is that we do have a very highly successful injection site that was built on consultation.

There were individuals who lived in the community. There were different levels of government, provincial and municipal. She made reference to the fact that it was put into place perhaps during the government of Paul Martin, or possibly Jean Chrétien. The point is, there was a great deal of consultation that ultimately made this happen.

At the end of the day, it would be ridiculous for anyone to believe that there would be an injection site placed anywhere in Canada without consultation done in the first place. The legislation is just not necessary to ensure that there is consultation, because we have seen that in Canada's one and only site.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is actually two things. One is, this is actually just tabled in order to get in the way of having any more sites. It is just obstruction and the government and all people watching this file know exactly what is going on here.

The second thing is, of course there has to be consultation anyway. The municipalities and the provinces know how to do this and they have always done it with the co-operation of the police.

This is an institution that has saved lives. When we think that 2,395 people overdosed at this site with zero fatalities, this is just mean and offensive to actually think that those 2,395 people could have died instead of being there where they were resuscitated. I just do not get it.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think my Liberal friend would agree that the Conservatives are taking Canada in the wrong direction with this bill. After 10 years in office, we know and we see that the Conservatives have done environmental, social and economic damage to Canada. This bill is just another good example of that happening.

Does the member agree?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is again just purely ideologically driven instead of evidence-based, which is the way the government goes in all aspects, choosing ideology and pandering to its base rather than providing measures that save lives, save money and move in the right direction.

The government does not understand that so many people suffering from addictions are victims of child abuse and the kinds of things that cause people to end up going down this wrong and unhealthy path. They have not been able to trust people in authority, whether that be people in their homes, teachers and so forth. Insite has provided an opportunity for them to see a way through and develop a therapeutic relationship with a health care provider for probably the first time in their lives. It has allowed them to get into addiction treatment and safe housing. That is the way to create safer communities, and that is why the title of this bill is offensive.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, most Canadians understand the challenges of addiction, and most communities and the people who reside within them understand the value that some of these sites and services provide. However, they also understand that there is a need for criminal record checks, community consultation and a treatment service plan so that it is not just a place where people can safely do drugs but a place where they can effectively move toward getting off them. These parameters and the criteria that are outlined not only provide for the safety, health and security of the people who are going there for support and their health, but also provide safety and assurances to the community. That only emboldens and strengthens the integrity of sites like this and community support for sites like this.

It is not members of Parliament who are against these sites. They generate some level of anxiety concerning communities. We are responding to that with solid criteria that will only serve to strengthen the ability of these sites across the country and the confidence of Canadians with respect to their integrity wherever they exist in those communities. In cases where that integrity cannot be met, where that work is not done or where the quality of care is not there, those sites should not be made available because it is not ultimately good for the people who could use them.

Can the member not understand that integrity in these systems is critical for the benefit of the people who will use them?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the member opposite should understand that this bill gets in the way of providing respect for local authorities, the provinces, the medical officers of health and the local police, those authorities who make decisions based on evidence. Instead, the government is imposing 26 top-down prescriptive criteria that are almost impossible to meet. This is a very thinly veiled obstruction to getting on with what will save lives because of this ridiculous ideology that kills people.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to add my words of support for Bill C-2, the respect for communities act.

Before I go on, I would like to advise you and the House that I will be sharing my time with the distinguished member for Whitby—Oshawa.

I want to thank all colleagues for their participation in this debate, especially those who are doing it in a measured manner.

Also, I was very pleased that my friends on the committee for public safety and national security were able to conduct a thorough review of this legislation and to return it to this House without amendment.

The opposition’s constant delay tactics—including almost 18 hours of debate at second reading alone—will not stop your government—the government that I support in the House of Commons—from ensuring that Canadian communities get a say before supervised injection sites open in their communities.

Bill C-2 reflects the concern that the government has for Canadian families and communities, and our commitment to their protection. The rigorous criteria set out in the bill and the principles articulated within it are a reasonable and responsible approach.

This approach is based on the premise that any exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site should only be granted after an applicant seeking an exemption has addressed rigorous criteria.

This is as much for the protection of our communities and the respect for residents as it is an assurance that the Minister of Health is provided with the information she needs to carry out her duties in considering the applications to open supervised injection sites.

Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, is an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The provisions would be incorporated into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act known as the CDSA.

What I propose to add to the dialogue today is a glimpse into what would be next for Bill C-2, and to reflect upon how provisions of Bill C-2 would be implemented when they are incorporated into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Anyone wishing to undertake activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site must apply for an exemption from the CDSA. Under this legislation, a new regime will be established for such applications. Under this new regime, the criteria that would need to be addressed before the Minister of Health could consider such an application would be set out.

These changes are in line with a Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in 2011, and codify the court’s ruling that community opinions must be considered by the Minister of Health with regard to supervised injection sites.

Indeed, the court stated that its decision is:

—not a licence for injection drug users to possess drugs wherever and whenever they wish. 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”.

The bill's changes would provide any potential applicant seeking an exemption for activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site with greater clarity concerning the application process.

In exercising her discretion, the minister would have to balance public health and public safety considerations.

All members of the House can agree that our communities deserve to have a say if someone would like to build a drug injection site, where illegal drugs are used, in their own neighbourhood.

All we have been getting from the opposition are delay tactics every step of the way.

What members of the opposition fail to realize is that this legislation is a necessary follow-up to the ruling made by the Supreme Court as well as a method for the Minister of Health to receive the information she needs to make an informed decision on supervised injection sites.

This is an important point to note for anyone who might argue that the criteria in Bill C-2 are onerous. The Supreme Court was quite clear that the Minister of Health must consider certain criteria when judging applications. It is only reasonable that applicants provide her with that information.

The applicant would compile the letters, reports, studies and other information set out in the legislation.

Health Canada would review the information provided in the application package to verify that all the criteria had been addressed.

Once a complete application package has been received, the Minister of Health would also have an option to post a notice of application. If a notice of application is posted, it would invite comments from the public on the activities being proposed in the application. The consultation period would be 90 days.

This option is another element provided for in Bill C-2 and would put in place a mechanism for the general public to have its say regarding the establishment of a supervised injection site as also mandated by the Supreme Court.

In considering an application, the Minister of Health would be informed by the information provided by the applicant in their application, and by the public during the public consultation period.

The minister also has the authority to request additional relevant information from the applicant if further detail is needed. With the amendments to the inspection authority specified in Bill C-2, Health Canada would also have the authority to conduct a pre-inspection of the proposed site to verify any of the information provided in the application. In making a decision to grant or not grant an exemption, the minister would balance public health and public safety considerations.

These are very dangerous substances that we are talking about here. The dangerous and addictive drugs that are used at supervised injection sites tear families apart, foster addictions and destroy lives.

It is only prudent that the Minister of Health take very seriously her duties when evaluating the individual merits of each application that comes across her desk for such sites.

In the event that an exemption is granted, the exempted party must adhere to the terms and conditions set out in the exemption. If the terms and conditions are not adhered to, or if there is a risk that controlled substances might be trafficked or diverted for illicit purposes, an exemption can be suspended or revoked in order to protect public health and public safety.

Safeguards for preserving public health and safety are also built into the process for seeking a subsequent exemption. Under the new legislation, when seeking a subsequent exemption, the applicant would be required to address all of the criteria in the proposed legislation as well two additional criteria. Specifically, they would have to provide information on changes in crime rates in the vicinity of the site and evidence of the impact of the site activities on individuals or public health during the period of the previous exemption.

As I have previously stated, this comprehensive legislation reflects the government's commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities.

Even more than that, Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.

My speech is not finished, and I am not a fast talker, but I will respect the restrictions imposed by the Speaker, and look forward to questions.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my learned colleague's remarks. He asked a lot of reasonable questions. However, all of those conditions combined make it impossible for people to obtain these services.

It is the same thing we are always criticizing the government for: having a double standard. Canada Post did away with home mail delivery. Did the Conservatives ask seniors, health care providers and the municipalities whether this was a good idea or not? No. They made the decision for them.

Now, you are imposing conditions on people who want to provide services. Why are you always around when it comes to cutting services, but when it comes to providing them, you are always coming up with bogus conditions?

Why do the Conservatives have such a double standard?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, you saw that the member just ascribed all sorts of motives to you. I did not know that you had such intentions.

To come back to the subject at hand, the hon. member seems to believe that the conditions set out in this bill are too onerous. Since we are trying to introduce a balanced bill that will protect public health and safety, I would like to know which of these measures my colleague would like to remove from the bill.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is worth noting that the one injection site we have in Canada is located in Vancouver. This site has received universal support in its creation. Different stakeholders were involved. First responders, health care professionals, security and law enforcement officials and community leaders, including federal, provincial and municipal levels of government were all involved. Years after the fact, there has been virtually no criticism. It has been a huge success story, which has demonstrated the system works.

Outside of having a bumper sticker out of the Prime Minister's Office to give an appearance that it is just not true, why has the Prime Minister taken this direction, which clearly seems to be at odds with what has been a huge success story in Vancouver on many different fronts?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the hon. member for Winnipeg North approves of the injection site in the lower east side in Vancouver. However, I believe the people of Winnipeg North are going to appreciate, before such a site is established in his electoral district, the extra conditions the minister would have to look at that would protect the communities in his district.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know every community across the country. I know the community I represent in the House. I can assure the hon. member that the people of Orléans, Blackburn Hamlet and Carlsbad Springs would want these conditions to be imposed before the Minister of Health approved an injection site in any of those communities.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to add to the discussion in support of this important bill. My comments today will highlight the work that is already being done in this area throughout our great country.

Under this strategy, our government has spent well over a half a billion dollars on drug prevention, treatment and enforcement. That is an outstanding sum of money and should highlight for members the importance our government places on addressing drug use and addiction in Canada.

The national anti-drug strategy provides a focused approach aimed at reducing the supply of and the demand for illicit drugs. It is addressing prescription drug abuse and the crimes associated with illicit drugs. To accomplish this, the national strategy has implemented three action plans, which are focused on prevention, treatment and enforcement.

Under the treatment action plan, the province of Quebec has received $11.8 million from 2011 to 2014, which has resulted in a number of positive outcomes. These outcomes include the establishment of new partnerships and formal agreements to support integrated rehabilitation services and continuity of post-rehabilitation services by developing agreements between addiction treatment centres and partners, such as hospitals and community organizations, as well as the establishment of a substance abuse and homelessness pilot project to implement concerted interventions by all concerned stakeholders in 12 health and social service regional authorities.

Another investment under the strategy's treatment action plan is the $7.68 million the government has provided to the province of British Columbia from 2009 to 2014. This has had funding for many positive outcomes, including improved medical student education by expanding a student's education in addiction medicine, from two hours a week to two weeks in rotations; the co-creation with aboriginal partners of the content and design of motivational dialogue workshops; and the creation of a community-based integrated health service for people with substance use and mental health concerns.

In addition, funding is also being provided to support priorities under the prevention action plan. For example, Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg is being funded for $223,000, from 2014 to 2016, and is assisting youth 14 to 19 years of age at a higher risk for substance abuse. There are three main components: an illicit and prescription drug use prevention workshop for youth; a training program with an emphasis on drug prevention for peer support volunteers; and training to enhance the ability of Manitoba-based service providers to deliver prevention education to high-needs youth.

Another project supported by the prevention action plan is a project with the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research. This centre will receive funding of $481,000, from 2014 to 2016, to enhance the ability of teachers to deliver effective drug education to our youth. To support professional development, the project will create and use online training modules as well as resources for face-to-face training such as lesson plans, learning activities and existing evidence-based drug prevention resources.

Our government also continues to work hard to prevent drug addiction and improve the accessibility, quality and effectiveness of treatment services for first nations, and Inuit youth and their families. To this end, in 2014 through 2015, $80.9 million is being provided to support a network of 44 treatment centres and community-based drug and alcohol prevention services in first nations and Inuit communities across Canada. Included in this funding are $12.1 million from the national anti-drug strategy to improve the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of addiction services for this population.

Investments have also improved access to community-based, client-centred, multidisciplinary mental wellness teams. These teams provide comprehensive addiction and mental health services to first nations and Inuit communities across Canada. They are owned, defined, and driven by the community and include aboriginal traditional, cultural, and mainstream clinical approaches to mental wellness services that span prevention to aftercare.

Investments made through the national strategy also helped to develop “Honouring our Strengths: A Renewed Framework to Address Substance Use Issues Among First Nation People in Canada”, which has been highly successful in strengthening the system of addiction services for first nationpeople.

The recovery and rehabilitation of people living with addictions is another critical element in addressing substance abuse. The Minister of Health participated in two national recovery round table discussions with physicians and leading addiction recovery specialists to discuss practical solutions to support Canadians in recovery.

People in recovery are dealing with many complex issues related to their addictions. Some of these issues may include untreated mental health problems, family problems, environmental factors, employment challenges, or legal problems related to addiction. This type of dialogue is vital in reducing barriers to accessing treatment so that the people battling addictions, and their families, can get the help they require.

We must not forget about research. The Government of Canada invested over $126 million in addiction research between 2006 and 2014 through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR. It was part of its overall investment, approximately $4.5 million in funding, to support 28 research projects focused specifically on treatment systems for illicit drug use and overall treatment strategies for substance abuse and addiction. Strategy funding also supported the launch of the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse. This network will address relevant research questions related to substance misuse.

Research and investment in recovery and treatment services will continue to be a priority for the government in its effort to help people and communities in Canada suffering with the issue of drug addiction.

Substance abuse and addiction affect people of every race, age, economic status, and background. Effective treatment and recovery programs need to be multi-faceted to ensure that components such as physical health, culture, family, community, and mental health are all part of an integrated solution. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of collaboration in this regard and continues to work closely with the provinces, territories, and key stakeholders to help individuals and families living with addictions.

We all have a role to play and contributions to make. Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, would expand on the Supreme Court's decision regarding Insite. It is another tool the federal government would use to better protect and maintain the health and safety of Canadians. The government's commitment to the protection and safety of Canadians is also reflected in its significant investment in prevention and treatment funding.

The proposed legislation acknowledges that street drugs have serious health effects and that organized crime profits from the use of illegal substances. It is only common sense that activities with illegal drugs would be permitted only once rigorous criteria had been addressed by an applicant seeking to open a supervised consumption site.

I urge all members to vote in favour of Bill C-2. Our communities depend on our support.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to share a story with members from the end of last year. In 2014, a Canadian Press story mentioned that six individuals in the Durham region died from suspected overdoses. There was probably bad heroin on the streets.

In light of that story, would it not be better for the government to accelerate safe injection sites so that the people could be at a site where they could be monitored, rather than letting them shoot up in their living rooms or backyards and having them pass away tragically without any supervision or being known? Would the member not agree that maybe we should be facilitating the process to open these sites so that these victims of drugs do not have to pass away in loneliness anymore?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question, but I do not believe that an injection site is going to prevent people from, as the member put it, shooting up in their living rooms. He is asking us to take six drug deaths and create an injection site for people so that they do not have to shoot up in their living rooms. That does not reconcile with me.

The fact of the matter is that communities need to be part of the decision. This is the issue, not whether they shoot up in their living rooms or shoot up anywhere. It is about communities having the right to say where they would have them, where they would not have them, and whether they would approve of an application to put one in perhaps next door. We need to have community input. Communities need to be respected.

As a former mayor of a community, if people decided they were going to put in an injection site without contacting our community and allowing us to hear from the people who live and work in our community and letting them decide, I think there would be an absolutely huge backlash from every community in the country. It is intolerable.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, when the opposition members ask questions or make their remarks, they frequently say that we are not taking an evidence-based approach. They talk about Conservatives being hard-hearted and not caring. Quite frankly, I find that very insulting. This legislation specifically talks about the need for scientific evidence.

Everyone in the House has family, friends, or colleagues who have suffered the terrible ravages of addictions. I do not know that there is anyone who is not impacted.

What I particularly like in this piece of legislation is the linking of some intervention with the site, intervention in terms of rehabilitation or opportunities to help people break the path of addiction. Could the member talk about not only that but about some of the concepts the opposition members are putting out that are simply not true?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Perkins Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate those comments and certainly the question. It is very difficult to move in a positive direction when people are looking to do nothing but find negatives. This is about engaging our communities. It is about respecting our communities and allowing people to have a say. I do not think we should heavy-handedly allow these sites to be implemented in places where they just would not be welcome.

It is only respectful for us to go to our communities and get input to make sure that medical officers of health, provincial governments, municipal governments, and all of the people who have a stake in this have an opportunity to say what they agree with and what they do not.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak once again about Bill C-2 on supervised injection sites.

I wanted to mention that because we have been talking a lot about health in the context of this bill. The Minister of Health appeared before the committee. However, oddly enough, this bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security because that is what the Conservatives wanted.

Even though this bill has to do with health, I sincerely believe that the Conservatives wanted to politicize the issue by demanding that it be sent to that committee. Everyone here knows that, and nobody is falling for it. However, that did give me the opportunity to hear from excellent witnesses who came to talk about this bill in committee. We had some very enlightening conversations about the issue.

With respect to the debate on Bill C-2, nobody here is a fool, and Canadians are not fools either. My Conservative colleagues have a lot to say about the problem of addiction and drugs, and they think that supervised injection sites make it easier for people to get drugs on our streets. They have created a climate of fear around supervised injection sites. What is even sadder is that the Conservatives are also using this issue to raise funds for their election campaign. That is truly deplorable.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

I think it is inappropriate to use something as serious as the addiction problems of the less fortunate in our society and make money from it. I hope that Canadians will realize that the Conservatives are not acting in good faith. I will try to use what little time I have to elaborate.

To use the issue surrounding supervised injection sites in order to raise money, the Conservatives came up with the slogan “keep drugs away from our children”. That is nothing new for the Conservatives. We saw that recently with Bill C-53, Life Means Life, introduced by the government. A few hours after announcing this very important justice bill, they launched a fundraising campaign for the upcoming election. Frankly, their way of using very sensitive issues to try to make money on the backs of poor people is deplorable. No one is fooled: we know that the Conservatives are using Bill C-2 to try to score political points.

I listened to a number of speeches from both sides of the House, and I paid particular attention to the speeches by the government members. They keep saying that this bill addresses the problem of drugs in our streets. Is obstructing groups like InSite in Vancouver East really the best way to eradicate addiction problems? Of course not. This makes no sense.

If the government really wants to address problems related to addictions and mental health, as well as access to drugs and other illicit substances in our communities, there are much simpler ways of doing that. For example, it could invest in our police forces across the country.

I am thinking of what happened in Montreal, for example. The Conservatives allocated $400 million to special projects across the country. I do not remember the exact amounts and I am not going to get into that, but several million dollars were granted to Quebec. The province decided to create the Eclipse squad to deal with the problem of street gangs and, by extension, addiction and access to drugs in its communities. The Eclipse squad worked miracles for five years. Unfortunately, the Conservatives decided not to renew the funding. If they really wanted to address the problem of access to illicit substances in our communities, restoring funding for projects like the Eclipse squad would have been a much better way of doing that than standing in the way of groups like InSite, which is only trying to address certain health issues and help people overcome their addictions.

Other than parliamentary procedures, which I do not want to get into, I would also like to mention something that was talked about in the last speech, and that is the need to respect our communities. That is what we must do. In Montreal there was a project that the mayor, elected officials from all levels of government, the police, community leaders and health leaders were participating in. They were in the process of setting up a project like InSite, in the typical Montreal way of doing things. Unfortunately, if Bill C-2 is passed, it will create obstacles for our communities.

I would like to ask the Conservative government to reverse its decision, rethink its strategy for dealing with addictions and access to illicit substances, and completely dismiss the idea of moving forward with Bill C-2.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to support the proposed legislation, the respect for communities act, otherwise known as Bill C-2. I do not think that anyone can deny the enormous public health harms associated with illicit drug use. In some way, we have all seen the damage that illicit drug use can cause, not only to the health of the user, but to families, friends, and communities.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the CDSA for short, is the federal legislation that controls substances that can alter mental processes and may produce harm to health and society when diverted or misused. The CDSA has the dual purpose of protecting public health and maintaining public safety.

The substances covered by the CDSA have a risk of abuse and pose serious risks to individuals when they are misused or abused. Those risks are significant. They increase when the controlled substance is unregulated, untested, and obtained from illegal sources. That is an important point that often gets lost in this debate. The drugs that would be used at any proposed supervised injection drug site are bought on the black market. We are not talking about drugs that are prescribed by a doctor and have the needed medical oversight. These drugs are purchased on the street and then used by people suffering with addictions.

Our government takes safety very seriously, and we have a number of controls in place when it comes to prescribed drugs. In fact, this House recently passed Vanessa's law in order to strengthen the safety of prescription drugs. Given this, I think it is only appropriate that we give all Canadians an opportunity to comment on the measures which could be needed to protect health when a site is proposed to allow the injection of illegal street drugs.

Our government believes that exemptions from the CDSA for activities involving illegal substances at supervised consumption sites should only be granted once rigorous and relevant criteria have been addressed by the applicant. The criteria that are outlined in the bill stem directly from the five factors laid out in the 2011 Supreme Court of Canada decision on lnsite. The court's decision requires the Minister of Health to consider the following five factors when assessing an exemption application for a supervised consumption site: evidence, if any, on the impact of such a site on crime rates; local conditions indicating a need for such a site; the regulatory structure in place to support the site; resources available to support its maintenance; and, expressions of community support or opposition.

All of the criteria proposed in Bill C-2 relate to one of these factors that I just referred to. Much like the dual purpose of the CDSA, which is to protect public health and maintain public safety, the criteria in this bill balance both the public health and public safety considerations of the operation of a supervised consumption site. The criteria included in this bill are relevant to matters of public health or public safety, and some of the criteria address both.

Today I would like to focus on some of the public health criteria in the bill and discuss how each one relates to the factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. One criteria requires that an applicant provide a letter from the provincial minister responsible for health in the province in which the site would be located, which outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site and describes how those activities are integrated within the provincial health care system. I can guarantee that the health minister in my province of Alberta would want to be consulted on proposals for a site like this. It is only appropriate that provincial ministers be afforded an opportunity to have their views heard. This relates to the Supreme Court factor that requires that community expressions of support or opposition be considered.

These criteria allow the professional opinion of the respective provincial minister of health to be a part of what the federal minister would consider when assessing or assigning an application. Moreover, information about access to drug treatment services, if any, could help to understand how drug users would be supported within the provincial health care system.

Other public health-related criteria fulfill the court's directive to look at evidence, if any, on local conditions indicating a need for such a site. These criteria are asking for relevant information on things like the number of people who consume illicit substances or have infectious diseases in relation to illicit drug use in the area of the proposed site.

Another requirement for applicants which contributes to the minister's understanding of the local conditions is official reports, if any, that are relevant to the establishment of a supervised consumption site, including any coroners' reports. These reports, including those from a coroner, could be used to support evidence of illicit drug problems in the area, indicate important drug use patterns, and identify the demographic of the individuals who could benefit from the services provided by a supervised consumption site.

We all know that the best laid plans can sometimes run into local circumstances that present unexpected challenges to a plan, so it is critically important that the bill require that the facts on the ground be considered when any proposed site is being looked at.

Additionally, following an initial exemption, if an applicant wishes to continue activities at a supervised consumption site, subsequent exemption applications would have to inform the Minister of Health of evidence, if any, of any impacts of the site's activities on public health during the period that the site had been operating.

This information provides the minister with an understanding of public health impacts that the site has had and would potentially continue to experience with a future exemption. This criterion builds on the Supreme Court factor requiring the minister to consider local conditions in the area where a site would be located.

In its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the discretion of the Minister of Health to grant or deny exemption applications and to request information for this purpose.

This proposed legislation clearly identifies information to be addressed in an exemption application to assist the minister in considering the information relevant to the Supreme Court factors. Her decision must balance the protection of public health and maintenance of public safety in accordance with the charter.

Moreover, the criteria serve to add clarity and transparency to the exemption application process. With this legislation, all persons wishing to open a supervised consumption site would know exactly what is expected as part of their application.

While the focus of my speech today has been related to public health, it is important to note that the proposed legislation balances both public health and public safety. Indeed, Bill C-2 would amend the CDSA to create a more robust legislative structure to balance protection of public health and maintenance of public safety with respect to supervised consumption sites.

It is imperative that there be strong controls around activities with these dangerous drugs, and I urge all members to vote in favour of the bill.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech, and if he and his party are so concerned with public health, the HIV West Yellowhead is holding seminars into harm reduction in March.

My first question would be whether he will attend these meetings and actually consult with HIV West Yellowhead to see what its members think about the bill. After that consultation, if an organization like HIV West Yellowhead has problems with the bill, will he bring forward amendments to the government bill?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize that the hon. member has had a long career in law enforcement and working with communities to resolve safety issues.

I wonder if he could express his opinion, from his own life experience, on why local communities ought to have a say if someone is considering having what is called a safe injection site with illegal drugs, perhaps in a residential neighbourhood, and why law enforcement officials, municipal leaders, and others in the area might need to have a say on a site opening up in their neighbourhood.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question. As a former police officer, serving 35 years in the force, I know how important it is to get that information from within the community to the appropriate officials. As a former police officer, I would want the Minister of Health to know exactly what my officers know on the street level. We would want to pass on information from our town council, which knows what is going on. We would want to pass that information from the community, from the people who run the businesses on the streets to the local residents. In particular, the residents of that community would have to pass this on.

It is imperative that this information is part of the whole focus that the minister can look at to make a decision whether to grant or deny the site.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a supplementary question to what was mentioned before. I just want to elaborate on the consultation that is happening.

There are dates in March in Edson, Hinton and Whitecourt. The member could be proactive and not wait for an invitation to consult with people involved in harm reduction in West Yellowhead. He could register right now, today.

Will the member register for this conference and find out what the community is dealing with in terms of addiction and harm reduction? You can do it right now. You can register right now, online.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I will not do that right now because I am in the House. I will do it after I leave the House. I will look into it and ensure that it does not conflict with my other responsibilities within my riding. However, I would really enjoy going to one of those meetings. I will endeavour to attend in one of my communities, because it is being observed in several of them, as I understand from my hon. friend. I will endeavour to be there.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to debate Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which was introduced by the Conservative government.

So much has been said about this bill on supervised injection sites. As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I was quite surprised to see that the government chose to send this bill to that committee even though the better part of the bill is directly related to health. It should have gone directly to the Standing Committee on Health. It is sad. I suspect that this is for partisan and political reasons, so I felt I needed to speak up about it.

We did study the bill, but not in quite as much detail as we would have liked. I will say more about that in my speech. After the speedy study that the Conservative majority forced the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to do, we have no choice but to oppose Bill C-2 as written.

That being said, I would like to congratulate my colleague fromVancouver East for her excellent work on Bill C-2 and supervised injection sites in general. She represents the riding that is home to InSite, the supervised injection site that people often refer to in connection with this bill and that has the support of the majority of the community. I will say more about that later.

For the people watching at home right now, I will explain what Bill C-2 is all about. The bill, in fact, is a thinly veiled attempt by the Conservative majority to stop safe injection sites from operating, simply for partisan, political reasons. It runs directly counter to a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding these sites.

We know that the Conservatives do not necessarily worry too much about abiding by Supreme Court decisions, but I consider the court an essential body when it comes to these decisions. We should not go against decisions made by the highest court in the land.

Bill C-2 sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would need to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The exemption already exists, but the bill makes the list of criteria extremely complicated. In addition, the bill puts discretionary powers directly into the hands of the minister. This is unacceptable when it comes to an issue as important as supervised injection sites and drug addiction in general.

The minister could therefore prevent a supervised injection site from opening its doors, even if all the criteria are met. This is just another arbitrary, partisan decision. We must not take this matter lightly and turn it into a partisan issue. That is what the Conservatives are doing with Bill C-2. Under the new criteria, it will be even more difficult for organizations to open supervised injection sites in Canada. City officials and the public have been increasingly calling for these kinds of supervised injection sites.

I am saying that the Conservative Party is making this a partisan issue because it had a major fundraising campaign called "keep heroin out of our backyards”.This bill will make it virtually impossible to open supervised injection sites. Furthermore, several addiction and legal experts told the committee that this bill would have the complete opposite effect and that it could make drugs even more accessible in neighbourhoods.

Instead of basing policies on an ideology that has nothing to do with the real facts associated with this problem, the NDP believes that policies must be based on evidence rather than ideology. Furthermore, we believe that harm reduction programs, including in this case supervised injection sites, must be exempt based on proof of their ability to improve the health of a community and to save human lives, and not on ideology.

The Conservatives have been trying to close supervised injection sites for years. They do not hide this and everyone knows it. They have spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on court proceedings that have come to the same conclusion. InSite and similar supervised injection sites must be allowed to provide services in Canada.

As I mentioned, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of supervised injection sites like InSite, but the Conservatives have decided that they will not listen to reason and will continue to defend their personal ideology in a bid to raise more money for their next campaign. That is utterly disappointing in this type of debate.

We examined this bill in committee. I was a member of the committee, along with my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We were also fortunate enough to have our wonderful colleague from Vancouver East help us examine this bill. Five committee meetings were held to study this massive bill. I want to point that out because over the past few days at meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we have been having a lot of discussions about the importance of bringing in a large number of witnesses to talk about various bills.

We had two four-hour meetings to hear from witnesses and discuss Bill C-2, which addresses such an important issue. Only two meetings were scheduled to hear from witnesses. That is not very many since a much larger number of meetings have been held to hear from witnesses on other bills. In this case, the Conservatives told us that they thought two meetings were enough to examine Bill C-2, even though we were against the idea of hearing from so few witnesses.

I can give my colleagues opposite an example. When they were not in government, a study was conducted of the same-sex marriage bill. A total of 32 meetings were held. Hearings on this important bill were held across the country. According to the Conservatives at the time, 32 meetings were not enough, so I hope they will not tell me that they really think that two meetings to hear from witnesses were enough to examine such an important bill.

It is often difficult to explain exactly how committees work. It can seem relatively complex if a person does not attend committee meetings regularly. I completely understand that. The fact is that the Conservatives limited debate on every part of the study of this bill in committee. For example, we were given a maximum amount of time to examine the bill clause by clause, propose amendments and discuss them. Once again, the Conservatives were trying to limit debate as much as possible in committee.

Sixty-two amendments were proposed by all the opposition parties. The official opposition, the NDP, and the Liberals proposed more than 20 each, while the Green Party proposed a dozen or so amendments. The Conservatives not only ignored the expert testimony, they also rejected the 62 amendments. That is sad. I will close my remarks on that. I would have liked to go into more detail. I hope my colleagues will ask questions about this.

Montreal is currently trying to open supervised injection sites. The city consulted the public, police services, communities and addiction experts in order to develop something like what Vancouver has right now. Everyone said that it was extremely important for Montreal to have a supervised injection site like InSite, to have our own, similar model to address the addiction problem. Unfortunately, Bill C-2 will delay the efforts of the Montreal community to achieve such a result. I find the Conservative approach with Bill C-2 regrettable, and that is why the official opposition will vote against the bill.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned a couple of things that I took note of. One point that I would like to bring to light is that there is not one point of heroin that is ever purchased legally anywhere in Canada, yet that illegal purchase of heroin is taken to a site where the person can inject it without prosecution. Insite provides services that can be obtained in other parts of the Lower Mainland as well. The fact of the matter is that Insite provides a safe place for someone to inject an illegal drug. When we talk about fighting addictions, the fact of the matter with Insite is that it is an enabler, because we are not trying to get the users off the drug. We are actually allowing them to come in with the illegal drug and inject it. That is extremely problematic.

Insite allows for an illegal drug to be administered, basically legally, within its confines without prosecution. Is the NDP looking for a place where people can purchase an illegal drug and then administer it without prosecution?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it sad that members on the other side of the House do not truly understand what a complex issue drug addiction is.

We do not support anyone engaging in illegal activities. However, I do not think that the best solution is to put on blinders, believe that the problem does not exist and shut down supervised injection sites, which help drug addicts recover. All this does is hide the problem and undermine the existing solutions that have proven their worth.

I would like to share some facts about InSite with my colleague on the other side of the House.

A 2006 study conducted by Tyndall et al. revealed that over the course of a year, 2,171 InSite users had been referred to drug addiction counselling services or other support services.

Here is how InSite works: the supervised injection site is located on the first floor, while on the second floor, a whole range of people work to help these drug addicts overcome their addiction. Furthermore, in committee we heard some clear examples of people who managed to overcome their addiction with the help of those working at the InSite supervised injection site.

If the member reads the “blues” from the committee, he will even see that most of his Conservative colleagues were quite moved by this testimony and agreed with what the witnesses had to say on this topic.

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February 27th, 2015 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Insite location received a great deal of debate during second reading. When the bill mentions community consultation, let us recognize that the federal government at the time, the provincial and municipal governments, as well as many different stakeholders and even communities, all participated in one way or another in what has been deemed as a very successful program. This is something we should be giving credit to.

The bill seems to say that when we have a site of this nature, there needs to be more consultation. Would the member not agree that there was a great deal of consultation regarding Insite and that it is wrong for the government to try to give the impression that there was no community consultation done and that, in fact, the whole issue surrounding Insite has been nothing but a resounding success?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not repeat everything my colleague from Winnipeg North said, but I fully agree with what he just mentioned.

When it comes to supervised injection sites, it is extremely important to hold consultations and there were plenty in the case of InSite. A lot of follow-up goes on to check in with the community to see if it agrees with what is happening. A number of studies were done in this case. Among other things, I can say that roughly 80% of the people asked, living or working in downtown Vancouver, support the InSite supervised injection site.

This brings me to the many consultations that were held in Montreal with a number of health groups, law enforcement representatives, community members, citizens and elected officials. Everyone agreed that Montreal should have a supervised injection site like the one in Vancouver. Consultations were held.

Let us not create obstacles and let us certainly not give a minister discretionary power over this type of supervised injection site.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be a part of the debate today about such an important bill, Bill C-2, the respect for communities act. I suspect that we all agree that illegal drugs have a terrible impact on our communities. There may be different opinions on how the challenges they pose should be addressed, but we all know that the worst drugs such as heroin have a terrible impact on our communities and destroy lives. These drugs also cause serious harm to public health and public safety.

Bill C-2 forms an important piece of our government's effort to protect public health from the serious and negative effects of drug abuse and to maintain public safety from the impacts associated with drug use and addictions.

It is always good to have the facts when we are debating important topics like this, so I would like to briefly mention a report from Justice Canada entitled, “The Cost of Crime in Canada”. The report estimated that the direct health care costs associated with illicit drug use in Canada totalled $1.3 billion in 2008. It is estimated that over $2 billion is spent annually on justice-related costs, such as law enforcement, courts, and correctional services as a result of illicit drug use. These are enormous expenditures and costs to society.

Even worse when we consider the terrible impact on individuals, communities, and Canadian society, where the costs are enormous. These are the direct costs to the health and justice systems only. The impact on the individuals who suffer and the negative consequences for their families is immeasurable. No parent should have to suffer as their child gets involved with drug abuse and end up worrying about the broken dreams and perilous, uncertain future that addiction brings.

This government is committed to preventing drug abuse and breaking the cycle of drug addiction so that our communities can be healthy and safe and that no family has to watch a loved one suffer from addiction. Part of our plan to address addiction is the national anti-drug strategy that was launched in 2007 as the federal government's comprehensive response to combat illicit drug use in Canada.

With its three key action plans, the strategy focuses on preventing illicit drug use, treating drug dependency, and combatting the production and trafficking of illicit drugs. Today I would like to elaborate on our government's commitment to preventing illicit drug use through the strategy's prevention action plan.

The prevention action plan contributes to reducing illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse in key target groups such as youth. It does this by funding the development and implementation of community-based interventions and initiatives to prevent illicit drug use and abuse of prescription drugs, especially among youth; discouraging illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse by providing information directly to youth, parents, and concerned adults; and supporting the development of awareness materials and the provision of awareness sessions to school-aged youth, parents, professionals, and other community members.

The government also supports prevention activities through the drug safety community initiatives fund. This funding program supports Canadian communities and their collective efforts at health promotion and prevention of illicit and prescription drug abuse. The projects supported through the fund focus on informing and educating Canadians on illicit drugs and prescription drug abuse and their adverse health and social effects; offering tools to foster resiliency and coping skills among youth to deal with peer pressure regarding illicit drug use; and promoting healthy behaviours and supportive environments that discourage drug use among young people.

Projects take place on the national, provincial, territorial, and local community levels and can include a wide range of activities, such as school-based and peer support programs and outreach. Project activities can also include the development and distribution of resource materials as well as the sharing of best practices.

Since 2007, Health Canada has provided $75 million to fund some 140 projects to discourage and prevent illicit drug use among youth. As part of our ongoing commitment to curbing drug abuse in Canada, the government is supporting projects across the country to address a wide range of illicit and prescription drug abuse issues, especially among vulnerable youth, who have a higher risk of substance abuse and dependence.

Many of the projects serve to equip young people with the knowledge and skills required to recognize and avoid situations where there may be peer pressure to use drugs. Others are designed to provide parents and those who work with youth with drug education and prevention strategies that will help families and communities deal with the growing problem of substance abuse.

In addition to providing financial support for prevention work, our government also completed a successful five-year, $30 million mass media campaign known as “DrugsNot4Me”, which was aimed at youth and their parents. A key part of the DrugsNot4Me campaign was developing awareness by providing prevention materials for use in elementary and secondary schools. We also provided facts and background information for parents to help prepare them to engage in conversations with their children about substance abuse and staying off drugs.

The campaign made a difference. There were over one million visits to the DrugsNot4Me website, and one in four parents reached out to the campaign and took action by engaging in discussions with their children about drugs. Even more importantly, there was an increase in the proportion of youth who said they knew about the potential effects of illicit drug use on relationships with family and friends, and they sought information on how to avoid drugs or to deal with drug-use issues.

However, despite these prevention efforts, the challenges are far from over. Illicit drug use in Canada is changing, with prescription drug abuse becoming a concern. In 2012-13, more than 80,000 Canadian kids admitted to using prescription drugs to get high. This is a very serious and alarming situation. The misuse and abuse of prescription drugs carries the same health and public safety concerns as illicit drugs do.

To combat the concern about prescription drug abuse, our government has committed an additional $44.9 million in funding over five years to expand the national anti-drug strategy to target prescription drug abuse.

The health committee has recently been studying these issues and heard from a large number of expert witnesses. In fact, the committee recently completed studies both on prescription drug abuse and the health risks of marijuana.

I know that my time is coming to an end and perhaps this is a good place for me to stop. I imagine I will have a little time left when the debate resumes after question period.

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February 27th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, for anyone who is just tuning in now, before question period we were discussing Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, and I was raising the point in the debate that the health committee had heard extensively on these issues from a large number of expert witnesses.

The committee recently completed studies on both prescription drug abuse and the health risk of marijuana use. During these studies, a number of witnesses called for increased action by the government in order to raise awareness of the health problems associated with drug abuse. It is costing us an enormous amount in society in the form of non-productive citizens. People are developing increasing health complications and leading non-productive lives, and it is placing a real burden on the health care system. There is also the terrible destruction of their own lives and families and all of those who love and care for them.

Given the committee's work in this area, I was very pleased that in October of 2014, the Minister of Health launched a preventing drug abuse media campaign. That campaign's purpose was to equip parents with the information tools needed to talk with their teenagers about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse and marijuana use.

That program is part of our prevention plan that we are working toward. Bill C-2 would provide a framework for communities to discuss so-called safe injection sites before they are implemented. It would give law enforcement, municipal leaders, and residents an opportunity to address the circumstances in the neighbourhood before such a program could be considered by the minister.

I thank the members for the opportunity to speak to this bill and I look forward to questions.

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February 27th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge my friend's comments at the end. We can agree on his statement that that proliferation and use of some very harmful drugs are affecting lives in our communities.

Where we part company is on how we deal with that problem. He has probably looked at all of the evidence-based research on why we need to have safe injection sites and places where people can get health care at the same time.

No one is looking at trying to proliferate. We are trying to reduce the use of harmful drugs.

Has my friend read all of the evidence from other countries? The issue has been looked at in Germany, Switzerland, and right here in Canada, and the evidence says that this is a health issue and that we need to provide safe support for those people who have these problems so that we can have first contact with them and not abandon them. I think that is where the government's problem is.

I just want to know if he has read all of the evidence-based reports that say that the direction of the government is the wrong direction.

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February 27th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Ottawa Centre for his intervention.

I think there is a lot of discussion about harm reduction. I had a whole career as a health care professional, and the focus of my career was always on helping people have productive lives, restored lives. I think we have not exhausted the possibilities of actually delivering people from these addictions.

In fact, I would point the member, as I know he is interested in solutions to these vexing problems, to some promising work being done with low-grade, non-invasive treatments, such as magnetic therapies, so-called transcranial magnetic stimulation, for PTSD victims. There is a former army sergeant discussing PTSD treatment at a brain treatment centre in the Washington Post. Here is another report from the Canadian Press, from November 2014. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto is treating depression with transcranial magnetic stimulation. This is a low-cost, low-risk intervention that helps people with addictions and with depression.

Rather than reinforcing someone's addiction and keeping a person in that state, although there is a measure of harm reduction there, would we not want to exhaust opportunities to help people be delivered, be restored, live full and productive lives, be restored to their families, and join the rest of the human family on a path to a better future?

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February 27th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his statement, as well.

I guess the reason we have the respect for communities act is that we are concerned about public opinion on these kinds of places and are concerned about the neighbours in the areas these places are going to be, in effect, operational. That is why we think it is important to solicit their feedback, along with that of police organizations, et cetera. For us, especially as elected officials, it is pretty obvious that we need public support for these kinds of things and whether they should go in certain areas. That is what the act is about. It is about soliciting support and input on facility location.

I would like to ask the hon. member what he thinks about that. Is it a good idea to solicit public opinion, or is it good, as the opposition would suggest, to just have a one-shot approach and make this happen, regardless of peoples' opinions?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the act would provide is a framework for that discussion to take place so that local law enforcement, municipal leaders, and residents would actually have a say when someone wanted to establish a facility that, after all, would be dealing with illegal drugs being provided for a safe or legal injection. The drugs themselves are illegal. They could become, in fact, magnets for criminal activity in the region. I think people need to have a discussion. They need to consider the impact of the facility on crime rates, et cetera.

Vancouver, a few years ago, after Insite, was branded the bank robbery capital of North America. That is not the kind of branding we want in our community. Yes, many of the robberies were for small amounts of money, but the same guy would be coming in, time and again, robbing banks, trying to get money to support the addiction.

Would it not be better, colleagues, to exhaust the mechanisms for helping people be delivered from these addictions and going on with productive lives?

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

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

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

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

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for doing such a fine job explaining all the benefits of our InSite program in Vancouver. She presented evidence showing that the program has saved lives, reduced the spread of disease and saved money. Giving drug addicts access to a safe site results in lower costs to society. They are given help to stay off the streets and to live healthier lives.

The government claims that this bill will allow more sites like the one in Vancouver to open and it talks about a number of commitments. However, the Conservative member who just spoke clearly said that it would be better not to have another site, rather than having a site where illegal drugs are consumed.

In the hon. member's view, which of the two is the real objective of the Conservative government when it comes to Bill C-2?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I think it is quite clear. The objective is not to have any more of these sites.

Nonetheless, the Conservative government cannot win the argument, because experts and the public alike all argue in favour of such sites. The Conservatives have no hope of winning the argument.

That is why they are playing this little trick. Since they do not have the right to oppose these sites—because the Supreme Court said so—they want to torpedo them. This lacks transparency—not to use a stronger word.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her speech and for showing us that this bill does not make any sense.

I would like her to talk about her riding, which is in the heart of Montreal, as my colleague from Hochelaga did.

In her view, would the presence of a supervised injection site make the communities safer, including that of Laurier—Sainte-Marie?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Yes, absolutely. I just touched on it in my speech because there were so many things to cover.

In Laurier—Sainte-Marie, a very urban and very densely populated riding, community organizations work hard picking up needles that are lying all over the place. Children find them in their schoolyards. It is unbelievable.

Opening a supervised injection site would greatly reduce the number of needles lying about. That is one of my greatest concerns in Laurier—Sainte-Marie, although it may not be the most important one.

There are several other problems. In Laurier—Sainte-Marie people who shoot up in the streets are also a public safety problem. We rely on organizations that work with drug addicts, even if they are not supervised injection sites, to try to get people to willingly enter the system. Cactus Montréal is a good example.

Having these people enter the system immediately is not their objective. They try to reach out to these people and have them enter the system willingly so they can receive the appropriate care.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-2, the respect for communities act. This is a very important piece of legislation, and one that will further strengthen Canada's drug control statute, known as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The legislation before us today proposes to entrench this belief in the law with regard to supervised injection sites, and is guided by a ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, in 2011. In this ruling, the court affirmed that it remains the Minister of Health's authority to exercise discretion in granting section 56 exemptions, which can allow supervised injection sites to operate. However, notably telling is that its decision was not an invitation for anyone who choses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a safe injection facility.

It is interesting to hear members of the opposition saying that it must be either no sites, or that every site that one might want to have can go ahead. The Supreme Court of Canada gave parameters around what might be involved, and ultimately said that it would be within the discretion of the minister, having due regard for the criteria that the court set out.

As all members in this House know, our government is committed to helping keep Canadian families and communities healthy and safe. I want to begin my remarks by telling this House about some of the ways that we are living up to this commitment.

Earlier in the year, our government announced $100,000 in funding for a project that will train front-line community workers and criminal justice personnel in New Brunswick on effective, efficient, and timely substance abuse treatment strategies for youth involved in the criminal justice system. The funding was part of a national anti-drug strategy, which focuses on preventing illegal drug use and providing treatment services for those with drug dependencies.

There is also some talk about the fact that we need to provide treatment services and that we need to look at preventing illicit drugs. Members have to keep that in the background when looking at this particular piece of legislation.

The national anti-drug strategy also allows this government to get tough on drug dealers and producers who threaten the health and safety of our youth and the viability of our communities.

In 2012, our government introduced the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which is making Canadian communities safer while extending greater protection to the most vulnerable members of society. As part of this act, the government implemented mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences carried out for organized crime purposes or that specifically targeted youth. In doing so, our government has further enhanced the ability of Canada's justice system to hold offenders accountable for their actions.

Another piece of legislation that is vital to the government's focus on safeguarding Canadians is the one we have been talking about throughout the debate here tonight on Bill C-2, which is the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or the CDSA, for short. It controls substances that can alter mental processes and that may produce harm to health or society when diverted or misused. Again, it is in this context that this proposed legislation must be considered.

The act also includes measures to protect public health, by prohibiting activities with controlled substances unless they are authorized for specific legitimate purposes. The act also serves to maintain public safety by prohibiting the possession, trafficking, importing, exporting, and production of those substances unless otherwise authorized.

The act is a prohibitive piece of legislation. That is, it sets out all of the things that cannot be done with a controlled substance, along with identifying which substances are controlled. However, there are times when exceptions to the rules need to be made, and they are made. This is generally accomplished through the making of regulations, and it is also where section 56 of the act comes into play.

Section 56 of the act authorizes a minister of health to grant exemptions from the provisions of the act. While the act gives the minister discretion in determining whether or not to grant an exemption, any decision must strike a balance between public health and public safety. Therefore, it is not an either/or, but must be something that takes into account all of the factors, which the minister has to weigh and then make a decision.

For the most part, the exemptions granted under the act are routine. For example, an exemption may be granted for medical purposes or for scientific ones, such as university-based research or clinical trials, which goes without saying.

The bill we are debating today has no impact on these types of exemptions. The type of exemption that would be impacted by Bill C-2 is one with controlled substances that had been obtained through illicit sources or, as we might say, accessed on the street. They are illegal substances obtained on the street, and, again, that must be part of the context within which we review this legislation.

Currently there are two types of exemptions of this nature that are entrenched in the statute. The first is for law enforcement purposes, for example, to train sniffer dogs used in seizing drugs, and the second is for InSite, as ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada. Throughout the debate, we have heard reference to the Supreme Court of Canada decision concerning InSite. In that decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act's prohibition on possession and trafficking of controlled substances, and affirmed the minister's right to exercise discretion in granting an exemption under the act. It is not in every case that there will be an exemption. It must be exercised as a discretion based on a number of factors.

Bill C-2 was developed further to the Supreme Court of Canada decision, and the criteria included in it codified the five factors that the minister must and should consider when assessing an application as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. The opposition has said that we should not go into these factors. The Supreme Court said that these are the very factors that must be taken into consideration before a decision is made one way or another. Therefore, I think it is absolutely appropriate to codify those in the amended legislation that we have proposed.

In the respect for communities act, this government is putting in place a regime that would provide further clarity and transparency to the way in which an application would be made for exemptions to conduct activities with illicit substances in a supervised drug consumption site. It would also ensure that the Minister of Health is provided with the information that she needs to make an informed decision on supervised injection sites on a case-by-case basis, as mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The respect for communities act outlines the criteria that the applicant must address when seeking an exemption to undertake activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site before the Minister of Health could consider the application. What is wrong with that? There are certain criteria that would have to be met, and the applicant must indeed attempt to meet them.

As I have mentioned, the criteria included in the bill are consistent with the factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. They include, among other things, scientific evidence showing that there is a medical benefit to the proposed activities, letters of opinion from key stakeholders, and a demonstration of the financial sustainability of the site. Simply put, 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. That seems very reasonable to me.

It is our government's belief that communities deserve to have a say if someone would like to build a drug injection site where illegal drugs are used in his or her neighbourhood. Our government is concerned about the potential risks that supervised drug consumption sites could pose for the surrounding communities and the families who live in them. That is only reasonable. For this reason, Bill C-2 would make it mandatory for applicants to solicit the opinions of surrounding communities and relevant stakeholders, including letters of opinion from law enforcement, public health, and municipal leaders.

Further, the applicant would have to consult with a broad spectrum of local community groups and provide a report on those consultations. The applicant would also have to provide an indication of what measures would be taken to address any relevant concerns that are identified in the process. Again, I would say that is very reasonable.

The minister would also be authorized to publicly post a notice of application to seek broad community input for any proposed supervised drug consumption site. A supervised drug injection site should not be created in a residential community without consultation, and that gives the community an opportunity to pose any concerns and have input. It is also an opportunity for those applying for the licence to address any potential concerns. If they have gone through those steps that have been set in advance, then the minister may issue a licence, if she chooses, based on the evidence before her.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question that I have asked before because I think that it is important.

The bill we are debating in the House was introduced in response to a Supreme Court decision concerning the government's intention to close a supervised injection site. However, this site has been successful for 10 years because it has improved safety in Vancouver and also saved lives. That cannot be denied. That has been the case for 10 years. There is evidence and facts attesting to its success.

Does the member believe that the bill clearly responds to the Supreme Court of Canada decision?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, of course they do. The government has said that it does and has taken great pains to ensure that those issues are addressed.

Again, I would like to quote the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who said:

The factors considered in making the decision on an exemption must include evidence, if any, of the impact of such a facility on crime rates....

It must obviously mean that there are things that we must consider with that in mind. To that was added:

...indicating a need for such a supervised injection site...

We must then have some input and some facts to say that it should be needed here, or that it may not be needed in downtown Vancouver. That might be different somewhere else. She continued by adding:

....the regulatory structure in place to support the facility...

Is it there, or is it not? She also included the following:

...the resources available to support its maintenance, and expression of community support or opposition.

These are the words of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who said that we must consider these things when we are coming to some conclusion. Therefore, it is only reasonable that the legislation would deal with each of those aspects and say here is the framework, and here is the codification of how we might do that.

I find that very reasonable.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened very closely to a number of the Conservative members of Parliament as they have addressed this issue, not only at this stage, but also at the second reading stage.

I have a fairly clear question for the member. Does he see any value to the InSite that we currently have in Vancouver? I am sure he would acknowledge that many different stakeholders were involved in the creation of that particular site. In fact, many would say that it was a great example of federal co-operation with the different levels of government and different stakeholder that ultimately brought it into being.

As a member, does he see any value to that particular site?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, my view is that the value of that site has little to do with the legislation before us. The legislation before us attempts to deal with what the Supreme Court of Canada said we had to take into consideration. If that site passes all of the criteria, it is entitled to be there as much as any other site.

However, in terms of co-operation with the community, the legislation talks about letters of opinion from provincial and territorial ministers responsible for health and public safety, local government, lead public health officials in the province, and the heads of the local police forces. If we are asking all of these people and they come to the conclusion that this is something we need and should have, after that consultation, and in addition to having public input, we will come to a consensus and say that in this case we should have the facility.

If that site had qualified under these circumstances, then it would. It obviously did once before with the consultation that it did. The minister would then look at giving it an exemption.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful that my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain has pointed out this section of the Supreme Court's decision. I actually took those words and put them into an amendment, which I attempted to get before the committee. That is because what is in the bill does not represent a codification of what the Supreme Court said. It represents a bastardization of what the Supreme Court said. It would put forward conditions, ideas, and notions that are obstacles to creating a site that the Supreme Court has found is in the interest of public health and safety.

The conditions from the court's decision are exactly what should have been in the bill, not a to z, and then z plus one, to confound the efforts to establish harm reduction. I wonder if my hon. friend can explain to me why they did a to z point one, instead of using the words of the court?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is a most unfortunate characterization by the hon. member. It is unfortunate, and it is incorrect.

I do not know what the member would find offensive about the fact that she would consult people who are most affected in the area. I wonder what she would find difficult about accepting the fact that we might consult those who have some knowledge and who deal with this issue.

I wonder if she would look at the fact that this would be in the context of people dealing with illicit drugs, and they would be trying to administer them with immunity from prosecution. When doing all of that, one needs to take things into consideration along the lines of this bill.

Ultimately, the test will be when the Supreme Court of Canada has a look at issues such as this. This is an attempt to address those very issues. It may not be in the precise line and form, but it deals with all of those issues in a particular form.

The member, simply put, is wrong on this one.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to speak to this important piece of legislation. I recall speaking to it at a previous stage, and sadly, I continue to be dismayed by the points raised by government members and the ongoing desire of the government to stifle what is important policy. It continues to disrespect the decision made by the Supreme Court, and more fundamentally, to actively remove some of the safeguards that would allow people, to put it as simply as possible, to stay alive.

This is an issue of life and death. Sadly, some of the rhetoric we are hearing from the government side, rhetoric that is not evidence based, does not take into account the difference safe injection sites make, whether it is here in Canada on the Vancouver east side or around the world. It is truly ideological rather than in the best interest of people living with addictions or in the best interest of people in our communities across the country.

We in the NDP have supported amendments to this bill, amendments that were not supported by the government. We oppose the main motion at report stage. The amendments proposed by the member for Vancouver East were to delete every clause of this bill.

We know that this is a thinly veiled effort to stop supervised injection sites from operating, which is in direct defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on these sites.

This legislation sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would need to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria would make it much harder for organizations to open safe injection sites in Canada.

We in the NDP believe that decisions about programs that may benefit public health must be based on facts, not ideology. In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite provided lifesaving services and should remain open with a section 56 exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The court ruled that it was within InSite users' charter rights to access the service and that similar services should also be allowed to operate with an exemption.

Over 30 peer-reviewed studies, published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal, have described the beneficial impacts of InSite.

Furthermore, studies on over 70 injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown similar benefits. InSite is one of the greatest public health achievements in our country, and we believe that it and similarly beneficial sites should be allowed to operate under proper supervision.

We want to outline that this is a deeply flawed bill based on an anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the “Keep heroin out of our backyards” fundraising drive that started hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament. This bill, which will make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites, will actually put heroin back into our neighbourhoods.

We would also point out that Bill C-2 directly defies the 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites based on a balance between public health and safety. It called on the minister to consider all the evidence on the benefits of safe injection sites, rather than setting out a lengthy list of principles by which to apply judgments.

The NDP believes that any further legislation on supervised injection sites should respect the spirit of the Supreme Court's decision, which is not the case with this bill. We believe that harm reduction programs, including safe injection sites, should be granted exemptions based on evidence of their ability to improve a community's health and to preserve human life rather than on ideology.

Along with my colleagues, many of us have pointed out that since InSite opened on Vancouver's east side, we have seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime, communicable disease infection rates, and relapse rates for drug users.

It is not missed by me, and I am sure many others, that today, on International AIDS Day, we are recognizing the importance of supporting public policy and public health strategies that save lives instead of endangering them. Sadly, what we are seeing is the government use ideological arguments and fearmongering to both disrespect the Supreme Court and to come up with policies that put people at greater risk.

Throughout my years of being a member of Parliament, I have travelled and have spent a lot of time visiting in my constituency. I have met many people who suffer from addictions. Many people can trace that disease back to the trauma they have gone through, whether it be because they were residential school survivors or the children of residential school survivors or whether it be the trauma related to intense physical or sexual abuse or the ongoing trauma that comes with living in poverty and in a state of hopelessness.

One of the recurring messages I get is how much people want and need help. We know that not all people living with addictions are in a place where they can get help, but the reality is that many people, through the support of friends and maybe family, get to that point, and maybe more than once in their lives. We need to make sure that they have somewhere to turn once they have made that decision, once they know that they can no longer keep going down the path they are going, a path that will almost certainly lead to destruction, or even death. We need to make sure that there are institutions and services where people can get help.

As I hear these compelling stories from people who need help and want help, I see too many examples in my constituency of there being nowhere to turn.

I think of the medicine lodge in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation that has struggled to secure federal funding year after year to provide healing and addiction services to indigenous people who go there to get help, not just from our area but from across the country. It has had to fight to secure funding for programming that works, for culturally appropriate programming, and for support for indigenous people across Canada.

I think of Whiskey Jack, an incredible program for young people in our constituency, located in the PCN. It is a program that works with many underage youth who are suffering addictions, some of them at risk of falling through the cracks in their communities and in our society. This service that is run by committed people in our north is there to help them. Sadly, support from the federal government has always been an ongoing issue.

We need more services. In Thompson we were very excited to hear about the new detox beds in our local centre, yet all of that money came from the provincial government rather than from any partnership with the federal government.

The reality is that the current government is not just pulling away from InSite and from supporting people with addictions; it is pulling away from people who live on the margins of our society and have so much to lose, including their own lives.

I take seriously the need for us to take on our duty as leaders, as legislators, to make decisions based on evidence, based on fact, and based on respecting humanity rather than on ideology, as we see from the current government.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her presentation.

The bill would provide the Minister of Health with the information needed to make an informed decision.

I would like to ask the member opposite why she opposes the Minister of Health having the right information, whether it be science based, public safety based, or community based, to make an informed decision that would affect an entire community. Specifically, I would like to know more about her perspective on community consultation.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question. Sadly, though, as we know from the work that was done at committee, this bill is actually a veiled attempt at making it more difficult for places like InSite to operate and almost impossible for a place like InSite to open elsewhere in Canada.

Obviously we all believe that consultation is critical, but the way certain aspects of this bill are framed in this case is not actually to that point. It is about shutting down possibilities for continuing to do this important work in our country. We have heard this over and over again from experts. We have heard it from survivors of addictions. As I have pointed out, in article after article, peer-reviewed journal articles lead us to understand that the current government's rhetoric is actually not in line with best practice and where we need to be going.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government gave the exemption to Vancouver's safe consumption site, InSite, we consulted very broadly. We worked in conjunction with the provincial and municipal governments, public health authorities, business associations, and the public widely, and we managed to achieve what I would describe as a form of co-operative federalism wherein local, provincial, and federal authorities came together to create this organization.

Now we learn that in Vancouver, with all of the success that has accrued to InSite and all of the help that it has provided, that despite all the former police officers in that caucus on the other side, the Vancouver police strongly support InSite. The City of Vancouver supports it. The Province of British Columbia supports. It goes on and on. The only voice that is in denial is the federal Conservative caucus. Even members of Conservative parties around the country at the provincial level are supportive.

Could the member help us understand what could possess the current federal regime to act so contrary to science and experience?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it truly dumbfounding that we are at this point in discussing a bill that has been on the table for months, after all the incredible work at committee to get the point across to truly respect what we have heard from all the entities and experts and survivors that support it, as my colleague pointed out. It is dumbfounding to still be at this point, fighting a bill that is obstructionist, does not make any sense, and is purely based on ideology. It disconcerting that the current government is not only not looking at evidence that supports the important work of harm reduction and safe injection sites, but it is also once again failing to respect the Supreme Court decision from a few years ago. It is sadly not a surprise with the current government, which has gone far out of its way to shun and disrespect the role of the Supreme Court at many junctures in our country's recent history.

The fact remains that this is an issue of life and death for too many people, and we have the opportunity to use evidence, science, and expert advice to make the right decision. Sadly, the government is once again shunning all of that and turning to its narrow fear-based ideology to do the opposite.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to speak on a matter that is very important to both this government and to Canadians at large. I am talking about respect for communities and about Bill C-2, the respect for communities act.

Over the course of the debate in the House, we have heard considerable detail about the purpose of the bill and the provisions within it. My intention in speaking before the House today is to focus on a particular aspect of the legislation, the ways in which Bill C-2 reinforces the respect our government has for Canadian individuals, families and communities.

We know that illicit drug use poses serious risks to public health at an individual level and at the broader community level. These dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart, foster addictions and destroy lives. The serious impacts these substances have on those who abuse them are not only detrimental to the user, but also cause serious concern and fear for their loved ones, their friends and families, and those who live nearby, including neighbours and other community members.

Illicit drug use also poses serious threats to public safety and order. For instance, we know that criminal activity results and prospers from the use of illicit substances. They often help organized crime get a toehold into our communities, and the profits that flow from their purchase allow these criminal organizations to proliferate. It is for this very reason that Bill C-2 requires that rigorous criteria be addressed by applicants wishing to establish new supervised drug consumption sites.

Equally important, Bill C-2 gives the people of these neighbourhoods, our senior citizens, young families and business owners, an opportunity to have their say on a matter that has the potential to dramatically impact their community. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children, and the respect for communities act would give local law enforcement, municipal leaders and local residents a voice before a permit would be granted for a supervised injection site.

Bill C-2 establishes rigorous criteria that must be addressed when seeking an exemption for a supervised consumption site, and gives the community members a voice in this process. I congratulate the Minister of Health for putting such a responsive bill before us for consideration.

I also want to point out that the genesis of Bill C-2 is found in the 2011 Supreme Court decision in a case involving a supervised injection site. In that decision, the court affirmed the exercise of ministerial discretion to give exemptions under section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or the CDSA. The court also said that the minister must balance public health and public safety concerns when exercising that discretion.

The Supreme Court of Canada outlined factors the minister must consider when assessing an application seeking an exemption from the CDSA to conduct activities at supervised consumption sites. These include evidence, if any, relating to the impact of such a site on crime rates; the local conditions indicating a need for such a site; the regulatory structure in place to support it; the resources available for its maintenance; and any expressions of community support or opposition. Those factors form the foundation of the criteria that are incorporated in Bill C-2.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House the last of these factors, which states that exemption applications consider “expressions of community support or opposition”.

As we have said many times here before, our government believes that input from the community is essential. Embracing the need for consultation is one of the major ways that we are demonstrating respect for Canadian communities, hence the title of this act.

The criteria set out in the bill would allow many different voices to be heard and to inform the minister's consideration of an application. The onus would be on the applicant to address all of the criteria. Letters would be sought from various individuals, and I will speak to that.

A letter would be required from the provincial health minister where the site would be located. The letter would need to outline his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site, describe how those activities would be integrated within the provincial health care system and provide information about access to available drug treatment services for people who would use the site.

In a similar vein, a letter from the local municipal government would be needed, outlining its opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public health or safety.

A letter from the head of the police force in that community would also be required, again outlining his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public safety and security.

Letters from the lead health professional, such as the chief public health officer, and the provincial minister responsible for public safety would be required.

This input from both officials and experts would facilitate the Minister of Health's ability to assess an exemption application. Also important would be the consultations that the applicant would undertake and report.

First, consultations would be required with the professional licensing authorities for physicians and nurses in their respective province.

Second, consultations would be required with a broad range of community groups in the area. The applicant would have to provide a summary of consultations and include copies of all written submissions received.

As previously stated, this is the type of input that is necessary and valuable to the Minister of Health. It does not replace the input that individuals may want to submit directly to the minister. That is why Bill C-2 serves to truly respect Canadian communities through a provision whereby the Minister of Health would give notice that an application had been received. If the minister posted such a notice of application, members of the public would then be invited to provide comments and views on the proposed site for a period of 90 days after posting directly for the minister's consideration.

One cannot overstate the dangers of illicit drugs, which are often purchased with the proceeds of crime and the sale of which often fuels organized crime. In cases where illicit drugs would be used at a supervised consumption site, our government believes that every measure must be taken to protect public health and public safety. That is why Bill C-2 proposes putting in place rigorous criteria that must be addressed before the Minister of Health can consider an application for a supervised consumption site where illicit drugs will be used.

This brings me to the six principles that would be embedded into the CDSA if Bill C-2 were to come into force. The minister would take these principles into account in balancing public health and public safety when deciding whether to grant an exemption for activities at a supervised consumption site. These principles are statements about what is known to be true about illicit drugs, including the fact that illicit substances may have serious health effects.

Adulterated controlled substances may pose health risks and risks of overdose are inherent to the use of certain illicit substances. Strict controls are required, given the inherent health risks that controlled substances may alter mental processes. Use of illicit substances presents a range of health effects for the individual user, from the risk of overdose to negatively impacting dental health to increasing the risk of devastating infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV-AIDS. Malnutrition, life on the street and dependence on drugs like heroin contribute to poor health and a decreased resistance to disease. Drugs that are purchased on the black market have a high chance of being adulterated. There is no way to regulate their purity, their content or their potency. This amplifies the undeniable health risks posed by illicit drugs.

It is essential to take these principles be taken into account as part of the decision- making process for any CDSA exemption for a supervised consumption site. That is why it is so important that Canadian communities be granted a say before any injection site where these dangerous and addictive drugs are to be used opens in a neighbourhood. A supervised drug injection site would not be created in a residential neighbourhood without consultation.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's speech as he read it. I want to come back to something that he repeated several times. He said that the government was open to co-operating.

If the government is so open to co-operating, then here are a couple of questions. Why, despite the bill being tabled by the Minister of Health, was it given to an enforcement department and committee, namely public safety and security? Is this not evidence that the government's view of addiction is that it is a criminal act?

Second, at committee, many witnesses came forward for three meetings. Many expressed concern that the bill would effectively shut down the current site in Vancouver and make it impossible to create future sites. Amendments were provided by the Province of British Columbia, the chief public health officer of B.C., and the City of Vancouver. All were denied. There were 60 amendments moved by opposition parties. All were denied by the government.

Finally, he talks about addiction. Many years ago, someone taught me that addiction is the antithesis of being free. When people are addicted to something they are actually addicted, so their freedom to choose is severely compromised because they are addicted. Could he help us understand why the government would not be facilitating or helping, particularly in the case, as he mentioned, of hepatitis C or HIV infections? For every HIV infection in our country, it costs half a million dollars in health care costs.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about today is the consultative process. The Minister of Health has put the bill before Parliament and committee for the express purpose of determining, according to the direction she was provided by the Supreme Court of Canada, the standards by which a community should have input. This would ensure that they have the appropriate level of information they can provide to the minister as to whether or not they want that injection or consumption site in their neighbourhood. It affects businesses. It affects communities. It affects safety.

The member asked why it was put before Public Safety Canada. In my speech I spoke continuously about public health and public safety. Those are the key elements the bill is addressing. This is not about InSite. Bill C-2 is about the consultative process that would ensure there is lots of input for the minister to make an informed decision, given that level of input at a future date on application.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the hon. member. I believe that it is important to base our laws on facts and not ideology. I would like to know whether the member believes that supervised injection sites help lower the crime rate and whether they not only help improve the users' well-being, but also the well-being of the surrounding community.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question, but it is a disturbing one. We are not talking about the right or wrong of InSite, or of that injection site. We are talking about a consultative process that would allow the Minister of Health to make a fully informed decision.

When the member opposite and his colleagues talk about ideology, their ideology would cause me to be concerned as to the freedom with which they would open consumption sites across the country without appropriate consultation.

I sat in committee and heard from many witnesses from a broad variety of professional backgrounds who offered tremendous insight into what is the right and wrong approach to this. Consultation is clearly the answer to give the minister the right information so that she could then proceed to make an informed decision on whether or not that facility would be opened in a community.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand today to talk on Bill C-2. It is not my first opportunity, as I spoke on the bill earlier when it was in second reading and I had the opportunity then to share some thoughts.

I am disappointed that the government has not seen the merit of making a considerable number of amendments to attempt to improve the legislation. For me, this feeds into the script that comes out of the Prime Minister's Office in terms of why we actually have Bill C-2 before us today in the manner in which it has been designed.

I think that Canadians should be aware, if they are not already, that there very much is a hidden agenda with the current Conservative government. We see that in the naming of many of its bills and the manner in which it brings in legislation.

As has been pointed out, when the government introduced Bill C-2, it was just a matter of hours before we saw a press release go out from the government. The government was trying to capitalize on some notion that Canadians could anticipate a bunch of sites being planted all over Canada in all regions and that this was something the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party were going to ensure would take place, but it would be okay, because the Conservatives were in government, and if they were given money, they would make sure it would not happen. It was a propaganda machine that the Conservatives put into place literally an hour or so after they actually introduced Bill C-2.

So much for arriving at what is in the best interests of Canadians through using science and information to design good, solid, sound public health and safety policy. Bill C-2 has very little to do with that, and I am being generous when I say “very little”.

Let us be very clear that there is a need to make some changes because of a Supreme Court decision; however, we also need to be very clear that Bill C-2 goes well beyond what the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in terms of the factors to be considered when granting an exemption.

Section 56 of the CDSA gives the Minister of Health discretionary powers to grant exemptions from the act under one of three different categories: medical purposes, scientific purposes, or in the public interest.

The one site that Canada has is in Vancouver. It is known as InSite, and we have heard a lot of discussion about InSite. We need to recognize that it came into being as an experiment back in 2003. Back then, there was a great sense of co-operation. We used the term “co-operative federalism”, and I think that is an appropriate term to use in that situation, because in the lead-up to 2003 when this project came to the surface, we saw months of effort by a wide variety of stakeholders. They came to the table and said that we needed to do something. Ultimately, through consensus-building and working with the different stakeholders, this was the idea they came up with.

It was the Jean Chrétien government, working with Paul Martin and the minister of health, that came up with an idea of what and how the federal government would be able to contribute to the debate to realize something that the community itself wanted and that many other stakeholders felt there was a need for. We also had the provincial and municipal governments come to the table.

As I mentioned in my questions to government members, we saw other stakeholders such as police, nurses, other health care professionals and, most importantly, the community itself come to the table through non-profit groups, resident groups, and individuals who were having addiction issues themselves. All came to the conclusion that this was necessary.

I do not know to what degree the government of the day listens when it is told about some of the issues in our communities, especially in many of the larger communities. We need a government that understands that safe injection sites must be part of a broader evidence-based national drug policy that actually saves lives, reduces harm, and promotes public health. This is the type of government that I believe Canadians want. When it comes to action by the government in addressing that broad consensus, we find that Bill C-2 goes against what is in the public interest and the safety of Canadians.

I represent the wonderful riding of Winnipeg North, which has a great deal of culture and heritage. It has many positive things going for it. However, like other communities in Canada, it has some issues it needs to try to overcome. I do not see a government that is very sympathetic to that, because it is not looking for answers. It is not looking at ways to help communities.

A question I asked earlier today of a Conservative member was whether the member could tell us if he saw any value whatsoever in InSite in Vancouver. He skated about the question and did not provide an answer. If we listen to a number of members, whether it is today or previous days, in addressing this very important issue, we come to the conclusion that the government just does not care about dealing in a tangible way with many of the issues that are important to communities in our country. The InSite location in Vancouver is just one of them.

If we want to be able to deal with issues of addiction and crime in many communities, to look at the environments around some of the schools because of drug issues, needles, and so forth, and if we want to be able to deal with many of these constituency or types of issues, whether in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, or any other community, we at least need to approach the issue with an open mind. I do not see that on the Conservative benches because the government has ruled out any sort of science or other presentation that was made, whether by the police forces, health care providers, individuals having to deal with this addiction problem, or community activists who are trying not only to help those with addictions but also to turn communities around and make a positive difference among them.

I do not see a government that is sensitive to the needs of the community. I see a government that is more interested in getting re-elected and using legislation as a tool to attempt to scare Canadians into contributing to Conservative coffers.

The bill is more about that than dealing with the reality of the situation. I find that unacceptable, and Canadians will recognize that in 2015.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to the hon. member. I would like to ask him whether or not he believes that his residents ought to have a say in whether or not a drug injection site should be put into their communities. Does he believe that his community representatives and leaders, whether the local school principal, teachers, moms and dads, or senior citizens, are the ones who ought to have a say in whether or not a drug injection site is put into their neighbourhood or at the end of their street?

For the families and many Canadians who have invested in their primary residences, that residence is perhaps the single largest investment they will ever make in their lifetime. If a drug injection site were to be put into their neighbourhood, at the end of their street or just behind their street, perhaps they ought be consulted before such a site goes in.

Does the member believe they should be consulted?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, not only do I believe that, I can also assure the member that they would be consulted.

Does she really believe that there was no consultation before the establishment of InSite? Nothing could be further from the truth. If and when it were to occur again, I can assure the member that there will be consultation taking place without this legislation.

The parliamentary secretary should reflect on that. Even her own minister would be quite content to see the facility close down, yet I do not believe that the Minister of Health has ever visited the facility in question, even though hundreds of lives have been saved directly through this one particular site. However, the minister has never even set foot in it from what I understand—

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech.

What has always struck me about the well-known InSite, which was founded 10 years ago, is how innovative it is.

Through creativity and imagination, we were able to create something that was completely new and innovative. The current government is not taking us forward; it is setting us back.

What does my colleague think about how innovative this centre is and how important it is to have innovative policies to address the major challenges facing Canadians and Canada?

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. There has been a lot learned through InSite in Vancouver. If we were to canvas, we would find that there is no organization or any credible individuals coming forward and saying that it should be shut down, unless they are a part of the Conservative caucus here in Ottawa.

All of the evidence clearly shows that it has had a very positive and overwhelming impact. There is always room for some improvements, but at the end of the day, there has been a great deal learned from InSite. We would like to think that the government would be open to the types of things that it could learn from that so that we could continue to do what we can to address the whole issue of drug addiction and all of its repercussions

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the more I hear the Conservatives speak about this, the more I know they are hoisted on their own petard.

The parliamentary secretary got up earlier and said she had had the courage to visit InSite. I am very happy to hear that. I wonder if she took a picture and disseminated it to her constituents to explain just how positive InSite's work is. It has dramatically lowered HIV infection rates. It has dramatically lowered hepatitis C infection rates.

The Conservatives are trying to hide behind this notion of consultation, but they really are hoisted on their petard, because there were over 60 amendments moved by opposition parties. None passed. There were amendments by the Province of B.C., the chief public health officer of B.C., and the City of Vancouver. None passed. The Vancouver Police Department supports InSite. It goes on and on.

The only marginalized, completely ostracized group left that does not support moving forward on the safe injection sites is the federal Conservative caucus.

Motions in amendmentRespect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has hit it right on. That is the problem. Everyone outside of the House, and Liberals and the New Democrats within the House, recognize there is a great deal of value to what happens in Vancouver. We recognize that Bill C-2 is not healthy for us to pass.

We can only appeal to individuals like the parliamentary secretary who has visited the site to recognize the good that she saw, and maybe vote more independent of the Prime Minister's office.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

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 of 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.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see how the government House leader acts in sort of a flippant and dismissive way when he reads this motion. It is no wonder, as this is the 74th time since 2011 that the government has introduced closure on a piece of legislation before the House. That means that most of its legislation has been rammed through, forced through by closure, because it cannot bear to have a proper comprehensive debate in the House of Commons by members of Parliament from all parties on any government legislation. It is bent on the idea that it has to ram it through.

Bill C-2, which is an amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is a particularly important bill because it follows a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada concerning safer injection sites in this country. As we have seen with other legislation, most notably Bill C-36 recently, which also has to do with a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada concerning laws pertaining to prostitution in this country, this is yet another bill in this House that basically does not stand the test of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

I would ask the minister why the government has decreed that this bill will not go to the health committee where it should go, because it is a matter pertaining to the health and well-being of Canadians who are very much at risk and who have been marginalized, rather than going to the public safety committee. That demonstrates the conclusion that the government sees this as just another law and order measure, as opposed to a measure that is affecting the health of people. Why were people not properly consulted on this bill, such as front-line service workers, so that we would have the benefit of that in terms of debating the bill? Why will it now go to the public safety committee instead of where it should be going, which is for a thorough examination at the Standing Committee on Health?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to address the whole question of the timing of this bill and the debate. This has received a huge amount of debate in the House of Commons. As a matter of fact, 97 members have been on their feet. There were more than 18 hours of debate in the House of Commons. I am not sure the Magna Carta had that many hours of debate. That being said, there were 18 hours of debate.

The position of the New Democrats is that 18 days or maybe 18 years would not be enough on bills that they do not like, which is consistent in this particular area.

I am pleased that the House leader is moving forward with this. Let us get it to committee. If members want to hear debate, let Canadians, Canadian groups and Canadian individuals, come before the committee and make their opinions known. That is appropriate here. It is not enough for the New Democrats to say that they want to debate it forever in here; let us hear from Canadians who have something to say about these drug consumption sites for illegal drugs. Let us get Canadians and Canadian groups aboard. That is what we should do.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is noteworthy to recognize that what we are witnessing is a breakdown in the tradition of how legislation is passed through the House of Commons. Typically, we would have government working with opposition parties to build some sort of a legislative agenda that would allow for a good, healthy number of hours of debate on controversial legislation, while at the same time legislation that is straightforward and has the support of all parties would be passed through quickly.

Ever since we have had a majority Conservative government, it has used time allocation more than in the history of any other political entity inside the House of Commons. My colleague is right in saying shame, on that point.

The legislation we are limiting debate on is of a serious nature. The question I would ask the government House leader is why he believes the government has failed Canadians by not allowing for the appropriate passage of all forms of legislation through negotiation, as opposed to a majority rule inside the House, which is not healthy for democracy in Canada.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I completely disagree with the hon. member. As a matter of fact, there have been 97 members of the House of Commons who have had the opportunity to speak to this bill. In fact, I am surprised that the House leader was as patient as he was. This is an important piece of legislation. We want to get these things passed. However, apparently they allowed 97 members to come forward, and they had the right to get up. However, I am concerned and surprised that the hon. member is not more concerned; I want to get this before a committee. Let Canadian groups and individuals have their say. What is so wrong with that? This is what will happen at the committee. This is important legislation; let us move it through the process. Come on; let us go.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence demonstrates a somewhat shaky grasp of parliamentary democracy: first, with his reference to the Magna Carta, which of course preceded Parliament; and second, in talking about how much debate is enough debate. It misunderstands representative democracy. The idea that people come here and represent their ridings seems completely foreign to the members on the other side.

When we get to referring a bill to committee, I have my biggest concern. I sit on the public safety committee and I will be happy to debate this bill there, but what we have seen lately is that it is of course going to the wrong committee because it is a health question. However, I hope we are not going to see this, and this is my question. Can the minister give us the assurance that he will not try to limit the debate on this bill in committee to only the public safety aspects, so that we can have a full examination of its health aspects in the public safety committee?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, to the final part of the member's comments, of course that is up to the public safety committee. I am not going to start dictating what it should do or should not do. He talked about parliamentary democracy. It is up to the committee members to decide how many speakers and representations it wants to have, and appropriately so.

However, I would only say for the hon. member that we should always find common ground as to where we agree. Even though there have been over 18 hours of debate, for the NDP 18 years would not be enough. At least we agree that there is no limit to how far we could go before they would be satisfied. However, in terms of the member's comments with respect to parliamentary democracy, he has to agree with me that this is part of the parliamentary process. Let Canadians come forward and let groups come forward and make representations on that. That is only right.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. minister who is before us today also has a background as a lawyer. I have been researching and considering a substantial point of privilege to be made at a later date, because the use of time allocation in this place is not part of parliamentary procedure; it is unprecedented.

I look to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case about a previous Speaker, Gib Parent, and Satnam Vaid and the Human Rights Commission. There are some very interesting comments by the Supreme Court about the nature of privilege. It is basically that in our work here, as a matter of privilege, and the court stated that we must function:

...as a legislative and deliberative body, including the assembly’s work in holding the government to account, that outside interference would undermine the level of autonomy required to enable the assembly and its members to do their legislative work with dignity and efficiency.

I put for the hon. minister that surely 74 limitations of debate in a period of one Parliament is not only unprecedented by a bit, but it is unprecedented by a country mile over anything that has ever taken place in this Parliament, ever since Confederation. Would the minister not agree with me that it begins to be an abuse of democracy that offends our privileges here as members to do our work on behalf of our constituents?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have to respect what it is the court has said. The court has set down a number of conditions for drug consumption sites where illegal drugs are used. It has set out conditions, and we want to ensure that they are implemented, that they are part of the law of this country. The minister actually goes further than that. She has added another 10 different considerations that should go into this; so every precaution is taken to ensure that we get it right.

I am surprised that the hon. members of the opposition do not want to have this before a committee. That too is a vital part of our parliamentary system, the committee hearings. That is the only thing I would urge her. There has been full debate on this. If they are part of a group that says there will never be enough debate on it, I accept that, but this is why we in government have to make decisions. However, I would say this for the member. Let us move forward. Let us have Canadians have their say on this important legislation.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this is the government's 74th time allocation motion, the question I am going to ask may seem sarcastic, but I am really starting to wonder about this.

Do the Conservatives intend to introduce a bill that would make the usual and current rules of the House the exception, since the exception has become the rule?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to discuss this with the government House leader. I believe, from my perusal of this, that he has been very patient with all the dozens and dozens of members who have spoken. We want there to be a fulsome debate, and that is appropriate at second reading, but that is only one part of the parliamentary process.

I am going to tell him that he was very patient, because for me and so many of us, including the government House leader, this is a very important piece of legislation. This is responding to a Supreme Court of Canada decision setting out a number of conditions for this, and it is very important that we move on that. I have to tell him that he has obviously been very patient and that is a wonderful virtue in the parliamentary system, but I also say that this is only one part of the process. Let us move it forward and get it before committee.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my hon. colleague a question regarding injection sites and what is laid out in this bill about them.

I know there have been considerable community consultations. I know that there has been considerable debate in the House, as the minister himself has mentioned. Some 97 members of Parliament have stood to voice their opinions on this. I also have to agree with him that, as we sit through debates and listen to members on the opposite side, we hear that the speeches are almost all the same. It does not matter how many hours we sit here. Even if it is one hour, we end up hearing the same speech three or four times. As much as I like listening to my friends across the way, there is an obligation to Canadians that we actually enact what is going to improve the safety of their communities and these injection sites where, in fact, illegal drugs are offered to people.

I wonder if the minister could comment on community consultations and how this act would benefit my community in Cambridge and North Dumfries, for example. I know the NDP wants to put an injection site in Cambridge. I do not think the folks in Cambridge would be at all happy with that, and I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister covered a lot of ground. He pointed out that the New Democrats have made dozens and dozens of speeches basically saying the same thing. I do not mean this as disagreement, but they are certainly entitled to do that. As justice minister, I heard hundreds of speeches, all basically saying the same thing, that they did not like our crackdown on crime. That is their business. If they all want to oppose these things, I understand that and I do not have any particular problem with that. They are making their position very clear.

Quite frankly, even as minister of justice, I heard many times that people want to have some input with respect to this issue that is before the House right now. I am pleased that even when the minister gets an application, she is going to give Canadians another opportunity, 90 days, to give her their input. This is the way to go.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, there have been 74 time allocation motions, as disturbing as that is; as you know, it is the curtailment of debate in the House. However, even more disturbing than the 74 times that debate has been shut down is the fact that the government is trying to change what has been a precedent in the House of allowing one further sitting day to now what is becoming a precedent of five hours of debate. This is a dangerous precedent.

Does my colleague not agree with me that changing this precedent in the Standing Orders of having one sitting day to interpret it as five hours is the height of cynicism and that it will feed the cynicism of Canadians who want us to make Parliament work? Does he not agree that this dangerous precedent will certainly do damage to this institution in the future and our work as parliamentarians?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is concerned about the number of hours of debate. Again, I have indicated that I believe the House leader has been quite generous and accommodating on that.

The hon. member has to answer to Canadians, who want to have some say. If someone wants to open up one of these sites next door to where people are trying to raise their children or put it right across the street from a school, what are we supposed to say? Should we say the NDP is unhappy and it wants to debate this issue forever? People would say no; they want us to comply with what the courts are saying, that we should lay down conditions and make sure Canadians have the opportunity to have some say as to where, how, and the circumstances under which these sites are going to be implemented.

Again, there is a process where the minister can look at these. I am very impressed. The Supreme Court of Canada put five different conditions and she was good enough to add 10 more in this bill to make sure it is completely clear. That is very helpful to anybody setting up one of these sites.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence keeps saying that we should give the opportunity to Canadians to have input into this. Why do we not start with the elected officials, the very people Canadians elected to the House, and give them the opportunity to talk about the bill?

I know the Conservatives are not very good with facts and figures. The minister talks about having 97 members speak in the House, which is about 30% of the members in the House. What about the other 70% of the members? They have not spoken. I am sure that even the Conservative members would want to get up and have the opportunity to represent their constituents. Democracy is all about that.

Why is the Minister of National Defence trying to shut down debate? It is not only in the House, as I am absolutely sure the Conservatives will shut down debate at the committee stage, where we will hear from many research analysts and experts in this area and try to make some amendments to the bill.

Could the minister assure us that there will not be time allocation at the committee stage so we can hear from the experts at the ground level who will help us improve the bill?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member pointed out that almost one-third of the members have already spoken on the bill. This is only second reading.

Again, I said that if the bill goes to committee, if those members are inclined to filibuster or ask the same questions over and over again, they are entitled to do that. I told my colleague that even at third reading, if there are dozens of NDP members who want to get up, say the same thing and make the same speech over and over again, that is their right to do that. However, what we have here is important legislation that Canadians are very interested in.

When I was justice minister, many people raised this subject with me and they did the same when in British Columbia. All I am saying at this point is that if we get the bill to committee, Canadians, Canadian groups and institutions will have that opportunity to have some input. What is wrong with that?

I love to hear the hon. members go on and on and fight all of our efforts to crack down on crime, for instance. I have heard that for years. They can go ahead and do that, but let Canadians have their say. That is all we are asking for.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, what does a 74th guillotine mean? It means that we have one half hour to talk as we are doing now—which is not productive—one half hour waiting for the bells and the actual vote. It means that almost 90 hours of debate did not take place in the House.

How many bills—if everyone had time to speak—would have gotten through had we made good use of those 90 hours?

I have the following question for the minister. Will he promise not to use the guillotine at committee and third reading stage?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member cannot make a commitment to get the bill out of the House of Commons. The NDP members are fighting this at every step of the way, even though there has been a very fulsome debate, with a considerable amount of time, within our parliamentary system.

However, those members are saying that they cannot agree to anything. That is the position they are taking, and they are welcome to it. However, I would ask them to please explain that to Canadians who are concerned about this subject. They are worried, for instance, about an application for a site that may go next door to them or one across the street from a school.

The NDP members have to admit that not only are all the protections and conditions set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in the bill, but the Minister of Health went considerably further and added another 10 to ensure these things would operate properly, that people's safety would be taken into consideration and to ensure that everything would be done in accordance with health procedures.

It seems to me that the bill should have the support of those members. Rather than fight it every step of the way, they should be asking how they can get the bill through. We know Canadians want this. It is important for Canada, and that is what I would urge them to do.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the minister has not answered a couple of basic questions.

I would note, and I am sure he is aware, that the last time this bill was debated in the House was at the end of January of this year. It has already been five months. I am curious to know why, at the eleventh hour, the government is now bringing in closure. We could have had debate on the bill in February, March, April or May. I am afraid the minister's responses just do not cut it.

The other question he has been unable to answer is why this bill, which is clearly a health measure, is not going to the health committee. This is about a health intervention to save lives, and that is very clear from the Supreme Court of Canada decision. Why is it going to the public safety committee?

That is a very basic question about the government's attitude to this issue and the bill. Why is the bill going to the public safety committee and not the health committee?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, to be fair to the hon. member, whether we debated the bill in January or in June, or six years from now, those members would oppose it, and they certainly are entitled to do that.

However, I do not agree with the member's description as to what this is all about. The Supreme Court of Canada said that one of the conditions should be the impact of such a facility on crime rates. Again, that is one of the five conditions set out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

I am pleased the minister, in drafting this legislation, has added, as one of the ten conditions, the potential impact of the proposed site on public safety, including law enforcement research statistics, if any, related to such issues as crime, public nuisance and public consumption of illicit substances.

This is very complete. This is one of the things that has to impress anybody looking at this. It goes beyond the conditions set out by the Supreme Court of Canada.

I would ask the member if the NDP members would have been happier debating it in February, but let us face it, and all be honest, they would have opposed it in January, February, next March or 10 years from now, and that is their right to do so.

However, let us get it before a committee, so Canadians can have their say.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, some drug traffickers in Montreal are getting very greedy and are trying to increase profits by selling low quality drugs. This caused a massive increase in deaths associated with these bad drugs.

I am pleased to support the government's desire to punish these drug traffickers and put them in prison, and especially those greedy ones. However, Bill C-2 also deals with public health.

The minister said that he was proud that we had adopted 10 other Supreme Court recommendations, but that is the problem: it turns a public health issue into a punishment issue.

The NDP wants to combat this dangerous aspect of illegal drug use by making this a public health issue. When the government puts an end to debate like this, it is maintaining this confusion between public health and punishment.

Why is it so important to turn a public health issue into a punishment issue?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member may disagree with this. In his example, he was talking about Montreal or wherever his constituency is. If some group were opening up one of these drug consumption sites next door to him, would the member find it so unreasonable that the minister would want to do a criminal record check on those individuals? Does that sound so unreasonable?

I have a feeling that the members across, if this were being opened up across the street from the school where their kids were or next door to them, might say that it was a pretty reasonable condition by the minister, a criminal records check for the people that were moving in next door to them.

However, with respect to what the member says about it being a health issue, a description of the available drug treatment services at the site is there. One of the health components is what drug treatment services will be available. That is pretty reasonable.

I would have thought the members would have welcomed that. Okay, the member may not agree that the staff should have criminal records checks. That may be one of the bad ones on that list. However, what about the drug treatment services? That is pretty reasonable. I would hope the member would have embraced that.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
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Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as I have sat here and listened to this conversation about limiting debate, when there has, in fact, been no limit to the debate, I am getting more and more concerned.

Obviously, I am here to represent my community of Cambridge-North Dumfries. Maybe in my hon. colleagues' ridings, it is okay to have injection sites beside a school without criminal record checks and without actual proper drug treatment programs. However, I can assure the members of the House that no one in Cambridge is willing to have drug injection sites for drug addicts beside a school. This is common sense.

This is Canada. We need this legislation passed. The best place for it right now is at committee, after 97 members have spoken during 18 hours of debate. It is time for the committee to hear from Canadians so those folks will know what Canadians think.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, it will be difficult to top that. That was very good, and I appreciate it.

The hon. member makes an excellent point. What is the problem with having Canadians come forward and give their opinions? They would have strong opinions on this.

When I went across the country as the justice minister, and certainly now as the defence minister, people did not say that they wanted to get more of these sites in their neighbourhoods and that they did not want to put conditions on these people. I never have heard that from people, and I have a feeling that this is what they are worried about. They are worried that we are going to have groups come forward and say that they would like to have this regulated and that they would like to have a say in whether it would move in across the street from a school. They would like to ensure that these people have criminal record checks.

I think Canadians will have a look at this and say that it is all very reasonable and that this is what the government should be doing. It is certainly in compliance with the court orders.

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we have going on is a bit of a pretence, with the minister talking about what happens if they are next to schools or in our neighbourhoods. We know from the experience of the safe injection in Vancouver East that crime rates go down. The number of needles found in alleyways goes down. The whole community becomes safer. There is amazing community support for the one existing safe injection in Vancouver East. We have a bit of fear-mongering from the other side.

Again, I would like to come back to the question of the committee. We are going to the public safety committee. We know that with the study of marijuana that has been commissioned, the government has said that we can only talk about the harms in committee and that we cannot talk about anything else that might happen.

I want reassurance from the government that the Conservatives will not use their majority on the public safety committee to limit the scope of the debate so as to exclude the health benefits, which was the primary reason that the Supreme Court made its decision. Could we get assurance that the government will not use its majority to prevent the discussion of the health benefits of safe injection sites?

Bill C-2—Time Allocation MotionRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, if, in fact, these sites reduce crime, as the hon. member has said, and they are a great addition to any neighbourhood in the NDP's opinion, it is not unreasonable to ask, as the bill says, key stakeholders, including provincial ministers for health and public safety, local government, heads of police forces and lead health professionals in the province. The NDP is asking them to come forward just to confirm that everything is would be great, that crime rates would go down and that this would be a great addition to the neighbourhood.

When Canadians have a look at this, they will say that it is all pretty reasonable. That is all we are saying on this. The Minister of Health has taken a very balanced approach on this. Again, that is all I am urging the opposition to do.

This will come back for third reading. To be sure, there will be lots of members from the NDP up opposing this. It is their right, but at the same time, let us hear what Canadians have to say. I think they will have some strong opinions on this.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 was first introduced in June 2013, a little over a year ago, as Bill C-65 and came back to the House as Bill C-2 in October.

I am proud of the fact that about 50 members of the NDP caucus have spoken to this important legislation. However, I am ashamed to say that what we have heard from the government side is divisive debate. From day one the Conservatives have portrayed the issue of respecting the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on safer injection sites in Canada as a black and white issue.

I go back to January 27 of this year when the government House leader told the Hill Times that he will tell people that opposition parties want drug injection sites to be established in their neighbourhoods without people having any say. He then talked about the extreme position that the NDP was taking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the government House leader to portray our discourse on this legislation in that manner shows first, how the Conservatives like to create division and fear among people, and second, that they know absolutely nothing about North America's only safe injection site, which is located in Vancouver's downtown east side and called InSite. The fact is that InSite was set up over 10 years ago after extensive consultation with the local community.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite and other supervised injection sites must be granted Section 56 exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act when they “decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety....”

Upon reading the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada it is clear that it understood the arguments that were being made by the litigants, that this was a health measure, that it was about saving lives and that it was about preventing people from needless drug overdoses. Over the past 10 years, InSite has gone on to become incredibly successful and has helped improve the health and well-being of many people. It has saved literally countless lives in the Downtown Eastside.

Over 30 peer review studies have been done on InSite. It received its first exemption in 2003. From the extensive research that has been done since it opened, Vancouver has seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime and communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. That is quite remarkable. NDP members have always said that InSite is just part of the solution; it is not the only solution.

It is quite remarkable that this facility has been able to accomplish so much. One would never know that after hearing the speeches from government members. One would think it was just about chaos and law and order, that it was about imposing something on a community.

InSite did get a further exemption under the act for another year. I want to put firmly on the record that InSite has done a remarkable job in Vancouver.

I would also note that over those 10 years, organizations like the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Canadian Nurses Association, never mind the 30-plus peer review studies, have all come out firmly on the side of evidence that InSite is about saving lives. They came to this conclusion upon their analysis of how InSite is operated. They have been critical of Bill C-2 because they know, as we know having examined the bill, that it is really about setting the bar high. So much discretion and subjectivity is given to the minister that it would be very easy for her on flimsy, non-evidence-based opinion to turn down other applications across Canada.

That is the fundamental problem with this legislation. At the end of the day, Bill C-2 would not meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on InSite.

Again we have a familiar pattern, as we just saw with Bill C-36 on the laws pertaining to prostitution. We have a government that is bent on its own ideological agenda and refuses to examine the evidence before it on some of these very important measures that pertain to safety, health, and well-being.

Just to show how important this facility is and that others across the country could provide the same kind of service, in Vancouver, on June 4, I happened to notice an item in the paper that said, “Vancouver Police are issuing a public warning after officers responded to seven reports of suspected heroin overdoses in the Downtown Eastside in the span of a day”. Clearly, there was some really bad stuff on the street and people were really suffering.

The article further stated, “Sgt. Randy Fincham said active drug users need to be 'extremely cautious' and to visit Insite”. There we have it. Even the Vancouver Police Department recognizes that InSite has been a very important health and safety measure for drug users. It provides a safe place to inject, and there is medical supervision and support when it is needed so that people do not die by overdose. As is said so often in the Downtown Eastside, dead people cannot get treatment. I find it very interesting that local police are actually telling people to make sure they go to InSite to take advantage of its services so people can have the medical support and safety that is required.

New Democrats believe that the provisions of this bill before us are very onerous and very partisan. This led us to suspect what research had actually been done in preparing the bill. I put a question on the order paper back in October of last year and asked specifically what kind of consultation the government had conducted before it brought the bill in, particularly for front-line service providers, medical research professionals, and so on. The response that I got from the government, in part, said, “In the development of the proposed legislation, Health Canada consulted with Public Safety Canada, Justice Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and central agencies”. Basically, nobody on the government side actually bothered to talk to the people who are providing the service.

I know that not one Conservative minister of health that I visited and spoke to about InSite over the past years has visited InSite. There is a complete lack of knowledge about what this facility does. I am very concerned that with this bill the minister will confer on herself enormous discretion and power to make decisions based on political opposition and not on the merits of what is what is taking place in the local community and how such a facility can help a population that is very much at risk and marginalized.

There are a couple of other points that I want to make. A very important one is that there was the recent passing of a very wonderful activist, Bud Osborn, a poet, and pioneer at InSite in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He was much beloved in the neighbourhood, a former drug user himself. He understood from the very beginning, through the poetry he wrote and the words he spoke to people, how important this facility was in fostering a united community, where people were not divided between good and bad.

I want to pay tribute to the remarkable life and work of Bud Osborn and what he did not only in my community but across the country. He became a hero to many people for his courageous, outspoken way of putting the truth before people. He convinced politicians of all political stripes and met with the Minister of Health here in Ottawa a number of years ago, as well as the media, lawyers, prosecutors. He had an enormous amount of influence in my community because he spoke the truth from his own experience and believed very strongly that InSite was a lifesaving measure.

As this bill goes to committee, I want to say that New Democrats are very distressed that it is going to the public safety committee and not the health committee. It seems completely in conflict with what the goals of this bill should be in terms of a necessary health measure. We know that the bill is heavily weighted against the acceptance of these medically necessary services, so we will be demanding that there be a thoughtful and thorough review of the bill.

There have been a lot of scientific studies. We need to debunk the myths, the misinformation, and the rhetoric that we have heard about safer injections sites from the government side. When the bill gets to committee, I do hope very much, as we have said earlier today, that there will not be a censor of the witnesses, that there will be a thorough review and that we can make sure that the bill does indeed meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has a lot of knowledge of this area as it is located in her riding. Obviously, I agree that we need to be very concerned with the plight of heroin addicts. I think all of us in this House are seeking the best path forward to find the solution.

She asked that maybe we should tamp down the rhetoric so I will attempt to remove any rhetoric from my question. The first question I would ask would be in relation to a comment she made on the criminal rate. She indicated that there was a 35% reduction in the occurrence of crime. Might that be in relation to the new legal status or treatment that is being put on to these acts, relative to Supreme Court rulings? Maybe it is not, so I would love to hear her thoughts on that.

My second question would be: As a member of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, in theory there may be a future government that this member is part of. What is her view on having these facilities in Canada? Should every major city in Canada have something similar to what she sees in her home city, and in how many cities does she think her government would bring in centres like this?

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, those are two very reasonable questions and I will do my best to answer them.

FIn terms of the decrease in crime, the fact is, there were more than 30 peer review studies that were done around InSite, so all of these questions were looked at. I would encourage my colleague to look at the report so he can see for himself, from these objective, evidence-based reports. What happened in that neighbourhood? Did things improve or not? I can tell him that the reports say that it did improve, but he can read it for himself.

In terms of what the NDP would do, first, we need to understand that InSite came from the local community. It was not imposed by Ottawa. It came from the city. It came from a grassroots involvement, and in fact right now, across Canada, I believe that there are applications from Montreal, from Toronto, even from here in Ottawa, possibly Victoria and even Edmonton.

There are applications being considered right now. A clear response needs to be evidence based. The local community needs to have done its homework and want to go ahead with it. We do not want to see the bill, though, squash that, which it will do, given the enormous powers that it gives to the minister.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver East for her fine representation of her constituency. I certainly think we need to maintain these facilities.

I have been shocked by the bill, because it is so transparently an attempt to circumvent what the court has said. I have never seen a subsection of a bill that ran out of A to Z, and then began to come up with other things past Z, that constitute a list of conditions.

Just to give my colleague the sense of how these conditions are clearly efforts to stop centres from being built, an applicant must provide in section (w) the name, title, and résumé, including relevant education and training of the proposed responsible person in charge, of each of their proposed alternate responsible persons, and each of the other proposed key staff members.

This is at the stage an applicant is applying to put together a facility. I do not know any charity or business that, at the stage of application, could fulfill the conditions. These are not the conditions of a government that understands this facility saves lives. This is a transparent attempt to stop the facility from going forward.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is very correct. When I spoke the first time to the bill, I actually went through A to Z. I went through all of those conditions. What makes it even worse, though, to add insult to injury, is that even if it were possible for an applicant to meet all of those conditions—and the member has outlined how difficult that would be—the minister could still turn it down, so it is very discretionary.

It seems abundantly clear that the purpose of the bill is to ensure that no further safe injection facilities will be set up in Canada. That would be a huge issue in many local communities, because the homework has been done. There are organizations and advocates who want to see this kind of health facility and health intervention set up for people who are very marginalized.

It is very unfortunate. I hope we will get into it at committee. We hope to see the bill significantly changed so that it is objective and based on evidence.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we all have all known or seen people struggling with addictions. Very often the problem is with alcohol. Unfortunately, some are addicted to illicit drugs. It is not a happy situation for their parents, their friends, their loved ones or themselves.

These people not only need help, but also some supervision to reduce the problems they can cause. A neighbourhood where drugs are sold is also one where discarded dirty needles litter the ground and where people use drugs out in the open.

In this situation, people could well be using extremely dangerous drugs, perhaps cut with unknown substances by unscrupulous drug traffickers who are only interested in making money on the backs of their customers. This means we are facing a serious public health problem.

Clearly, the fight against drugs includes a policing component: some people need to go to jail. An individual bringing in a container of cocaine or heroin is not really someone who is socially responsible. In fact, quite the opposite is true. People who become victims of this drug need medical supervision. It has been said that all it takes is a little willpower and they could take care of themselves. This is not true. They need medical supervision to leave drug use behind or to not die from it.

Earlier, I spoke about a problem we are currently facing in Montreal. The same problem can be seen from time to time everywhere in Canada when someone cuts drugs with a harmful substance or when the drug purity is too high or too low. This leads to overdoses, and people using this drug are at risk of dying in an alley or a squalid apartment. The risk is extremely high.

People in one Vancouver neighbourhood recommended a medical solution. Right away, this makes it possible to get rid of one problem: no drug trafficker has control over that area. A centre is not meant to sell drugs or encourage people to use them. It is not meant to be placed across from a school, where children could see things.

The danger is already there. If we want to avoid having used syringes in a schoolyard and having children find drug users taking drugs out in the open, the solution is a safe injection site. Obviously, there is a lot of confusion. People think that we want to encourage drug use. However, that is not true. Nothing in the InSite project aims to encourage drug use. The opposite is true. This is a public health project.

Moreover, the Supreme Court has been very clear about this. In 2011, it stated that InSite's services were essential and that it had to remain open under the exception set out in section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is an essential service in the context of a medical action.

It is understandable that the minister wants to impose conditions to ensure that safe injection sites do not become places where drugs are sold. No one wants that. However, we want at all costs to prevent a situation where a functional medical institution is not allowed to operate under the pretext of ensuring public safety.

At this safe site, drug users can get immediate support if they react badly to a drug. This person may be an old friend or a member of an MP's family because, unfortunately, no one is safe. Also, if someone decides one day that they want to stop using drugs, the employees at the safe injection site can give that person medical and psychological support.

We could go on and on about this. I understand that people are afraid, but this should in no way be turned into a police issue. Would conditions like this be imposed on an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter? Never. Would such restrictive conditions be imposed on other public health organizations? No, we would not do that either. The government obviously has a double standard. Is alcohol more socially acceptable than drugs?

It is not easy living with an addiction, whether it is to alcohol or drugs. These people have the right to our support. We must have a minimum of decency and empathy towards our fellow Canadians in difficulty. Is there anything more difficult than dealing with an addiction? We have to extend a hand to these people who are suffering greatly and provide them with medical, physical and emotional support.

Since a centre was established in Vancouver, there have been 35% fewer deaths. That kind of centre is really needed. The Supreme Court recognized that it was necessary, so, do not tell me it is not. We could talk a long time about the merits of this institution, and I believe that many of my colleagues on both sides of the House think that it makes sense from a medical perspective.

What we really cannot agree on are the conditions for establishing this site. The Conservatives say that it would be horrible for these sites to be located near hospitals or schools, and that we have to think of the children. However, the risk of finding dirty needles on school property is much higher if the neighbourhood does not have a safe injection site. I know that there are some police officers and former police officers in the House.

These centres fall within the realm of public health not just because they help people with addictions, but also because the general public would no longer have to experience the most obvious problems associated with living in a neighbourhood where there is a major addiction problem.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things I wanted to note in the member's speech with regard to the treatment centre.

Certainly I agree with him about alcohol treatment centres. The difference, of course, is that people going to the alcohol treatment centres are normally sober when they go there. In the case of the safe injection site, the fact is that someone purchases heroin illegally—because not one point of heroin, the tenth of a gram that is normally bought, can be purchased legally in Canada—and then the person takes it to the safe injection site.

The challenge we have is that although safe injection sites are meant to help those people, does the member not believe we should be providing more services for these people to get off the drug, as opposed to having a place where they can take the drug?

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, his wealth of experience should remind him that these people need help. However, they must take the first step themselves. We cannot do it for them.

You can urge someone to stop drinking or taking drugs, but they have to take some action too. That action has to be encouraged materially and medically. He is right to a considerable extent, except on one major point: people do not buy drugs at these sites. They come in with their drugs.

Giving someone a syringe is an important way to prevent them from contracting AIDS or any other disease. It is especially important to get rid of the used syringe. It really is a matter of public health. These sites do not sell drugs.

The more services that encourage them to get out of the drug market, so to speak, the better it is. Better, not worse. I support his position overall, except on one major point. It is a place where people take drugs but it is not a place where people sell them.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the points that gets lost in this debate is the fact that Canada has one site, which is often referred to, out on the west coast. That site coming into being did not happen overnight. It took a great deal of effort and thought and looking at how the community and the potential clients might benefit.

A number of professionals weighed in on it, whether they were health care professionals, officers of the law, or provincial and federal politicians. The overwhelming consensus was that they should move forward in trying it out. After a number of years, the overwhelming consensus was that it was a huge success.

There are no communities jumping up and down saying that they want sites. That is because of the government's attitude and ideological opinion, which does not necessarily match up with what the different stakeholders and professionals are actually saying.

I wonder if the member might comment on how important it is for us to reflect on what the community leaders and these professionals are saying about the success of that site in Vancouver.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no problem in demonstrating that it is a success. The major problem is what I would call the “not in my backyard“ syndrome.

If you live in a neighbourhood with lots of children and lots of parks, you might wonder whether it is really an appropriate place for activities of that kind. However, the neighbourhoods with drug addiction problems are usually downtown, in places where there are no schools.

There are a lot of problems, however. A lot of the police officers here today could tell you that you do not generally find young schoolchildren in those rough and unpleasant neighbourhoods. Neighbourhoods like that are much more of a problem and require more police intervention.

The goal of all this is to turn police intervention into medical intervention. As for the “not in my backyard” mentality, I would say that, in most places where such sites could be set up, it would almost be better for them and life there would become more pleasant.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last time this bill was brought up for debate was in January, and I did not get a chance to speak to it then. Since the government has waited six months to bring it back as an important issue it would like to have discussed, I am happy I have the opportunity to speak to it.

I also have a question for the government. What is the hurry? The last time the government wanted to talk about Bill C-2 was January 30, when it called it up for debate. Today, on June 17, there seems to be a huge hurry, because the government needs to stop debate again. It needs to curtail the debate that happens in this House, again. The government wants to make sure that it limits the debate in this House by moving yet another time allocation motion.

I just do not understand. If this is so important for the government, why did it not bring it up sooner? Why did the government wait six months? Now it is so important that it needs to stop debate and push it through the House. That just goes to show, once again, the lack of respect for Parliament.

I will come back to Bill C-2 now. This is a deeply flawed bill based on an anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. The government continues to talk about public safety concerns and how Bill C-2 would actually protect our communities and make them safer. In reality, that is not the truth. It really should be a health bill, not a public safety bill. Looking at the details and the actionable items that would come out of the bill, it should actually be a health-related bill.

This is yet another attempt by the Conservative government to rally its base. We witnessed its “Keep heroin out of our backyards” fundraising it did on its website just moments after the bill was introduced in the House. It just goes to show that the Conservatives are trying to continue fearmongering and rallying their base, raising money from their ideological standpoint.

The NDP feels that sound public policy should not be based on ideology but on facts and evidence. That is what we are pushing for.

I would like to talk a little about the background of Bill C-2, if I may, because my constituents who are listening at home may not know what Bill C-2 is all about or what safe injections sites are.

Canada only has one safe injection site in the country, and it is located in Vancouver. Since the opening of InSite in 2003, I believe, Vancouver has actually seen a 35% decrease in overdose deaths and has also had a decrease in crime, communicable disease infection rates, and relapse rates for drug users in the community around the safe injection site called InSite.

This bill is about the section 56 exemption InSite receives and that other drug injection sites would receive. InSite was originally granted the exemption in 2003 to operate under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for medical and scientific purposes to provide services and to do research on the effectiveness of supervised injection facilities.

Section 56 is the section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that grants the minister the authority to approve operations using drugs for medical, scientific, or law enforcement purposes.

In 2008, the section 56 exemption granted by the minister had expired, and the minister of health at that time denied InSite's renewal of the section 56 exemption, which of course triggered a series of court cases in which the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that InSite should be granted the exemption. We then had the Federal Court appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeal, which also ruled that InSite should stay open.

I do not want to talk too much more about the background, but I want to make sure that people at home in Scarborough know what I am talking about.

The Supreme Court ruling said that InSite and other supervised injection sites must be granted the section 56 exemption where they decrease the risk of death and disease and where there is little or no evidence that they would have a negative impact on public safety. Even the Supreme Court decision showed that there was no decrease in public safety but rather that it could help the community. The Supreme Court decision in 2011 refused the government's argument. The Conservatives had tried for four years to force the closure of InSite.

I mentioned some of the statistics, but I have more. For example, between 1987 and 1993, the rates of overdose deaths in Vancouver had increased from 16 deaths per annum to 200 deaths per annum. That is from evidence provided to the Supreme Court. However, the rate of overdose deaths in east Vancouver had dropped 35% since InSite had opened. That is just from the one site. This information was from Marshall, Milloy, Wood, Montaner, and Kerr and published in The Lancet in 2011.

Over a one-year period, 2,171 referrals were made for InSite users. They did not just use the services of the safe injection site under the supervision of health care professionals but actually took it one step further. More than 2,000 people sought addiction counselling or were able to receive other types of support services.

There was a significant improvement in the lives of the people who live in the Vancouver area near InSite and a significant improvement in the safety of the community, because there was also a significant drop in the number of discarded syringes, injection-related litter, and people injecting on the streets one year after InSite opened.

Injection drug users who use InSite are 70% less likely to share needles. This statistic came from Kerr et al, who I mentioned earlier, in 2005. The internationally known best practice to reduce the rate of HIV-AIDS is to reduce the sharing of needles. This has been proven to be what is happening in the Vancouver area around InSite.

Going back to the Supreme Court decision, it refused the arguments made by the government. The Supreme Court said that if it supported the closure of InSite, it would actually be violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it would prohibit Canadians from having access to health care services that were making them healthier. To stop the provision of these services would increase the danger to their lives.

We are supposed to be prudent law-makers. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the constituents we represent and to all Canadians to make sure that we are doing the due diligence needed to put forth laws that make our country better and make communities safer and healthier. The bill before us would not do that. The Supreme Court's ruling was quite clear in making that argument.

The Conservative government likes to talk about NIMBYism, “not in my backyard”, or “we do not want heroine in our backyards, do we?”

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the Conservative member is heckling about, but I have a statistic here that says that 80% of people surveyed living or working in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside actually support InSite and the work it is doing to improve the community and the quality of life of the people in the community.

This legislation is defiant of the Supreme Court's decision. It should be with the health ministry and not the public safety ministry. It should not be forced through this House under time allocation.

I would be happy to take any questions.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the comments of my colleague across the way with great curiosity. I am from British Columbia and have experienced InSite being an issue in my province for many years.

I have one question. I wonder if the member could answer whether she thinks injecting heroin is safe.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the other member is yelling at me over here right now, but the question that the member asked does not have a yes or no answer. Maybe we need to have a little workshop about open-ended and close-ended questions.

The injection of heroin is not the issue here. The issue is making sure that people who are already having substance abuse problems have access to safe injection sites and then to improve the quality of their life and get away from the drug abuse situation that they might be in.

This type of fearmongering and trying to bully or intimidate me in the House will not stop me from trying to support Canadians and making this country a better place.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have waited a long time to speak.

In my neighbourhood, there are a lot of addicts. I heard some Conservative ministers ask whether we would want such sites in our backyard. Oh yes, I would.

Moreover, out of the four sites that are planned for Montreal, one will be in my riding. We find a lot of syringes in the parks and that is dangerous for the children. In Hochelaga, there are unfortunately a lot of bad drugs, which affect a lot of people.

An organization called Dopamine is already helping protect children and adults by picking up the syringes. It also gives clean syringes to addicts to stop people from getting sick. However, there is nothing Dopamine can do about bad drugs.

At a supervised injection site or a supervised injection service, specialists would be on site to ensure that people who inject too many drugs are protected, do not die and do not transmit diseases to others.

That is what we call harm reduction. That is what these sites are used for, and it has been proven effective in a number of cities.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her intelligible question and her comments about her constituency. She is right when she says that places like InSite are not for drug dealers but for health care professionals. It is where our health workers are making sure that the members in their community are safer and are living healthier lives. Weaning these people off their addictions could be a slow process, but it is our health care professionals who are overseeing this.

I want to talk to the second point that my hon. colleague mentioned with respect to harm reduction. We know that the Conservatives do not like the idea of harm reduction in our drug strategy, because in 2007 they took the words “harm reduction” out of the national drug strategy. Now it seems they are looking to dismantle anything in our legislation, our laws, our policies, and our regulations that would support and endorse the approach of harm reduction.

We strongly believe that harm reduction is the way to move forward.

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for proving a point that we have been trying to make in this House; that is that the members opposite want more time to debate. They have already had 18 hours on this particular subject. More than 97 members have stood in this House to speak to this issue. One of the complaints I have heard from my colleagues is that the NDP members continue to stand up and read virtually the same speech and raise the same issues.

The member asked a pertinent question, whether heroin is safe. Heroin is made by bad guys. It is not a controlled substance. It is not produced in a government lab. Is that the next issue? That is a very pertinent question. Is the NDP saying that the Government of Canada, if run by the NDP, would use taxpayer dollars to make the heroin so that it is safe to be injected at safe injection sites? Is that where the NDP is going with this?

Second readingRespect For Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister's question is quite interesting; that is all I will say.

Heroin is a dangerous substance. This is why we should not be using heroin. This is why most people do not use heroin. However, there are some who have, for whatever reasons, fallen into a negative spiral of substance abuse, whether it is heroin or any other substance abuse.

Take alcohol, for example. Many people in this country drink alcohol, and it is all right. It is culturally accepted. However, there people who have substance abuse problems with alcohol.

I am not saying that it is for the government to get into the production of heroin; I am not sure if the minister is suggesting that. No, heroin is not a safe substance to be using. That is not what the NDP is saying.

The NDP is supporting harm reduction in our communities. That is what the only safe injection site in Canada is doing: making the community actually better by improving harm reduction in that community

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not think I was speaking, but I will just go on the record as saying this about Bill C-2.

I was on the council for the city of Burlington for about 12 years. As a former councillor, it is important to have community input on where these injection sites can operate. Bill C-2 provides the opportunity for public and community input. Where these sites should be located is a community decision because they know better than we do in Ottawa.

Therefore, I am supportive of Bill C-2.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, would the member like to elaborate as to why the government has made the decision to bring in this legislation, understanding full well that it is in response to a Supreme Court ruling. The government seems to be offside with many of the different stakeholders. When I talk about stakeholders, I am talking about professional law enforcement officers, health care providers, social workers, victims, communities and different levels of governments, whether municipal, provincial or national, that worked together to put into place Canada's first injection site out in Vancouver. The numbers have shown that it has been beneficial to the community, so why is the legislation in its current format?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the important message is that with the legislation we are respecting what the Supreme Court has indicated. We believe that if these sites are to continue in different locations across the country, those communities in which the sites wish to operate have a responsibility to discuss their locations, debate them and understand what the needs of the community and those injection sites are. Where they are to be located should be accepted by the local communities in which they will exist, if they exist in the future.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask my colleague a question. He did not go into much detail about his personal opinion on this bill during his speech.

I would like to know whether he thinks that injection sites like the one in Vancouver promote public health and safety.

If Vancouver did not have the site—I am talking about Vancouver because it is the only site we have in Canada—where would the people who, unfortunately, use illegal drugs go?

How can having safer places improve public health and safety even if the ultimate goal is to help all Canadians be healthy and not use drugs that are bad for them?

How can these sites ensure public health and safety in communities that can be dangerous because of drug use and used needles found in public places?

Why is this a good thing for public health and safety?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the premise of the question is that because an injection site, where people who take illegal drugs can get them legally, is in a defined location that this is safe and healthy. Since I am giving my personal opinion, I am not convinced that just because a spot has registered nurses or whomever to provide the clean needles, that the government of the day, whether it is municipal, provincial, or federal, should provide that site. Nobody disagrees that these are harmful substances for those who take them.

Personally I am not sure whether this is the right approach for any government to take.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is important to say it again and again: Bill C-2 is a thinly veiled attempt to shut down safe injection sites.

This legislation is in direct opposition to a 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites as a way to reconcile public health and safety issues.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about the only supervised injection site we have in Canada, in Vancouver’s sadly infamous Downtown Eastside. InSite was developed as part of a public health project by the City of Vancouver, and its community partners, of course, in response to a twelve-fold increase in overdose-related deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. It took years for InSite to be up and running, and it went under incredible local and national scrutiny.

In Vancouver, not only do the police support the safe injection site, which is already quite something, but so do local businesses, the business district, the board of trade and municipal politicians. The project has been the focus of over 30 scientific reports and studies that have described the benefits of InSite. These findings have been peer-reviewed and published in journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal. As well, studies of more than 70 supervised injection sites in Europe and Australia have reported similar benefits.

InSite first received an exemption in 2003 for conducting activities for a medical and scientific purpose, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Since then, InSite has seen good results. This is important. It helps save lives, prevents accidental overdoses and makes the neighbourhood safer for everyone.

However, in 2008, InSite’s exemption under the legislation expired, and the Conservative government rejected InSite’s renewal request. The debate went as far as the Supreme Court, which decided that InSite was a very important health facility. The ruling urged the minister to examine all of the evidence in light of the benefits of safe injection sites, not to devise a long list of principles on which to base his decisions.

I would like to quote a critically important excerpt from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision, since the bill now before us is supposedly based on this ruling. Here is what the Supreme Court had to say in its decision:

On future applications, 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. Where, as here, a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption.

I think that the ruling is quite clear. In my riding of Québec, I have had the opportunity to meet several times with stakeholders and volunteers, including those from an organization called Point de repères. That organization's mission consists of health promotion, prevention and the delivery of care and services, especially for people dealing with addiction. It is important to understand this difference: an organization like Point de repères does not encourage drug use, but, rather, it advocates a harm reduction approach.

As the Point de repères website indicates:

The harm reduction approach is a community-based approach to health that focuses on helping people with addictions develop ways to mitigate the negative consequences of their behaviour, rather than on eliminating the use of psychotropic drugs.

I think it is important to understand the fine points of this often sensitive subject. As explained on the Point de repères website:

Drug use has a significant impact on both the user and the community. Often, lack of knowledge, misconceptions and prejudices about people who use drugs lead to a series of inappropriate actions that cause additional harm to the user and the community.

I had the opportunity to watch a documentary made in Quebec City by people from Quebec City entitled Pas de piquerie dans mon quartier. They realized the effects that drugs were having on the people using them. They wanted to make sure that they would not find syringes in the streets or in the parks where children played. We do not want a shooting gallery in our neighbourhood, but at the same time, we have to help these people.

The documentary sheds light on the addiction issue in Quebec City. Let me quote the opening sequence, which reflects the glaring truth:

The war on drugs is often turned into a war on drug users. It is a bit like the war on poverty—we have to be careful not to turn it into a war on the poor.

It is full of common sense. It is a way of entering into that world, which we do not know very well at all, in an attempt to finally come up with good solutions.

We must ask ourselves why the government is so lacking in objectivity when it comes to this issue. Why are the Conservatives refusing to recognize the facts laid out before them?

The NDP believes that decisions about programs that could enhance public health should be based on facts, not ideological stances. We are not alone in thinking that. According to the Canadian Medical Association, supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.

For its part, the Canadian Nurses Association 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.

Evidence has shown that supervised injection sites effectively reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and reduce deaths from overdoses. Evidence has also shown that these sites do not adversely affect public safety and that, in certain cases, they actually promote it by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour, and waste related to drug use.

Safe injection sites strike a balance between public health and public safety goals. They also connect people in urgent need of health care with the services they need, such as primary health care and addiction treatment.

The NDP believes that any new legislation concerning safe injection sites must respect the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling, which this bill does not do.

As my colleague from Vancouver East has said, Bill C-2 contains as many criteria as there are letters in the alphabet, and those 26 criteria are so restrictive and biased that they are practically impossible to comply with.

The NDP believes that harm-reduction programs, including safe injection sites, should benefit from exemptions based on evidence that they improve community health and save people's lives, not on ideological beliefs.

To conclude, I would once again like to highlight the exceptional work that my colleague from Vancouver East has done on this. She has moved it forward step by step. We will not give up. We believe in working on this issue, because the lines are too vague, and the Supreme Court ruling is not being honoured.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, halfway through her speech my colleague mentioned the documentary Not in My Backyard, which I have to admit I have not seen yet. Critics tell me it is very good and very informative.

One thing she mentioned was that waging war on drugs results in waging war on addicts themselves. I wholeheartedly agree. We heard an example. The member for Burlington was kind enough to give us his personal opinion about this. He told us that many local neighbourhoods do not want this. It is a similar situation all around, which results in a lack of understanding.

We must remember that this is a fundamentally evidence-based situation. Section 56 exists to allow this exemption. Why? It is because it helps. This safe injection site has resulted in a 35% reduction in the abuse of drugs. The member also illustrated her point by using examples from around the world, and I appreciate that.

Does my colleague not feel that in the future, all the rules that will have been handed down will ensure that this will not proliferate beyond the one site in Vancouver?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been to east Vancouver. It is a dangerous place, but I did not go into the centre of the neighbourhood, where it is particularly bad. I went onto the neighbouring streets because I wanted to see the most extreme aspects of the problem for myself.

There are also people struggling with addictions in Quebec City, where I am from, but the situation there is nowhere near as critical as it is in east Vancouver. These people need help. We cannot simply ignore the problem. We have no choice but to find solutions.

The situation in Vancouver is so bad that I am no longer able to watch documentaries on Canal D showing this part of Vancouver as one of the most dangerous places in the world in terms of addictions.

I would really like the government to take action on health and safety.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Québec for her speech. She illustrated the need to not simply abandon people with drug addictions, especially those using hard drugs, since it is basically a disease.

I remember some of the meetings my colleague from Québec and I had with certain agencies that help people suffering from addictions and experiencing all sorts of problems in their lives, since everything is interrelated.

Could my colleague report to the House the very worthy things several people who managed to escape addictions of their own volition, but also with a great deal of support, had to say about the desperate need for a safe place where addicts can get help with their problems until they can break free of their addictions?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments. I know he also works very closely with these community agencies. Listening to these agencies gives us, as members of Parliament, a much more realistic view of the problem.

I have spoken with Point de repères, an organization that plays a crucial role in this issue. However, I know of other organizations. I wish to acknowledge Projet intervention prostitution Québec and Pech, two organizations my colleague is very familiar with that have been doing outstanding work in partnership with the Quebec City police, for example.

This demonstrates that it is possible for community organizations to work together with people struggling with addictions to find a solution.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me opportunity to speak to this bill, which seeks to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Before I begin, I would like to commend my colleague for Vancouver East for her excellent work on this file. She has worked tirelessly, and I believe we should recognize that her efforts have contributed to the progress our country has made in this regard.

This bill is an attempt to close down supervised injection sites. This would go against a Supreme Court ruling that recognized Vancouver's InSite, currently the only site in Canada, as a key player in this field, an indispensable stakeholder when it comes to public health and safety.

Decisions of this kind that have such a direct impact on public health and safety must not be taken lightly. They must be based on fact, not driven by ideological positions that stem solely from the belief that there should not be any drugs in Canada. I understand the principle here and there is something to be said for it, but that is not how things work. There are many things that we would gladly dispense with but that are still around. At some point what we need to do is deal with the situation. We need to set up sites where these individuals will receive support and maybe even find solutions to overcome their addiction and mitigate its harmful effects.

I used to be a social worker. I worked not with addicts but with young people. I can therefore say that the solution does not lie with repressive measures or scare tactics about drug use. I really do not agree with the Conservative government’s ideology.

The benefits of a safe injection site have been borne out by the facts. There are benefits to operating this type of facility. Studies on more than 70 injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown that these sites have a positive impact on people, communities and drug addicts.

I mentioned harm mitigation. It is impossible to eliminate all the harmful effects but, by adopting this type of philosophy, harm can be mitigated. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I for one believe that this is a sensible approach.

Vancouver’s InSite is currently the only facility of its kind in Canada. However, other cities have plans for sites that they want to set up.

Earlier, in response to certain members opposite who asked whether we wanted to see injection sites in our own ridings, my colleague from Hochelaga stated that she would welcome such a site in her Montreal riding. The need for such sites is overwhelming. The health and safety of Canadians and communities depend on it.

Safe injection sites save lives and it would be highly irresponsible of the government to take steps to prevent such facilities from opening in the future.

Bill C-2 is seriously flawed. It is based on an unrealistic anti-drug ideology and on false concerns over public safety. In my view, it is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the Conservatives' “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign. However, when heroin has already found its way into our community, it is rather difficult to eradicate it unless this type of recourse is available.

The bill will make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites and will have the adverse effect of promoting the return of heroin to our neighbourhoods. Drugs are illegal, and we are well aware of it. I know that I do not have the right to walk around with heroin, but a lot of people will do it, just the same. If we only had to legislate on an issue for it never to happen again, life would be very easy. However, this is not the way things work.

Basically, Bill C-2 goes directly against the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision that called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites, in an effort to reconcile health and public safety considerations. In its ruling, the court urged the minister to consider all of the evidence in light of the benefits of supervised injection sites, rather than devise a long list of principles on which to base his decisions.

There is no safe injection site in my riding. However, there is one agency, the Centre d'intervention jeunesse des Maskoutains—it does not work just with young people—which does a lot of work on harm reduction, primarily through needle exchanges and awareness programs. It does not take them into care. The workers meet with people who have a drug problem and give them a helping hand. In my view, safe injection sites can also play this role.

As I said earlier, at the moment, no injection sites are open in Canada with the exception of InSite, in Vancouver, which has been running since 2003. Since it opened, there has been a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. That is quite significant. It is also been noted that InSite has led to a decrease in crime, communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. It also gives drug users a helping hand toward recovery. It is not a place where people go to inject drugs and to party. It is not anything like that. It is a place where people who want help can go. This also helps make our communities a safer place. I do not think these are elements that can be ignored.

As I said earlier, supervised injection sites reduce the risk of contracting and spreading communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. They also help prevent overdose-related deaths. It has also been shown that they pose no threat to public safety. On the contrary, they promote public safety by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour and drug-related waste. Personally, I would rather have an injection facility in my neighbourhood than see my child going off to play in the park and getting pricked accidentally by a syringe. Injection sites do not reduce the risk to zero but do reduce it significantly.

I would like to explain what a supervised injection site is all about and provide some information about how InSite operates.

In order to use the services of InSite, users must be at least 16. They must sign a user agreement and comply with a code of conduct. They cannot be accompanied by children. InSite is open seven days a week and has 12 injection bays. Users bring their own drugs and staff provide them with clean injection equipment. Nurses and staff supervise the centre and provide emergency medical assistance if necessary. Users who have completed an injection are assessed by staff and taken to a post-injection lounge or treated by a nurse in the treatment room for injection-related conditions.

As members can see, this type of facility is a serious initiative. In my view, these facilities are essential to the well-being of our communities.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague’s speech. She raised some interesting points. At the end of her speech, she said it was very important to point out that these sites will not be used by just anybody. Users will have to meet certain criteria. We do not want children using these sites. Individuals will need to be at least 16 years old. There will also be medical supervision when necessary, which is quite interesting.

I would like my colleague to elaborate on the health and safety aspect of this issue. It is important to come up with solutions that will protect the health and safety of our children and families.

We all go to the same places around the city, such as parks. We live in the same neighbourhoods, which is why we need to come up with concrete solutions for everyone.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her very pertinent question.

As I said earlier, this type of site will not be used by just anyone. These sites will not be run in a haphazard way either. When people hear “safe injection site”, right away they think of a place where people will simply go to shoot up. This is not what we are dealing with here.

A safe injection site is a place where there is medical staff, where someone can be treated in an emergency and where people can be referred. If someone comes to the site looking for help and wants to stop using injected drugs, that person will be referred to the right place and given help.

If there are places where people can go to inject drugs safely, it prevents the problem of having used needles and drug-related waste littering our parks. That helps keep our communities and children safe.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for her wonderful speech.

People who do not want such a site in their neighbourhood think that way because they are misinformed. If people were better informed about the benefits of these sites, they would not be opposed to them. Does my colleague share my view?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand why people who have been in contact with this problem and who have seen the resulting harm would be afraid of seeing such a site open near their home. They are afraid because of a lack of knowledge and understanding.

Politicians and those who work in this field need to raise public awareness about these sites. They need to clearly explain exactly what a safe injection site is and what it is for, as well as the benefits such sites can bring to our communities and to people struggling with addictions.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:05 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I want to be clear from the outset that New Democrats oppose the bill at second reading.

Bill C-2 is a deeply flawed bill based on a deeply flawed premise. This premise, advanced by Conservatives, takes the position that I think goes back to the Reagan years in the United States. Members may remember Nancy Reagan's “just say no to drugs” position. It is a very simplistic appealing approach, but it has been proven in the United States that this anti-drug and abstinence approach on the issue of addiction has been a colossal failure.

The approach of New Democrats is one of promoting health and safety for those who, sadly, are suffering from addiction, but also promoting the safety of communities and neighbourhoods. Our approach is one of harm reduction. In other words, it would promote healthy outcomes and hopefully reduce the harm that those who suffer from addictions are exposed to.

The bill, in fact, is a thinly veiled attempt to stop safe injection sites from operating. At present, in Canada, there is only one safe injection site, InSite, which is operating in Vancouver. However, since the Conservatives took the provision of harm reduction out of the national drug strategy in 2007, they have been opposed to the operation of InSite. Finally, this issue was taken to court and there was a Supreme Court decision on this. I will get to that in more detail in a few minutes.

In essence, Bill C-2 is an attempt to lay out conditions that are so extensive, so arduous, with benchmarks so high that InSite or other potential sites would be unable to surmount these obstacles and thus unable to operate. We believe that, in fact, is the goal behind the proposed legislation. Thus, the “do no harm” approach or “harm reduction” approach would be thrown out the window.

Our belief on this side of the House among New Democrats is that decisions about programs must be based on whether or not there are benefits, which must be based on facts rather than ideology. However, we believe that those on the other side of the House are driven by ideology on the bill and are wilfully ignoring the facts in this case.

I mentioned the Supreme Court. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that InSite, this facility in Vancouver that provides a safe injection site for people with addictions, provided life-saving services and in fact should remain open. To do that, it required an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act under section 56. This is an exemption under which InSite has been operating for a number of years. The court ruled that it was within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for InSite users to access this service, not only in Vancouver, but at sites that operate elsewhere.

What is this scientific proof that I am talking about based on?

In fact, there have been over 30 peer-reviewed studies published in reputable, distinguished journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal, which have described the beneficial impacts of InSite.

Furthermore, studies of more than 70 safe injection sites in other countries, in Europe and Australia, have shown similar benefits. InSite has been extremely beneficial for those who use it and should be allowed to continue to operate, but we would argue that it has been beneficial not only for those who use InSite but for the community in which it is located.

The Conservatives, with the launch of this bill, also immediately tried to rally their base and launched a campaign called “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. I am sure they raised a lot of money with that campaign and generated a lot of data in preparation for the next federal election, but in fact, it is based on a false premise. This bill would actually put heroin back into people's backyards, because if there are no safe injection sites, people who are hopelessly addicted will resort increasingly to crime and to injecting in communities, on our streets, and in our neighbourhoods rather than in a safe injection site. Therefore, not only will people who have a serious health issue due to an addiction put themselves at greater risk, but they will also be putting communities at risk.

I come from a community that is, I believe, one of the finest communities anywhere. My riding of Parkdale—High Park is a very diverse community. There are people from all different socio-economic levels, and in spite of one of the local city councillors attacking the Parkdale community and trying to label, stigmatize, and stereotype people in the community, the people who live there do not feel that way. They believe that society as a whole includes people who have imperfect lives, people who have mental health challenges, family problems, and yes, sometimes suffer from addictions, regardless of what income level they happen to be in. There are certainly people at very high income levels who suffer from addictions and sometimes spend a lot of money supporting those addictions.

Therefore, my community includes a wide cross-section of people, but whether it is community agencies, neighbourhood organizations, police, or community helpers, people have come together with political representatives and said our goal has to be one of harm reduction. They say if people are suffering from poor mental health or addictions or whatever challenges they are facing, we should find a way to help them through this in as safe a way as possible and, hopefully, help them to recover and lead normal lives. One of the big advantages of a facility like InSite is that the people who use that facility can access health professionals, counselling, and support and, hopefully, transition through their addictions and come out the other end to lead normal lives. There are certainly many instances of that.

In conclusion, I want to say this is a deeply flawed bill. New Democrats believe it is in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling and, once again, pits the government against the judicial system. It will do far more harm than good and should be rejected by the House.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the last issue that my colleague raised is extremely important. I will give her a chance to tell us more about the Conservatives' approach to the Supreme Court.

As we know, the Conservatives have been trying to destroy all of our institutions, including environmental regulatory bodies and administrative tribunals. What is going on between the Conservatives and the Supreme Court? As Canada's highest institution, the Supreme Court makes rulings and sets out principles, things that the Conservatives do not seem to give a damn about, if you will excuse my language.

Could my colleague tell us more about the Conservatives' habit of violating Supreme Court rulings?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

As she pointed out, in 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that InSite provided essential services and that it could stay open under the exemption provided for by section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The court held that the charter allowed users to access InSite's services and that similar facilities should also be allowed to operate under an exemption.

Apparently, the government thinks that it is not ruled by the charter, and that its own legal judgment is better than the Supreme Court's. That is mind-boggling. The charter underpins Canada's entire legal system. It is imperative that the government comply with the charter and with these rulings.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill would require organizations to submit evidence demonstrating why they feel an injection site is warranted. I wonder if the member could first answer why she opposes the Minister of Health making an informed decision based on scientific evidence and in the public interest.

There is also the issue of consultation. Would the member opposite want a safe injection site that was, for example, to be located next to a schoolyard, a church, or a building where young children were located, or should there be a consultation process established there as well?

I wonder if the member would comment on those issues.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course, we believe in community consultation. That is why, when there is some kind of new facility going into a community, there would normally be consultation with community leaders, law enforcement, and political leaders. The community would be involved.

What would not make sense is to have an opportunity for a fearmongering campaign to say, as a city councillor did in Toronto yesterday, that a community is full of pedophiles, so our children are going to be in danger. Here, we can imagine a campaign that would say that people who are addicted would be injecting drugs in front of our children when, in fact, the opposite is true.

With a very long drawn-out consultation period and tests and barriers so high, many organizations will probably not have the resources to even fulfill this long drawn-out process. It seems that the intent of the government is to prevent any such facilities from being established. The Conservatives may feel that makes more sense.

I do not doubt the member's sincerity in his question, but I ask him to consider that, if there are not safe sites where people can go when they are addicted to try to get what they need, and hopefully get some help and support, maybe they will be out in the community, truly putting kids at risk. For us, that is a greater risk.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, whether it is this evening, back in January, or whenever it was that the government last brought this legislation before the House, I have heard a number of the Conservative members stand in their place and pose questions like “Do members oppose consultation?” and “What's wrong with consulting with others before any form of decision is made?” because that, after all, is incorporated in the legislation.

It is important for us to recognize that Canada has one InSite location, in Vancouver. I can assure all Conservative members that there was, in fact, a great deal of consultation. In the questions and statements they put forward, they try to give the impression that, without this legislation, there would not be any sort of community consultation. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have seen a great deal not only of consultation but of individuals within our community who truly care about what is happening in our communities and who believe that the particular site we are always making reference to has actually given a great deal of value in being able to change the reality in many different ways.

I would ask the government to recognize that, at the end of the day, when we come to the House of Commons, we are trying to improve the conditions of our communities. If done appropriately—and that also includes consultations and working with the different stakeholders—we will make a more significant difference, in a positive way, in the communities we represent.

I represent a wonderful constituency. I am very proud of all regions of my constituency. There are some areas that have different types of challenges and different issues from other areas. In the areas around Main Street and Selkirk Avenue, for example, there is a lot more drug addiction and drug abuse. There is perhaps a higher degree of exploitation. We need to be thinking outside the box on how we might assist our communities, in whatever ways we can help develop and ultimately promote. I am not suggesting there has to be an injection site located there. However, if the argument were made from the different stakeholders, as it was done in Vancouver, then it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the potential that would ultimately benefit the broader community. I for one want to make a difference.

When the government brought forward this legislation, within an hour or an hour and a half of the legislation first being introduced what did the government do? It issued a very crass and misleading fundraising letter that went out to its supporters, stating that Liberals and New Democrats want addicts to shoot up heroin in the backyards in communities across the country. There is absolutely no merit to that press release. However, I can understand from that release what the real agenda of the Conservative Party is. What we need to see more of from our government is a caring attitude, some compassion, and a real desire to make a difference in the different types of communities we all represent.

The issues that face our communities vary, not only within regions of our country but even within municipalities. I would ask the government to look at what it can be doing to play a more significant role in making a positive difference in those communities.

If we look at Bill C-2, it is about injection sites and the Supreme Court ruling and how the government has responded to the ruling. I was provided some fairly extensive notes in regard to the ruling. As opposed to reading that into the record, suffice to say that the Supreme Court ordered that the minister grant an exemption to InSite under section 56 of the CDSA. However, this would not affect the minister's power to withdraw the exemption should the operation at InSite change such that the exemption would no longer be appropriate.

There is a fairly long, convoluted argument as to why it ended up in our court system and why the government responded as it did.

We have found the government wanting in the area of demonstrating compassion and recognizing a very important community.

What I would like to emphasize is that this did not just occur overnight. The injection site we have today actually came into being through an immense amount of consultation and co-operation with a wide variety of stakeholders and individuals who had a vested interest in advancing what has been a very successful project.

The government, and in particular the minister responsible, has never been out to the safe injection site we are referring to. How does the minister responsible for legislation that is going to have such a profound impact on injection sites, if in fact there are going to be any additional injection sites, not check out the one injection site we have? Unless the minister has visited the site in Vancouver recently, I believe that is an accurate statement. I would ask the government to correct it if it is not accurate.

What is it we are suggesting? When we talk about the important role Ottawa plays in our communities, part of that is the work done with stakeholders. What have we had in regard to this injection site in Vancouver? We have had the municipal government, the provincial government, and the national government all working together to try to bring into existence what was initially a pilot project.

Many different stakeholders that had an interest were brought in, including law enforcement officers, health care professionals, social workers, and other advocacy groups that understood that there was a need to try to make a difference. All came together with the idea, and it was launched.

In the years that followed, InSite received accolades from many of the same stakeholders who helped make it a reality. The evidence is there.

If the government would only spend some time and check out the site and look at the evidence, I believe we would have a government that would see a lot more value in demonstrating more compassion.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question, but it again demonstrates the understanding of the issue within the Conservative caucus. From what I understand, there is one site.

If the Minister of Health had taken the time to go to that one site in Vancouver, I suspect that she would have had her eyes opened to the reality of the many benefits. Members talk about the needles and the things involved in injections. I would just as soon have that sort of thing, or witnessing people injecting heroin, a deadly drug that no one in this chamber support, at the site as opposed to in the back lanes and schoolyards in our communities. These are the types of things that were happening and still are happening throughout communities across our country.

It was at such a high concentration that it was deemed necessary in Vancouver to provide this service to improve the quality of life in the community.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech.

It seems obvious that the government introduced this bill in an underhanded attempt to make it more difficult to open a safe injection site. That is a major problem, because it is standing in the way of local initiatives that may prove to be quite successful, like the one in Vancouver. Among other things, these initiatives can help address a public health issue and even save the lives of those who do drugs like cocaine and heroin. Unfortunately, the government would rather drive thousands of Canadians across the country further underground.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the motivations behind the government's approach.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we do not have a large number. I am not personally aware of any further requests for supervised injection sites.

The reason I take great offence to the bill is that it makes the assumption that no consultation is being done. The government is not basing its decision on facts or information and the many success stories we have had from the one injection site. The political motivation seems to be to raise money for the Conservative party and to give the impression that they can be tough on crime and individuals who fall on the other side of drug abuse.

I like to think of the Liberal Party as one that truly cares, does not mind extending a helping hand, approaches things with an open mind, and makes decisions based on facts and information. We listen to what our officers of the law, our health care workers, our social workers, and others are saying. If we do that, we will make it a better life for many residents.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a brief but important comment. It is curious that none of my Conservative colleagues decided to rise to debate Bill C-2. Is it because they realized their position is indefensible?

I wonder why they decided to remain silent. From time to time they read a question written on a piece of paper, but none of them have risen to bring any substance to the debate. I hope one of my colleagues on the other side of the House will be able to answer this question. However, I have my doubts about that, because they do not have many arguments to use to defend their position.

That being said, the issue of public safety must go much further. We must ask ourselves some questions here. What is a government for? What is the purpose of the Parliament we are part of right now? Its primary purpose is to serve Canadians. Its purpose is to help vulnerable populations who, unfortunately, have not been as lucky as we have been. What is a government for? Its purpose is to help people who, unfortunately, have fallen into the vicious cycle of drugs at some point in their life.

It is not up to us to judge how or why a person ended up in a situation like this. That is not Parliament's role. The government members should be ashamed for judging people, because we are not here to regulate what they are doing. We are here to help them and to pass laws in order to assist the most vulnerable members of our society.

We can try to explain their plight and to blame it on a number of things, but the fact is that this situation exists in our communities. This situation must be resolved. It is through initiatives like InSite that the most vulnerable members of our society are able to overcome their addictions. The InSite initiative will make our communities safer. That is clear.

Many members have been in this House longer than I have. I would have hoped for much better from them and from the government. Why did we become members of Parliament? It is because deep down we thought that we could reach out to people in dreadful situations, help them and do something to improve their lives.

I am sorry. Far be it from me to try to teach my colleagues a lesson, but I believe that the onus is on this government to differentiate between the common good, its ideology, and its personal opinions. Every member of Parliament has his or her own personal opinions. That is a fact. Take abortion, for example. Everyone knows this, and there is no need to belabour the point. The same is true when it comes to drug use. Differences of opinion are normal. That is what makes us human beings. Everybody here expresses their opinions, relates their experiences, and engages in debate in this Parliament. Here, in this Parliament, in this House of Commons, we are representatives of the public. I remind members that the House of Commons is the chamber of the common people, the chamber of the Canadian public. We are not here to peddle our political agendas, personal opinions, or ideology. We are here to represent Canadians. Our values and personal opinions are not more important than the common good, the well-being of vulnerable Canadians, the welfare of our communities.

It is all well and good for the government to stand up and try and defend the indefensible. However, everybody is clear on one point: supervised injection sites work. They help make our children, women and families safer. They also help people to escape terrible situations.

Why does this government refuse to shoulder its fundamental responsibility? Indeed, is it not the government's primary purpose to ensure the safety of Canadians, and to assist Canadians in extremely dangerous situations? I cannot emphasize just how disappointed I am, today, to have to give this speech in an attempt to make the government understand that Canadians’ safety is more important than political ideology.

The Conservatives would have us believe that supervised injection sites, recognized worldwide as being beneficial to public safety, and for driving down mortality rates, are not a good initiative. This is about saving lives, Canadians’ lives. If only a single life were to be saved because of the existence of a supervised injection site, then the initiative would be a good one. Were we to help just a single Canadian to pull themselves up, it would be a good initiative.

The government cannot come to this House and pedal its right wing discourse. We are talking about the lives of human beings. We are talking about people who may die, and we want to help them. It is beyond belief that this government cannot understand the simple fact that Canadians need its help. The Conservatives do not care one iota. They are right here, and they are not even bothering to get up out of their seats, or to argue their point of view. I would like to see a government member get up and explain why saving Canadians’ lives is neither the government’s fundamental duty, nor an important consideration for the member himself.

These sites lower crime rates. They are known to save lives, stem the tide of crime and make our streets and communities safer.

Moreover, what strikes me as passing strange is that the minister has already issued an exemption. He has done this once before. Why? For the purpose of impact studies to determine whether the sites worked. The findings of the studies were unambiguous: supervised injection sites drive down crime and mortality rates, and make our streets safer. Why then is the government standing in the way of a second exemption?

I will say it again. The inherent role of Parliament is to help the most vulnerable. People who used InSite were twice as likely to enrol in a detox program and seek help than those who were left out in the street.

I know that the government does not really like the Supreme Court's decisions and that it does not always comply with them. The Supreme Court was clear:

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.

I talked about fundamental justice at the beginning of my speech. Members of Parliament have the vital role of ensuring that people get help. In 2008, Health Canada published a report indicating that, since 2006, InSite had intervened in 306 overdoses and that there had not been any deaths. Canadians' lives were saved. I cannot believe that a Conservative member can stand here today and say that this kind of site has no purpose. The government cannot argue that this is not in the interest of Canadians.

A comparison of the situation six weeks before and 12 weeks after InSite opened indicated that the number of people injecting drugs in public had decreased. All municipalities agree that this kind of site reduces crime in their communities. Even the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction has shown that supervised injection sites reach out to the most vulnerable groups, are accepted by communities, help improve the health of drug users and reduce drug use among frequent users. According to the Health Canada report, people who used InSite services were twice as likely to seek help and enrol in a detox program.

In conclusion, I would like to say that this is about saving Canadians' lives. The government cannot say that it is not in Parliament's interest to pass legislation that will save lives.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent, heartfelt speech on this issue.

Does she agree with me that this is a hidden, sneaky, disguised attempt by the government to prevent other safe injection sites like the one in Vancouver from opening in other Canadian communities? That is my impression.

Does my colleague get the same impression after reading Bill C-2?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

To ask the question is to answer it, and I think I was clear in my speech. Political ideology should not trump the well-being of the public. All of the experts and all of the studies have shown that this kind of supervised injection site saves lives and makes our streets and communities safer.

That makes us wonder about the government's intentions. The experts, the studies, the reports and even the Supreme Court all say that this kind of site is safe and saves lives, so what is the government's intention?

Why does it want to sabotage this kind of organization? What is its intention? Not a single government member has risen today to tell us.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we will wrap things up in the House before summer. I would really like to thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for her speech.

Thanks to the perspective she brought to this issue, I noticed some similarities with the government's decision to remove long guns from the gun registry. For years, the Conservative government basically granted an amnesty to gun owners who did not register their weapons. It completely undermined the gun registry, which is practically a way of breaking the law.

Listening to my colleague, I realized that the same kind of thing is happening with the bill before us. It was introduced to prevent new sites from opening and to close the existing site in Vancouver even though the court ordered the minister to keep it open.

I would like my colleague to share her views on this approach to getting around rulings and the courts.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

This is an unfortunate way of doing things, since the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and even the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction agree that this type of site is beneficial.

Is that not what the Conservatives want: to reduce crime, decrease drug use and make our streets safer? I think that is part of their basic discourse. The fact that the Conservatives are introducing a bill that goes against the very basis of their ideology shows that rational thought is not part of their discourse.

They bring forward legislation only if they can use it to win votes and do some fundraising. They are not at all interested in the inherent role of Parliament, which is to help our communities and make them safer, while complying with the Supreme Court's clear decisions. In this case, even the Supreme Court stated that this kind of site was in the best interest of Canadians.

To my colleague who asked the question, I would say that the answer is obvious. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, the Supreme Court does not share their completely irrational ideology; yet, once again, the Conservatives want to introduce a bill that does not comply with the Supreme Court's decision.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 7:50 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. At the outset, I just want to make a couple of comments for context.

I understand this issue quite well, given that I am not only a member here, but previously sat on a city council and, for that matter, sat 13 years at Queen's Park. I know there is a difference between passing something at the federal level, where it can be very lofty and desirable in what it says, and when it gets all the way to city council where people actually have to implement it, things can then look very different.

The subject we are dealing with tonight is, for a city councillor, one of the toughest because it is one of those situations where it is not just right or wrong. Right versus wrong is easy. Most of our moms taught us the difference between right and wrong. The challenge is when it is right versus right, but only one can be supreme. In this case, at the city council levels across our country, that is where the issue of halfway houses, detox centres, like the one Mayor Ford is in, and InSite would be one of those challenges.

However, when I said “right versus right”, if we asked people if they could just say no and that would be the end of having any chance of having an InSite operation on their street, would they say it? Most people would. They would say, yes, that they would rather not have that on their street. Why? Mostly they think about their families, the kids and their security, which is foremost on any parent's mind. However, it is not that simple until we figure out a way to have a human race that does not involve people who break the law and humans who are not constructed in such a way that they can become addicted to things like alcohol and other substances, and all the mayhem and damage that is done. If the Conservatives really want to talk about things that are doing damage in this society, let us start talking about what alcohol does to people.

However, for those people, those parents who, if we gave them a chance, would say that they did not want any of those things on their streets, that it should be put somewhere else, there is another set of parents and another set of human beings who have love and compassion for their family members or friends, only they are the victims of the addiction. They are equally worthy of our concern as lawmakers. It is at the city council where the rubber hits the road, because those people are the ones who have to make the decision of “where this goes”. It is not easy.

When people's homes are the biggest investment in their life, it is the old castle, their domain that is for themselves and their family, it is their little place and they want to keep it as secure and safe as they can for their family. When one of those family members is in need of these services, whether a halfway house, a detox centre or a safe injection site, the other side of it is that those individuals are as worthy and as deserving of the protection of lawmakers as well as the support of lawmakers, given the importance we put on health care and ensuring it is universal. For those of us who see this much more as a health issue than as a crime issue, it becomes that much more difficult, because we cannot just say no.

The reason I am raising that is because what the government is attempting to do, in the NDP's view, is micromanage the requirements to the degree where, when I looked at the bill, it looked to me like a zoning application at city council. Those are the questions it asks: What does public health say? What do the police say? What do the zoning experts say? What does the local councillor say? Let us have a public meeting and talk to the families who live in the area, as well as the families who are positively impacted by the service that exists.

We know that this issue should not even be in this bill. All that was required was an extension of the exemption. I am from Ontario, not B.C., but to the best of my knowledge, notwithstanding some day-to-day issues, for the most part, this was working and was saving lives. It was making the community safer and better for everybody. All that was required was, “Yes, we will go for another extension. That is a good project, doing some good work, let's continue.” That is when ideology got in the way, where the government wants to stand behind a bumper sticker slogan. The answer to the Conservatives is just say no. Just say no to the application, do not allow InSite, and just say no to drugs.

Tell people who have a challenge with alcohol just say no. Is there nobody in this place who has a problem? I know some place not that far down the road where a very high-profile person had a problem. That problem does not make the individual a bad person but a person who needs help. In the community that person is in, guess what, there is a detox centre, and that high-profile individual is getting the compassion and supported required. That is exactly what is happening in Vancouver, except that it is not as acceptable as having a little drinkypoo at the end of the day, or a little happy hour kind of thing, or a having a beer watching the game. No, it is not that.

This is tough stuff. This is hard-core addiction, with all that goes with it. Anyone who has ever been to Vancouver and seen the challenges of those communities would understand why it is important that Vancouver has a federal partner that actually wants to help. City council members are doing the heavy lifting. They are the ones having to go into those communities and make the argument that this is good for people and that they all have to kind of share the load in terms of the broader community and the services they have to have. They are the ones that have to put their seats on the line. Trust me, when people are on city council, they do not get to go to the airport and fly hundreds of kilometres away from their constituents and the problem. As soon as city councillors walk out the front door, they are then meeting with their constituents and it stays like that all day until they get home. Then they get up the next day and do the same thing.

Those are the people who have had to go to public meetings and tell moms and dads who are fearful for their kids why this was still a good thing for Vancouver to do. We should be saluting Vancouver's city council for having the courage to take these kinds of steps. Instead, here we are in the House of Commons with a federal government that is doing everything it can to stop the process, to stop the ability of these lives to be saved. I was going to, and maybe I will get a chance in questions and comments, read some of the quotes from the Supreme Court of Canada and what it said about the importance of ensuring that these kinds of safe sites exist for our fellow citizens.

New Democrats stand resolutely opposed to this bill. The bill is wrong-headed, it is wrong in detail, it is wrong in its direction, and it just plain wrong. Canadians deserve better. When there is an NDP government in 2015, they will get that better government.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a day like this, when we are debating this issue in the House and another decision was made in British Columbia today for British Columbians, we see the hypocrisy of the government. It is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Out of one side of its mouth it is saying it wants to consult with Canadians to judge the locations of these centres and, out of the other side, it is saying it does not really want to listen to Canadians in consultation for something like northern gateway.

Could the member perhaps elucidate for the House and Canadians the record of the government in terms of public consultations and due diligence in listening to Canadians?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this important question, and it gives me a chance to use up some of my other notes. It is important to see who is onside with the way we see it, and not the way the government sees it. Well, a little outfit called the Canadian Medical Association happens to believe this is important enough for it comment on, and I quote:

Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.

The Canadian Nurses Association has said much the same thing.

My colleague asked what is happening in B.C. right now. Clearly, the government did not listen to British Columbians and all the various groups within that province who are opposed to the decision the Conservatives made today, and this is no different.

When the government does not want to hear something, it does not matter who says it, where it is coming from, what the credibility is. The Conservatives either tune it right out or worse yet, they attack it. In this case, it is clear that the only people who are opposed to this are hard-core, ideological right wingers. Every other Canadian with a heart and compassion wants these injection sites for Canadians to make our communities safer.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech. I always enjoy them. I particularly liked the part about the ideological bent, but I want to go to the charter side of things. When this year is done and we have all these year-end reviews about what happened in the news, I think two words will come to mind: charter challenge.

Here we find another bill that runs up against the charter under section 7, in the pursuit of life, liberty, and security of the person, which is a fundamental justice. It is a fundamental right for people to preserve their health in a situation where they find themselves wanting to get help. This is about harm reduction.

What bothers me is that it would not be so bad if the argument from the government was that there were problems with this particular site in the way it administers the plan and so forth. The minister has the discretion to get rid of it. However, the argument is fundamentally, “not in my home town”, “not in my backyard”. For some reason, the Conservatives have used this as a defence. In addition to that, what is even more insulting, is that they use it to raise money to win the next election.

I would ask my colleague, have we gotten to the point where all the evidence pointing to harm reduction has been so lost that the goal is only to win the next campaign and to fund raise?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with my colleague.

In fact, just within the last few days, I was standing in exactly the same place making an issue about the fact that the current government passes laws that it knows will not survive a charter challenge, even though it has a requirement to check that ahead of time. The Conservatives know it will not happen, but they do not care. They are worried about the politics of it.

I mean, we get it, we are all in politics, but when one is in government, one does have some responsibility to get above that, especially when we are talking about human rights and charter rights.

For a government to care so little and show so little respect for the Canadian people that it would just pass laws that work politically, knowing they will not survive a charter challenge, is despicable. There is no other word for a government that would do that, which is exactly what the Conservatives are doing here.

The Conservatives know that this is going to go off to the courts. They know that it will not survive a challenge given what the court has already said, but they do not care. What they care about is what my hon. colleague has said: passing a law they can use to raise funds to get votes to get re-elected rather than help the Canadian people. They are not doing that, but when 2015 comes and we get a new NDP government, we will.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:05 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

With every passing day, drugs are becoming an increasingly pressing problem in our big cities, which are less and less humane places. The bill before us today forces us to face what has become, under this Conservative government, an undeniable fact. This bill has an intensely ideological flavour, and completely disregards both fact and reality. This is nothing new in the wonderland inhabited by the Conservatives, who are increasingly out of touch with the needs of Canadians.

Bill C-2 is nothing but a poorly veiled attempt to put an end to supervised injection sites. It became obvious some time ago that this government does not shy away from introducing legislation that flies in the face of recent decisions made by the highest court in the country, the Supreme Court of Canada, which the government seems to consider a threat to its ideology.

In fact, in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that InSite provided essential services and had to remain open under the exemption set out in section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The court also ruled that the charter authorized users to access InSite services, and that the provision of similar services should also be authorized under the same exemption.

In addition, a number of studies published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine, and the British Medical Journal, describe the benefits of the InSite supervised injection site. These are experts in the field, which is why the Conservatives surely will not listen to them.

Over the past three years, it has become apparent that the Conservatives do not take kindly to opinionated scientists, particularly when the opinions of those scientists do not suit them or go against their ideology.

The purpose of a government is not to muzzle scientists or members of the House of Commons and, yet, this has occurred a record number of times in Canadian history under the Conservative government. The government's responsibility is to take stock of the facts and to make the best decisions for Canadians.

With Bill C-2, the government is once again falling into the embarrassing trap of grandstanding and ignoring facts that clearly prove that supervised injection facilities like InSite have a wide range of benefits for the general public.

Indeed, just a few hours after Bill C-2 was introduced, the Conservatives made a big show of announcing their “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign, which was designed to rally grassroots support and to, once again, fuel the public's unfounded fears about safety.

Let us take a few moments to think about this seriously. Are the Conservatives so keen on magical thinking that they believe that, if InSite closed, heroin use would automatically disappear in just a few hours? I hope that their cognitive reasoning is a little more advance than that, but I have my doubts.

The reality is that, after the closure of supervised injection facilities, heroin use would not disappear but would once again be widespread in neighbourhoods and could, at that point, become a real danger for the general public. That is exactly the opposite of what the Conservatives are claiming.

Let us forget the Conservatives' ideological inflexibility that results in exactly the opposite of what they claim, and talk about the real facts about InSite and the positive benefits of supervised injection facilities.

The InSite project was set up as part of a public health initiative by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and a number of other community partners following a 12-fold increase in the number of overdose-related deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. Over that seven-year period, the Vancouver area also saw a disturbing increase in the rate of blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis A, B and C and HIV/AIDS, among injection drug users.

In 2003, InSite secured an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities with medical and scientific applications, in order to provide services and conduct research into the effectiveness of supervised injection facilities.

In 2007, the Onsite Detox Centre was added at the same location. In 2008, InSite's exemption expired.

The Minister of Health denied InSite's application to renew this exemption, a portent of the introduction of Bill C-2, which is before us today.

The Minister of Health's decision triggered a series of court cases, following which the British Columbia Supreme Court found that InSite should be given a further exemption. The Conservative government appealed that decision, but lost. The British Columbia Court of Appeal also found that InSite should remain open.

Finally, in 2011, The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the minister's decision to close InSite violated its clients' charter rights, was arbitrary, and was contrary to the purpose of the act, particularly with respect to public health and safety.

The NDP feels that government decisions should be made with Canadians' best interests in mind and be based on fact rather than on an ideological stance. Evidence has shown that safe injection sites effectively reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne diseases and reduce deaths from overdoses. Evidence has also shown that they do not adversely affect public safety. In some cases, they actually promote it by reducing injection drug use in public and violence, as well as reducing the waste associated with drug use. These sites strike a balance between public health and public safety goals, while connecting the users of these sites with the health services and addiction treatment they need to escape the hell of drug use.

In this case, the facts are clear and unequivocal. Between 1987 and 1993, before InSite was established, the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver increased from 16 to 200 deaths per year. Since InSite opened in 2003, the rate of overdose deaths in east Vancouver has fallen by 35%.

I have some other facts for our Conservative friends who believe that InSite is dangerous and poses a threat to the public.

Over one year, 2,171 InSite users were referred to addiction counselling or other support services. Those who use InSite services at least once a week are 1.7 times more likely to enrol in a detox program than those who visit infrequently. There has been a significant drop in the number of discarded needles, injection-related waste materials, and people injecting themselves with drugs on the street. One year after InSite opened, 80% of respondents living or working in Vancouver's downtown east side supported InSite.

A number of studies have examined the possible negative impact of InSite, but not one single study produced any evidence of harm to the community.

The facts are clear. An initiative like InSite is a step in the right direction in terms of public health and public safety. In contrast to what the Conservatives claim, such an initiative gets drugs off our streets and moves them to supervised sites where people are attended to and strongly encouraged to explore the possibilities for drug treatment and social reintegration.

That is why Bill C-2—which is based on wishful thinking rather than facts, as is often the case on the other side of this House—is simply unacceptable.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech.

I would like him to continue along the lines of what he was saying. Can he explain the potential benefits of a safe injection site for communities? Why do a number of studies show that such sites are beneficial for communities? In Canada, the only place with a site like this is east Vancouver. Could he elaborate on these data and studies?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:15 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his excellent question.

As we have seen, there are now fewer drugs on Vancouver streets thanks to this facility. We could not expect them to disappear completely, obviously.

There is a park across from my home where I sometimes see young people at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. They are clearly not there to play ball. If they had access to an injection site, they would use that facility, if only when it is cold or raining outside. Then the next morning, when my grandchildren come for a visit, I would not need to go to the park with them to make sure everything is all right. They could go by themselves, without me worrying that they may be hurt by a syringe.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:15 p.m.
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NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague fromLaval—Les Îles on his speech. I would like to ask him a very specific question.

Obviously, this is a very sensitive issue. It is also a public health issue, one that is handled appropriately, in a manner approved by the Canadian Medical Association and other response groups. However, it appears that the Conservatives are using this issue as a campaign tool, a way to boost their fundraising. They are polarizing this whole question, which seems to me a very dangerous tack, simply to use it as a fundraising tool now that the gun registry cannot serve that purpose.

What does my colleague think of using such an important and sensitive issue for political reasons and to get funding for the next election, when a level-headed, more scientific approach would be more appropriate?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:15 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I do not know whether or not this is parliamentary language, but I think it is disgusting to use an issue like this to try to raise money. This completely poisons the debate. They are trying to make the public afraid of something that would be of benefit to them. I think it is absolutely disgusting that the Conservatives are acting this way with the public and they are trying to raise money for their election campaign based on lies.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:15 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent work on this issue.

We know that this is a public health and safety issue. Unfortunately, since being elected, we have noticed that the government does not work for all Canadians. I get the impression that it works for its electoral base. I think it is disappointing that they are using this type of issue that affects all Canadians. We have seen this before with other unconstitutional procedures. However, here we have more evidence of the Conservatives going against the Supreme Court decision on injection sites.

Does my colleague not find this approach undemocratic?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:20 p.m.
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NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

Indeed, I find this undemocratic. I do not know why the Conservatives introduce bills knowing that they are unconstitutional, that they go against the charter and that they will be challenged in court. Canadians yet again will end up paying for the legal fees. I do not think this is a very good approach for a party that claims to be close to the public.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2014 / 8:20 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise this evening to speak to this rather sensitive bill. I happen to be very familiar with it as I have heard a great deal about it and have spoken about it with members from all parties. The issue is near and dear to me. I am referring to Bill C-2, also known as Bill C-65 before prorogation. No one will be surprised to hear that we will oppose the bill at second reading.

We already debated the issue back in January. Since then, nothing has happened. For reasons unknown to me, the government did not introduce the bill earlier. It certainly seems to be an urgent matter today, however. We are now in June, faced with a time allocation motion to ensure its speedy passage. It seems to have taken six months for the government to realize the urgency of the situation; after five hours of debate, it has decided to set things in motion.

The bill has been gathering dust on the desk of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for months now; he did not seem the least bit interested in putting the bill on the agenda. I am nevertheless happy that the government has finally decided to get moving. Of course, the fact that it had to do so on Bill C-2 is a real shame. The government could have been made to see the light and amend the bill in order to change its content.

That is not the case, and the bill we are debating today is yet another direct affront to the Supreme Court, as a number of experts have said. We are all aware of the strained relationship the government has with the Supreme Court these days. Once again, the government has no problem defying the Supreme Court, which ruled on this issue in September 2011.

Bill C-2 could very likely violate the Supreme Court's ruling. The government itself asked the Supreme Court to rule on the case in British Columbia.

The government had asked the Supreme Court to review the B.C. court's ruling, since the government was hot happy with it. It was not happy with the Supreme Court's ruling either, but that is the highest court. The government therefore decided to introduce a bill that would directly challenge the Supreme Court of Canada's 2011 ruling. That is pretty brazen for the government to move forward like this. As I said, we oppose this bill.

I want to thank the member for Vancouver East, who has been working on this issue for many years. This situation has been dragging on for years. If memory serves me right, it was in 2008 or even earlier that the federal government's health minister at the time refused to grant an exemption to InSite, the supervised injection site in east Vancouver. The reasons the federal government refused to grant an exemption were probably ideological. It seemed to be against the idea of a supervised injection site.

Today, the Conservatives have asked questions, but they have unfortunately not made any speeches. We have only gotten bits and pieces of information from the other side about their position on the issue. Based on what I have heard in the debate today, they seem to be ideologically opposed to the idea of safe injection sites. There is only one in Canada right now, but steps are underway to open others. In fact, some groups in Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto are working to open such sites.

Many groups have noted the benefits of this type of site. Many studies done in Vancouver have shown the same results. More than 30 peer-reviewed studies— it is important to note this—published in journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal have described the benefits of InSite. Organizations that work on solving the problem of drug use in our communities have noted the beneficial impact of InSite, in east Vancouver. They are trying to replicate Vancouver's positive experience.