An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Jane Philpott  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, 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) simplify the process of applying for an exemption that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site, as well as the process of applying for subsequent exemptions;

(b) prohibit the importation of designated devices — unless the importation is registered with the Minister of Health — as well as prescribed activities in relation to designated devices;

(c) expand the offence of possession, production, sale or importation of anything knowing that it will be used to produce or traffic in methamphetamine so that it applies to anything that is intended to be used to produce or traffic in any controlled substance;

(d) authorize the Minister to temporarily add to a schedule to that Act substances that the Minister has reasonable grounds to believe pose a significant risk to public health or safety, in order to control them;

(e) authorize the Minister to require a person who may conduct activities in relation to controlled substances, precursors or designated devices to provide the Minister with information or to take certain measures in respect of such activities;

(f) add an administrative monetary penalties scheme;

(g) streamline the disposition of seized, found or otherwise acquired controlled substances, precursors and chemical and non-chemical offence-related property;

(h) modernize inspection powers; and

(i) expand and amend certain regulation-making authorities, including in respect of the collection, use, retention, disclosure and disposal of information.

It makes related amendments to the Customs Act and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to repeal provisions that prevent customs officers from opening mail that weighs 30 grams or less.

It also makes other related amendments to the Criminal Code and the Seized Property Management Act.

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

May 15, 2017 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts
May 15, 2017 Failed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts (amendment)
May 15, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts
Feb. 15, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Feb. 14, 2017 Passed That Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
Feb. 14, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the said bill and not more than one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of each 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 report stage or the third reading stage, as the case may be, of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
Feb. 1, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.
Feb. 1, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to 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.

Bill C-37—Time Allocation MotionControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by wishing you a very happy birthday. It is a fabulous day, and we wish you the best today and for many years to come.

I would like to inform the House that an agreement has been reached between a majority of the representatives of recognized parties under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2), with respect to the consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. Therefore, I move:

That in relation to Bill C-37, an Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, not more that one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the Senate Amendments stage of the said bill; and

That, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the Senate Amendments to 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.

Resuming DebateControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the wonderful opportunity to speak to the amendments adopted in the Senate relating to Bill C-37. This is an act, as we know, to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and to make related amendments to other acts.

Before I begin, I thank my colleagues in the House and the Senate for their work on the bill to date, for reviewing this important legislation, and for recognizing the urgency of the issue. I particularly want to thank all my colleagues who supported getting the bill through the House as quickly as possible.

This bill, as proposed, will help our federal government and its partners to combat the existing opioid crisis and deal with the more general drug problem in Canada.

For that reason, I urge my colleagues to support the bill so it can be adopted without delay and to help protect the health and safety of Canadians and their communities.

It is clear that we are in the midst of a national public health crisis. Last year in British Columbia, more than 900 people died from illicit drug overdoses. If trends continue in 2017, we can expect 1,400 people in British Columbia to die this year as a result of overdoses.

However, British Columbia is not alone. In Alberta, close to 500 people died from overdoses in 2016.

We are also seeing signs that the opioid crisis is spreading to other parts of Canada.

For example, seizures of fentanyl have increased in almost every province over the last year.

Our government is responding. We are taking actions that are compassionate, collaborative, comprehensive, and evidence-based in our approach to drug policy. Our aim is to take a public health approach to addressing the opioid crisis and problematic substance use in general, while also ensuring law enforcement officials have the tools they require to keep communities safe.

That is why, last fall, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and I announced the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy.

This new strategy replaces the previous approach by addressing problematic substance use as primarily a public health issue, restoring harm reduction as a key pillar of Canada's drug policy, alongside prevention, treatments, and enforcement, and supporting all those pillars from a strong evidence base.

Bill C-37 and the revised amendments our government proposed support this strategy by updating the law to focus on harm reduction measures.

Streamlining the application process for supervised consumption sites is central to this legislation.

Solid evidence shows that, when properly set up and maintained, supervised consumption sites save lives, and they do it without increasing drug use or crime in the neighbourhood.

To this end, Bill C-37 proposes to amend the current legislation in two ways. It will establish a streamlined application process that aligns with the five factors set out in the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2011, in Canada vs. PHS Community Services Society. It will also improve the transparency by requiring decisions on supervised consumption site applications to be made public, including reasons for denying such an application.

We need to create an environment that encourages communities that want and need these sites to apply for them. I can assure the House that Bill C-37 and the revised amendments our government is proposing will ensure that communities that want and need these sites do not experience unreasonable delays in their efforts to save lives.

The first amendment specifies that should the Minister of Health choose to post a notice to seek further public input regarding an application, the public should have a minimum of 45 days to provide feedback.

Some members, and indeed members of the public as well, have questioned why we are accepting this Senate amendment. To be clear, the ministerial authority to post a public notice regarding an application for up to 90 days exists under the current legislation. Bill C-37, as introduced by our government, made that time period more flexible but retained the optional nature of the posting and the optional nature of an extra consultation. The only thing that would change with the Senate's amendment is that should a public notice for further consultation be posted, it must be posted for a minimum of 45 days.

Our government supports this amendment, as it would ensure that in the special cases where further community consultation was warranted, communities would receive a reasonable amount of time to provide comment on specific applications.

I will repeat that this consultation would not be required by legislation, and indeed, it would be the exception rather than the rule.

The second Senate amendment would give the Minister of Health the authority to establish citizen advisory committees for approved sites where deemed necessary.

Our government understands the intent of this amendment. It could be to bring together supervised consumption sites and community members. However, adding this oversight of supervised consumption sites, which is not used for any other health service as a legislated requirement, would further stigmatize their clients and potentially reduce the use of these critical facilities. As such, we respectfully disagree with this amendment.

The final amendment adopted by the Senate would require that clients of supervised consumption sites be offered an alternative pharmaceutical therapy before they consumed substances at the site. While the intention of this amendment may be to encourage the provision of evidence-based treatment options to people who use drugs, it is critical that the application process for supervised consumption sites not be hindered by additional federal requirements for immediate access to treatment services. This could impose an additional burden and make it more difficult to establish and operate supervised consumption sites.

As written, this amendment could result in charter challenges on the grounds that an individual's safety and security could be jeopardized if that person could no longer access the services offered at a supervised consumption site. It also represents significant jurisdictional issues, since it could be construed as regulating a health service or clinical practice.

In addition, repeated offers of pharmaceutical treatment could actually discourage people who are not yet ready to begin treatment from using supervised consumption sites. This would be counter to the aim of supporting communities that need these sites to save the lives of their community members.

For these reasons, our government proposes that we amend the wording to say “may” instead of ”shall” and remove subsection 2 of this amendment.

For all the reasons I just outlined, our government does not support the amendment to the motion moved by the member for Oshawa.

I also want to remind the House that this bill includes other important initiatives, because the opioid crisis is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive response.

The pathways to addiction are numerous, but they are connected through their origin in personal pain, whether that be mental or physical pain. These issues are all too often exacerbated by multiple social determinants of health, including poverty, homelessness, and lack of access to economic resources, making the reality of addiction and the path to recovery all the more difficult to navigate.

To add to this complexity, the drug environment in Canada has changed drastically in recent years. Strong drugs like fentanyl, carfentanil, and other analogs have made their way into Canada, and they are often being disguised as prescription drugs like Percocet or oxycodone, or they are mixed with other less potent street drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

With that in mind, l would like to take this opportunity to specifically discuss the Senate amendments with respect to establishing supervised consumption sites.

This crisis is impacting high-risk, long-term drug users as well as recreational drug users who do not expect that the drug they are using could contain fentanyl. As we all know from the devastating local news reports across this country, the crisis is also affecting young people who are experimenting with drugs. That is why, in addition to important provisions regarding supervised consumption sites, Bill C-37 also includes proposals that would modernize the current legislative framework and create new law enforcement tools to confront the ongoing crisis.

For example, Bill C-37 proposes legislative measures to prohibit the unregistered import of pill presses to Canada. If passed, it would allow border officials to open international mail of any weight should they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the item may contain prohibited, controlled, or regulated goods. As well, it would grant the Minister of Health the necessary powers to quickly temporarily schedule and control a new and dangerous substance.

It is important to point out that Bill C-37 and the revised amendments our government is proposing are part of a suite of vital measures that our government has taken to combat the opioid crisis. For the benefit of the members, I think it is worth mentioning some of our government's other initiatives.

We have made naloxone available without prescription, and we have expedited the review of naloxone nasal spray to ensure that multiple formats are available to Canadians. We have granted exemptions to Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre to operate supervised consumption sites in Vancouver, and we have now issued exemptions for a total of three supervised consumption sites at fixed locations in Montreal and are expediting reviews for the approval of 18 additional sites in 10 cities: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Surrey, Ottawa, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Kelowna, and Kamloops.

Our government has also rescinded the prohibition on access to an important treatment option, prescription heroin, to treat more serious addictions.

We have finalized new regulations to control chemicals used to make fentanyl, making it harder to manufacture illegal substances in Canada, and we have supported the passage of the important Bill C-224, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which I am pleased to say achieved royal assent on May 4. Finally, we are providing $100 million in federal funding to support the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, as well as an additional $10 million in emergency funding to British Columbia and $6 million in emergency funding to Alberta.

It is important that members understand that there is no single action that will end this opioid crisis immediately. There is no single law or policy that will do so. It requires comprehensive, urgent action. The adoption of the amendment our government is now proposing and making Bill C-37 law would be, however, a very important step forward in supporting a new approach to drug policy in Canada.

As proposed, this legislation would give our government and law enforcement agencies more effective tools to fight problematic substance use and provide more support to communities that are battling this crisis locally.

The amended legislation would also help our government work with partners to implement an evidence-based approach that is comprehensive and collaborative. Therefore, I encourage all members to support Bill C-37 and our approach to the Senate's amendment in order to protect Canadians and save lives. I thank my colleagues for their important work in this regard, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to discuss it.

Resuming DebateControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree that Bill C-37 has some very important initiatives to tackle this particular crisis, but I continue to be very concerned. As a former mayor and a former member of a local council, I know that anything we have tried to make sure was included that gave communities the ability to have a thoughtful process has been taken away, such as the initial removal of the need for council approval. In Kamloops, 100% of council agreed with it, but council members also had the right and the ability to say they wanted to move forward. That was stripped away.

We had a very thoughtful suggestion from the Senate that there be some advisory support. I think advisory support could do many things in terms of how cities deal with this issue, above and beyond the particular crisis. Again, that has been stripped away.

Why does the minister not trust local governments and local communities to have a part in the decision-making? It would appear that she does not trust them to be part of the solution.

Resuming DebateControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate this, because I am not sure everyone has fully comprehended the severity of this crisis in British Columbia. Based on the number of deaths that have occurred in the first three months of this year, if trends continue there will be 1,400 deaths from overdose in British Columbia. This is a serious matter. We see no end in sight, and we have to make sure we use all measures within our jurisdiction to respond to it.

As the member says, of course it is important to respond to the community to make sure there is a demand for these sites, that there is a need for these sites, and that there is appropriate community consultation. I trust that the member is aware that those were among the five factors the Supreme Court gave us. It required, even within Bill C-37, that the Minister of Health take them into consideration in recognizing the need for a site. Clearly, that need has to be demonstrated, and the community must have the opportunity for input. It is at the discretion of the Minister of Health to determine whether further consultation is required.

We know there is a huge demand for this. I speak on a very regular basis with people in these communities who are desperate to have supervised consumption sites.

Community consultation includes consultation with the members of the community who are seeing their friends, family members, and young people dying. They need the opportunity for input too. These are the members of society I hope members of this House will take into consideration when they are considering this bill.

As it relates to the matter of having a citizen oversight body, no other health facility has a legislative requirement for that. We know that some health facilities like to have community oversight bodies, but having a legislative requirement, as I said in my remarks, would further stigmatize a population whose members are dying because of the stigmatization of their community. It is important that we not introduce any further barriers to making sure we save people's lives.

Resuming DebateControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this will be the second time only in six years as a parliamentarian that I have voted for time allocation. I voted for it also on Bill C-37.

The question here is urgent. I agree with the minister, although I would say that this may be the classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. When lives are at stake, I do not think we can take the time to argue over improvements that, frankly, I would want to see made too.

We know that on the street, fentanyl is being found in 80% of the street drugs that are otherwise not identifiable as fentanyl. Can the minister give us any update on what is being done on the ground while we get this bill through the House as fast as possible?

Resuming DebateControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-37, legislation proposed by the Liberal government to help deal with the opioid crisis that is affecting too many communities across Canada.

I am not encouraged after hearing the minister's comments. She talked about 900 fatalities in British Columbia in the last year, 500 in Alberta, that 1,400 have died of overdoses. She said after quoting this that she sees no end in sight. That tells us the severity of what we are facing across Canada. However, it seems a little disappointing that the minister does not give a lot of answers to the problems that she sees. Bill C-37 does not contain enough answers. In fact, we believe there are some problems with Bill C-37.

Today, we are considering some amendments by my colleague, the official opposition health critic. It is my first entry into the debate on Bill C-37, although it is not the first time I have dealt with this. As a member of Parliament back in 2001-02, we had an opioid problem in the country. There was a committee struck, the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs. We travelled across Canada and to Germany, and I believe to France, Switzerland, and a number of other countries. We saw safe injections sites. At that time, they believed it was the answer to the opioid problem. They called them safe injection sites then, not supervised consumption sites. I guess the government feels that supervised consumption sites sells a little better.

I travelled with Randy White, a member of Parliament from Abbotsford. I think he would find it very disappointing that 16 years later we are still debating the same types of issues and have seen even greater problems since some of these safe injection sites have been incorporated into the landscape across our country.

I will take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the member for Oshawa, for all his hard work on the health file on behalf of his constituents and Canadians. As a doctor, he understands all aspects of the health file. For many years, we have benefited from his input, his comments, and knowledge. He has been on the committee for years as well. Today, he is asking the House, again, to consider the amendments to Bill C-37 that have been brought forward by the Senate of Canada. His amendment states:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, be now read a second time and concurred in.”

The first amendment that the Senate brought forward ensures that there is a minimum consultation period of 45 days prior to the approval of an injection site.

The second amendment looks to establish a citizens advisory committee that is responsible for advising the approved injection site of any public concerns, including public health and safety issues. The amendment also looks to have the committee provide the minister with a yearly update on these matters.

The third amendment directs those working at the site to offer the person using the site some legal pharmaceutical therapy before that person consumes or injects illegal drugs.

It is disappointing that the minister is flatly refusing to accept the amendments from the Senate. I believe that many Canadians would feel that those amendments are fair, substantive, and reasonable. The Senate does not amend legislation from this House very often. The Senate takes very seriously any amendments that it would recommend to the House. Therefore, when senators do take the time to study and bring forward amendments, we should be paying attention to what they do. We should not discount it as quickly as the minister did.

The Senate tries to help the government and this House pass good legislation. It wants to help us ensure that the laws we pass accomplish what we want done. The Senate wants to help ensure that our legislation would not cause other harm, or place an unnecessary burden on Canadians.

There are many reasons for the Senate to return a bill to the House with amendments, and it is important that we accept suggestions and recommendations from the other place and agree to consider them seriously.

The first amendment asks for a minimum consultation period of 45 days prior to the approval of an injection site anywhere in Canada. The Senate knows that not all Canadians want injection sites in their local communities, or, as the minister calls them, supervised consumption sites. Anyone looking at community injection sites would understand why. Those who have been involved understand why. To discount the amendment out of hand is disappointing. The Senate is trying to inject a measure of democracy into Bill C-37 by providing communities with a chance to further consider proposals for injection sites. We hope that the Liberals will respect that.

The Liberals talk about inclusion, but we see the opposite. They talk about partnerships with other levels of government, but we see the opposite. Why will they not listen to Canadians? They promised to do politics differently. They said that under their rule, we would all live to our full potential as Canadians, whatever that means. They also promised to consult with Canadians. Now, when the Senate is suggesting that they consult with communities as to where a safe injection site is going to be put, they do not want to hear it. The Liberals do not want to hear from those communities or from those groups that would advocate for one site being a better place than another site.

The Liberals should learn to listen to the grassroots of communities and allow them to have their say. Under Bill C-37, communities should be encouraged to make comments, to offer suggestions, to consider proposals on where an injection site should be built, or if it should be built at all. That is what being community minded is all about. The government should not be afraid of local governments, citizens, community organizations, or anyone who has a differing opinion.

The first amendment wants to allow a local community, large or small, to have at least 45 days to study and prepare before the government opens an injection site. That is fair. The Senate believes it is reasonable, diplomatic, and democratic, but the Liberals say no. Far from delaying the approval of a new injection site, a courtesy to the community is about to be changed.

The second amendment wants to establish a citizens advisory group. Much like the first amendment in some respects, the Senate is trying to help the government with Bill C-37, and after great study on the subject, it felt that this amendment would do that. The Senate is recommending that a group be formed that will help communities deal with the challenges of establishing an injection site. That would be generous and very helpful.

Many Canadians do not know much about what happens at a safe injection site or a supervised consumption site. We want them to be aware of the opioid crisis that is facing Canada and what the Liberals see as solutions. Canadians only know the images that they see on the media, which depict the horrors, for example, of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, what we used to call heroin districts and other things in the United States and Europe.

The constituents that I represent in Battle River do not want to become like the Eastside of Vancouver. In fact, I do not know of too many constituencies, rural or urban, that do. Being almost like a Bible belt in parts of Alberta, more time is probably spent praying for drug victims on those streets. They care very much. They feel badly when they see lives being ruined by the opioid crisis.

I believe the communities are there and want to help. We want to do the right thing. We want to address the crisis, even if it is in our own communities. As we can see from the statistics that the minister quoted of 900 deaths in B.C. last year and 500 in Alberta, it is in every community.

However, the Liberals are saying that we must do only what the Liberal politicians in Ottawa say we have to do, whether that is in Alberta or anywhere else, and by opposing amendment number two, the Liberals are denying Canadians the opportunity to be involved. The government does not want experts bringing their knowledge into communities and making recommendations and suggestions or amending anything. The Liberals are trying to dictate what every community in Canada must do when it comes to their supervised consumption sites. That is too bad, because wherever the opioid crisis raises its ugly head, in most communities, rural or urban, those communities would like to have some credible and knowledgeable assistance. Why do the Liberals not want that?

The government is saying that it knows what is best: one size will fit all. Imagine, as injections sites are brought into communities across Canada, that none of the lessons learned would be shared with those communities, none of the problems that have been dealt with successfully in certain communities would be available to other communities so that they would be able to benefit.

The Senate is simply trying to help the government with its bill. The Senate is trying to look out for communities, large and small, by having experts who know about the problems help communities grapple with them. That would be a good thing. We hope the government does not dig in its heels on these amendments. We hope that the minister is not just saying that we should do what she says because she knows best, but it seems that is what she is doing.

Canada has many different diverse communities. The operators of injection sites would appreciate being advised of community concerns and local health and safety issues. Not all injection sites would be able to operate the same way in every community.

There are many concerned citizens in every community in Canada. I have seen this in my own large geographical constituency. In every small town and village, there are folks who know very well how the local community operates, and we want to allow them to help. We do not want the Liberals to consider their efforts to be interference. We need everyone with knowledge and experience to work on the opioid crisis. We do not want to exclude the very people who can help us the most, the residents who know how things work in their communities. If the government proceeds with this program, every community could certainly benefit by having five to 10 volunteers within the immediate vicinity of the site at least consulted.

The third amendment that the Senate brought forward directs those working at the site to offer the person who is using this illegal drug some legal pharmaceutical therapy.

Much of the drugs that are being used are obtained illegally. In Senator White's speech in the other place, as a long-time police officer and city police chief, he talked about the day that an addict uses his drug as a day of crime, when he or she would go out and usually commit various crimes in order to raise enough funds to obtain the drug. If this plan is adopted, should we not give those people in those sites who would be using at least some counsel or therapy? Why would the government not listen to what the senators are calling for here? Is it not the most basic and simple thing to try to help those who are abusing opioids at the time they are actually going to use them? Is it not in the best interests of the addicts, and of our society, to help those individuals who are addicts to get off opioids? It sounds as though the Liberals are saying no.

The more people abuse themselves with harmful opioids, the more they will want to stop as their health declines. I have never met one who wants to keep going. They wish they could get out of the rut they are in. As their relationships with others disappear and their finances disappear, they are going to want help and they are crying for help. They will need to be rescued in order to save their lives.

They probably had a very difficult time getting drugs from some of these drug dealers. The drug abuse world is a violent, lawless world. Every time a drug abuse victim visits an injection site, we should be offering them an alternative. We should make saving that person's life a priority. Why would the Liberals not want that? It is unbelievable. It is almost as if the Liberals are trying to enable the continuing abuse of drugs by drug addicts. It is unfair. This is not the sunny ways the Prime Minister talked about. It is not helping everyone live to their full potential as Canadians, as the government said it wanted to do. What we see is mismanagement of the opioid crisis.

We should make it a criminal offence not to offer an alternative to someone who is so addicted to a drug that they need supervision when they inject that drug. Anyone in that position needs help. They may not accept the help being offered, but at least it should be offered to them. If everyone knows that the injection site is offering a way out, an alternative, then we have a better chance of saving lives.

I have heard some say that offering pharmaceutic therapy could erode the relationship between the drug abuser and the facilitator at the injection site. Really? Could offering a little counsel could lose the relationship between the two? I think the Liberals are off base on this.

The facilitator, as they call it, would be from the community. To the extent that the facilitator may not approve of the drug abuse, that facilitator would want to be ready to help if he or she is asked. I would say that is true in many parts, if not all parts, of Canadian communities, and I hope it would be true in our communities. That is the Canadian way. We are there to help. Is that not what the Prime Minister tells the world—that Canada is there to help? What part does he not get?

I see that my time is running short, so let me just say this: are there good things in Bill C-37? Not much, but we hope the Liberals will support the first amendment and include communities. We hope the Liberals realize communities need time to figure out how they will provide an injection site, and we hope the Liberals are willing to come up with something that could satisfy the third amendment.

There are other measures in Bill C-37. The bill gives the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to open international mail of any weight, should there be reasonable grounds. Perhaps this may sound like a good measure, but I think we had better be careful what we ask for here. In their hurry to find some solution, they may have eroded some of the rights of Canadians, and a lot will depend on the term “reasonable grounds”. Allowing searches of packages and shipping and so on will slow down commerce. Do we mean “reasonable grounds” that there are drugs in there? I think there are already reasonable grounds for every package, if they want to use that, but again, it may not be exactly what they want to accomplish.

If passed, Bill C-37 could add prohibitions and penalties that would apply to possession, production, sale, importation, or transport of anything intended to be used in the production of any controlled substance, including fentanyl. That is a good measure.

I brought forward a private member's bill that offered to allow the minister to allow Canadians access only to specific narcotics that have tamper-resistance or abuse-deterrent formulations. The technology is there now. This measure would only be used when a particular drug is being abused with deadly results of the kind we saw with fentanyl. Oxycontin is available now as OxyNEO, a tamper-proof pharmaceutical, but the government voted against it.

Today the minister said that this is just one measure that will fight the opioid crisis. It is funny, though, that when pharmaceutical companies and United States governments under Obama and other states started going down that road, this minister said it was not in our best interests.

We should improve Bill C-37 so that it helps Canadians deal with the opioid crisis. We should support the amendments that are being debated, and we should support the amendment of the member for Oshawa.

Resuming DebateControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank each of the members of the House, the House Standing Committee on Health, the Senate, and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for their work on Bill C-37.

I would also like to thank the minister as well as her current and previous parliamentary secretary for all the work they have done on this and the leadership they have shown.

The hon. members of the Senate have adopted some amendments to Bill C-37 around supervised consumption sites, particularly for supporting public consultation in the application process.

I welcome the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to the amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

As all my colleagues know, there is currently a troubling number of overdoses and fatalities associated with opioids and other substances in Canada. Far too often, we hear about new and powerful drugs that end up in our communities and heartbreaking stories of families and communities that lose loved ones to an overdose.

To help address the challenges associated with problematic substance use in Canada, Bill C-37 proposes important legislative changes to support a new Canadian drugs and substances strategy, a comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate strategy composed of four pillars, which are prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement, each one built on a strong foundation of evidence.

These proposed legislative changes will help provide public health officials and law enforcement organizations in Canada with the tools they need to help communities in addressing problematic substance use, including live-saving harm reduction initiatives to help those struggling with opioid use disorder.

Bill C-37 was drafted to offer a real solution to the communities dealing with this crisis by eliminating, among other things, unnecessary obstacles to opening supervised consumption sites.

Should it receive royal assent, Bill C-37 will streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites by replacing the current 26 criteria set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with the five factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2011 decision regarding Insite. These factors are: one, impact on crime rates; two, local conditions indicating need; three, regulatory structure in place to support the facility; four, resources available to support its maintenance; and, five, expressions of community support or opposition.

Reducing the number of criteria will alleviate the administrative burden on communities wanting to open a supervised consumption site without compromising the health and safety of those using the site, their clients, and the neighbouring community.

I want to underscore our government's position on the importance of community consultation in the establishment of supervised consumption sites, while also reducing the barriers for communities to establish life-saving services for their citizens. Our government recognizes and respects that there is a balance between a community's need for adequate time and appropriate channels to provide valuable feedback and the need to minimize unnecessary delays in the administrative process for critical harm reduction services.

In Bill C-37, our government is proposing an authorization process that respects the Supreme Court of Canada's decision and criteria, including the requirement that the minister of health must consider expressions of community support or opposition when reviewing applications for supervised consumption sites.

The proposed approach will give the communities the assurance that their voice will be heard and that every application is subject to a thorough review.

While supervised consumption sites have been shown to be effective in reducing the harms of problematic substance use, the Minister of Health needs to make informed decisions on future applications, which could include collecting additional information and hearing directly from community members when necessary.

Our government is committed to the protection of public health and the maintenance of public safety. Health Canada will do the necessary verification so that any potential site operates in a responsible manner and ultimately meets its stated objectives of saving lives and reducing harms.

In the amended bill, the minister would continue to have the authority to post a notice of the application and invite public comments. Such a provision could be used in cases involving extenuating circumstances where the minister feels that further community consultation is warranted.

Our government supports the Senate amendment to establish a minimum public comment period of at least 45 days, which will offer the public time to provide its feedback on site applications when the minister chooses to post the public comment period. Bill C-37 retains the previous maximum consultation period of up to 90 days.

The communities have an important role to play in the successful launch of a supervised consumption site. They have to work together on meeting the challenges and determining whether such a program is appropriate for their neighbourhood.

The support of the community within which the sites are located is a key element in a supervised consumption site's ability to have a positive and meaningful impact. This requires constructive dialogue among community members to find common ground and address potential concerns.

At the same time, our government also recognizes that stigmatizing problematic substance abuse can negatively impact the rates of which harm reduction services, such as supervised consumption sites, are accessed by those who need them. Adding measures for supervised consumption sites that are not applied to other health services add to the stigmatization of the sites and those in need and unnecessarily impact access to these critical services.

In addition, the advisory committee could be composed of individuals who do not have adequate qualifications to warrant their oversight of a health care service. As such, our government does not support the second amendment adopted by the Senate.

Now more than ever, it is important to help communities open supervised consumption sites in order to help address the underlying issues of problematic substance use.

The proposed changes will help us ensure that community members have the opportunity to make comments on applications for proposed centres, that federal legislation does not contribute to further stigmatizing these centres relative to other health services, and that there are no obstacles or unjustified delays to opening these centres where they are wanted and needed.

Because the need for supervised consumption sites is urgent in helping to save lives, it is imperative that the process not be overly burdensome so as to unnecessarily delay the establishment of potential sites. While our government recognizes the benefits and supports the use of alternative pharmaceutical therapy, the decision to offer additional services to clients should be made by each site based on the needs of its community. It is for this reason that our government does not support the amendment as currently written. We respectfully propose that the word “may” be substituted for “shall”.

Health Canada would also support communities through the publication of a revised application form, available online, and simplified guidance to help site applicants through the process and clearly state what documentation is required to support the minister's consideration of the Supreme Court of Canada's factors. The application form would provide details on how to address these Supreme Court criteria. The criteria would be streamlined and modified to provide applicants with greater flexibility to consider their local context.

We cannot turn our backs on the preventable deaths occurring across the country. We must do our part, and that includes passing Bill C-37. I urge all members of the House to support our government's proposed legislative changes that would support communities rather than place unnecessary barriers in their path.

HealthOral Questions

May 15th, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct a fact that the hon. member stated. I think he may have misread his notes. In fact, British Columbia is on track to have 1,400 deaths in 2017. This is a significant increase over last year, and we continue to see this overdose crisis spread across the country.

I thank all members of this House for their urgent attention to this with the passage of Bill C-37, hopefully later today. We have put $100 million into the Canadian drugs and substances strategy in budget 2017, and $16 million in emergency funding for British Columbia and Alberta.

We will make sure that we put the resources behind this and that we act with the urgency it deserves.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my turn to speak to Bill C-37, the second time I am doing so under the pressure of time allocation. I wanted to point that out because, the first time, I had prepared a speech that I wanted to share with my colleagues, but unfortunately, I did not have time, because the government felt it necessary to impose a gag order.

Bill C-37 has moved through all kinds of situations since the government introduced it. The official opposition totally agrees that urgent action is needed to address the opioid crisis. I think we share many of the same opinions and that we agree on most aspects of this bill. However, we raised a few concerns, particularly with regard to consulting the communities involved.

We had suggested splitting the bill so that we could act quickly and unanimously pass the most important parts of the bill in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the government refused our proposal. I therefore do not think that we can be blamed for any delays or the many gag orders imposed on consideration of this bill.

I think that my take on Bill C-37 will help my colleagues see it in a different light. I believe that the problem we are currently seeing in Canada is an urban one. My riding is in a rural region and in our community we do not have this same need for injection sites. In my speech I will explain why this type of application does not really concern the smaller centres and rural regions as much as the larger centres. This problem must absolutely be addressed in order to improve the lives of Canadians across the country in large centres and rural regions alike.

As I was saying, Bill C-37 has some positive aspects, but also some negative aspects. First, the bill erodes the Respect for Communities Act, which was put in place to ensure that communities are consulted before an exemption is granted to a supervised consumption site. Under Bill C-37, a supervised consumption centre can be approved if it meets five criteria. Previously, 26 criteria needed to be met.

Furthermore, the bill changes the discretionary 90-day public consultation period to a discretionary period not to exceed 90 days. This means that a consultation period may not necessarily be obtained, whereas it was previously required.

These are some of the elements that could have been dealt with in a second bill. That would have given members from all parties the opportunity to comment on this possibility.

However, I must say that Bill C-37 has many positive aspects. The bill gives the Canada Border Services Agency the power to open any international mail, no matter the weight, should there be reasonable grounds to do so. Previously, the Agency had to have permission to open suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams. With the spike in parcel post deliveries, I think that this is a necessary and welcome change.

The bill also gives the Canada Border Services Agency the power to seize any unregistered pill presses at the border. These presses allow criminal organizations to manufacture opioid pills that are subsequently distributed on the black market and that are causing considerable harm everywhere in Canada.

Prohibitions and sanctions will now apply to the possession, production, sale, importation, and transportation of anything intended to be used in the production of any controlled substance, including fentanyl. Once again, this is an absolutely essential component that we must absolutely pass. That is why we are not criticizing this provision. We think this needs to become law as soon as possible.

The bill also authorizes the minister to temporarily add to a schedule to the act substances that the minister has reasonable grounds to believe pose a threat to public health or safety.

Of course, public health is of paramount concern to us.

There was a way to pass these measures very quickly that could have helped a lot of Canadians and communities. We have to find a solution because this is not an easy problem to solve. We will not be able to fix the fentanyl problem overnight, nor any other hard drug problem. At least we were on the right track.

Now what about this citizen consultation part? It is clear to us that we must oppose any measure that would limit the people's right to be consulted prior to a supervised injection site being set up.

Bill C-37 has serious flaws, and the Senate talked about them. First of all, the bill does not make any mention of prevention. Second, there are omissions regarding the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Finally there is also nothing in the bill about making communities aware of the safe injection sites to be approved.

If we open supervised injection sites and make those sorts of changes in communities, it is important that we tell people about it. They need to know why we are doing that and what advantages and disadvantages such a site will have for their community. Not all of the impacts of these sites are positive. The establishment of supervised injection sites will also have negative consequences for some cities in Canada. It is therefore important that the people affected know about all the potential impacts, both positive and negative.

Personally, what I find quite worrisome is that there is no mention whatsoever of the friends and family of hard drug users. They too endure terrible and terrifying experiences. They see their young or not-so-young children who are addicted to these drugs being left to their own devices in big cities. We have seen examples of this in recent years.

In her question, my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith said that these drugs have caused many overdose deaths in her riding. That is terrible. Imagine how the families of these victims must feel. Family members of drug addicts feel so powerless, and they are left completely on their own.

In order to remedy this situation, I do not think it is enough to help people take drugs in a safe way. We also need to help their families because, even though family members try to do whatever they can to help the drug addict, they often feel helpless and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. The people they are trying to help, their loved ones who are addicted to hard drugs, cannot overcome their addiction alone.

There is also nothing on access to legal drugs. In other words, these injection sites are not being required to offer an alternative to the people who go there. I am not saying that these people should be forced to undergo treatment or fill out a 25-page questionnaire before they can use a centre's services. They do not have to write a single word. I just want there to be resources available on the premises to help these people turn things around when they are ready to.

People who are concerned enough about their health to go to a supervised injection site might be the most likely to want to turn their lives around one day. Why insist on not requiring these sites to offer an alternative? It would be on a voluntary basis because, if they are required to jump through all sorts of hoops, people will stop going to the site and the problem will linger.

It would have been a good idea to think about these important issues. The opposition proposed amendments on this, but unfortunately they were rejected.

The Senate also proposed similar amendments, but unfortunately, the government wants to defeat them. We can come back to this later.

Bill C-37 is about supervised injection sites. As I said in my introduction, at first glance, many Canadians think this problem affects only big cities. Many people feel less concerned if they come from an area like Thetford Mines or one of Canada's rural regions, because we do not have these kinds of problems in small communities.

However, where do young people from Thetford Mines go? Where do young people from rural areas go when they are desperate and have no job, and where do they become the most vulnerable? For the most part, they go to the big city.

The transition from a rural area, where everyone knows everyone, to a big city, where you become anonymous, is a huge change and it exposes people to all kinds of different influences and experiences. If the life they find in the big city does not live up to their hopes and dreams, it might be easy for some to turn to all kinds of hard or soft drugs for answers. That is how mortality rates have achieved the levels we are seeing now in large urban centres.

This problem is not exclusive, then, to large urban centres. We must all be concerned and do our part to help, whether we live in a town like Thetford Mines, which I must not call a village, because my constituents would not be happy, or in a small village in the Appalaches RCM.

Bill was necessary and must pass as soon as possible, but we cannot proceed without thinking of the people who will be directly affected by these centres. We also cannot proceed C-37without thinking about the prevention, rehabilitation, and support we are going to provide to the people who use these centres and their loved ones. We must also think about the support we should provide to the communities that will have to live with these supervised injection sites.

The first time that I wanted to speak about the opioid problem and Bill C-37, I did a bit of research because, as I mentioned, in Thetford Mines, in the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, this is not a problem we deal with on a daily basis. We do not find needles on the ground everywhere. This does not seem to be a drug of choice in rural communities, or at least not where I come from.

Last year, I had the opportunity to go to Vancouver for an NDP convention. By mistake, we went through a tough neighbourhood, where we saw people living in misery. I saw them with my own eyes, and I could not understand how this could happen to them and how we could abandon these people without doing anything about it. It hurts when we come face to face with reality for the first time. It was a real wake-up call.

I read up on fentanyl, carfentanyl, and all the opioids we have been talking about for so long to better understand the issues. I found two or three definitions of carfentanyl on greenshield.ca, and I would like to share one of them with the members of the House of Commons because it is important for people to really understand the situation:

Carfentanil is adding to the Canadian opioid crisis. Although carfentanil is a synthetic opioid like oxycodone, fentanyl, and heroin, it is an animal tranquillizer for livestock and elephants with no safe application for humans. It is considered about 100 times more potent than fentanyl, 10,000 times more potent than morphine, and 4,000 times more potent than heroin.

That is what the mafia is putting in the drugs it sells to the most disadvantaged members of our society so that they become even more addicted and ask for more.

They say that the risk of overdose is very high. Experts warn that inhaling an amount of carfentanil that is smaller than a snowflake could trigger a fatal overdose. Officials suspect that carfentanil has probably been in Canada as long as fentanyl, but only recently have there been successful seizures of carfentanil.

Law enforcement officials suspect that fentanyl and carfentanil are mass-manufactured in China, where sellers easily conceal the drugs inside boxes of things like urine testing strips or generic vitamins. In fact, buying fentanyl online on the international market and having it delivered is just as easy as ordering vitamins.

GSC says that, after making the trip from China to the United States, the drugs make their way north to Canada. Recently, several states and a number of provinces experienced a wave of overdoses and deaths. What is worrisome is that, in June 2015, there was a seizure in Vancouver of a one-kilogram package of carfentanil bound for Calgary. That is enough carfentanil for approximately 50 million fatal doses. This is a very real problem.

Once again, I rise today in the House to help my colleagues who do not represent big cities gain a better understanding of the scope of the problem. I think it is important to talk about this. As I have already said, when our young people leave the regions and head to big cities, they can become vulnerable. They hope to find something better. They might be forced to deal with this situation and this reality and do not always have the tools to do so.

According to the website www.greenshield.ca, getting carfentanil and fentanyl onto the street is pretty easy. They are affordable and yet very powerful drugs. Apparently, they are so powerful that first responders now have to wear gloves and masks to avoid accidentally ingesting even the tiniest amount of the drug.

When we hear figures like the ones cited by my colleague, we cannot remain indifferent or pretend that this is not happening. We must take action on this, and Bill C-37 is a good start.

Earlier, I was talking about all the people affected by drug problems: drug users, parents, brothers, sisters, and so on. What resources are out there for them? In my riding, a group called Action toxicomanie serves the RCMs of Arthabaska, l'Érable, and Drummond.

I want to connect this to the marijuana legalization bill. Although not all marijuana users end up using hard drugs, the possibility clearly exists. We know that organized crime will not stop making money just because it will not be making money off marijuana anymore. Organized crime will not go away, and neither will marijuana. How will organized crime make its money? I hope it will not be making money from other drugs, which it has started doing with fentanyl and carfentanil. That is why we have to be so careful.

I want to talk about the work that community groups, such as Action toxicomanie in my riding, are doing in terms of prevention. Even before supervised injection sites become a factor, prevention is super important.

There are many things I would like to talk about, still. However, in closing, I would like to say that I support the amendments proposed by the Senate. I support the work of my colleague, the member for Oshawa, on the carfentanil issue and his efforts to ensure that people can be consulted and that users of supervised injection sites can have access to resources and pharmaceuticals to prevent the use of these drugs. In my opinion, this is crucial and it is the reason why I support the amendment by my colleague from Oshawa.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to bring to the House's attention the statistics from Insite in Vancouver. In 2005, Insite had over 263,000 visits by 6,532 individuals. Since 2003, there have been 2,395 overdoses that were treated by medical staff, and not one of them resulted in a death. Furthermore, there are thousands of referrals made by medical services every year, and as a result, Insite users are 30% more likely to engage in additional treatment than non-Insite users.

When there are overdose crises in cities like Surrey and Vancouver, would the member agree that we should do whatever is necessary right now and expedite Bill C-37 to deal with the overdose crisis and help those people?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I have a fairly simple question for the member. First, I would like to thank him for his speech.

For the past 10 years, the government's approach involved doing away with the harm reduction aspects of the anti-drug strategy. The purpose of that strategy is to ensure that we do not stigmatize drug users and that, instead, we treat them with the dignity they are entitled to and deserve.

Does my colleague agree that there would be no need for Bill C-37 today if the previous government had developed criteria for approving supervised consumption sites that were consistent with what we learned from the Supreme Court and that would have allowed us to open such sites more quickly in communities where they are needed and requested? We know that these sites save lives. The science is clear. No one has ever died at a supervised consumption site. They prevent overdoses. I think that is the way to go.

Does my colleague agree that it was a mistake for the previous government to do away with the harm reduction aspects of the strategy?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the member across the way clapped, and I would like to challenge the Conservative Party as to why they are adamantly opposed to something that has been so successful for Canadians as whole.

If members did the research and checked with medical practitioners and social workers to get a sense of the results Insite in Vancouver has had, they could not possibly say it is bad thing. Not only has it saved lives, it has also redirected lives. In many ways, it has helped the communities. The Conservative Party wants to overlook or turn a blind eye to the many positive things. I find that unfortunate.

When the Liberals were in opposition, the Conservatives were making it more and more difficult to give any consideration to any new sites being located elsewhere in Canada. Members will recall that they they brought in legislation and the bill was debated at second reading. The government had to bring in time allocation. When it got to committee, we listened to the reports being presented and we got a very clear indication of why this was of such great value to our communities, moving forward not backward on the issue.

True to form, the Conservative Party pushed the issue until the legislation ultimately passed. Then, to no surprise, after the election, there was a pilot project of sorts, Insite, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has been demonstrated to be a huge success. Now we have legislation before us that will enable other communities, where it has been deemed necessary, to establish similar sites.

The Conservatives are preaching fear. They are trying to say that the government is really proposing to have all these injection sites scattered throughout our country in all the different regions and communities. They are saying that there is going to be flood of these injection sites. That has not been our experience to date and the Conservatives know this is not the reality of the situation.

Let there be no doubt that with this legislation, we will enable communities, such as Montreal and others that believe their communities would benefit by having a safe injection site, to have that opportunity.

The Conservatives like to say that it should be community based and community driven. That is a given. That is in fact what does take place. Communities do work together. There are stakeholders in different communities. Where there is a justified need, we could possibly see one appear.

We are not talking about hundreds, which the Conservatives try give the impression. It will be based on the desires and needs of different stakeholders, different communities. I suspect it will be well-thought out before we see an injection site put in place. This is not determined overnight. There are a great many experts who get engaged on issues of this nature.

As I indicated, when we were in opposition, there were lengthy debates on this. Ultimately, it even went to the Senate. The Harper government was able to make it law. However, no one should be surprised that with a new government, we are taking an approach that is based on science and based on what is healthy for our communities. It is not just about what the Liberal Party thinks.

Since day one, the Minister of Health has recognized the very serious nature of this issue. She has worked with caucus colleagues and with members on both sides of the House to come to grips with this problem to see what we can do as a national government. The single biggest thing we could do, beyond the legislation itself, is to demonstrate national leadership on the issue, and we have done that.

We have worked with the provinces and municipalities and have come up with some special funding arrangements where the crisis is so great. There are about $10 million for British Columbia and several million dollars for Alberta. This money will go a long way toward saving lives.

The Minister of Health has had national conferences, many different meetings, whether one on one or with different stakeholders and provincial counterparts. There has been a great deal of dialogue on this issue. Interestingly enough, the only group I am aware of that has taken the position that this is a bad thing is the Conservative Party of Canada. It does not want this legislation to pass. Provinces and their regimes seem to recognize the value of what is being done here.

I would ask my Conservative colleagues across the way to look into the issue in more depth and get a better understanding of what constituents want. I believe my constituents would want a proactive approach in dealing with this health issue. It is best dealt with by working with others to try to make a difference. If we are successful, we will save lives.

From what I understand, more people die from fentanyl and opioids in the province of Ontario than those who die in fatal vehicle accidents. Three or more people will die on average every day in the province of British Columbia from drug overdose. Two people a day will die in the province of Alberta. People are dying all across the country from drug overdoses. Passing this legislation will not prevent people from dying, but it is part of a more comprehensive package that will make a difference.

I will give my NDP colleagues credit for the fact that they have recognized how important it is that we take this action. It is not very often we get co-operation when we try to get legislation passed through the House. However, we saw that at second reading ,when the legislation was in the House for debate for the first time. We are seeing it again today. The leader of the Green Party has also recognized the importance of this issue.

In reflecting on the community which I represent, it is not good enough for us to close our eyes out of fear of taking action. We can do better at fighting the problem of drug abuse that is facing our communities and our country as a whole. No community is exempt from drug abuse. If we can take initiatives that will make a difference, that will save lives, that will possibly put people on another course, then we should be bold enough to take them.

I would ask all members to support Bill C-37, send it back to the Senate, and make this the law of Canada.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, some of the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs said that people who were wealthy and addicted would get treatment and people who were poor and victimized would get a supervised injection site. The fact is that the Downtown Eastside has had a supervised injection site for 14 years, and 14 years later, it has the highest rates of addiction, HIV, and hepatitis C. At best, supervised injection sites are a stopgap measure. In Bill C-37, there was a lot of focus around harm reduction, but only one mention of treatment.

Where is the government's strategy when it comes to treatment and prevention? It seems it has been lost in Bill C-37.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock.

I have to admit that speaking to Bill C-37 is difficult. I want to try to clear the air. I remember listening to this debate initially when it first came up in the House and certainly sitting through much of the debate today, and one thing I want to address is the misperception that because we are speaking out on this issue as Conservative members, somehow we do not believe that the fentanyl crisis is a crisis and do not think it is an issue.

The numbers are staggering. We are looking at 340 accidental fentanyl overdoses in Alberta last year and 650 in B.C. We heard from the Minister of Health that it could very well be 1,400 in 2017. We are in a crisis when it comes to the opioid abuse that is happening, especially in western Canada, but it is definitely sweeping into other parts of the country as well.

We have spoken today about the numbers, but I think most of us in this House, or many of us, understand this is more than just numbers. My colleague from South Surrey—White Rock has obviously been fighting very hard on this issue.

This is something that has hit very close to my home. I have a rural Alberta riding. I know that many people do not assume that such an issue like this is a rural issue, that it is more an urban issue that is affecting our big cities, but that is simply not the case.

Unfortunately, I have attended a couple of funerals over the last few months of friends, acquaintances who have died of fentanyl overdoses, and these are in our small rural Alberta communities. Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta had 18 overdoses over a period of just a month last year. This has hit very close to my community. Unfortunately, my family and our friends have been impacted by the fentanyl crisis.

Unfortunately, some of the members opposite have put it out there that because we are speaking out about this issue and raising some concerns with Bill C-37, somehow we are cold-hearted and are not understanding the impact this fentanyl crisis is having on Canadians. That makes me extremely frustrated and angry, because all of us understand what is going on and how serious this issue is.

We are fighting as hard as we possibly can as parliamentarians, as we should, to make sure we are doing the best for Canadians. Our communities across Canada are looking toward us as parliamentarians to stand up and do something about this crisis. We are doing that, but we cannot just do that without also being the voice for our communities.

My rural communities understand that the fentanyl crisis is impacting all of us in southern Alberta, but my communities are also saying that they want us to ensure they have a voice at the table. When it comes to selecting safe injection sites, I have to admit I was really surprised when councils from communities as small as Stavely, Alberta, are writing me letters saying that it is not that they disagree with safe injection sites; their concern is they want to ensure that they have consultation on whether their community wants it or does not, and if it does, they want input on where it goes. I do not think that is out of line.

I think our municipalities and the governments that are closest to the issue understand what is going on in their communities much better than the Minister of Health in Ottawa, and I mean no offence to the health minister. I appreciate the Liberals' taking the effort to get Bill C-37 going, because we have to do something. As I said, Canadians are expecting us to do something. I think Canadians are frustrated because they do not think we have done enough, and I have to agree with them. This is not something that is going away.

Unfortunately, we are having this debate here today when in February, this could have been moved that much quicker. We put a motion on the floor to split this bill in half, to give the CBSA additional powers to address the trafficking into Canada—the bulk of fentanyl and carfentanil comes from China—and the tools to better enforce our borders, and also to give the Minister of Health additional tools to address new and dangerous drugs.

Those are the things that we wanted to move quickly. We wanted to try to start saving lives immediately. All we asked was that the portion of Bill C-37 that dealt with safe injection sites be split off so that we could have further discussions about that. I was extremely frustrated to see the Liberals and the NDP vote against that motion, not once but twice.

I am a father of three. I have seen what fentanyl does to the kids in my communities. My kids have come home and told me about the issues that they have at their schools and in their friendship groups. We need to do something now, not later.

I appreciate that Bill C-37 is a first step, but as parliamentarians, we had an opportunity to do the right thing in February and we failed. Today, when we have an opportunity to further discuss what our communities are asking us to discuss, which is safe injection sites, the Liberals, supported by the NDP, passed a time allocation motion to cut off debate on this issue. Debate has now been cut off in the House of Commons and at committee stage. They are the ones who are telling us, as Conservatives, that we do not care, but really the message is that the Liberals and the NDP do not care about what our communities think about this issue.

My communities have been especially vocal. It is not about whether they believe that fentanyl is an issue and it is not about whether they believe that safe injection sites are one tool to address this; they want to have a say. They want to have input on how this will look, and right now, no matter what the people opposite are saying, they do not feel that this is the case. They do not feel, with the way that Bill C-37 looks, that they would have genuine consultation in this process.

It is not just my town councils and village councils, but also my local RCMP members. They also feel that they need a say in how this would work. My feeling is that if we want safe injection sites to be successful, we must have community buy-in. If we do not have community buy-in, they are not going to be successful. They are not going to do what they potentially can do.

The other issue that is not included in Bill C-37, which I think is another area where we have fallen woefully short, is there is nothing in here that stipulates resources for mental health and addictions counselling. That is something that has come up extremely loud and clear in my communities. It is very difficult to access those services in southwest and rural Alberta. I do not want to speak for other urban centres, but people close to Calgary have those opportunities. They are much closer and more accessible. In rural communities, it is extremely difficult.

To me, Bill C-37 is a good first step, but the big focus of this bill is on dealing with the consequences of the fentanyl crisis. I think our focus has to be on the root cause of the fentanyl crisis, and that is the addiction to these opioids and the ability of traffickers to get easy access to these drugs. It is ridiculously easy to buy these drugs.

Some of my communities are not near any urban centre, but many of my rural communities in the southern most part of Alberta are feeling this the most. They are nowhere near Calgary. We cannot just assume that this is an urban Canada problem.

I am not saying that my colleagues are making that assumption, but this is something that we have to be extremely aware of.

That is the focus of my disappointment. We are arguing about something that we could have addressed months ago, but we did not. This is not partisanship. From my own personal experience, I can say that that this has nothing to do with political parties; it is about doing the right thing for Canadians. They are looking to us as parliamentarians to do the right thing, to step up and take action on a crisis that is killing our communities. I do not think we can understate that. They are looking to us, as their elected officials, to take action. I think we have failed them, and we need to take a more active approach in doing something about the fentanyl crisis.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, I cannot imagine what your communities are going through. Certainly, we feel it in my riding, but not nearly to the extent that your communities do, and I appreciate that.

Our discussions on this bill are not going to stop you from having a safe injection site, but I am speaking for my communities, and they are saying that they are very concerned about not being consulted properly before that happens in these communities.

Again, we are not saying that we do not want them. The feedback I have received from the mayors, reeves, police services, and mental health services is not that they do not want safe injection sites. Some of them do not, but others are supportive.

What they are trying to say is that they want to ensure that Bill C-37 has some sort of element that guarantees fulsome consultation so that stakeholders and those concerned in the communities will have their voices heard. It is not necessarily about whether or not they want an injection site, but about where it would be located if they do want it.

We are having that discussion right now in the city of Calgary. The City of Calgary has put forward a safe injection site in the community without proper consultation, and now community members are speaking against it. A very important element of this is ensuring that communities buy into having safe injection sites: where they would be located, who would be involved, and those types of things.

Again, we are not saying that we do not want them. We are saying we want to ensure that consultation is part of the process.