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


Jane Philpott  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


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.


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.


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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address Bill C-37, certainly a very important discussion as we confront what is a national crisis around drug use. However, we have seen a funny pattern from government members, where they draw our attention to a significant problem yet actually refuse to collaborate in a non-partisan way to move these things forward. That is very clearly on the record. Members can laugh, but this is not a funny topic, and it is not funny that we tried to move this forward quickly and the Liberals got in the way.

Let us review the record of what happened. The bill contains certain provisions that are vital for addressing the challenges we face. It also, though, contains a provision that would remove effective community engagement on supervised injection sites. We have a big problem with that, and I will talk about why that is later on in my speech.

It is important for people to understand what the government has done here. Recognizing the need to move quickly on certain provisions but also the need to have thorough debate on this one particular provision on community consultation, our very hard-working member for Oshawa, our health critic, brought forward a request for unanimous consent to split the bill.

What he proposed was very reasonable, and it would have effectively addressed this issue. What he proposed was to split the bill into two sections. The sections on which we all agreed there be urgent action, and I will talk about what those are, he and all of us would agree to immediately deem adopted at third reading, fully adopted by the House, and sent to the Senate. Very likely the Senate would have moved quickly on that as well. Those provisions could already be law today and already addressing this problem right now as we speak. That was our proposal brought forward by the member for Oshawa.

However, the government said no. Why? It insisted that removing an effective voice for communities in the process had to be tied to these other important life-saving measures. It was the Liberals' decision to slow this down by refusing to split the bill. In fact, the offer we proposed in our unanimous consent motion was not just to expedite the provisions on which we agreed. It was also to immediately deem referred to the Standing Committee on Health the provisions on which we disagreed. We were even willing to move that immediately to committee for study while immediately adopting those things on which we agreed. This is how we proposed to work in a non-partisan fashion to move quickly on the things we could move quickly on to get this done.

The government, while pleading about the need and the urgency of this crisis, actually refused to give unanimous consent to our proposal to expedite those sections. Given the strong words coming from the health minister and other members of the government, it is utterly shameful that they refused to work to move this forward.

I would like to highlight the sections of the bill we agree on and the sections of the bill that could today already be law had the government been willing to work in a non-partisan manner. They will still become law eventually, but it is unfortunate that we were not able to move on the timeline we wanted.

The bill proposes to regulate the import of pill presses. Currently, pill presses, which are used for putting together illegal drugs, can be imported freely. The bill contains important provisions that would have any pill press imported registered with Health Canada and that would give our border services officials the authority to detain unregistered pill presses at the border. This is a very important measure that we have strongly supported. It could be law today if the government had been willing to work to expedite this in a non-partisan manner.

Another great provision in the bill would increase prohibitions against certain actions related to controlled substances. This would enhance the ability of the government to stop, in this instance, the transportation of illicit substances. It would enhance the power to do that under the relevant legislation. Again, it is a very positive provision. It would be making a difference if it were law today. It is something we could have moved forward on more quickly.

The bill would grant increased powers to the Canada Border Services Agency to open and inspect packages entering Canada, packages that it suspects may contain contraband such as drugs. Again, it is an important provision that CBSA be given the power to move forward and open packages that it believes contain illicit substances. Again, there is no reason anyone should oppose that. That is why it should have been done by now. It should have been passed quickly. It would have been passed quickly had the government agreed to work with the opposition and split the bill, as we proposed.

In terms of the category of things we agree on, the bill proposes temporarily accelerated scheduling, essentially allowing the Minister of Health to quickly, but temporarily, schedule and control new drugs and substances under the relevant legislation. This is important, because we have seen new drugs coming to the fore on a regular basis. These powers are important.

Four out of the five changes that we would say yes to on this side of the House could already have been law today had the government been willing to work with us.

Why was it so important for us to raise concerns and to insist on further debate on the one provision on which we disagree? The government is proposing to change the community consultation process on supervised injection sites. I have talked before about broader concerns about supervised injection sites. I know that there are many Canadians who do not believe we should have legal islands that allow people to use drugs legally. If we want to send the strongest possible message about the dangers of drug use, we may want to be optimistic in our compassion instead of pessimistic in our compassion. Many Canadians reflecting on that have broader concerns about these supervised injection sites.

Let us be very clear. That is not the question in this legislation. The question in this legislation is the degree to which, and the nature of how, communities should be engaged in the conversation about that.

The original provisions that were put in place under the previous government established some key requirements with respect to how communities had to be engaged. There had to be strong engagement with the community to maximize the chances that these types of facilities would be successful. The previous legislation put in place a reasonable process to get that done.

The government is proposing in this legislation to significantly pare down any kind of engagement. Previously, there was a requirement that the period of consultation be at least 90 days. The new provisions would allow a period of consultation of up to 90 days. There would actually be no minimum. They could spend two days undertaking the consultation. The requirements in the legislation they put forward are pared down. It says:

An application for an exemption under subsection (1) shall include information, submitted in the form and manner determined by the Minister, regarding the intended public health benefits of the site and information, if any, related to (a) the impact of the site on crime rates; (b) the local conditions indicating a need for the site; (c) the administrative structure in place to support the site; (d) the resources available to support the maintenance of the site; and (e) expressions of community support or opposition.

They have to provide some of that basic information.

They would satisfy the provisions of the new bill if applicants simply said that they talked to a few people in the community about opening a supervised injection site and no one liked it, but at least they talked to some people. That would be sufficient under the proposed legislation.

Let us talk about what the Liberals took out. We hear a lot from the government about the importance of scientific evidence. Actually, the existing application requirements we put in place require “scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites”. Among other things, the previous legislation actually requires that scientific evidence be presented on what the impacts would be in the context of the application. That would be removed by these new requirements.

We put requirements in place for consultation with local law enforcement and local governments, which are going to be called upon to respond to the challenges and situations that are in place. Those were things that were in place before and would now be pulled back.

One of the defences we hear often from the government and the NDP about supervised injections sites is that there are actually some drug treatment services available at the sites. I know that still does not allay many people's concerns, but the consultation process that currently exists, that we put in place, requires that a description of drug treatment services available at the site be provided with the application. If people are going to apply to open a supervised injection site, they actually have to provide information to the government about the kind of drug treatment services that would be available.

If that is one of the key arguments for allowing supervised injection sites, because it seems that it is, listening to the comments that have been made, then it should be particularly emphasized and required that the person who is applying to open a supervised injection site actually provide some information to the government about what is going to exist in that space vis-à-vis drug treatment. That should be there.

The existing legislation requires, for example, that we have criminal record checks for those who are going to be involved with these facilities. There are a lot of important requirements the existing legislation has in place, and these are basic things, like consultation and engagement with the community and providing information about what is going to be in place in terms of support for people who are trying to get off drugs.

All these things should be there, but we have this vastly pared down proposal in terms of what would actually be required for the application. It is going to be so much easier for people to apply to open these supervised injection sites, and there are no requirements to ensure that we will have the due diligence in place.

Again, members can debate the merits of supervised injection sites, but the existing legislation at least ensures that they are doing the kinds of things they are supposed to be doing. The new proposed legislation by the government completely turns the page on that by not engaging communities and not requiring the kind of due diligence we included in that application at all.

I will conclude by saying again that we had an opportunity to move forward with those provisions on which we all agree. Those could be law today, but instead, we are still debating the entire bill, because the government refused to split it. The Liberals brought in closure on these important community consultation measures.

I say that we move forward with the things that will save lives now, but let us continue an important conversation about whether communities should be engaged when these types of injection sites are opened.

I think it is important that communities be engaged in conversations. I believe that communities are compassionate and that they care about these issues. It is not only the federal government that cares. If we engage communities, if we engage local law enforcement, we will get better solutions that will be more responsive to the needs of the community and will be more likely to solve this problem.

The government needs to know that it cannot fix this problem on its own. It needs to work with the opposition. It needs to work with other levels of government. It needs to work with communities. If we are going to address this problem, we need more voices at the table and more collaboration. That is what we are standing for in the opposition, and that is why, in its current form, I have to oppose the bill.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, for any Canadians who are watching, I am glad that they can see that the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, and I am not sure about the Bloc, are willing and ready to move quickly on this legislation and not sit here and debate and slow down legislation when Canadians are dying every day.

It has been well established that Canada is currently in the grips of an unprecedented national public health emergency. I am glad to hear both my Liberal and Conservative colleagues increasingly using that term to describe the opioid crisis. The New Democratic Party started using the term back in November, and that is because this is a national public health emergency and our fellow Canadians are suffering and dying every single day.

Fifty Canadians are dying every week from opioid overdoses in this country. That is a national crisis. It also bears repeating that this crisis has become dramatically worse in recent months.

In 2016, in my home province of British Columbia alone, there were 914 drug overdose deaths. That is an 80% increase from the year before. In December, just a couple of months ago, we recorded the highest number of overdose deaths in B.C.'s history with 142 lives lost. That is more than double the monthly average of overdose deaths since 2015 and a sharp increase over September, October, and November. There were 57 overdose deaths in B.C. in September, 67 in October, 128 in November, and 142 in December. I can only guess that the number will be even higher for January. While the Conservatives want us to debate and consult, New Democrats want to act and save lives.

In December, the B.C. Coroners Service announced that morgues in the city of Vancouver were frequently full as a result of the unprecedented number of overdose deaths, forcing health authorities to store bodies at funeral homes.

This crisis is in large part the legacy of Canada's now defunct anti-drug strategy. Decades of a misguided criminal approach to drug policy has proven to be counterproductive, fuelling Canada's unregulated illegal drug market and leaving a scarcity of evidence-based health services, including harm reduction and treatment programs for people suffering from substance use disorder.

The Conservatives cut 15% from the addiction service budget in their last year in office. International research demonstrates that the criminalization of drugs increases rates of drug production, consumption, availability, and adverse drug-related health effects, but that is the evidence, and for the last 10 years our drug policy in this country was not based on evidence. It was based on ideology.

Because this crisis has been years in the making, it will not be solved by any one action or piece of legislation. I think we all know that. The passage of Bill C-37 must be the beginning of a much deeper examination of how we understand and respond to drug use and addiction in Canada.

For many years, New Democrats have been advocating for an evidence-based and health-focussed approach to drug use and addiction. Our party understands that substance use is not a moral failure. We also understand that criminal approaches that aim to punish or isolate those with addiction issues only serve to compound the suffering of those already experiencing tremendous pain.

As Dr. Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician who specializes in addictions has said:

Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden — but it’s there.

That is why New Democrats have pushed the federal government to reinstate harm reduction as one of the four pillars of Canadian drug policy ever since it was removed by Stephen Harper. That is why New Democrats led the fight against the Conservatives' Bill C-2 from the day it was introduced. That is why we have pressed the Liberal government to repeal or amend Bill C-2 since February 2016, one year ago, when the opioid overdose crisis was in its earliest stage.

Last fall, the NDP successfully moved a motion at the Standing Committee on Health to conduct a study on the opioid overdose crisis. This led to a report with 38 recommendations to the federal government, most of which have not yet been implemented, I would point out.

We were the first to call for a declaration of a national public health emergency. Such a declaration would empower Canada's Chief Public Health Officer to take extraordinary measures to coordinate a national response to the crisis, a measure the Liberal government, still to this day, refuses to take.

Last December, we attempted to fast-track Bill C-37 because of the dire need to deal with this crisis as quickly as possible, but that, again, was blocked by the Conservatives.

Indeed, Bill C-37 continues to be delayed because the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge the crucial importance of harm reduction, and the evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives now.

Today, I am saddened to see that the Conservatives still have not learned from their mistakes, and I am deeply troubled that they continue to liken supervised consumption sites and the approval of same to pipeline approval processes.

After their bizarre offer to trade supervised consumption site approvals for pipelines, at the health committee, the Conservative member for Lethbridge argued that these health facilities should require the same social licence as energy projects before they are permitted to save lives. The member argued that we must maintain Bill C-2's unnecessary barriers because the placement of a site will impact the communities in which they are located.

For once, I agree with the member for Lethbridge. It is absolutely correct that these sites do indeed impact communities: by saving lives, by reducing crime, and by providing opportunities for recovery to people suffering from a disease.

The Conservative Party likes to imagine that supervised consumption sites might be imposed on communities by the federal government. The opposite is true. Supervised consumption sites only exist in Canada due to the tireless efforts of advocates and community members who contribute their time and talent to provide evidence-based, life saving health services. Sometimes, they have even done so at the risk of their own liberty.

Vancouver's Dr. Peter Centre provided supervised consumption services, in violation of federal law, for over a decade, since 2002, before the federal government finally granted it a legal exemption.

Vancouver's Insite had to fight the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to keep its doors open. Even then, instead of complying with the spirit of the ruling, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper passed Bill C-2 as a thinly veiled attempt to prevent any new site from opening in Canada.

Today, as we speak, at least three overdose prevention sites are operating in the open in Vancouver without a legal exemption, against the law, exposing the staff who work there to criminal sanction because they are answering a higher call. They are answering the call of saving lives. That is why they are doing it.

The truth is supervised consumption sites do not harm communities; they help them. The evidence from Insite has been overwhelming and crystal clear.

By the way, the Conservatives talk about the negative impact of supervised consumption sites on communities. They never quote a single piece of evidence, not a shred, from any operating supervised consumption site because there are only two in Canada. Those two in Canada have been studied and written up in periodicals as respected as The Lancet and the evidence is crystal clear. They save lives. They reduce crime around the area. They stop open drug use. They reduce the spread of disease, and they stop the detritus of used needles in consumption sites from being out in the community where they can harm our community members and our children. That is the evidence.

When the Conservatives say that these sites impact communities, darn right they do, and they do so by helping the community. There is not an iota of evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps the Conservatives should listen to Edmonton's Mayor Don Iveson who recently said, “This is not a homeless, addicted issue. This is in pretty much every neighbourhood.”

The opioid crisis is here. It is already affecting our communities. Every day, it is claiming the lives of our friends, our family members, our neighbours.

The Conservative Party's argument that supervised consumption sites will somehow introduce opioid addiction to unaffected communities is baseless fearmongering, and it is deeply stigmatizing to Canadians with substance use disorders.

The truth is communities across Canada have been asking to open supervised consumption sites for years. It was by refusing to grant section 56 exemptions that the federal government was overruling both my home city of Vancouver and my home province's repeated requests. Indeed as Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson has said: “Factors such as the impact of the site on crime rates and expressions of community support or opposition should not be relevant to the federal government's approval process. Those issues are local matters, and as such, are best dealt with by local officials, such as municipalities, health authorities, and local police agencies, who understand the issue.”

I will leave it to the Conservative Party to explain why it does not trust local authorities to make those determinations.

It has been community heroes, not the federal government, who have been on the front lines showing leadership throughout the current crisis. The efforts of these selfless people have undoubtedly saved lives and although there are too many to name individually here, I would like to specifically acknowledge the Herculean efforts of a few people.

The are: Ann Livingston and Sarah Blyth, founders of B.C.'s Overdose Prevention Society; Hugh Lampkin, long-time member of the Vancouver area network of drug users; Daniel Benson of the Portland Hotel Society; Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver; Kerry Jang, city councillor of Vancouver; Maxine Davis, executive director of Vancouver's Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation; Katrina Pacey, executive director of Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society; Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Chief Medical Officer, the first and only medical officer in the country who has declared a public health emergency in British Columbia because he recognizes the extent of the crisis facing our community; and Dr. Gabor Maté, who is an internationally-renowned expert in addictions.

Having repeated requests for a declaration of a national public health emergency ignored by the current federal Liberal government, these front line organizations and the Government of British Columbia were forced to take the extraordinary measure of disregarding federal law by opening non-exempt pop-up supervised consumption sites which are operating right now as I speak. These sites have operated for months despite the daily risk of prosecution faced by those working at them as staff and volunteers.

Here is what the College of Registered Nurses of B.C. said to its membership last month.

This crisis may be prolonged and continue to worsen; as these overdose prevention services are being established across our province, in any place there is a need, we are being asked by nurses, “Is my licence at risk if I provide nursing care in these sites and conditions that can be less than ideal?”

Our courageous front line health workers should never be forced to ask that question.

That is why the NDP introduced an amendment at the health committee that would have allowed provincial health ministers to request in writing from the federal health minister emergency approval for supervised consumption sites in response to a local crisis.

Such an exemption would bypass the normal application process, and go into effect immediately for up to a year with the possibility of renewal. The federal minister would be required to post a provincial request online and post the response within five days.

This change was aimed at removing the potential for distant political considerations in Ottawa, many of which we hear expressed by members of the House today, to undermine or impede timely evidence-based decision responses to provincial public emergencies.

In the unusual situation where a province has declared a provincial health emergency, instead of forcing it to go through the application process which takes time, and time in a crisis like this costs lives, it gives the federal health minister the ability to grant a temporary approval quickly.

The Liberal government has repeatedly claimed that, with this legislation, it is now doing everything in its power to address this crisis, but that is demonstrably false. The government has failed to take many actions. There are literally dozens of them that are open to the government to take to respond to this crisis which it seems reluctant to do.

Recently, the City of Vancouver sent a list of nine recommendations to the federal government to help address this crisis, including calling for a central command structure, daily meetings with Health Canada, and improved treatment services.

A coroner's jury in British Columbia recently issued a list of 21 recommendations for action and the Standing Committee on Health in December issued a report detailing 38 recommendations for the government alone, again most of which remain unimplemented. The Liberal government is not doing everything it can to address the opioid crisis. It is taking some measures, but not all the measures it needs to.

When the health committee conducted the emergency study last fall into the crisis, the first recommendation made with all-party support was to declare opioid overdoses a national public health emergency. This call was echoed by Dr. David Juurlink, the keynote speaker at the health minister's own opioid summit last fall and now by B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, a Liberal, and stakeholders across the country. In the face of a mounting death toll, a declaration of a national public health emergency would allow us to start saving more lives today.

Furthermore, during our study, the health committee heard that access to treatment for opioid addiction is almost nonexistent in indigenous communities, and where there is access, it is short-term access. That is because nurses employed by Health Canada do not have the scope of practice to support indigenous people in addressing opioid addiction in their own communities beyond 30 days. Yet, the Liberal government has made absolutely no commitment to ensuring full access to long-term, culturally appropriate addictions treatment in indigenous communities.

Finally, the health committee's recent report on the crisis made three separate and specific recommendations, calling for significant new federal funding for public community-based detox and addictions treatment. But the federal government will not commit to making any new funding available for detox and treatment in budget 2017, so far.

The health minister continues to recycle money dedicated to mental health, and claims that money can be used for addictions treatment. We are looking for new, specific, targeted funds for addictions treatment in this country. Mental health is a huge area, and there are many needs in this country. We all know that. We wanted targeted money from the government, and the government has refused to make that commitment so far.

I believe it behooves this House to be honest with itself. Would the federal government be so noncommittal and cautious in its approach if these deaths were caused by any other disease? As we look to the future, we must let go of our prejudices in order to hold on to our loved ones. Donna May, the founding member and facilitator of mumsDU, moms united and mandated to saving drug users, lost her daughter Jac to addiction at the age of 35. She said:

Most people would think that the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face was her death; the death of a child; the death of my only girl. However, that’s not it at all.

The hardest thing I’ve had to face in my life is realizing how my ignorance towards my daughter’s addiction cost me years with her that I will never get back. There are no ‘do-overs’ when your child is dead! Now I can only share my experience and what I’ve learned since, so that other parents can take something from it.

In many respects, substance abuse is one of the last remaining acceptable targets for health care discrimination. With all the evidence available to us, we should know better. If we are to succeed in treating addiction as a disease, which it is, we need to acknowledge that fear, stigma, and ignorance about those who suffer from addiction are widespread and in many respects have framed our approach to this crisis.

That is why, although these legislative changes are long overdue, they do not go far enough, fast enough. We need federal coordination and funding to address the crisis right now and over the long term. Canada's failure to treat addiction and substance use disorders by successive federal governments as a medical condition was explained to the health committee by Dr. Evan Wood from UBC.

He said:

I'll just ask you to imagine a scenario of somebody having an acute medical condition like a heart attack. They would be taken into an acute care environment. They would be seen by a medical team with ex1pertise in cardiology. The cardiovascular team would then look to guidelines and standards to diagnose the condition and to effectively treat it. Unfortunately, in Canada, because we haven't traditionally trained health care providers in addiction medicine, we have health care providers who don't know what to do, and routinely do things that actually put patients at risk.

In addition to the lack of training for health care providers, the overall lack of investments in this area has meant that there aren't standards, guidelines [or beds] for the treatment of addiction.

Dr. Mark Ujjainwalla, medical director of Recovery Ottawa, said:

The problem we face here is that the real issue with addiction is not opiates. The real issue is the inability of the present health care system to treat the disease of addiction. An addiction is a biopsychosocial illness that affects 10% of society, probably more if you include families, and it is the most underfunded medical illness in our society.

The problem is that it's also a highly preventable and very highly treatable illness. It's very unfortunate that people don't see that. When it affects your family or you, you can feel the pain and suffering, and you watch the tragedy unfold in front of you.

I would like to conclude my remarks by imploring this House to take a lesson from Estonia, a country that recently overcame an opioid crisis very similar to Canada's. The head of Estonia's drug abuse prevention department said, “I think the most important thing is you don't waste time. If you really want to learn from us, that's the mistake we made. Don't look for some new solutions, because you have them.”

We could say that history does not look kindly on those who dither in times of crisis. To put it bluntly, it is not the history books that should keep us up at night; it is the lives that we continue to lose every single day to entirely preventable causes.

Canadians are looking to us to provide leadership in a crisis. It is time for us to deliver.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for his work on this, and on the health committee. I had a chance to be part of the clause-by-clause on Bill C-37, and I appreciate all his efforts there.

I want to thank him for raising the comparison to pipelines, which has been made all too often here, that somehow there is a contradiction in trying to save lives and reducing the obstacles to saving lives that can be compared to the reasonable regulatory hurdles for building thousands of kilometres of pipeline across first nations lands, which would threaten every stream it crosses, and the oceans and coastlines that will be traversed by tankers carrying bitumen and diluent, which cannot be cleaned up. I found the comparison distasteful, and I appreciate him dealing with it in the House this afternoon.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
See context


Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton South.

The bill before is an extremely important one. We have a health crisis, and we need to respond quickly. Our government, with the support of many members in the House, is doing just that.

I would like to begin by extending my sympathy to all those who have lost a friend, neighbour, family member, or co-worker through this crisis.

In the past eight years in Nova Scotia alone there have been over 800 overdoses, and half of those have been due to the use of opioids. This is the situation in Nova Scotia, but the situation is much greater in other provinces. For example, in British Columbia, 900 people lost their lives through overdose in the last year, which is 80% more than in 2015. At a national level, overdoses now outnumber the deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. This gives us an interesting comparison, and shows how sad this crisis is.

This crisis has no boundaries. There is no age, gender, or income factor. This is an addiction; it is an illness. All governments need to respond to this crisis. We have to find the root causes and then find solutions through the most current evidenced-based policies to support that. Addictions can take hold of someone trying to cope with physical or emotional pain.

The tragic thing about fentanyl is that the drug is so powerful, a minuscule amount can have dramatic effects and even cause death. As little as 30 grams, enough to fill a regular envelope, can cause as many as 15,000 people to die of an overdose.

That is why our government and all members of the House must pass a bill quickly, because every moment counts.

This legislation would roll back changes made by the previous government, the so-called Respect for Communities Act. That legislation added an unnecessary burden on provinces, local governments, and communities in applying for an exception under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish a safe consumption site. Bill C-37 would accomplish this by simplifying and streamlining the previous process and its 26 application criteria. That is why only three sites in the last two years have been established under those criteria.

Our government is applying the wisdom of the Supreme Court of Canada, which indicated five important factors: one, evidence on the impact of such facilities on crime rates; two, local communities indicating that there is a need for those types of sites; three, establishing regulatory structures and making sure they are in place to support the sites; four, having the necessary resources; and, five, having communities express support or opposition. That is what is important and what the bill would provide. In addition, whichever applications are denied or approved, the decisions would be made public. It is important that they be public.

The fact is that supervised consumption sites save lives. That is the important thing here: they save lives. The Vancouver sites help integrate people with addiction problems into the health system in an environment where they are not judged or stigmatized.

Harm reduction is not our government's only strategy. Our government has made it clear that we will invest $5 billion in mental health as part of the health agreement.

Prior to 2006, the Government of Canada had a federal drug strategy that had a balanced approach between public health and public safety that included the four key pillars: prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction. The previous government removed harm reduction as a pillar in our national drug strategy. This was unfortunate, because evidence has shown time and time again that harm reduction strategies are needed to ensure good public health outcomes.

As part of this government's commitment to evidence-based policy-making, the Minister of Health has reinstated harm reduction as a pillar of our strategy.

Along with harm reduction, our government has also eased access to the life-saving overdose treatment naloxone. Canadians can now access this drug antidote without a prescription and we have ensured emergency supplies are available for all Canadians.

In terms of enforcement, the RCMP has been diligently working to try to stop the flow of fentanyl. An agreement was recently reached with China on this issue. Furthermore, under this legislation, the Canada Border Services Agency would have more flexibility to inspect suspicious mail which it believes may contain prohibited goods. This measure would only apply to incoming international mail from areas of the world where prevalence of illicit drugs is greater.

In closing, I would like to commend the Minister of Health for her hard work in combatting this crisis and working toward a solution, and her leadership in bringing this legislation forward. I also want to thank members in all parties in the House for their contribution to this debate, as well as the NDP, the Bloc, and the Green Party that have directly supported this bill.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook that there are many positive aspects in Bill C-37 but the real problem with the bill is that it would gut the Respect for Communities Act.

Some say that the criteria in the Respect for Communities Act is too onerous and I disagree with them. Nonetheless, we on this side of the House try to work with the government. We put forward some simple amendments that, for example, would require a letter of support from the local municipality and local police force, an amendment that would require that persons within a two-kilometre radius of a supervised injection site be consulted, and an amendment that would require a 45-day consultation period, given that Bill C-37 would gut the minimum 90-day consultation period.

What could possibly justify the government rejecting all three of these common-sense amendments? Is it really just because the government wants to gut—

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

While I am supporting this positive move, I must say I am still deeply troubled by this crisis that continues to hit communities. On a personal note, I was deeply touched after hearing from those affected. As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I, with my colleagues from all parties, studied this crisis. In fact, we chose to pass a motion to undertake an emergency study of the crisis.

We were all in lockstep with the minister, trying to make a positive difference and to make choices that would save lives. That motivation drove us to work hard, and work together. We worked collectively and openly on this. That is something I am quite proud of and something I have valued in my time as the MP for Brampton South, and as a fellow parliamentarian of all who serve together in this place.

In committee, we heard from wide-ranging front-line perspectives, experts, and from the Minister of Health directly on this. I would like to make particular note of the testimony the committee heard from indigenous peoples on October 25, which I feel was compelling, honest, and a real wake-up call about what we need to do to ensure we address the needs of indigenous communities. For starters, improving access to naloxone treatment, the life-saving medication used in the case of an opioid overdose, was needed for rural and remote first nations in particular. That was a key part of the minister's action plan coming out of the summit, and goes to show what we can do when we consult all communities.

In looking at the bill, I see that Bill C-37 addresses what we heard from the Canada Border Services Agency about practical changes that would help prevent drug-making materials from entering the country. I applaud the minister's work also to check suspicious international mail packages that are 30 grams or less, which could be used to smuggle in any amounts of substances that may cause harm. This is a good precaution to benefit Canadians.

I want to remind colleagues that the bill is the product of hundreds of voices coming together. Our committee members were graciously invited to join in the health minister's summit on this as well. Coming out of the summit, we saw action. In fact, the joint statement of action by 42 organizations to address the opioid crisis was a broad but concrete approach that includes all those involved, from health care providers, to first responders, to educators, to researchers, and to families as well. I want to applaud our Minister of Health, and Ontario's minister of health as well, for leading that conference, which focused on concrete steps and delivering clear results.

Our government has taken action from day one, building on our five-point action plan to address opioid misuse. We have taken concrete steps, such as granting section 56 exemptions for the Dr. Peter Centre and extending the exemption for lnsite for an additional four years. We made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada. Our government recently approved three safe consumption sites in Montreal that the community asked for.

Further, at the local level, we have seen action already undertaken. In the city of Toronto, the mayor met with the mayor of Vancouver and other officials in order to plan a proactive not reactive response for Ontario as the crisis drifts eastward. The mayor of Hamilton held a discussion about this as well, and other municipalities have been doing the same. I hope more municipalities will reach out, learn from one another, and take proactive measures in their communities.

The numbers and the experts support this as the right way to public health, and it also delivers cost savings. I see how various aspects of the bill address a lot of the concerns we heard at committee and at the opioids summit. While many members have made note of the urgency of passing the bill, I think the majority of members showed time and time again in recent weeks that they were willing to collaborate to move quickly on this.

I want to reassure members that I believe the bill is an extremely collaborative and well-thought-out bill that responds to experts in the field as well as front-line needs. It gives me comfort to know that this bill would make a difference.

As others have said before, and I agree, we are in a national public health crisis in Canada. In 2016, thousands of Canadians tragically died of accidental opioid overdoses, and more will die this year. Our government and its partners must work together aggressively to save lives.

If people have friends or neighbours who are hearing the Conservatives' argument that facilities like Insite are the wrong approach, I would encourage them to contact me or other members on the health committee who would be happy to provide non-partisan, evidence-based information on why that does not reflect the safe consumption site model we see working already in Canada. All members of this House can agree that our hearts go out to the families and friends affected personally when a loved one has lost his or her life instead of having another chance. Last year in British Columbia alone, more than 900 people died from a drug overdose, an 80% increase from 2015.

This legislation simply proposes to ease the burden on communities that wish to open a supervised consumption site, while putting stronger measures in place to stop the flow of illicit drugs and strengthening the system in place for licensed controlled substances facilities. Experts and stakeholders told the previous government and then told our government that Bill C-2 as it stood was not helping this crisis. That is why we took action to reverse the barriers that were holding back communities that have long been asking for the ability to save their citizens' lives.

We know there is more to be done as we move forward. We know that sadly the situation is getting worse. The deaths from overdoses will now be greater than deaths caused by car accidents. This tragic crisis continues to move eastward in Canada, with increasing drug seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil across the country. We will continue to work with our partners across the country to continue bringing forward evidence-based solutions to save lives and ensure that 2017 is the year that will mark a turn in this national public health crisis.

Many people in Brampton South have asked me about my work on the health committee, and I have mentioned over and over that we all agreed we should turn our focus to this study due to the emergency at hand. They ask me why and they are always engaged when hearing about how we can work together at committee to address real problems and issues that our fellow Canadians face. Again, the way our committee worked together is one of the cherished moments I have of being an MP, and I hope we get more chances to work collaboratively again. This crisis called on us as leaders in our communities and as parliamentarians to take action.

In October 2016, I put forward a motion that the health committee call upon the Minister of Health to move as quickly as possible to conduct a review of the laws and regulations in place with regard to safe injection sites. I suggested that the review have an end goal to improve the health and safety of Canadians, using a strong evidence-based approach. With Bill C-37, I feel the minister and government have responded fully to the motion that the health committee passed in October of last year.

I am proud to be supporting this legislation that would save the lives of Canadians who need our help.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, our government made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada. It saves Canadians' lives. I appreciate that our Minister of Health took this step.

Last November, the Minister of Health co-hosted a conference on opioid overdose crisis which resulted in 42 organizations bringing forward concrete proposals on their own.

Our government is also continuing to respond to the tragic crisis in the way that is comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate. We will continue to work with our partners across the country to continue bringing forward evidence-based solutions to save lives. That is why all members, as well as those across the way, are debating Bill C-37. We are all working together to save Canadians' lives.

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

February 14th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Waterloo Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, 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 report stage and third reading stage of 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 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

That fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to 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 stage, as the case may be, of the bill under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 10:50 a.m.
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Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have already had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-37, and I have made it clear that my colleagues on this side of the House and I are very much in favour of the majority of the bill. Saving lives and tackling the production, distribution, importation, and consumption of these dangerous and deadly drugs needs to be made a priority.

The bill seeks to allow the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA, the authority to seize unregistered pill presses and allows CBSA to open suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams. The bill also seeks to grant the Minister of Health more powers to quickly and temporarily class and schedule new synthetic and dangerous drugs. It also seeks to severely weaken the Respect for Communities Act, which has been called onerous on the applicant and impossible to meet the criteria. Yet just last week, three injection sites, I repeat, three injection sites, in Montreal were approved under the previous legislation, so I am not sure if “impossible” and “onerous” are the words that should be used here.

As stated, I have had the opportunity to speak to the bill already, but I have not had the chance to speak to how the government has pushed the bill through both the House of Commons and the health committee. I know that the response to this argument is that this needs to be pushed through in order to start saving lives. I could not agree more that saving lives is our priority and primary goal, but there are many Canadians who are worried that an injection site will appear in their neighbourhood without community support.

As parliamentarians, it is our job to listen to our constituents and ensure that we represent them in the House. That is why on February 1, 2017, I proposed splitting the bill. This would have allowed the majority of the bill to pass unanimously through the House and likely through the Senate. This would have granted the CBSA the authority and powers it has been asking for to combat the inflow of illegal substances and seize unregistered devices. This would have granted the minister the power she is seeking when classing new substances.

Splitting the bill would have also given members more opportunity to debate the importance of community engagement in the consultation process when applying and approving injection sites. Splitting the bill would have started to save lives immediately while allowing parliamentarians to do their job and represent Canadians.

Instead, the Liberals moved closure, with the support of the New Democrats, who had previously complained about the use of time allocation. They said Canadians want vivid debate, a government that actually listens to the improvements that can be made to the bill, and for their members of Parliament to have the ability to speak out. What this means is that the Liberals used a procedural device to ultimately bring debate on this very important issue to an end, and the NDP, unfortunately, agreed.

The NDP agreed to move closure and silence members of Parliament, which is surprising considering the NDP is the party which time and time again accused the previous Conservative government of stifling debate. Both the Liberals and the NDP silenced parliamentarians who were scheduled to speak and represent their communities.

Again, ministers are not following their mandate letters. The mandate letter to the Minister of Health clearly states the following:

As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the public service....

It says, “meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament“ and “close collaboration with your colleagues”. When it comes to Bill C-37, the Minister of Health has done anything but engage with opposition members and work collaboratively both in the House and committee.

Once debate was shut down in the House, the Liberals then moved to shut down debate in committee. Shutting down debate in committee meant that no witnesses could appear on Bill C-37 and suggest their own amendments. It meant opposition members did not have the chance the ask the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, or the Minister of Justice questions that their communities had for them.

The Liberals know there are concerns and questions from this side of the House when it comes to weakening community consultations with regard to injection sites, just as the Conservatives know that the Liberals' agenda includes harm reduction strategies.

That is why we proposed reasonable amendments at committee. We proposed two amendments. The first would ensure that there was at least a 45-day consultation period, which is in line with all the other consultations put in place by the government. The second would give the mayor and the head of police the right to be part of the application process by including their opposition or support for an injection site in their community. These amendments would not obstruct the minister's authority to approve the site; they would just ensure that the people who are ultimately responsible for the success of an injection site are properly consulted and informed. These amendments were reasonable.

It is disappointing that, unlike what the minister's mandate letter sets out, there was no chance for meaningful engagement with the government on making this bill stronger for all Canadians. That is why I am asking that clause 42 of Bill C-37 be deleted.

As the bill stands today, injection sites could be forced on communities that do not want or need them. My NDP colleague stated that the application process should be made easier for applicants, and it seems that the Liberals agree.

Again, I ask the minister why consultations for pipelines are entirely on the applicant, yet for injection sites, the application process should be made simpler? When it comes to pipelines, community consultation is the pillar of approval, yet for injection sites, the community does not matter. It is a double standard that I do not agree with, and it is another inconsistency within the government's policies.

I already know the Minister of Health's response. She will tell Canadians that these sites will save lives and perhaps that is true. However, truly saving a life is offering an alternative to committing crimes, getting high, and potentially overdosing. Saving a life is ensuring the option to get proper treatment is available the moment it is requested. We know the lack of detox treatment around the country is a huge problem and a huge discouragement for addicts looking to treat their treatable disease.

We also know that those who are overdosing from these dangerous drugs are not only injecting them, they are also snorting them and taking them orally. Not all those who have overdosed are struggling addicts. Some are recreational users.

This is a complex issue, an issue that all parties can agree needs to be addressed, and needs to be addressed immediately. That is why, as I stated earlier, I had proposed splitting the bill in two. We could have ensured the CBSA had the powers it has been asking for while clause 42 was further debated. This is entirely reasonable. We are not trying to play politics. We are not trying to be insensitive. In fact, I think all members are working hard to protect all Canadians.

I would ask the minister to reconsider clause 42 and take into consideration the importance of community consultation and, of course, community support, because we know that without community support, the chance of success is almost nil. I would ask the minister to further allow debate on injection sites before the bill gets passed as it.

I know I speak for many Canadians that injection sites do not belong in every single community. We know that the current process in place for the approval of injection sites is not impossible to meet, as three injection sites were recently approved by the Minister of Health.

For this reason, I ask all of my colleagues to agree to remove clause 42 and allow proper and full debate on the consultation process when approving a supervised injection site. That is what Canadians expect of us: to have full and proper debate.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to the hon. parliamentary secretary's question is that it was something in the order of 16 months, or perhaps even longer, for the groups in Montreal to get the safe consumption sites.

I wanted to point out for the hon. member for Oshawa that the so-called Respect for Communities Act was an attempt to do indirectly that which the previous Conservative government could not do directly. In other words, it wanted to defy the Supreme Court of Canada, which found that safe injection sites are a matter of law, and on the evidence, save lives.

The response from the previous Conservative government was to create 12 conditions, which I am amazed any facility managed to get through, because they required such things as the curriculum vitae of staff who would work at a site that was not yet built. The kind of criteria we would get rid of with Bill C-37 were there for the purpose of stopping the facilities from even being available for the people who need them.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present an amendment to the bill, but I want to say that it is extremely important that this legislation be passed and that we move expeditiously on the fentanyl crisis. The opioid crisis is a national public health crisis, and for the first time in my life as a parliamentarian, I actually voted with the government on time allocation, because it is critical that we get the bill passed.

There were things said just moments ago in this chamber to which I must respond. This is not hogwash. It is based on the evidence. I was part of this Parliament when we debated the attempts by the Conservatives to bring forward conditions that were not reasonable. They were not put there in the interests of public health and safety. They were explicitly and clearly part of an ongoing effort by the previous Harper government to fight against the existence of Insite in Vancouver or its application as a model for safe consumption sites, which worked in saving lives, and to make them unavailable to people in the other jurisdictions.

I support Bill C-37, but I would have wished, as I moved at committee and as the member for Vancouver East also moved at committee, that there would have been more effort to streamline the approval of safe consumption sites where they are desperately needed to confront the opioid crisis.

I am bringing forward an amendment. It is difficult, I have to say, to bring forward an amendment at this stage. However, it is often the case that when there is an urgent circumstance and our attention is focused in one area, it is easy to say yes, it will be okay, because the need is so great that we can ignore other concerns.

This amendment has been brought forward by both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. There is concern about clause 53 of the bill. Clause 53 of the bill allows suppression of excerpts in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Again, when focusing on one thing, such as terrorism, concern for civil liberties can be lessened, and that is definitely the trend. In the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, Canada Border Services agents and employees of Canada Post are allowed to open packages in a way that would not have previously been allowed. Packages that weigh 30 grams or more are not to be opened, but if they are larger, and they constitute packages, they are routinely now opened.

It is critical that we examine the practicality of this. If a civil liberties organization said that in the case of fentanyl, which we know can be absolutely lethal in tiny grains of an amount, we are going to turn a blind eye and say that no one should be allowed to open letters, that would be an unreasonable position.

What the Civil Liberties Association is saying is that if a letter is identified and there are reasonable and probable grounds to open that letter, then get a warrant. This is not cumbersome. This is why we have the rule of law and protections for privacy and for civil liberties. Once law enforcement agencies have extreme and sweeping powers to open any letter, it does not take much imagination to imagine the ways in which this power can and will be abused.

I want to draw the attention of the House to this amendment. It would suppress just one clause of the bill. It would not have the effect of saying that border services agents and Canada Post could not open letters that they suspected contained fentanyl. That is not the purpose of my amendment. The purpose of my amendment is to underscore that if they are going to open letters, they need to have a warrant. It is very clear that these broad and sweeping powers will be in the future misused. Letters will be opened by people who are suspecting something else and not necessarily because of the fentanyl crisis.

I do not need to use all the speaking time I have available to speak to the amendment. I support Bill C-37. I want to see it passed, but it should not pass with our focus exclusively on the opioid crisis without taking a moment to consider whether we are making a mistake here. Should we not require at least a warrant before border services agents and postal officials have the right to open very small packages?

I dedicate my commitment to Bill C-37 and to working on the opioid crisis to one of my constituents, Leslie McBain, a founder of Moms Stop the Harm, because she lost her son in this crisis.

It is not just downtown Vancouver that is seeing an unreasonable and extraordinary number of deaths from this crisis. Within in my own riding, and on the remote Gulf Islands, we have seen people die from the fentanyl crisis. We need this piece of legislation.

I will agree with my friend, the member for Oshawa, on one thing. We need more. We need these safe consumption sites, but we also need programming for mental health. We need programs for addiction counselling. We need ongoing support so that people who have gone through addiction crisis counselling and are clean of the drug have the support they need so they do not go back to it. This is a very large problem.

It will, I hope, be a focus in the 2017 budget and we will see money for mental health, money for addiction counselling, and money targeted particularly to adolescents. They are very often not in the right place when they have addiction counselling with older people with addictions and a lifestyle that may scare a younger adolescent. We need to think about how we target our mental health and addiction counselling.

We need Bill C-37. I support the bill. This one amendment would ensure that we do the right thing to respond to the fentanyl crisis without doing the wrong thing for civil liberties.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her support of Bill C-37 as well as for her tireless efforts and advocacy in responding to the opioid crisis in Canada.

She raises an interesting point. Our goal, of course, is to balance privacy with responding to the crisis we are seeing. I would like to simply highlight that the provision, as stated in Bill C-37, would allow customs agents to open only international mail. The reason for that disposition is that we know that only 2 mg of fentanyl can cause an overdose. This means that a 30-gram package could contain as many as 15,000 fatal doses, which is why we have included this in the bill. The goal is to strike a balance, but we think that a 30-gram package that can cause 15,000 overdoses is out of proportion. That is why the disposition is in the bill.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37 is the government's response to the opioid, fentanyl, and carfentanil crisis. I hear of young kids who have died in their 20s. They are 21, 23, 24, and 25 years old. Some are leaving behind small children. However, the bill is silent on the treatment aspect. These kids would not go to a consumption site. There has to be another strategy. I want to ask the member if she would not have liked to have seen the bill be more expansive and broader in strategy to deal with the issue of these young kids taking pills, not injecting.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that we need a broader strategy.

When we had the previous bill, Bill C-2 at the time, the Respect for Communities Act, so branded by the previous government, we needed to get rid of a lot of the provisions that were making it extremely difficult, close to impossible, to open a safe consumption site.

We may even have consensus on all sides of the House that safe consumption sites in Bill C-37 are not the whole answer to the fentanyl crisis. A lot more needs to be done, particularly for facilities designed, as the hon. member just said, for an adolescent who might not go to to a safe consumption site, and we are looking at better education.

I hope we are using the best diplomacy we have with the People's Republic of China in asking it to do more to stop the flow of fentanyl coming into Canada.

There are many steps: going from the full range of mental health and addiction counselling, supports in communities, helping law enforcement, yes, with safe consumption sites being available, and other steps as needed. They do not all have to be in this piece of legislation. This piece of legislation is likely to pass more quickly by focusing on only one aspect of what I hope will be a much broader strategy.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House of Commons today to speak in support of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. This legislation is long-awaited and evidence-based, and it can save lives. I wish to thank the Standing Committee on Health for its timely and helpful review of Bill C-37.

As everyone knows, our government is deeply concerned about Canada’s ongoing opioid crisis. Over the last year, we have seen an unprecedented number of deaths in this country. In British Columbia and Alberta, opioid-related overdoses are overtaking motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death. While some parts of the country have been more severely hit than others, no part of the country is immune. Sadly, many Canadians have lost friends or family members, or know someone who has.

The government is therefore committed to addressing this complex public health crisis, and problematic substance use more generally, through a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach.

That is why on December 12, 2016, the Minister of Health, with the support of the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, announced the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy. This new strategy formalizes our government's commitment to taking a health-focused approach to addressing problematic substance use by restoring harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada's drug policy. It also aims to strengthen the evidence-based underpinning of Canada's drug policy.

At the same time, the minister introduced a comprehensive bill in the House of Commons that would support the new strategy, Bill C-37, a bill that strives to address certain gaps and weaknesses in the existing legislation by better equipping health professionals and law enforcement with the tools they need to protect the public, protect public health, and maintain public safety. The provisions contained in Bill C-37 would help to address the ongoing opioid crisis, and for this reason I encourage all members of the House of Commons to support the bill's quick passage.

Addiction is a complex issue. Not everyone will respond to treatment the same way, and not everyone is willing or able to enter treatment. Unfortunately, evidence demonstrates that individuals who are outside of treatment are at an increased risk for major health and social harms, including overdose and death. This is why the government recognizes that we must be pragmatic in our approach to problematic substance use.

As Canadian communities struggle to respond to the opioid crisis, it is essential that evidence-based harm reduction measures, including supervised consumption sites, be a part of that response. Concrete evidence demonstrates that, when properly established and maintained, these sites save lives and improve health.

However, in 2015, the previous government passed the Respect for Communities Act, which required applicants interested in establishing supervised consumption sites to address 26 criteria in their application before the minister of health could consider it.

On top of that, to renew an exemption for an existing site, applicants have to submit information to address the 26 criteria as well as information related to two additional criteria before an application can be considered.

As a result, this legislation is widely viewed by public health experts as a barrier to establishing new supervised consumption sites, which is unfortunate.

As I have already stated, the evidence shows that supervised consumption sites save lives. As we work to stem the crisis of opioid overdose deaths, facilitating the establishment of these sites in communities where they are wanted and needed is a priority.

That is why Bill C-37 proposes to relieve the administrative burden on communities seeking to establish a supervised consumption site, without compromising the health and safety of those operating the site, its clients, or the surrounding community.

Further, with respect to renewals, existing supervised consumption sites would no longer require a new application. Instead, under Bill C-37, a renewal would simply be requested by informing Health Canada of any changes to the information that was submitted as part of a site’s last application.

Last week, the Standing Committee on Health adopted Bill C-37 with one amendment to clarify the information requirement for an application for a supervised consumption site. This is an amendment that our government fully supports.

Now at report state there is a motion from the member for Oshawa to delete clause 42 of Bill C-37. This would remove from Bill C-37 all of the amendments designed to streamline the application process for a supervised consumption site. The government cannot support this motion.

Supervised consumption sites are a key element to responding to the opioid crisis, and our government has heard that the current legislative framework is a barrier to their successful implementation in communities that want and need them.

An important aspect of this crisis is the extraordinary potency of the drugs being consumed, often unintentionally. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is one of particular concern. While it has legal pharmaceutical use for severe pain relief, it can be misused for its heroin-like effects. Fentanyl is often disguised as other opioids, such as oxycodone or heroin, or added to other drugs.

A pilot drug checking project at Insite, a supervised consumption site in Vancouver, found that 91% of drugs reported as heroin or containing heroin were also positive for fentanyl. Disguising fentanyl in other drugs leads to overdoses, as individuals are not aware of the potency of the substances they are using.

We know that pill presses and encapsulators, which can be used for legitimate purposes, are also being imported to manufacture illegal pills containing opioids. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, a single pill press can turn a kilogram of raw fentanyl worth a few thousand dollars into hundreds of thousands of pills worth millions of dollars on the black market

Currently, these devices can be legally imported into Canada by anyone, with no regulatory requirements. Under Bill C-37, every bill press and encapsulator imported into Canada would need to be registered with Health Canada.

The most illicit fentanyl is produced in other countries illegally and imported in small packages. Pure fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid where even a few milligrams can cause a fatal overdose. A small package of pure fentanyl smuggled into Canada through international mail can contain the equivalent of thousands of fatal doses.

Currently, all mail entering Canada may be examined by an officer at the border prior to being allowed into the domestic postal stream, if the officer has reasonable grounds to do so. However, mail weighing 30 grams or less may only be opened if consent is obtained from the sender or the addressee. If no consent is given, suspicious mail is simply returned to the sender. It is believed that this exception is being exploited by drug smugglers and resulting in the proliferation of trafficking via international mail.

Bill C-37 would address this by enabling officers at the border to open all items in the international mail stream if they have reasonable grounds to be suspicious that the mail contains illicit goods.

Finally, we know that the opioid crisis has introduced very real workplace health and safety concerns for front-line staff, including border agents, law enforcement officers, and others who may be exposed to fentanyl and carfentanil during the course of their duties.

This concern is only made worse by the current rules related to the handling and disposition of seized controlled substances; precursors and other offence-related property are cumbersome and complex and include requirements for agencies to store materials until a court order can be obtained. This results in large quantities of controlled substances, potentially dangerous chemicals, and other offence-related property sitting in police evidence holdings for long periods, increasing the risk of exposure to these dangerous substances and increasing the risk of their being diverted to the illicit market.

Among the many provisions included in this bill to modernize the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to keep pace with changes in the licit and illicit drug market, there are provisions that would introduce a new expedited process for the disposal of seized controlled substances, precursors, and chemical offence-related property.

Since I have only a few seconds left, I will wrap up now.

In conclusion, I would say that Bill C-37 would address gaps and weaknesses with existing legislation in order to better respond to the opioid crisis. This bill is another example of our government's commitment to establishing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy in order to reduce the harms currently being experienced by individuals and communities, caused by drugs.

I strongly, therefore, encourage all members of the House to support this bill, as amended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.