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.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context


Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the government is doing all it can to respond to this crisis. The question allows me to point out a few things that this government has done.

Health Canada has issued a necessary exemption to Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux to provide three supervised consumption sites in Montreal, which took nearly two years under the previous government's 26 criteria in Bill C-2, and now we are moving forward with Bill C-37.

We have made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available. We have provided an emergency interim order to allow the importation of bulk stocks of naloxone nasal spray from the United States. We have scheduled W-18 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. We have scheduled precursors to fentanyl. We have supported Bill C-224, the good Samaritan drug overdose act. We have enabled access to diacetylmorphine via Health Canada's special access program.

In addition, we have launched a five-point action plan to address opioid misuse, which focuses on better informing Canadians about the risk of opioids, supporting better prescription practices, reducing easy access to unnecessary opioids, supporting better treatment options, and improving the national evidence-based strategy. We also held a summit on opioids, resulting in 42 organizations bringing forward 128 concrete commitments to address the crisis. Also budget 2016 provides $50 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to Canada Health Infoway to support short-term digital health activities in e-prescribing and telehomecare. That is just to name a few.

We have done a lot to respond to this opioid crisis, and Bill C-37 is one of the steps we are taking to respond to this crisis. I appreciate the member's support and work on Bill C-37.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
See context


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think all members of the House approach this debate with a very trenchant and acute sense of the crises gripping communities across the country. The opioid overdose crisis is not restricted to any one province or territory. It is affecting communities from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, from Inuit territories all the way down to the border with the United States, and in every major city, from Vancouver to Edmonton to Calgary to Winnipeg to Toronto to Montreal. I am told that even Cape Breton is having a serious problem with opioid overdoses. This is not restricted to any one place. It is touching communities and families across our country.

We are here debating Bill C-37 because the Conservatives have put in amendments at report stage which they could not get passed at committee. We are dealing with an amendment from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands as well.

It has been the consistent position of the New Democrats, going back over a year now, that the opioid overdose crisis is a national public health emergency, and we need action now. It has been our position that this political issue is different than many other issues and, in fact, almost every other issue that comes before the House. It is an issue that affects life and death.

The consequences of the decisions we take in the House and the consequences of the decisions we do not take have the effect of perhaps meaning someone lives or dies on the streets of Canada today. We cannot say that about every issue in the House. It is that seriousness, that sober reality the New Democrats bring to this debate, and have brought to the debate from the beginning.

The previous speaker, on behalf of the Liberal government, felt that the government had been doing everything possible that it could be doing. That is demonstrably false. The government has failed to take into account many factors and many actions it has not taken up to now, and they remain before us. There are literally dozens of actions that are open to the government to take to respond to the overdose crisis, which it seems reluctant to do.

Interestingly, the last speaker talked about taking 16 months for three supervised consumption sites in Montreal to be approved. He blamed that on the previous Conservative government. It is true that this application was dealt with under Conservative legislation introduced in 2015, but 16 months is about the length of time the Liberal government has been power. Therefore, it unjust for the Liberals to blame that on the previous government.

The New Democrats stood in the House a year ago and told the government that it should introduce legislation to repeal or amend Bill C-2, the legislation that made it virtually impossible to open safe consumption sites, and to act on that immediately. What was the response at that time? It did not think it was necessary.

The Minister of Health publicly stated that she did not see the problem with the act and if she did eventually see a problem, she would act at that point. She felt that the remedy for dealing with the problems of Bill C-2 were administrative. She did not acknowledge or understand that the problem was the 26 separate criteria that were in the act. It is funny, because my hon. colleague, the member for Vancouver Centre, former Liberal health critic, at the time the Conservatives brought in their bill in 2015, nailed it on the head, as did the New Democrats. She identified that Bill C-2 was specifically brought in by the Conservatives to prevent the opening of safe consumption sites. Yet, when the Liberals came into power, suddenly they changed. Suddenly, they could work with the act.

In the year we have waited, finally dealing with Bill C-2, finally bringing in Bill C-37, which would streamline the act, how many Canadians have died? Approximately 2,000. Now, not all of those deaths would have been preventable. However, when we know safe consumption sites save lives, we know the sooner we can get safe consumption sites open across the country, the sooner lives will be saved. Therefore, we know Canadians died unnecessarily because of the delay of the government, and that is a fact.

The thing about the Conservative amendments are that the Conservatives, with great respect, still remain stuck in their ideological perspective that they want to slow down the introduction of safe consumption sites.

I believe the vast majority of Conservatives do not support safe consumption sites. The only reason they brought in legislation was because they fought Insite all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, based on evidence, that the government had to grant a section 56 exemption. Therefore, the Conservatives reluctantly brought in legislation to do so, but they did so with poison pills, 26 of them in fact. The legislation had the desired effect. In the time that the Conservatives brought Bill C-2 to the House, not a single safe consumption site was opened in the country. Therefore, I think that is not a coincidence.

What we have done here, and this legislation tracks this quite well, is restore the process and the criteria for opening a safe consumption site back to the criteria identified by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada said that the minister must grant an exemption to an applicant who wanted to open a safe consumption site if he or she was satisfied that six criteria had been satisfied. The applicant would need to provide evidence of the intended public health benefits of the site, the local conditions indicating the need for the site, the resources available to support the site, the impact of the site on crime rates, the administrative structure in place to support the site, and expressions of community support or opposition.

I want to stop for a moment because I continually hear the Conservatives misrepresent this issue. All parties in the House believe that the expressions of community support or opposition are important and, in fact, must be taken into account by any health minister. That is in the legislation.

I hear some Conservatives say that it is not there. It absolutely is in the legislation, If they have read it, it says that expressions of community support and opposition is one of the factors that must be taken into account. Perhaps the Conservatives can read the legislation on which they want to vote.

While I am on the topic of the Conservatives, I have to say this. While we were at the health committee last week, one of the most bizarre interventions I have ever heard was made by the member for Calgary Confederation. In opposing the position of the New Democrats that we supported legislation to make safe consumption sites easier to open in the country, with an appropriate regulatory structure mirroring the six criteria set down by the Supreme Court of Canada, he said to me:

I think [the member for Vancouver Kingsway]'s intention here is to try to make the application process for safe injection sites easier.

Would you be in a similar position...if we were sitting around the table here talking about application processes for pipelines in Alberta? To apply for a pipeline is extremely onerous. It's extremely burdensome and time-consuming. It can often take years.

We fought hard as Conservatives to try to make it easier to get pipelines built throughout this country, but we're not talking about pipelines here today; we're talking about safe injection sites.

...I don't support what you're doing your motion or your amendments. However, I am making again the comparison between pipelines and safe injection sites.

...If you're willing to make it easier for us in Alberta, we can make it easier for you to put in safe injection sites throughout the country.

That was the most offensive intervention I have ever heard from any member in the House or at committee. To draw a comparison between moving fossil fuels through pipelines and a process that saves Canadian lives is about the most offensive, dishonourable comment I have heard made by anybody in the House. To actually suggest that there is a comparison between the regulatory process for approving pipelines and the regulatory process to open up health facilities to save Canadians is offensive. To suggest that there could be a trade-off, that if one party supported an easier approval process for pipelines in exchange for an easier approval process for opening safe consumption sites, is also offence. This does not surprise me.

However, what I am surprised by, and where I will conclude, is the Liberal government's refusal to entertain the two amendments of the New Democrats.

First, the New Democrats moved to amend the act to better apportion the burden on an applicant for these sites to make it more appropriate. We believe that the six criteria of the Supreme Court ought to be taken into account by the Minister of Health, but that it is only the local conditions, the resources available, and the need for the local community that applicants should have the burden of meeting. The impact on crime rates, the expression of opposition or support for the site, and the regulatory structure are matters for the minister to use her discretion. We should not burden the applicants for that.

Our second amendment would have allowed provincial health ministers to bypass that process on an emergency basis and ask the Minister of Health for a section 56 exemption in order to open up temporary emergency overdose prevention sites, which are operating in Vancouver today against the law.

I am disappointed the Liberal government rejected those amendments, but the New Democrats will continue to work to move this act swiftly through Parliament so we can start saving lives as soon as possible.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
See context


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise at report stage on Bill C-37 to add my perspective to the debate.

All of us in the House agree that we are facing a very real crisis. The casual or addictive use of drugs is now including a much higher risk of death. Indeed, many people have compared it to playing Russian roulette with what is out on the streets and what is being mixed into drugs. It is truly a risk for everyone.

Bill C-37 represents a partial response to the crisis. There are many measures in the bill that are important and supportable, but there are some areas which obviously we still have some concerns about. Even with the supportable measures, I think we need to talk a bit about the time it took to get us to this point.

It was 10 months ago today, April 14, when British Columbia's provincial health officer declared a state of emergency in relation to the rising death rate being seen every day. It was related to fentanyl being laced into drugs. Back in 2012, it was in about 5% of drugs and it was reaching up to 60% in 2016. It was recognized that we had a crisis and B.C. declared a state of emergency. That was 10 months ago.

Meanwhile, we know that carfentanil has been confirmed on the streets as well. It is very important that we have a public awareness campaign, because many parents, children, youth, and young adults have no idea what is out there on the street. Carfentanil is for use on large animals like elephants. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, 4,000 times more potent than heroin, 10,000 times more potent than morphine. People can actually order it by mail from China, and it can be delivered.

In the fall of last year, a man in Calgary was arrested, and I believe he had a kilogram of carfentanil, which had the potential to kill 50 million people.

We have all agreed that we need to give additional powers to our border security folks. How long has that taken? We had a state of emergency 10 years ago. We finally got a bill that would do this, right before Christmas when there was no time to debate it. The bill was sort of packed with a number of different measures, many of which are supportable, but the government had to know here was one area that was going to create debate.

First of all, the government should have had this bill on the table way back in the fall. Second, let us get that piece that is non-controversial through the House, and then spend a bit of time debating the issues that we are concerned about.

The bill also includes the prohibition of designated devices, such as pill presses. We know that in Canada there is no reason for anyone to have a pill press without it being registered. I understand that this change could have been done in the regulatory framework, but instead, we waited months and months and it was put into the bill. Instead of a quick, simple process that would have been an appropriate response to an emergency, we have gone at a pace similar to that for many of the bills in the House which are not critical. However, this is a bill that is critical, and these items should have been acted on a long time ago.

As I have indicated, we really do support many of the measures in the bill, but it should have been here 10 months ago. It should have been here eight months ago. I was very disappointed that the Liberals did not support moving it through at all stages. We offered to move it through at all stages and it could have been law right now. Our border services agents could be opening those small packages and capturing some of these illicit substances in the mail as we speak. I think the government has been negligent.

It was interesting to hear the member for Vancouver Centre talk about how important this bill is, but even she recognized last summer that her government was moving too slowly. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to ask her a question about that so that she could articulate more clearly what her concerns were at that time.

There is a section of the bill we do have some problems with. The Liberals are gutting community consultation and there is truly a lack of rigour. They talk about complying with the Supreme Court, but they have taken all the rigour out of the compliance. They have some very undefined statements and principles. There is no definition around them. I do have big concerns that they have taken some of those items out.

On November 16, the Minister of Health was at the indigenous affairs committee. I want to refer to a couple of comments she made at that time.

We talked about a lack of proper data. She said:

The point you've raised brings up one of the real challenges on the opioid crisis, which is that there is actually not the kind of data and surveillance we would like to have, even in terms of the total overall number of overdoses and overdose deaths.

Having a solution means we need to have data, and I do not see us making much movement toward having good data, in terms of informing the proper solutions for different communities.

In response to some questions I was asking about the availability of detox and rehabilitation, she said:

I think it would be accurate to say that there is a shortage of treatment facilities and programs.

The government has no trouble putting criteria around home and mental health care. It is very happy to say to the provinces that we have to have some criteria around home and mental health care, but the requirement for associated detox and rehab at safe community injection sites has been taken away.

That is something that was attached because, to be frank, there are a lot of priorities for dollars to be spent within our provinces and our health authorities, and there is a huge and extreme lack of detox and rehabilitation facilities. In spite of the minister's acknowledgement that there is a shortage, she actually chose to remove that from the bill.

Again, at the meeting on November 16, we talked about the importance of community consultation. She said:

I've made it clear that for communities that need them, where they're appropriate and where there's a community desire to have those programs, we need to find mechanisms to make them more available as one of a range of tools. Of course, this is the kind of thing where there would be collaboration with the community and with provincial health authorities.

Then she went on to say “community consultation is absolutely essential” .

Let us take those quotes and look at the very reasonable amendment. There were some concerns from the current government that the process was too onerous, so my colleague, who is the critic for health, made what I thought were very appropriate suggestions for amendments. He suggested that what was needed was mayor and council to support a safe injection site. Many of us have a local government past. We would agree that mayor and council can have critical, absolutely critical, insight in terms of what, where, and how.

They talked about the RCMP having some input. They talked about a public consultation process that includes notices to the people who live within two kilometres of the area.

The minister talked about community consultation. It is very nebulous and unclear in the existing legislation. What was proposed was something that was very reasonable, very sensible, but the government chose to ignore putting any sort of framework around community consultation. I think it has made a big mistake.

Our concern is very important. It is valid. We cannot take the community consultation process away. We need a bit of rigour, and they have taken that rigour out of the process.

I look to members opposite to reconsider that particular element, because anyone who has ever been in local government knows how important it is to have a framework around the local community consultation process.

In my final comments, another really important gap we see that perhaps is not part of legislation, is there has been no commitment at all on the part of the government for a national education and awareness campaign. That is something to which the government should give very serious consideration.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today in support of Bill C-37. We have a national public health crisis in Canada right now. Last year, in British Columbia alone, more than 900 people died from drug overdoses, an increase of over 80% from the previous year, and the situation is getting worse. Deaths from drug overdoses, including fentanyl and carfentanil, are now predicted to exceed deaths by car accidents. Thousands have died, and thousands more will die unless we, as parliamentarians, take decisive action. Bill C-37 represents decisive action.

This bill would address our public health crisis and help save lives in a few important ways. It would simplify and streamline the application process for communities that wish to open supervised consumption sites to limit drug overdoses. It would put stronger measures in place to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our communities.

Bill C-37 represents a vitally important step and necessary shift in the treatment of drug addiction from a framework of punishment and strict law enforcement, practised by the previous government, to one focused on health care and based on scientific evidence.

I am proud to support this bill on behalf of my constituents in Parkdale—High Park. The care and compassion of the people in my community, coupled with their political engagement and depth of knowledge on these issues, has translated into overwhelming support for a shift in how we treat people experiencing drug addiction. My constituents want a federal government that responds to health crises, like the tragic deaths of thousands of Canadians from accidental opioid overdoses in 2016, with a compassionate strategy based on evidence, not the knee-jerk ideological responses that characterized the previous government's zero tolerance approach.

This past July in Toronto, the city where I live and serve the people of Parkdale—High Park, city council approved plans for three future safe consumption sites. In Toronto, there are already 50 such locations that offer harm reduction services and access to clean syringes and needles, including the Parkdale Community Health Centre and the Breakaway Addiction Services Satellite clinic in my riding. Both of these organizations provide an invaluable service in my community. They help save lives in Parkdale—High Park by treating addicts with care and compassion, not punishment and stigma.

Bill C-37 would help by expanding the harm reduction network that already exists in my community and across the city of Toronto.

I want to explore the idea of harm reduction a little more. At its core, the principle of harm reduction is about taking a realistic approach to drug use and addiction and thinking practically and respectfully about the best options for treatment. As we all know in this chamber, drug addicts do not desire or choose to continue using substances that put them at risk of harm. Addiction is a brain disorder; it is not a choice.

People experiencing addiction compulsively engage with rewarding stimuli, despite the harm it does to their health, their relationships, and their very lives. While prevention and treatment are the central pillars of any drug strategy, we acknowledge, on this side of the House, the reality that people who are experiencing addiction will use drugs for a period of time until they are in treatment.

Harm reduction strategies and treatment goals are not incompatible. To the contrary, they are actually mutually reinforcing. Harm reduction strategies assist by helping to keep addicts alive and moving them toward treatment. Harm reduction strategies are the best alternative for people for whom prevention or criminal sanctions have not been effective. Harm reduction does not mean that we are giving up on these people or enabling them to use. It is quite the opposite. Through harm reduction, we are refusing to give up on these very people. We are refusing to let them die.

The contrast to harm reduction initiatives are the zero tolerance policies favoured by the previous government. Zero tolerance policies aimed at criminalizing addicts do not work. We have seen the negative effects of these strategies on marginalized communities, especially among those who are over-incarcerated, like the indigenous and black communities. We have seen the negative stigma. We have seen misinformation based on anecdotes instead of scientific facts about drug addiction. People who are suffering from a condition they cannot control are treated as criminals instead of patients. This is fundamentally the wrong approach.

By contrast, harm reduction not only serves individuals affected by their own addiction but helps friends and families of addicts, and society as a whole. When we stop pushing addicts out onto the street and into alleyways, our communities become safer. When we provide a safe space for consumption, equipped with medical professionals, parents of addicts do not have to bury their children. When we shift our narrative to focus on providing health care for Canadians afflicted with a difficult condition, our society, as a whole, begins to heal.

This basic idea that harm reduction, in the form of safe, supervised consumption sites, can promote public health and safety was recognized by the Supreme Court in the Insite case.

With members' indulgence, I am going to put on my constitutional lawyer hat for a moment and discuss the Vancouver safe injection site that was at issue in the Insite case. I will not go into all the details, much as I would love to, but it is important to note that, in short, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously found in that case that the denial of a ministerial exemption by the previous government under the Controlled Drug and Substances Act was a violation of the charter, specifically the section 7 right to life and security of the person of Insite's clients. The Supreme Court, by way of remedy, unilaterally reinstated the exemption, allowing Insite's doors to remain open so the facility could continue to prevent unnecessary deaths on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The previous government's response to that decision, after some negative reaction on the part of the previous government, was to ramp up the number of conditions that had to be met for supervised consumption sites to be permitted to operate.

The government cannot do through the back door what it is not permitted to do constitutionally through the front door. The old Bill C-2, which is called, and we know the Conservatives had a penchant for these catchy names, the Respect for Communities Act, was an ideological response, not one based on evidence. It prompted observers, like the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, to note:

...Bill C-2, imposed near-insurmountable obstacles for supervised consumption services (SCS), such as Insite in Vancouver, despite ample evidence of the benefits of these health interventions. Not only have [supervised consumption sites] been shown to save lives, they are also cost-effective, as revealed by a new study conducted by the Toronto-based St. Michael's Hospital

If the members opposite want evidence of that study, I am happy to provide it.

We have heard such critiques, and we have responded as a government. Through Bill C-37, our government is taking the number of criteria that must be met to open a supervised site from 26 conditions, which to my mind is not intensive community involvement but is actually a barrier to providing authorization, and reducing it to five. We did not just dream up this list. We are using the very five criteria entrenched in paragraph 153 of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision, lest we be accused of perhaps not taking community consultation seriously, as some of the members opposite have opined.

Through Bill C-37, our government has responded to calls for a change in the legislation from organizations and people on the front lines who care for and treat drug addicts. They see the negative impact of a system imbalanced between public safety and public health.

Criticism of the bill has suggested that the government's new approach would turn society into an enabler of drug addiction, as opposed to a preventer. On the contrary, we will not stand idly by and enable Canadians to fatally overdose because we failed to act to provide them with safe spaces to receive health treatment.

We will prevent more people from dying by shifting our approach from criminalization to treatment with compassion. While we are shifting our approach, we are not diminishing the ability of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to enforce the law. We are shifting the treatment of addicts from punishment to treatment by treating addiction as a health issue. Critics of the bill forget that we are also increasing law enforcement's ability to prevent illegal substances from making it onto Canadian streets with changes to the Customs Act.

Bill C-37 would also further reinforce the commitment to consult with communities before making decisions that would directly impact them, such as the opening of safe consumption sites. Law enforcement, first responders, business owners, and residents down the street would all be consulted before the health minister delivered an evidence-based decision.

This bill is not revolutionary. We heard this in some of the earlier speeches. There are already over 90 safe consumption sites operating effectively worldwide, including two sites right here in Canada. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has completed extensive research, in collaboration with other prevention programs, on the effectiveness of harm reduction. Researchers discuss drug addition as a continuum, “where harm may occur at any level”.

Drug addiction is not black and white. It is not an all-or-nothing disease. If we continue to impose the rigid standards of Bill C-2, passed by the previous government, we will continue to deny communities and addicts the help, support, and life-saving services they desperately need and deserve. Balancing public safety and public health is not easy, but I am confident that Bill C-37 would help do just that. I am very proud to support legislation that puts the health and safety of Canadians at the forefront of our strategy, and I urge all members of the House to do the same.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
See context


Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about Bill C-37. Before I do, I hope you will allow me some latitude to wish my wife Lisa a happy Valentine's Day. We are 3,000 kilometres apart, but I am here doing the nation's business and she has given me her blessing to be here even though it is Valentine's Day. I want to thank her for all of her support in doing this job.

We are here to talk about a very serious piece of legislation, Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. First of all, Canadians should be aware that this debate is now taking place under time allocation, which means the government has decided it does not want to hear from any more members of Parliament on this issue. Not only does it not want to hear from affected communities on the issue of safe injection sites or safe consumption sites, as they are now being described, but it does not even want to hear from parliamentarians on this issue. That is a real shame.

We are sent here to represent our constituents. We are sent here to speak out on behalf of the people who elected us, and now the government has said it does not want to hear from us anymore. It only wants one more day of debate. It tried to have no debate whatsoever on the bill. Teaming up with the NDP, it tried to have the bill passed at all stages with no debate from any single member of Parliament. It is outrageous that this sort of important issue would be treated in that manner where not only do Liberals not want to hear from affected communities anymore, but they do not even want to hear from members of Parliament. I think that is the real issue here.

I heard today, and we all agree, that this is a health crisis. There are components of the bill that deal with the health crisis. The official opposition, the Conservative Party, advocated splitting the bill and passing those sections of the bill immediately. Again, this was rejected by the Liberal government and the third party, the NDP, because apparently they want to score political points on this issue. That is a real shame.

The points of the bill that all parties agree on include giving the Canada Border Services Agency more powers to search packages weighing less than 30 grams and ceasing the import of pill presses. We agree. The Conservative Party has agreed. Our health critic has spoken eloquently about that, and so have many on this side. This is a real measure that can be taken immediately to address this issue, but again, the government rejected our attempts to have this dealt with quickly.

We agree that we should grant the minister the authority to quickly and temporarily schedule and class new substances. That is a good idea. We could have done that in a single day with a single voice vote, had the government agreed to split the bill and move forward on the issues on which we could all agree, had the Liberals really wanted this to move ahead quickly, if they actually cared. We heard this again and again today from the government side: we need to act immediately, we need to act quickly, this is a health crisis. We agree. Why did they not agree with the Conservative amendment to split the bill and move forward those important measures immediately? It shows that there is politics at work here.

What we are concerned about is the community consultation. Quite frankly, I find it shocking that the government talks about consultation. It consulted on every other measure it has brought in. Whether it actually listened to that consultation, I think is a matter of debate. However, whether it is on new pipelines or any number of other pieces of legislation, the Liberals have delayed the pipeline decisions that would have got energy workers in Canada back to work, by up to a year.

They said the consultations that were done previously were not enough; they needed to set up a whole new process and double down on consultation because they needed social licence to move forward, whatever that means. So they draw out that process on and on and ignore the consultation that they actually had. They went with the Conservative process entirely when they made those decisions. However here, on something that affects communities, there is no consultation.

I heard it again. The minister has declared it a barrier. The previous Liberal speaker said that community consultations are a barrier to safe injection sites and we need to get rid of them.

Quite frankly, I think it is reasonable to expect that, when a safe injection site is proposed for any community, the chiefs of police are consulted, crime statistics are consulted, the mayor and council are consulted, the residents in the area where the site might be opened are consulted. As the member for Oshawa said, who is the official opposition health critic, the only way that safe injection sites are successful is when they have community buy-in, and we do not get community buy-in when we refuse to consult with the people who will be directly impacted.

We have heard many times about Insite in east Vancouver. Members of that community have said this is where they want this; this is okay in their community; they have integrated it into their community. Not all communities are east Vancouver. Some are going to take some time to get there, if they ever do.

However, we do not build consensus by refusing to consult with affected individuals. We do not build consensus by refusing to talk to the community.

As a member of Parliament, I am glad I had the opportunity to speak. I am sorry for the many dozens of MPs who will not be afforded the opportunity because of the heavy-handed tactics of the government. However, seeing this coming, seeing that the government was abandoning community consultations, I took the opportunity to consult with my community. I sent a brochure to every single household in my riding and asked two questions. The first question was whether they think communities should be consulted before a safe injection site is proposed in a community. Do they think that's reasonable? The second question was whether they think there should be a safe injection site in Chilliwack—Hope. I had an extremely robust response. Nearly 1,000 people have taken the time to respond, which is a very high number. It is more than double the number I usually get in responses.

To the question whether they believe that, without consultation, the government should be able to approve these, 76% of respondents said, no, they do not believe that should be possible to do. They do not see that as a barrier. They think it is essential that they be consulted before a safe injection site goes through.

To the second question, whether they believe safe injection sites should be located in Chilliwack—Hope, 68% said no and 32% said yes.

I will be sharing that information. I share it with the House. Once the final results are in, I will share that with the Minister of Health, with the government, because my constituents deserve the right to be consulted and heard. The real tragedy here is that we had an opportunity to act immediately on those measures that we could all agree on, but the government refused to do so.

The safe injection site model is what the debate is focused on here, but there is another great example that I want to highlight from British Columbia, as well, and again B.C. is on the leading edge of this. It certainly was troubling to hear the member for Vancouver Centre indicate in the media earlier this year that, maybe once this issue reaches the Manitoba-Ontario border, then this Liberal government will start to pay attention. Right now, it's just an issue for B.C., so they are not too worried about it. This is the most senior member of that caucus, I think. She has been here since 1993. She indicated that maybe when this becomes an issue in central Canada, then the government will start to pay attention. That is a pretty sad state

I want to talk about the St. Paul’s Rapid Access Addictions Clinic. It has been set up in a hospital setting where, when people come in and say that they want to kick their addiction, they are immediately walked upstairs and started on the process of detox right then and there. That is what we have not talked about enough today. Harm reduction is one of only four pillars in dealing with drug addiction. We have enforcement, we have treatment, and for too long the balance has shifted only to harm reduction. Until we have adequate treatment and detox beds for people to access, I think we are merely treating the symptom and not the underlying problem.

It is unfortunate that the government is cutting off debate on this issue. It is unfortunate it does not want to consult with communities. It is a real shame, and it is not the way the government should move forward on this important issue.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

As we have heard from other members in the course of this debate, the illegal production and trafficking of controlled substances continues to be a significant problem in Canada. Our government is profoundly concerned about the current opioid crisis and the growing number of opioid overdoses and tragic deaths across the country.

Today, I will speak to the human aspect of this crisis, as well as some of Bill C-37's proposals to help address the health and safety risks associated with the diversion of drugs from the legitimate supply chain to the illicit market, one important source that contributes to this public health crisis in Canada.

It is critical that we ensure our drug control legislation, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or CDSA, is modern, effective, and can better protect the health and safety of Canadians. This is an urgent priority for me and for our government.

In that respect, on December 12, 2016, the Minister of Health introduced Bill C-37 in the House of Commons. This bill supports our government’s commitment to drug policy that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based, and which balances both public health and public safety for Canadians.

As you are all aware, this bill proposes significant changes related to supporting the establishment of supervised consumption sites as a key harm reduction measure. It also contains important elements which aim to ensure that controlled substances used for legitimate purposes are not being diverted to the illicit drug market.

We must work tirelessly to ensure that controlled substances used for legitimate purposes are not diverted to the illicit drug market, where they are deadly and have led to hundreds of tragic accidental drug overdose deaths, 914 last year in my province of British Columbia alone. That is 80% more than the previous year, fentanyl being the major contributor to this awful statistic.

The 914 are actually not statistics; they are people and they are us. There were 914 people who died in British Columbia from overdose deaths last year. They are human beings. Each life, in its own unique way, is interwoven with families and communities. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. They loved others and were loved, they belonged, they shared their aspirations, and they inspired their friends. They were people, like each of us, who, in their own way, enjoyed their lives, work, and challenges, who were powerful, contributing, and recognized, who were moved to make the world a better place. They are human beings.

Donald Charles Alexander Robertson, known as Alex by his friends, was caught off guard by this crisis. He passed away just over two weeks ago due to an accidental death caused by the opiate fentanyl. I chatted with Alex the evening before. He was a close friend and work colleague of my son Erik over many years. His life was interwoven with ours, his community with our community. In the words of my son Erik, Alex really was an amazing, capable, wise, joyous, humble, grounded, passionate, brilliant young man. He was an innovator and emerging leader who loved and was loved by many. His memories, teachings, and legacy will inspire many of us for decades to come.

Let us not detach ourselves in this debate and lose sight of the humanity of this crisis in the quotation of statistics. The victims of the fentanyl crisis, they are us. I want to express my deep condolences to Alex's parents and his sisters, Chrissy and Leslie, to his extended family, friends and co-workers. I hope the passing of Bill C-37 will be one plank in the foundation that we need to build to help eliminate the unintended exposure to deadly illicit opioids and the harm they cause over the years to come.

I would now like to focus specifically on how Bill C-37 would modernize Canada's legislation to reduce the risk of controlled substances like fentanyl from being diverted from legitimate producers, importers and distributors and secured by the black market. The measures being proposed to address gaps in Canada's drug framework are designed to respond to this evolving opioid crisis.

First, while targeted amendments have been made to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act since it came into force in 1997, the provisions of the act have not kept pace with the quickly evolving licit controlled substances industry and the illicit drug market. Many of the legislative amendments being proposed in Bill C-37 will modernize the CDSA to strengthen law enforcement. They also enhance the government's ability to monitor and promote compliance of the regulated parties who handle, buy, sell and transport controlled substances as legitimate products every day.

These improvements will bring the CDSA into alignment with other modern federal legislation designed to protect public health, and these changes will reduce the risks of these drugs being diverted from the legitimate supply chain to the illicit markets that are creating havoc in the lives of the accidental victims. Professional tools are proposed within the framework of the CDSA to improve the government's ability to incent compliance with the requirements for safe and secure procedures and practices under the CDSA and its regulations.

Second, Bill C-37 would establish the legislative framework to support the development of an administrative monetary penalty scheme, or an AMP. Once the new monetary penalties are in place, it will allow Health Canada to fine a regulated party for a violation of the provisions of the CDSA or its regulations, as defined in the regulations required to bring the scheme into effect.

Third, Bill C-37 proposes amendments which would allow military police to be designated as a police force under the CDSA. Currently, military police are not afforded the same protections as other law enforcement agencies in terms of handling controlled substances under the Police Enforcement Regulations.

In the proposed provisions of Bill C-37, military police could be designated as a police force, in their respective areas of jurisdiction, which would allow them to exercise a full range of investigative tools in the course of the investigation of drug-related crime.

These kinds of enforcement mechanisms are important to save lives.

A fourth aspect of the bill includes improving inspection authorities under the CDSA to bring them in line with authorities and other federal regulations.

Currently Health Canada inspectors are only able to inspect sites where authorized activities with controlled substances and precursors are taking place. Under Bill C-37, new authorities are being proposed to allow Health Canada inspectors to enter places where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that unauthorized activities with controlled substances or precursors are taking place.

There are many more aspects to the bill to better control substances, like fentanyl, which are potentially dangerous chemicals. It is urgent that the bill go forward for public health and safety. Bill C-37 is a comprehensive package with many other aspects that have been debated today and in the previous days.

There is more to be done but this is an important step along the way. It will make the CDSA a more comprehensive and compassionate act that encourages timely compliance, deters non-compliance, and ultimately contributes to the government's objective of protecting the health, safety, and the lives of Canadians, valuable lives, the lives of people like a bright, fun, caring 29-year-old man his friends knew as Alex.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. As I stated in my speech on January 31, this is the government's response to the fentanyl and opioid health crisis that is facing this country.

Communities struggle to deal with this crisis. We just heard from a member whose son had lost a close friend who was 20 years old. I have a list here of young adolescents who are 21, 23, 25. A Delta mother lost two of her children within 20 minutes of each other, both in their twenties.

I have also heard that this was the response to this crisis, and that it was comprehensive drug policy. However, I would suggest that this is not comprehensive drug policy, because it is silent on the issue of how the current government is going to deal with that aspect of the opioid crisis.

First responders and medical personnel are overwhelmed and have difficulty trying to respond to the overdoses and the deaths. This is a very complex issue that deserves a multi-faceted approach. There is one strategy for those who are street-entrenched and will inject and use consumption sites, there is another strategy for those who use pills and prescription drugs, and another one for those whose use is recreational. Kids swallow a pill and do not realize what they are taking. Therefore, one size does not fit all.

Within the bill there are measures that are supported by all parties. We are happy to support the portion of the bill that gives the Canada Border Services Agency more authority to open international mail, and that prohibits the importation of unregistered pill presses.

It is well known around the world that China has been a significant contributor to the growing opioid, fentanyl, and carfentanil problem in Canada and throughout North America. It is vital that the government work to ensure that the deadly chemicals used in manufacturing labs in China and the illicit drugs that can be ordered online and shipped overseas not be allowed in Canada. I would stress to the Prime Minister, as he goes forward with his trade negotiations with China, that this issue be dealt with first and foremost.

We support the addition to broaden the penalties to now apply to the production, sale, importation, or transportation of anything intended to be used in the production of any controlled substance, including fentanyl. Clearly, there are many pieces of the bill that are supportable.

I want to talk a little bit about the timeline of Bill C-37.

Back in April, B.C. public health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, declared a public health emergency. On December 12, two days before Christmas break, the government tabled Bill C-37 in the House. January 31 was the first debate. February 1, it was debated again, and the government moved time allocation to close down debate. On February 9, the health committee heard from no witnesses and moved straight into clause-by-clause.

The singular issue I have with the bill is that it does not allow a process or criteria for public input before an injection site is located. We have heard that the Conservative government had one that was too onerous. Now, the current government is going in the exact opposite direction in having nothing.

Our health critic moved amendments that called for letters indicating support or opposition from the municipality or the head of the police force. This amendment was voted down by the Liberals.

There was the amendment that all households within a two-kilometre radius be notified with the ability to offer opinions in support or opposition. This was voted down by the Liberals.

There was an amendment proposing that information be provided regarding schools, hospitals, businesses which include day cares, recreational facilities that were located within that two-kilometre radius be provided. That was voted down by the Liberals. There was an amendment proposed that no less than 45 days but no longer than 90 days be included for public input and consultation. That was voted down by the Liberal government.

As a former mayor for almost a decade, I can say that we must consult with the community. We have to look at the community as a whole and support those in need as well as ensure that the community has a voice. I do not think it is unreasonable to request a minimum of 45 days in which to do this. I do not think that it is unreasonable to have an understanding of how many schools or how many day cares are in the vicinity of a proposed injection site.

I do not think it is unreasonable to have a letter of support or opposition from the chief of police or the mayor in council. We need to have a multi-faceted approach to a very complex problem. We need to embark upon a national education awareness campaign and I was happy to hear that one of the Liberal MPs supported our initiative on that. We have to ensure that the general public, young adults, and students have the information and that they are well informed.

We need proper data in each community. We need to know whether people overdosed by injection or taking pills. Were these people street entrenched? Were these people recreational users? As I pointed out earlier, the Liberal government's response needs to be based on data that is gathered. With scarce dollars, Liberals have to identify where those dollars should be directed and where they will have the greatest impact.

For those who are addicted and entrenched in that lifestyle, we need to have wraparound services that care for the whole person: mental health support as well as physical dependency and addiction support, a holistic approach that includes treatment beds, therapeutic communities, and detox. A place for those who want and need support because the window of opportunity in an addicted person's life is fleeting and the response must be immediate and the resources must be available. Every community is different.

In my community and as the former mayor, we worked with the province and with the private sector. We worked together and developed an addictions precinct adjacent to the hospital. We have a detox facility. We have two treatment facilities. We have a sobering centre as a point of entry, transitional housing, along with job and educational training. I have to say we have had some pretty incredible results.

We also have a needle exchange and a mobile unit, but we still have issues that need to be addressed. Is locating an injection site the right answer? I do not know, but I know there must be a conversation and a consultation with the community, with the mayor in council, and the police chief, along with addiction specialists. This is a process that needs to be undertaken, but as I pointed out earlier, every single amendment we proposed to have some form of consultation was voted down by the Liberal government. This is not open. This is not transparent and it flies in the face of the very people who are on the front lines dealing with this health crisis.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things the Conservative Party has put on the record that I take objection to.

The member who just spoke said that people are dying and this is not being addressed. Nothing could be further from the truth. No matter what the Conservatives want to mesh together as a conspiracy, the bottom line is that if there has been any negligence on this file, it can be rooted in the Conservative Party's approach in dealing with what is a very important issue. To me, what it does, like many other issues, is reinforce that the Conservatives have lost touch with Canadians. They do not understand what good, sound public policy really is. It is demonstrated by what they have articulated on this legislation, not only at third reading of this bill but at second reading. It is somewhat disappointing.

We very much appreciate the supportive attitude by the New Democrats. In fact, I applaud the gesture they made back in December when they recognized that there is only so much the government is able to do and that we have attempted to deal with this issue on a number of fronts, one of which is, in fact, the legislation we are debating today, Bill C-37.

Back in December, New Democrats suggested passing the bill in the House unanimously. What did the Conservatives say? It was obviously no, they did not want to do that. That is fine and I will respect that. I am a parliamentarian and appreciate why the Conservatives said no, but today they stand in their places and say that if the bill did not have the safe injection site issue in it, then it could have easily passed unanimously. There are others in the chamber who wanted that in the legislation.

In fact, it was when Mr. Harper was prime minister that the whole issue of safe consumption sites was raised and fairly well debated. There could always be more debate, no doubt, but there was a debate back then. We knew back then that the Conservatives were going against science, that they were not listening to what the Supreme Court of Canada said, that they had a one-track mind in terms of legislation that would prevent consumption sites as much as possible, or at the very least discourage them.

Now the Conservatives are saying they want more consultation. At the end of the day, Insite has been a huge success. There is not one stakeholder that I am aware of in British Columbia, particularly Vancouver, that is against Insite because it has saved so many lives. This came into being because the federal government at the time, under a Liberal administration, worked with the province, the municipality, first responders, and the community. People recognized the value of having a supervised injection site. Only the Conservatives say no to what makes sense and what different stakeholders want put in place.

In order to prevent it from happening in the future, Conservatives brought in legislation to make it very difficult. The only reason they did was because the Supreme Court of Canada, in a unanimous decision, told the Conservatives that they were wrong, that people had the right of access. They were obligated to do it and then came up with this restrictive list in an attempt to prevent these sites from being created. They were very successful at downplaying it and preventing them from coming into being.

The current government has taken a different approach than the Conservatives and, once again, the Conservatives are out on a limb. This is not only the Government of Canada saying it. The Green Party, New Democrats, and Liberals want to rush the bill through, applying time allocation. Even the New Democrats, who have traditionally not supported time allocation, recognize the importance of using this particular tool in order to pass this legislation, because who knows when the Conservatives will agree to pass it.

I do not think the Conservative Party really understands what is happening within its caucus, because in the standing committee, the Conservatives actually passed unanimous support to get it through the Standing Committee on Health here in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the critic says, “Well, we were roughshod. Why did it go through the committee so fast?” and being so critical of the committee. Some of that member's own caucus colleagues recognized that it was beneficial to get it through the committee.

The Conservative Party has in fact lost touch with reality, with Canadians, on this particular issue and, I would ultimately argue, so many issues.

I would like to think, at the end of the day, that these supervised consumption sites, which are one part of the legislation, as has been illustrated by many inside this chamber, will in fact save lives.

However, that is only one aspect. The legislation would do more than that. It would give more powers to the minister in working with others to ensure that we can, as much as possible, keep some of these deadly drugs out of our country, with Canada border control. It would allow, for this government to work with other governments and stakeholders to prevent more Canadians from overdosing. We have had thousands of Canadians who have died from accidental overdoses. It is a national crisis.

It has been raised in the debates as to why it is that we do not invoke a state of emergency. There are three points on that aspect. We have responded to every request that the provinces have raised with our government in this crisis and we continue to work with them. In the event that a public welfare emergency under the Emergencies Act were declared, the chief public health officer would not have any new special powers. That is a very important point to recognize. The Emergencies Act is considered a tool of last resort and an emergency has never been declared under this act. The Government of Canada is committed to working with the provinces, with the municipalities, with the other stakeholders, in dealing with this national crisis.

Building on that five-point action plan to address opioid misuse, the government has taken concrete, tangible steps forward. Let me highlight a few of them. We granted the section 56 exemption for the Dr. Peter Centre and extended the exemption for Insite for an additional four years. We made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada, which is saving lives in a very tangible way. Last autumn, the Minister of Health co-hosted a summit on opioids that resulted in 42 organizations bringing forward concrete proposals of their own.

That is what I mean, in terms of the government is working with the other stakeholders, because it is not going to be the Government of Canada that beats this issue. What we expect from the Government of Canada is strong national leadership, bringing people together, and that is actually what has been happening, on a number of fronts. The Government of Canada has responded to this crisis virtually from day one, contrary to what other members might try to imply.

The Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness have been on top of this issue. We understand the terror that it is causing in many different regions of our country, if not all regions of our country. We are taking tangible actions in order to minimize the situation. We are working with the different stakeholders, whether they are the first-time responders, whether they are the different levels of government, or whether they are the communities that are trying desperately to look for answers and develop solutions that are going to save lives. This government has made a commitment to not only take those actions, but to continue to act, because we recognize the importance of it.

That is why we are very grateful to have the New Democratic Party's support in bringing forward time allocation today. Ultimately, we hope to see the bill pass. It would be wonderful to see the Conservative Party get onside, stop looking for some reason not to be onside, understand what Canadians really want on this issue, get in touch with them and we could actually see the legislation pass quickly.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He pointed out that the NDP, who are progressive, will be supporting Bill C-37, which is finally going in the right direction. However, I am wondering about the following: why, once in power, did the Liberal Party drag its feet for 16 months before introducing a new bill to correct the mistakes made with the Conservatives' C-2?

Even the Minister of Health said at the start that it was not necessary and that they could work just fine with existing legislation. The Liberals are waking up, a bit late, now that we are facing an emergency and a national crisis and people are dying in the streets. Why did the Liberal government change its position at the beginning and then change it again? In the end, we have lost more than a year.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very touched to be able to rise in the House today to speak to this important bill. I am very touched, but at the same time, I think it is a real shame that we have to talk about this again. This is an extremely important debate. There is likely no other parliamentary debate that is more vital or that will have a greater impact on the lives of Canadians than the debate that we are having right now.

Simply put, it would have been nice if this issue had been resolved years ago because we are now dealing with an urgent situation in our municipalities, in our big cities, and on our streets.

People are dying from overdoses of illegal drugs, particularly opioids, and this is a crisis. Hundreds of people are dying in our communities and on our streets because our facilities are not equipped to adequately respond to this serious substance abuse problem, particularly when it comes to increasingly dangerous and hard drugs. For example, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin, and it is wreaking havoc on our cities and communities.

There is even a fentanyl derivative that is so potent that first responders are now being advised to wear masks and gloves when helping people because, if the drug is inhaled or comes into contact with the skin, it can be deadly for the paramedics and nurses who are in contact with those who need help.

Hundreds of people are dying every day in our streets and alleyways because we have failed to adequately respond to this situation. In all seriousness, this is one case where I am sad to say that our federal government dropped the ball and we have collectively failed. We could have taken measures that would have saved lives. There is a national crisis, and people are dying from lethal opioid injections because of the laws that we pass or fail to pass. This is serious.

Indeed, we in the NDP are calling on the Liberal government to declare this a national emergency and give greater powers and funding to the chief public health officer of Canada, so that he can coordinate efforts to help these individuals. I find it extremely unfortunate that the Conservatives did not respond appropriately to the Supreme Court decision and instead chose to stand in the way of public health stakeholders who wanted to set up safe injection sites to help addicts in crisis.

As I reminded the parliamentary secretary a few minutes ago, I also find it unfortunate that the Liberal government dragged its feet for 16 months before introducing a bill to fix the mistakes of Bill C-2 passed by the Conservatives. I will come back to this point a little later.

I would like to share some statistics. I am talking about people who are dying because of the lack of health facilities, that is, safe injection sites, particularly in our big cities. This is no joke. In 2016, there were 914 overdose fatalities in British Columbia. That represents an 80% increase over the previous year. Across Canada in 2016, there were about 2,000 fatalities. In December alone in British Columbia, 142 people died of drug overdose. In Vancouver, more specifically, there were between 9 and 15 deaths every week.

In Ontario, there are two deaths per day. Our young people are dying in our streets because we do not have what we need to help them. Supervised consumption sites are proven to save lives. When Insite was finally given the go-ahead several years ago in Vancouver, community officials realized that the number of deaths dropped by 35% in the area surrounding the site.

It works. It works in Vancouver, it works in British Columbia, and it works around the world. It has been proven.

Why have we been unable to respond appropriately? The previous government spread all kinds of prejudices, which is a terrible shame. In 2011, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling authorized Insite and encouraged the government to change the law to define the process. The previous government was very right-wing and focused on repression, and it wanted to turn this into a partisan issue. When that government introduced Bill C-2, it was not to help people involved in public health; it was to create more barriers to setting up these very important sites. That is a terrible shame.

What did the Conservatives do in their day? They added 26 eligibility criteria that had to be met before Health Canada could authorize a supervised consumption site. What was the outcome of that? How many sites were given the green light? Zero. Not one. We are years behind because of that.

Health Canada was unable to authorize the opening of such sites despite the fact that the experts, the scientific community, municipal officials, and the groups that work with addicts every day all wanted them. Montreal had been asking for a supervised consumption site since May 2015. We can say that was a while ago. Every year, between 70 and 100 people in Montreal die of an opioid overdose. How many people could we have saved in that time?

Communities approve of this type of measure. I want to share a few short quotes to that effect. The first one is from Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver. “Every month we lose because of Bill C-2, and an onerous process that's totally unnecessary and overboard, means we're losing dozens of people.”

Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, asked, “What are we waiting for? People are dying.”

Adrienne Smith, health and drug policy lawyer at Pivot Legal Society, said that she feared that while we wait, while we set up working groups and give the Liberal government the benefit of the doubt, hundreds of people could die.

Sterling Downey, a Montreal municipal councillor, asked, “How do you go into the media and announce over a year ago that you're going to open these sites and back off and go radio silent?”

According to another quote, the organizations that are supposed to host the sites don't even dare set opening dates any more. They are stuck in a grey area where, every year for the past three years, they are told that the sites will open in the spring, but it doesn't happen.

I have pages and pages of quotes like that. For years, people have been anxious to help our young people, and the older ones too, but especially the street kids who fall victim to these opioids, these hard drugs.

I think it is a shame that society has lost so much time because some people tried to score political points by holding fundraisers. I would remind hon. members that the director of the Conservative Party sent a fundraising email and used the politics of fear by accusing the NDP and the Liberals at the time of wanting to put our children in harm's way, claiming there would be more syringes in our schoolyards and back alleys. They would have people believe that with injection sites comes increased risk, but the facts say otherwise. If a person enters a supervised injection site and is treated by a professional, that person will be given a course of treatment and drugs to help ween them off the hard drugs. That person will pull through. What does that mean? It means that thanks to supervised injection sites, there will be fewer syringes in the streets, in the parks, and in the back alleys, not the opposite. For years, people have tried to convince us that this is more dangerous, but that is not true.

The NDP moved a motion in the House a few weeks ago. My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway wanted the debate to end and to send Bill C-37 to the Senate so that it could come into force as soon as possible.

It is too bad that the Conservatives refused and blocked the NDP's motion. That is why we would like to see this bill pass through all stages, intelligently and diligently of course, but as soon as possible. We have wasted enough time. We need to save lives.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to the thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech, and I thank his party for the position it has taken on Bill C-37. Indeed, this bill will ease the criteria so that safe injection sites can be approved quickly in communities where they are needed most.

I agree with my colleague. We know that safe injection sites save lives and prevent the transmission of disease. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the previous government unfortunately took a highly ideological approach, but at least now we are taking a facts- and evidence-based approach.

With regard to the opioid crisis, which is killing too many people in Canada and needs to be addressed, earlier I listed a whole series of measures the government has already taken to deal with this crisis, Bill C-37 being one of them.

I wonder if the member could talk about the advantages of coming back to the five criteria set out by the Supreme Court, rather than the 26 onerous and convoluted criteria required under Conservative Bill C-2.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and kind words.

We need to get back to the basics, the five essential criteria set out by the Supreme Court. Obviously, the safety of our communities is an issue, but this is first and foremost a matter of public health.

I also understand that Bill C-37 is not the whole solution but part of a bigger plan. We understand that. It is also very important to work on prevention.

However, we need to speed up the process today. It is too bad that it has taken so long to get to the vote at third reading and move forward with this. I would also like to know why the Liberal government has not started implementing the 38 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health, even though the Liberal members of the committee supported them.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to debate this important legislation, Bill C-37. It is a response to the national opioid crisis that is particularly severe in western Canada but is spreading throughout the rest of the country. To be blunt, given the time constraints, this bill will save lives, and I hope every member of the House supports it.

Over the course of time that I have to address this issue, I want to give a very brief background on the scope of the fentanyl crisis facing our country and then tackle some of the things we can do, such as trying to undercut the illicit market for this devastating drug and ensuring we are treating addiction like a life-threatening chronic illness and not a crime.

The scope of this crisis is extraordinarily widespread. We have heard hon. members from different parties address its widespread nature, but I specifically would like to draw the attention of members the fact that 947 lives were lost in British Columbia in 2016. By comparison, death from motor vehicle accidents in somewhere in the range of a little more than 300. In Ontario, I believe, on average, two people die a day from an overdose of opioids. In my home province of Nova Scotia, we are losing one life approximately every five or six days.

This drug is migrating from the west coast to the east coast. Even though we know it is being manufactured and imported from parts of Asia and that British Columbia has borne the brunt of it so far, we need to act now so we can stem the bleeding that is happening on the west coast and prevent disaster to such extremes from affecting the rest of the country as well.

I find that a few measures in Bill C-37 are very helpful and will help undermine the illicit market for fentanyl. One of the first things we can do is tackle the equipment that is being imported to help manufacture this drug locally, things like pill presses and encapsulators. Bill C-37 would ensure that we would not allow the importation of these devices, thereby helping to prevent the production of the drug locally in the first place.

We are also planning on criminalizing the possession of any kind of equipment that can be used with the knowledge that it can be used toward trafficking in controlled substances, such as the law that currently applies to methamphetamines. This is a common-sense approach that will make it harder to produce and distribute this dangerous drug.

Should this legislation pass, we plan on making changes that will allow border services agents greater latitude to inspect suspicious packages, even though they may be smaller than the current norm allows. Again, the reason for this policy change is simple common sense. The potency of this drug is so much stronger than even heroin or other drugs found on the streets today. This needs to be addressed by ensuring that even the smallest amount can be detected and prevented from coming into Canada in the first place.

In addition, Bill C-37 makes serious efforts to divert access of this controlled substance to the underground market by introducing a new scheme that is characterized by monetary penalties to ensure we have a better ability to enforce the laws on the books now. Ensuring that compliance is encouraged, non-compliance is deterred, and that we have an effective mechanism to enforce our rules is a key step in stemming the distribution and production of this drug in Canada.

I would like to spend the remaining time I have on the importance of ensuring addiction is treated like a chronic life-threatening illness rather than a crime. This comes to the key feature of Bill C-37, which is the promotion of safe injection sites. Addicts would have a place where they could get the treatment they needed, rather than turn to the streets and bury themselves in communities where they would not have supports and the outcome of their use of the drug would be far more severe.

In preparing for today's speech, I consulted with medical professionals who had recently done research on this. They explained to me that the research was clear. The traditional approach of detox and abstaining is not one that works, particularly when people successfully try to get off the drug and have episodes of relapse. Their risk of overdose is so much higher because their tolerance is reduced.

If we look at the benefits of harm reduction, there is a handful that, again, appeal to common sense and are borne out on the evidence.

We know that the use of methadone prevents cravings and gives a different kind of high to help reduce addiction. We know that treatment in safe injection sites improves retention for people who do enter treatment. We know that it reduces needle sharing, which reduces the impact. Most important, it reduces death resulting from overdoses of opioids.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Gatineau Québec


Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House to show my support for Bill C-37.

This bill merits the support of all members of the House. I am particularly pleased that our friends in the New Democratic Party are in support of what is, essentially, a public health measure.

There have been debates in this place and elsewhere across the country for over a decade and we saw some of the divisive community fights that ensued in Vancouver and other locales across the country on the issue of substance abuse, community health, and the measures for those who suffer from drug addiction. I applaud my colleagues in the House who support the measures that have now become more and more urgent, so that we may address the public health issues that are raised by the scourge of substance abuse in Canada.

Whether we are talking about the measures taken in Vancouver or the ones taken in Montreal lately, measures that I know are being debated in communities across this country, the process outlined in the bill will be simplified, will take root in communities and among workers at the street level or across the spectrum of public health services who look after those who have substance abuse issues, and those who look to our communities and organizations to provide support.

It is a great pleasure for me to rise to speak on this bill and the principles of it. It has been exhaustively debated and my colleagues have weighed in and supported it very strongly. I thank the members of the party opposite and the New Democratic Party. I urge all members of the House to rise in support of this important legislation.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, on such an important issue as safe consumption sites, which could, indeed, save lives, according to the vast majority of health experts, facts and evidence, and what we have seen in Vancouver, it has to proceed quickly.

It became a partisan issue. The previous Conservative government responded to the Supreme Court judgment that set out five clear criteria on which to approve sites in communities where they are needed and, instead, provided 26 onerous, lengthy, complicated criteria that made it hard for communities to have the needed safe consumption sites, which prevent sickness and save lives. At this point, we should move forward with Bill C-37.

I would ask the member, going back to what the Supreme Court clearly stated, if it would give more flexibility to provide safe consumption sites, to give exemptions where they are needed, where they save lives, and where communities demand it, like Montreal, which has just received approval after such a lengthy period. It had been asking for these sites for close to two years. Does he feel this would help protect Canadians, as Mayor Coderre said, even if it is sometimes from themselves?