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

Sponsor

Jane Philpott  Liberal

Status

In committee (Senate), as of March 9, 2017

Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-37.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things,

(a) simplify the process of applying for an exemption that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site, as well as the process of applying for subsequent exemptions;

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

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

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

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

(f) add an administrative monetary penalties scheme;

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

(h) modernize inspection powers; and

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

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

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

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • 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 Failed
  • 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 Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Jane Philpott Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and for his acknowledgement of the seriousness of this crisis.

When it comes to making decisions about supervised consumption sites, consultation with communities is absolutely essential. I hear from communities almost every day, people who are living in places like the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver and communities like Victoria. The member for Victoria is here today.

If members speak to people who go into these communities and speak to business owners, first responders, and law enforcement officials, they will hear their cries of desperation. These communities are saying that people are dying in their streets and that they need to find a way to save people's lives.

Of course the community has to be consulted. There will always be questions, and they are absolutely legitimate. What Bill C-37 allows is for the Minister of Health to be able to make a reasonable decision and to make sure that all the appropriate people are consulted. Communities are desperately crying out for these kinds of facilities to be available. We have deep, abundant scientific evidence that they save lives, and we have seen that in communities where they have been introduced, the public has in fact come to see that they are highly effective in allowing public safety and making sure that people are safely introduced to the public health system.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to finally get the opportunity to rise in the House to debate bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

I think all members of the House and all Canadians would agree that the ongoing opioid crisis is absolutely tragic. I know that the Premier of British Columbia and a few of our colleagues from B.C. have asked the minister to issue a national public health emergency as the overdose numbers continue to rise in the province.

This is a very complex issue. There is not just one solution.

I was fortunate to have been part of the opioid study recently conducted at the health committee. It allowed me, and I think all my colleagues on the committee, to truly learn and empathize with struggling addicts, communities, first nation health professions, and families that have had to endure an opioid-related death.

We had the opportunity to hear many first-hand stories, something that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of. We heard from parents who lost their children. We heard from recovered drug addicts, government officials, and the first responders who are reviving these people hourly. We sometimes seem so focused on those battling drug addictions that we forget about the first responders who are working so hard to ensure that our streets and our citizens are safe.

I would like to personally thank everyone who appeared as a witness. I truly believe that their testimony has played a huge role in encouraging all levels of government and Canadians to work together, and of course, to take action.

With that, I would now like to get to the bill itself.

The bill aims to achieve five main things. First, it would grant increased powers to the Canada Border Services Agency. Second, it would regulate the importation of unregistered devices, such as pill presses. Third, it would increase prohibitions against certain actions related to controlled substances. Fourth, it would give the minister authority to temporarily schedule and control new dangerous substances. Fifth, it would streamline the application process for approving and opening supervised injection sites.

We know that there are many factors that have contributed to the opioid crisis. While one cause of the crisis results from illegal substances and organized crime, many are battling addiction because of the over-prescribing of painkillers.

This bill seeks to address one aspect of the crisis: illegal activities and organized crime. I look forward to seeing what measures will be taken to address prescription drugs and over-prescribing, as I think we must acknowledge that it is a key contributor as well.

We know that China has been a primary source of fentanyl, carfentanil, and other dangerous opioids. It has been reported over the last year, and by the CBSA itself, how easy it is to import illicit substances into Canada with the current regulations.

My Conservative colleagues have been pushing the government to finally acknowledge the flaws at our borders and grant officers the authority to search and seize suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams. While border agents already intercept dozens of these packages, exporters have found a way to hide illegal substances in toys, silica packages, and products that ultimately could not be searched without permission. Removing the “30 grams or less” exemption from the Customs Act is a much-needed step in combatting the opioid crisis facing our country.

Another weakness that has been recognized by many of my colleagues, but most passionately by Senator Vern White, is the need to target devices, specifically pill presses. These devices are capable of turning out thousands of deadly pills per hour, and under the current law, anyone can import one legally. That is not okay.

Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief Mike Serr stated:

Right now, they are not regulated and the importation of them—there really is very little from an intelligence perspective the police can do.... To have these machines registered would be at least one step for us.... We could then have a better sense for ensuring they are for legitimate purposes.

Again, granting the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to detain unregistered pill presses is something that must be done. It is important that all information obtained at the border be available to law enforcement agencies across the country so that they can take the appropriate steps in ensuring the safety of all citizens. Ultimately, that is what we are trying to ensure here: that all Canadians are protected and that access to illicit, dangerous substances is avoided any way possible.

That is what I find quite contradictory. The government is so quick to encourage the approval of supervised injection sites. Injection sites are known to give access to illicit and dangerous drugs, yet the government appears to want more of them. This is where there are some major inconsistencies in the government's policies.

The minister's mandate letter states, “Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. I expect that our work will be informed by performance measurement, evidence, and feedback from Canadians”. Yet, the bill would severely weaken the Respect for Communities Act, which was put in place to ensure that feedback from Canadians was taken into consideration before a supervised injection site was approved.

Under the previous Conservative government, we took steps to ensure there was a robust consultation process which included residents, local law enforcement agencies, and elected officials to be on board with an injection site in their community. Bill C-37 proposes to significantly change those requirements. While the expression of community support for opposition is a requirement, the specific requirements have been removed to allow the Liberals to easily change them as they see fit. This is a way to completely avoid parliamentary oversight. The minister's attempt to avoid community approval will fail.

We heard from numerous witnesses in the health committee that an injection site could not be successful without the support of the entire community. I will use the city of Ottawa as an example.

The mayor, the chief of police, and the former chief of police all have openly stated that they are opposed to an injection site in their community. Yet, under this bill, there is no assurance their views would even be taken into consideration. The minister has given herself the power to approve a site, regardless. What the minister does not realize is that not all communities want injection sites. Usually there are a few advocacy groups that are in support of a site, and no other legitimate stakeholder.

The Prime Minister's own parliamentary secretary for justice stated, “They have been doing it in Vancouver for some years and there have been issues that have arisen there. I don’t know of any place in Toronto where that couldn’t have a significant negative impact on the communities.”

The Liberals are using harm reduction strategies as temporary solutions, band-aid solutions, and are refusing to offer any long-term solutions such as treatment and prevention. This is concerning.

In the minister's mandate letter, the Prime Minister states, “When Canadians are in good physical and mental health, they are able to work better, be more productive, and contribute more fully to our economy while living healthier, happier lives”. I agree with this statement, which is why injection sites should not become the norm. These sites are not helping people become productive. They are not encouraging good physical and mental health; in fact, they are doing the complete opposite. All injection sites are doing is providing a safe place for addicts to get their fix and if they overdose, someone will revive them. This is not a life. Injection sites do not save lives. They revive people who, from what I have heard from meeting with many recovered addicts over the year, do not want to be alive if drugs, crime, and overdosing is all they have to look forward to.

The parliamentary secretary for justice also said, “the ambiguous messaging that comes out from a society that says you can’t use these drugs, they’re against the law — but if you do, we’ll provide a place [for you] to do it in.” This is exactly the type of conflicting message Canadians do not want children to be raised with. Drugs are dangerous. They are illegal because they ruin lives.

The Prime Minister and the Liberal Party are simply building a co-dependent relationship with drug addicts. To elaborate on what I mean, a co-dependent relationship is a dysfunctional relationship in which one party enables and supports another's addiction such as drugs. That is what the Liberals want society to become: an enabler as opposed to a preventer.

The president of the Canadian Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, said, “We should be treating addiction as a health issue and if harm reduction is part of a holistic approach to dealing with this issue, there should be a treatment pillar that focuses ultimately on how we get people away from engaging in harmful activities.”

Injection sites simply provide a place for drug users to get high, but offer no treatment. I will use Insite as an example.

In 2015, 6,531 people visited the injection site and only 464 were referred to Insite, the site's apparent detox treatment centre. Only seven per cent were referred to or offered detox treatment at Insite. To elaborate on the statistics, when I went for a visit, I was basically told by an employee that it was not in the business of treating these people. The site was there to provide them with needles and ensure that they would wake up. These sites are not saving lives; they are enabling and giving up on people whose lives have taken a bad turn.

The government's desire to quickly approve these sites without community support, especially law enforcement, is absolutely outrageous.

We cannot support the government's attempt to improve these dangerous enabling sites without knowing and being assured that residents, law enforcement, and elected officials are 100% on board.

Once the minister approves the site, the responsibility to ensure the safety of all residents rests in the hands of local police. Crime rates do not drop as the government keeps stating. Addicts are still illegally obtaining these drugs through break-ins, robberies, prostitution, etc. As Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said, “They’re (VPD) seeing more of what we’d call street disorder—more people using drugs on the street, smoking drugs, congregating, minor thefts.”

I worry about my community of Oshawa. Oshawa is an up-and-coming area with many new businesses and new residential areas for families to settle into. Oshawa and Durham region continue to work to improve the crime rates, and we have seen a drastic decline in assault, robberies, and drug crimes since 2009. This is thanks to the community as a whole working together to make it a better and safer place to raise our families. I worry that the approval of an injection site in my riding would lead to people looking for somewhere else to live, which ultimately would negatively affect these thriving businesses. It would cause alarm if local residents, the mayor, and local police were not consulted prior to an approval. This is something my local community would not be in favour of, and that is why I cannot support this portion of the bill.

Another issue we heard quite a bit about throughout the opioid study was the fact that new dangerous and deadly substances were constantly being made. This causes serious concerns. As the current rules stand, new psychoactive substances that are designed to mimic illegal drugs are chemically different enough not to be considered illegal.

I was happy to see that that the bill proposed to grant the Minister of Health the authority to temporarily and quickly schedule and control a new and dangerous substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This will allow the minister to take immediate action for the public good, while launching a thorough review of the new substance. This means action is being taken while a decision on whether to permanently schedule the substance is warranted.

I think all members agree that the opioid crisis must be addressed. I also think that all members are in agreement on the severity of the issue.

The right steps are being taken to address security concerns at the border. Acknowledging that an international source is massively contributing to the opioid crisis is the first beneficial step the Liberals have taken to combat the issue.

Ensuring that the Canada Border Services Agency can now open any suspicious package under 30 grams will stop the inflow of illegal substances dramatically.

Unregulated devices such as pill presses are another massive contributor to the opioid crisis, and that is acknowledged in the bill. These devices are allowing organized crime to produce mass amounts of deadly drugs. Giving the CBSA authority to share information with law enforcement agencies will allow police forces to do their jobs and shut down these illegal activities.

The bill also acknowledges the notion that new dangerous substances are constantly being manufactured. In order to control the quick turnaround of newly designed psychoactive substances, under new regulations, the minister would be able to temporarily and quickly schedule control of a dangerous substance.

These are public safety measures that look out for the best interests of all Canadians. These measures look to negatively affect organized crime and make it harder for organized crime to produce and sell dangerous drugs.

However, severely weakening the consultation process with Canadians before the approval of an injection site is the exact opposite of these other measures. Approving these sites all around the country will normalize substance abuse. Drug addicts will still be committing extreme numbers of crimes to obtain these drugs. They will still be contributing to organized crime, and they are all to use freely in a government-sanctioned facility.

I acknowledge that every province has different needs. What is happening in British Columbia is not the same as what is happening in Prince Edward Island. However, I cannot acknowledge that injection sites save lives. I heard the analogies from a medical addiction specialist who said that, “If I was a lifeguard and saw someone drowning, I would run in and pull them out of the water. Once they started breathing again, I would not throw them back into the water”. That is exactly what injection sites do.

Streamlining the application process for approving injection sites is irresponsible. It would put communities at risk and it would put individuals with severe drug dependencies at risk. Drug addiction should be seen as a treatable illness. Until I see the government take appropriate steps to help these people get off these dangerous and deadly drugs, I cannot, and will not, support this harm reduction band-aid solution.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

I am pleased to rise 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. My private member's bill, Bill C-224, the good Samaritan drug overdose act, is currently in the other place. Just like Bill C-37, it is just one piece in the harm reduction tool kit that would help to save lives.

Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key priority for this government. That is why on December 12, 2016, the Minister of Health, with support from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, introduced Bill C-37 in the House of Commons.

This bill makes several amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Customs Act in support of the government's efforts to respond to the current opioid crisis and problematic substance abuse in general.

This comprehensive bill aims to balance the important objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety. It is designed to better equip both health professionals and law enforcement with the tools they need to address the issue.

Over the last decade, the harms associated with problematic substances abuse in Canada have become more complex and have been changing at a rapid pace. The line between licit and illicit substances has blurred with the opioid crisis, prescription drug misuse, and the rise of new designer drugs.

The government has committed to helping Canadians affected by these problematic substances and their use. Legislative and regulatory controls are certainly an important part of this approach. However, as we know, drug use and dependency pose significant risks for individuals, families, and communities. Our approach to addressing problematic substances abuse must include preventing and treating addiction, supporting recovery, and reducing the negative health and social impacts of drug use on individuals and their communities through evidence-based harm reduction measures. This must also be a part of our approach to addressing problematic substances abuse.

Harm reduction is viewed by experts as a cost-effective element of a well-balanced approach to public health and safety. Harm reduction connects people to other services in the health and social systems related to treatment and recovery. It recognizes that individuals and whole communities benefit when people with substance misuse and addiction issues can obtain the support and services they need rather than being marginalized or stigmatized. The evidence regarding harm reduction is absolutely clear. Harm reduction measures are a critical piece of a comprehensive approach to drug control.

That is why the government is determined to take a balanced, evidence-based approach that supports rather than creates obstacles to harm reduction.

To that end, on December 12, 2016, in addition to introducing Bill C-37 in the House, the Minister of Health announced that a national anti-drug strategy would be replaced with a new, more balanced, and health-focused approach, called the Canadian drugs and substances strategy. The new strategy will strengthen Canada's approach to drug policy by providing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to the protection of public health and safety and the reduction of harm from misuse of licit and illicit substances. To reflect the new health-focused approach, the strategy will be led and co-ordinated by the Minister of Health, in close collaboration with her colleagues.

Canada has had successive drug strategies in place since 1987 that have aimed to balance public health and public safety. In 1992, the government launched Canada's drug strategy, which was intended to reduce the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families, and communities. In 1998, harm reduction was added as a pillar alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement.

However, the balance between public health and public safety in Canada's approach to drug policy shifted in 2007, with the release of the national anti-drug strategy. This strategy reflected the previous government's priorities of public safety, crime reduction, and safe communities.

The national anti-drug strategy focused primarily on youth and illicit substance use and did not retain harm reduction as a pillar. This shift brought Canada out of step with other like-minded countries, most of which include harm reduction in addressing problematic substance abuse.

The new strategy will retain and build upon the aspects of the national anti-drug strategy that worked well and, specifically, the new strategy will maintain the existing and well-established areas of prevention, treatment, and enforcement. These pillars, respectively, aim to prevent problematic drug and substance use, support innovative approaches to treatment and rehabilitation, and address illicit drug production, supply, and distribution.

However, perhaps the most important aspect of the new strategy is that it will improve upon the national anti-drug strategy by formally restoring harm reduction as a pillar. This shift to a more health-focused approach has been welcomed by stakeholders, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and our provincial partners.

Our government is committed to ensuring that its policies under the new strategy will be informed by a strong foundation of evidence, including data related to harm reduction policies, programs, and interventions. This will enable the government to better identify trends, target interventions, monitor impacts, and support evidence-based decisions. It will help ensure that Canada has a comprehensive national picture of drug use and drug-related harms and can fully meet our international reporting requirements.

Even before the new strategy was announced, our government included harm reduction measures in our efforts to reduce the negative health and social impacts associated with problematic drug use, including the transmission of infectious diseases, overdose deaths, and stigma.

For example, under federal legislation, we have improved access to naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, by making it available without a prescription specifically for emergency use in cases of opioid overdose outside of hospital settings.

This important measure broadens access for emergency workers and will help address a growing number of opioid overdoses.

We have also demonstrated our support for the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key harm reduction measure.

After a thorough and rigorous review, in January 2016, Health Canada granted an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for the Dr. Peter Centre to operate a supervised consumption site.

Not long after, on March 16, 2016, Health Canada granted Insite an unprecedented four-year exemption.

If passed, Bill C-37 would go further to support the implementation of evidence-based harm reduction measures. In particular, it would reduce the burden on communities that wish to apply for an exemption to operate a supervised consumption site.

The proposed amendments would streamline and simplify the application criteria, while ensuring that community consultation continues to be an integral part of the process. By streamlining the application and renewal process and adding a new transparency provision, applicants could be assured that the process would not cause unreasonable burden or delay.

In conclusion, our government's approach to drug policy strives to balance the important objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety.

The Canadian drugs and substances strategy will restore harm reduction as a pillar, alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement, and will formalize our commitment to a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to Canada's drug policy.

It would mean that harm reduction-focused policies, such as support for properly established and maintained supervised consumption sites and increased access to naloxone, would now officially be part of Canada's drug strategy.

Implementing measures proposed in Bill C-37 would be a key step in realizing the objectives of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-37, an act that would better equip both health and law enforcement officials to reduce the supply of illicit opioids and other drugs and to reduce the risk of diversion of controlled substances.

Bill C-37 confirms once again our government's continued commitment to ensuring that our legislative frameworks for public health and safety are modern and effective.

Bill C-37 is further evidence of our government's continued commitment to ensuring that our legislative frameworks related to public health and public safety are both modern and effective.

Protecting public health through efforts to prevent disease, prolong life, and promote health is a key priority for the government. The recently announced Canadian drugs and substances strategy and the proposed legislative changes to streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites are just two ways the Government of Canada is demonstrating this commitment to public health.

This new strategy is comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate. It is comprised of four key pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement, which are built upon a strong foundation of evidence.

While the new strategy places an increased emphasis on public health, our government recognizes that effective drug policy must balance both public health and public safety.

Therefore, not only does Bill C-37 address harm reduction measures such as supervised injection sites, it also proposes new ways to deal with controlled substances that are obtained through illicit sources.

Therefore, not only does Bill C-37 address harm reduction measures such as supervised consumption sites, it also proposes new ways to deal with controlled substances that are obtained through illicit sources.

Bill C-37 would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or the CDSA, Canada's drug control statute. The CDSA provides a framework to control substances that can alter mental processes and that may produce harm to health and to society when diverted or misused. It has the dual purpose of protecting public health and maintaining public safety.

We know that the use of illicit substances can increase the risk of harm to health. The CDSA maintains public safety by restricting the activities such as import, export and trafficking of controlled substances and precursors.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act has been in effect for two decades now and some of its regulations, enacted under previous legislation, have been in place much longer. While the CDSA serves us well in many areas, there has been a significant evolution in both the legitimate controlled substances and precursors industries as well as the illicit drug market.

The CDSA has been in force for two decades now, and some of its regulations have been in place for much longer, having first been enacted under old statutes. While the CDSA serves us well in many areas, there has been a significant evolution in both the legitimate controlled substance and precursor industries as well as the illicit drug market.

As we all know, problematic substance use is a serious public health issue. Our government is very concerned about the increasing rates of opioid-related overdose deaths occurring across Canada right now, and the devastating impact this crisis is having on individuals, families and communities at large, including in my own riding of Edmonton Centre. Opioid-related overdoses in British Columbia and Alberta have reached a crisis point and urgent action is needed to protect public health and safety, and disrupt illegal production and trafficking. It is becoming increasingly critical to ensure that the CDSA is modernized in order to better protect Canadians, their families, and the communities in which they live.

The Government of Canada is taking concrete action that will help address the current crisis and keep deadly drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil out of Canadian communities. If the proposed amendments in Bill C-37 were adopted, they would further strengthen and modernize the tools available to the government to combat the illegal production and distribution of drugs and reduce the risk of controlled substances being diverted to the illegal market.

The Government of Canada is taking concrete actions that will help to address the ongoing crisis and keep deadly drugs like illicit fentanyl and carfentanyl out of Canadian communities. If passed, these amendments will further strengthen and modernize the tools available to the government to combat the illegal production and distribution of drugs and reduce the risk of controlled substances being diverted to the illegal market.

One such action would prohibit the import of unregistered pill press and encapsulator devices.

Pill presses and encapsulators can be used legitimately to manufacture pharmaceuticals, food and consumer products as well. However, they may also be used to make illegal counterfeit drugs that look like legitimate pharmaceuticals. These counterfeit pills can contain dangerous substances such as fentanyl and W-18. Pill presses can produce thousands of illegal pills in a short period of time, which poses significant risks to the public health and safety of Canadians. Currently these devices can be legally imported into Canada without specific regulatory requirements.

Bill C-37 would require that every pill press and encapsulator imported into Canada be registered with Health Canada. This would serve as a tool to better equip law enforcement to reduce the supply of illicit opioids and other drugs in Canada. Proof of registration would have to be shown upon importation and unregistered devices could be detained by officials at the border. The devices captured under this provision are aligned with those for the import and sales that must be reported in the United States. A new schedule to the CDSA would be created, allowing additional devices to be controlled in the future to respond to changes in illicit drug production.

The proposed legislation would enable better information sharing about imports of pill presses and encapsulators with border officials and police forces during an investigation.

The proposed legislation will enable better information sharing about imports of pill presses and encapsulators with border officials and police forces in the course of an investigation.

Bill C-37 would also make amendments to expand the offences and punishments for pre-production activities of any controlled substance. Pre-production includes buying and assembling the chemical ingredients and industrial equipment that are intended to be used to make illicit drugs, but are not specifically listed in the CDSA schedules. These activities are not currently controlled under the CDSA unless the intent is to produce methamphetamine.

Members of the House may recall that concerns about the growing popularity of methamphetamine prompted private member's bill, Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine and ecstasy), in 2011. The passage of this bill made it illegal to possess, produce, sell, or import chemicals with the knowledge that they would be used to produce or traffic methamphetamine.

Given the growing opioid crisis and the evidence of illegal production of other drugs in Canada, including fentanyl, we must go further. The amendments proposed in Bill C-37 would extend the provisions that were added in 2011 so that penalties would apply to the illegal production, distribution, import, export, and transport of anything used to produce or traffic any controlled substance.

Given the growing opioid crisis and the evidence of illegal production of other drugs in Canada, including fentanyl, we must go further. The amendments proposed in Bill C-37 will extend the provisions that were added in 2011 so penalties will apply to the illegal production, distribution, import, export, and transport of anything used to produce or traffic any controlled substance.

The government recognizes the complex challenges faced by individuals who are involved in problematic substance use. We remain committed to working with our territorial and provincial partners to address the issues related to illegal drug use.

The government recognizes the complex challenges faced by individuals who are involved in problematic substance use. We remain committed to working with our territorial and provincial partners to address the issues related to illegal drug use.

Bill C-37 is one part of our government's response to Canada's growing opioid crisis. The legislative changes proposed in the bill will make the CDSA a more robust act and increase law enforcement's ability to take early action against suspected drug production operations, and better equip enforcement to respond to the evolution of the illicit drug market.

I encourage all members of this House to support this bill.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37 is part of a comprehensive strategy of the Government of Canada to address this opioid crisis.

The Minister of Health has been very clear in her meetings with territorial and provincial counterparts from coast to coast to coast that this is a crisis. We see it in Alberta as well. We take every life that has been lost due to this crisis seriously.

The changes in Bill C-37 are part of a comprehensive strategy. It is a whole-of-government approach. We take this issue seriously. We are moving as a government, and that is our commitment, to save the lives of Canadians.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I respect my hon. colleague's question as we are both from the city of Edmonton.

Our government clearly understands the crisis that Canadians and marginalized populations are facing when it comes to the use of illicit substances. We are taking all action and all steps to make sure that our work not only in Bill C-37 but with our provincial counterparts is moving apace. We are looking at how to make sure we have controlled use substance sites in place where wraparound supports can be made available. That is the kind of federal, provincial, and territorial partnerships we see not only in this proposed legislation but in our approach as a government to address this very serious issue not only in the city of Edmonton but in all cities and communities across the country.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

What is clear about this matter in Bill C-37 is that it is only one part of our comprehensive strategy to combat the use of illicit substances. In terms of the opioid crisis, the work of the Minister of Health with her provincial and territorial counterparts is clearly very important.

Bill C-37 provides us with other tools to prevent the production and trafficking of these illicit substances. It is important to note that we take very seriously the deaths caused by the use of illicit drugs. We have a comprehensive strategy. We will continue this fight to safeguard the lives of all Canadians.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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January 31st, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

I am rising 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 we all know, addiction issues have been a challenge throughout the history of mankind. As noted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, addiction touches everyone. As of 2013, one in five Canadians, or six million people, met the criteria for substance use disorder, causing harm and heartache among families and communities throughout the country. Today, however, we are facing an unprecedented crisis: the casual or addictive use of drugs now includes a much higher risk of death.

I would note there were some questions in the previous exchange where the government talked about how it worked very hard with the provinces in terms of moving forward, but what the Liberals did not say is that they worked hard with the opposition.

There are many pieces of the bill that are very supportable and should move forward in a rapid and timely way, but the Liberals know very well that there is one component that we have a few concerns with, and I will articulate the reasons a little later. If the Liberals are talking about being concerned about this crisis, they should have proposed something that would allow us to immediately move forward with all the things we know we can agree on, and take a little bit more time for the conversation over the one piece that is giving us a bit of a challenge. This is a big concern.

The other big concern which people who are listening and watching need to be aware of is that on April 14, 2016, B.C. declared a public health emergency in response to this rise in drug overdoses and deaths. Now it is months later, at a time when pill presses and encapsulators, and border issues have been identified, but what did the government first talk about in its call for debate yesterday? It was a bill on Statistics Canada. It is absolutely shameful. The government had the opportunity to move forward on some important issues, but Statistics Canada was more important on our first day back. They presented a bill that the Liberals knew there were some challenges with instead of presenting something that we could all immediately support and move forward in a timely way. I think the Liberals should look at how they have dealt with this issue.

An emergency was declared in April, and it was recognized. Maybe it has not hit some of the other provinces, but it is interesting that it was a Liberal member, the member for Vancouver Centre, who said that if this crisis was happening in Ontario or Quebec, action would have been taken much sooner. That was said by a Liberal member, a family physician, who called out her own party on how it responded to this particular crisis. That is absolutely shameful.

The recent epidemic is characterized by an increasing proportion of death related to fentanyl, which is an illicit opioid substance. Back in 2012, fentanyl was seen in about 5% of the illicit drugs, and in 2016 it was seen in 60%. Fentanyl is dramatically increasing in use. In British Columbia in 2016, there were 914 deaths, with 142 in December alone.

Many might have read the Facebook page of the grandmother who was grieving for her young granddaughter saying that she just needed some help. She felt that maybe she could have dealt with her granddaughter who died a couple of days before Christmas.

In Kamloops, a community I represent, there were 40 deaths over the year. It typically had 10 deaths, steady over years and years, but in 2016, 40 people died in Kamloops from a drug overdose. With SARS, there were 40 deaths across Canada, and H1N1 had 400 deaths across Canada. I was on the health committee when H1N1 was happening. I remember that we had daily briefings from the chief public health officer of Canada. It was Dr. Butler-Jones at the time. He kept parliamentarians up to date every day on what was happening. That was for 400 deaths across Canada. We are talking about 900 deaths in British Columbia alone.

We do have in Bill C-37 a partial response to this crisis. As I indicated earlier, there are measures in the bill that are very supportable, such as the prohibition of designated devices, encapsulators, and adding to the schedule of substances reasonable grounds to represent health risks. There are more powers proposed for Canada Border Services Agency. We knew a year ago those were some of the things that could have been done to avert this crisis. The addition to broaden the prohibition and penalties to now apply to the possession, sale, importation, or transport of anything intended to be used is an important measure.

However, if the government had been concerned, it could have dealt with this many months ago instead of debating a bill about Statistics Canada. This is about people who are dying in British Columbia, and soon across the country.

I want to talk about the areas in which I have what I think are reasonable concerns. That is the part we need to be debating as parliamentarians. There is one area where there is a bit of a difference of opinion and it has to do with the process that should be in place for what they call safe consumption sites, or what are more commonly known by the public as injection sites, to move forward. That is a reasonable discussion.

Our Conservative government brought in the Respect for Communities Act. Certainly, there are some people who felt it made it too difficult, but it is a valid place for us to talk about what that should look like. We originally had 26 criteria that were to be addressed when people applied for a safe injection site. This bill changes it from 26 criteria to five factors. That is a little vague.

When I talked to the minister at committee, I tried to go through the 26 criteria. I asked her what objection she had to them, but I really did not get an answer. None of them said they were really concerned about any one piece, “I don't think the RCMP should be able to have a say”, or “I don't think municipal council should have a say”. Those are the criteria that are in place. What is being proposed now is a few factors.

The other thing the government has done is there were six principles that should be part of the thinking around whether the minister would approve a site or not. These principles have been totally removed and there are no principles left. Those are principles that recognize the issue of crime profits or criminal activity that is supported with illicit substances. We have gone from 26 criteria to five and there are no other checks and balances.

Using Kamloops as an example, the mayor and council voted unanimously to support a safe injection site. They have talked to the RCMP. They are having a consultation process under former Bill C-2, which is now the Respect for Communities Act. That process allows the mayor and council to have input. They supported the safe injection site. I am not sure how they would feel if they were told they would not even be talked to about it, that it was just going to happen. They can write a letter and say whether they like it or not. They endorsed it unanimously. Interior health will be looking at it. That is important. As we know, Ottawa has not endorsed it. Those are pieces of public consultation that the government is looking to replace with vague references to talking to the community, but it really does not matter because communities do not tend to like these things. Kamloops council voted 100% for it. Why does the government not trust the community process that is specific and methodical?

There are some good pieces in the bill. We should move forward on those important pieces immediately. We should have done it a year ago. We should have a reasoned and appropriate debate around the changes to the safe injection sites. However, there are some pieces that are missing when it comes to the government's response to the crisis.

My colleague from South Surrey—White Rock and I both have said to listen to British Columbia. Let us call a state of emergency to raise the elevation so that people know about what is happening, because it is happening in B.C. now, and it will be going across the country. Youth councils are saying that there should be a national education campaign. Moms and dads need to be having that conversation. They will not have the conversation if they do not know.

In conclusion, let us look at the pieces, move forward on those critical ones, then look at doing those additional recommendations.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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January 31st, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague from South Surrey—White Rock and I are on record as supporting the British Columbia minister in this call.

Again, I have to contrast the response to H1N1, where there was a massive, quickly activated national education program. There were regular briefings. There was a focused effort, in terms of a public health perspective, in dealing with that particular crisis. In this case, I am seeing delay and no sense of urgency.

As I noted before, we were talking about Stats Canada before talking about Bill C-37. The Liberals should look at what their priorities are in terms of dealing with what is a horrific crisis in Canada.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts 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. In essence, this is the government's response to the fentanyl and opioid health crisis facing this country.

I want to be clear that this health crisis is not just a B.C. issue. Many police raids have taken place in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Over 20 fentanyl labs have been shut down across this country, and an entire fentanyl ring was successfully shut down in Montreal. However, I want to bring everyone's attention back to British Columbia, as it is ground zero and has been for quite some time, as communities struggle to deal with the fentanyl, carfentanil, and opioid issue. I want to talk about the impact, the government's response, and how we need to be addressing this growing issue.

I will first talk about some simple facts. It is well known that the chemicals and illicit drugs are manufactured in China. They can be ordered online and shipped overseas. There are thousands of illegal labs right across China. Pills and raw materials are shipped into Canada through our ports, our borders, and the mail.

Several thousand people have died across Canada. In B.C. alone, 914 people died last year. That is an 80% increase in deaths over 2015. In Vancouver, the increase was 60%; in Surrey, 42%; in Victoria, 267%; in Kelowna, 153%; and in Kamloops, 471%. This past December was the deadliest month of all, claiming the lives of 142.

Let us look at the response from the Liberal government. On December 12, just two days before the House rose for the Christmas break, this bill was introduced. In November of last year, the health minister refused to declare this a national health emergency, despite B.C. public health officer Dr. Perry Kendall declaring a public health emergency in April of last year, the recommendations from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, and yet another call from B.C. health minister Terry Lake, who said, “We haven't seen the response that I think this type of epidemic requires on a national scale”. Many MPs from all parties have requested the same, so we collectively, again, issue a call to declare a national public health emergency.

We need to raise awareness of this epidemic to the level it deserves. We need to embark upon a national educational awareness campaign to ensure that the general public, young adults, and students have the information and are informed. In fact, my youth council has requested that. There are ongoing fentanyl forums being undertaken in high schools, but there is still a perception that this is just a Downtown Eastside Vancouver issue and that consumption sites are the answer to this issue and need to be set up in every single community across the country.

Let us take a quick snapshot. A Delta mother of two lost both of her children within 20 minutes of each other. Both of those kids were 20 years old. Jordan died at 21. Ryan died at 23. Kelsea died at 24. David died at 21. Danny died in Edmonton at 25. Scott was 21. A young Abbotsford woman was in her mid-20s. Tyler died at 23 and had a four-year-old son. Hardy and Amelia, both in their 30s, leave behind a two-year-old son. They were celebrating moving into their new home. The list goes on.

This is where the complexities of this issue intersect. There is one strategy for those who are street-entrenched, who will inject and use consumption sites; there is another strategy for those who use pills and prescription drugs; and there is another strategy for those who are using recreationally and not realizing what they are taking. One size does not fit all.

I would argue that to assume that multiple consumption sites in every community would fix this health epidemic is short-sighted. This is a piece of a multifaceted response. We need to use some critical thinking around this issue. Our first responders and medical personnel are getting burnt out trying to respond to the overdoses and deaths. The federal government must assist those on the front lines who are dealing with this crisis on a daily basis.

For the first time, a pilot project is being undertaken that will test the street drugs that are being brought into the consumption site in Vancouver. I was thrilled at the proposition that the people who are suffering from addiction would now be advised as to what they are injecting and the potential outcomes.

Does this model fit all users? It does not. Therefore, let us explore these sides of the equation: treatment, mental health, dual diagnosis, and opioid substitution.

Methadone was once the answer for those addicted to heroin, back in 1996. Obviously, we can see that program is not working. Many communities have stand-alone methadone dispensaries, where prescriptions are bought and sold on the street and where individuals would trade their methadone for other drugs. This was the answer to the opioid addiction in 1996. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate that program or redirect some of that funding into other programs.

What are our needs? We do need treatment, and not just detox and 30-day programs. Rather, we need wraparound services. We need to care for the whole person, with mental health support as well as physical dependency and addiction support. This is a multi-faceted approach to a very complex problem, and it is a long-term solution. The holistic approach includes treatment beds and therapeutic communities, a place for those who want support, because the window of opportunity in an addict's life is fleeting. The response must be immediate and the resources must be available. This is not new information, but it is expensive and costly, and it is easier to focus on short-term solutions.

There has been a long-standing call for law enforcement to interrupt the flow of fentanyl and carfentanil in China. The response by the Liberals in Bill C-37 would allow border services the power to open packages weighing under 30 grams, prohibition for the unregistered pill presses, and the illegal importation of precursors. We fully support those initiatives. However, as the Prime Minister moves forward with his trade negotiations with China and his extradition agreements, I would suggest that a topic of exporting fentanyl powder and pills be top of mind and that he undertake wholesome and meaningful discussions on the deadly effects that the exportation of this product has on the people of Canada and their loved ones.

This is a national health emergency, and those who have lost loved ones most certainly need to know that all three levels of government, the community, law enforcement, and first responders collectively care enough to do the right thing.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member for South Surrey—White Rock and I share a region that is living through an appalling crisis in deaths. This issue is something that has seized the population. Everyone knows somebody who has been affected by this. There have been almost 1,000 deaths in the past year alone, and yet the government did not seem willing to do anything more than drag its feet on something that is a public health crisis.

Does the member agree with us that what we need is an immediate move toward the declaring of a public health emergency? I think both of us agree that there needs to be an expansion in addiction treatment programs. They were cut back under the former Conservative government and have not really been restored under the new Liberal government. Canadians are crying out for them to be in place so the communities can have those kinds of supports.

Finally, there was a question just a moment ago as to whether or not the Conservatives would facilitate the passage of Bill C-37, and I did not hear the member answer that. I would be very interested in hearing her response to that.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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January 31st, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.

We can, and should, treat drug use and abuse as a health issue and not as a crime. Our government has committed to a sensible and evidence-based approach to drug policy; that approach is emphasized by the recent task force report on cannabis regulation, and it is emphasized by our health minister's actions. Those include restoring harm reduction as a key pillar of Canada's drug strategy, permitting physicians to prescribe heroin to severe drug addicts, and introducing Bill C-37, effectively repealing the previous Conservative government's attack on evidence and supervised consumption sites.

The story of that attack and how we have ultimately come to Bill C-37 begins with Insite and the former Conservative health minister's refusal to renew its exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Insite is a supervised injection clinic in Vancouver. It is North America's first government-sanctioned such facility, having receiving a conditional exemption in September 2003. Since that time, it has been open seven days a week; users are provided with clean injection equipment to use; they are monitored by staff during injection; health professionals provide treatment and support in the event of overdoses; and users are provided with health care information, counselling, and referrals to health authorities and service providers.

In the fall of 2007, a detox centre opened above Insite, named Onsite, to provide detox on demand. It is a drug-free environment, supported by addiction specialists, physicians, nurses, and peers.

Since opening, Insite has saved lives and improved health outcomes, with the support of local police as well as municipal and provincial governments.

The benefits of Insite and supervised injection facilities and the lack of any related negative impacts have been well documented in leading scientific journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal.

An expert advisory committee's report to the former Conservative health minister concluded that there was no evidence of increases in drug-related loitering, drug dealing, or petty crime around Insite; there was no evidence that Insite increased the relapse rate among injection drug users; the police data showed no changes in rates of crime recorded in the area; and a cost-benefit analysis was favourable.

Despite all of this, that minister refused to grant a continued exemption and stated that Insite represents a failure of public policy.

Contrary to the claims of that Conservative minister, Insite did not represent a failure of public policy, but the Conservative minister's actions did represent a failure of decision-making in the public interest.

In fact, it was such a failure that the Supreme Court of Canada, in a unanimous nine to nothing decision in 2011, ordered the minister to grant an exemption to Insite and stated, as follows, at paragraph 133:

Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernable negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation. The effect of denying the services...to the population it serves is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.

At paragraph 153, the Supreme Court held that a minister must consider a number of factors in exercising discretion to grant an exemption from the CDSA, including:

...[one] evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates, [two] the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site, [three] the regulatory structure in place to support the facility, [four] the resources available to support its maintenance, and [five] expressions of community support or opposition.

Yet, in the face of that landmark decision, the previous Conservative administration remained wilfully blind to the evidence and continued to attack safe injection facilities.

With the introduction of then Bill C-2, the previous government ignored our Supreme Court and, in the words of the Canadian Nurses Association, created “unnecessary and excessive barriers to establishing supervised injection facilities”.

Bill C-37 would remove those unnecessary and excessive barriers. Bill C-37 would simplify the process of applying for an exemption from the CDSA for supervised consumption sites, as well as the process for subsequent exemptions.

Specifically, Bill C-37 would replace the excessive 26 criteria imposed by the Conservatives with the five factors I have reiterated, as set out by our Supreme Court. It would simplify documentation, it would require reasons for a minister's decision, and it would remove the moralizing principles regarding illicit substances.

Bill C-37 would save lives, and one need not condone drug use to want to save lives.

This is a good beginning to a modern drug policy, with public health and harm reduction front and centre.

In addressing the United Nations last year on April 20, our Minister of Health said:

I am proud to stand up for drug policy that is informed by solid scientific evidence and uses a lens of public health to maximize education and minimize harm.

That commitment to evidence is important, but it also demands that we go further. Fentanyl and illicit drug overdoses killed hundreds of Canadians in 2016. B.C. health officials and medical experts have called it a public health emergency. It is so serious that the B.C. government opened two new supervised consumption sites without waiting for federal approval. We need new solutions. The current approach, the so-called war on drugs of criminal sanctions and preaching abstinence, is not working.

In 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy called for an end to drug prohibition stating that government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace cost-effective and evidence-based instrument investments in demand and harm reduction.

That commission included former presidents and prime ministers of Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Mexico, and Switzerland, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former Supreme Court of Canada judge and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour. Prohibition has failed to effectively curtail the supply or consumption of illicit drugs, and its unintended consequences can be devastating, creating a lucrative and violent black market and shifting resources from public health to law enforcement instead.

Those enforcement efforts only serve to divert problems to new geographic areas or to inadvertently promote the use of alternative and potentially less safe drugs, and the use of the criminal justice system marginalizes those who are already often at society's margins, diminishing the likelihood that they seek treatment.

Prohibition treats the very people we want to help, the victims, the users, the addicts, as criminals. Looking outside of Canada, we know there is a better path.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized low-level possession and use of all drugs. Those caught with drugs are sent before dissuasion commissions, which include representatives from law, medicine, and social work. More than 80% of cases are dismissed without sanction, and the number of people arrested and sent to criminal courts declined by more than 60%. There has been no major increase in drug use. In fact, the level of drug use is below the European average. Adolescent and problematic drug use has decreased, and the number of deaths from drug overdoses has dropped significantly.

As Donna May, a woman who lost her daughter to overdose on August 21, 2012, said that we have to get ahead of this crisis and the fastest and most effective way of successfully accomplishing this may well be done by taking away the profit from the black market and dangerously produced counterfeit opioids by legalizing and regulating all substance use. She said that at the very least following the lead of other countries which have decriminalized drugs and substituted criminalization with a health protocol needs to be seriously considered.

I am not suggesting that I have all of the answers, but I am asking our government and this House to consider additional public health and harm reduction measures. I am asking us to work together to save lives.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Tracey Ramsey Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is only one measure of success to be had in the opioid crisis and that is simply to have fewer people dying. That is the only measure, and what we are seeing is an increase month over month.

When the health committee conducted an emergency study into the opioid crisis, the very first recommendation that was made with all-party support was to declare opioid overdoses a national public health emergency. This would give the public health officer of Canada extraordinary powers immediately while Bill C-37 works its way through Parliament. This call was echoed by Dr. David Juurlink, who I believe lives near the member in his riding of Beaches—East York, the keynote speaker at the Minister of Health's own opioid summit, and now by B.C. health minister Terry Lake and stakeholders across Canada.

In the face of a mounting death toll, does the member for Beaches—East York agree that we should declare a national public health emergency so that we can start saving lives today?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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January 31st, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the constituents of my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge. Today, I rise 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.

The bill is particularly important for my community and the communities in the greater Vancouver region that have been facing a crisis of such horrific and disturbing magnitude. To date, over 1,000 children, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters have died from the opioid crisis in our region. These are not numbers. These are people and victims of addiction, each with their own incredibly painful story.

In my riding we are facing a homelessness crisis. To live in the midst of a riding that is facing an unprecedented number of homeless and drug addicted members of the community, we know first-hand that these are folks who are battling serious mental illnesses with very few to no resources. In crafting the bill, we are doing so with an understanding that addiction is a health problem.

To quote the hon. Minister of Health, “Addiction is not a crime. Addiction is not a mark of moral failure. It is a health issue. For many, it is a mechanism to manage unbearable pain, an attempt to relieve suffering when life offers few alternatives”.

For too long we have not been paying attention to the closely tied relationship between drug addiction and mental health. Too many people in our communities are sick and our policies must begin to reflect this.

Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key priority for this government. That is why on December 12, 2016, the Minister of Health, with support from the Minister of Public Safety, took action to end this crisis and introduce policies that get serious about ending drug addiction in Canada.

The bill supports our government's goal of creating a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy in Canada. It aims to balance the important objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety. Bill C-37 would better equip both health and law enforcement officials with the tools they need to reduce the harms associated with drug and substance use in Canada.

Specifically, the bill would improve the government's ability to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites as a key harm reduction measure; address the illegal supply, production, and distribution of drugs; and reduce the risk of controlled substances used for legitimate purposes being diverted to the illegal market by improving compliance and enforcement tools.

While all aspects of the bill are important, I would like to focus my remarks today on how the bill would modernize the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to strengthen law enforcement and the government's ability to monitor, promote, and enforce compliance. This would reduce the risk of diversion of controlled substances that are used for legitimate purposes, such as prescription opioids, to the illegal market. This is a pressing concern as the diversion of controlled substances to the illicit market contributes to problematic substance use in Canada.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act came into force in 1997. While it has been amended over the years, it has not kept pace with the significant changes seen in the illicit controlled substances industry and the illicit drug market. In particular, the current troubling and growing rates of opioid overdoses and deaths highlight certain gaps and weaknesses within the existing legislation.

Bill C-37 would modernize compliance and enforcement powers by improving inspection authorities by bringing them in line with authorities in other federal legislation. Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Health Canada regulates more than 600 licensed dealers who manufacture, buy, sell, distribute, import, export, and transport controlled substances for legitimate purposes. At present, Health Canada's inspectors are only able to inspect sites where authorized activities with controlled substances and precursors are taking place.

This bill proposes to allow Health Canada inspectors to enter places where they believe, on reasonable grounds, that activities with controlled substances or precursors are taking place. For example, Health Canada would be able to inspect establishments whose licences to conduct activities with controlled substances have been suspended or revoked to verify that illegal activities are not taking place.

To be clear, the proposed inspection authorities would not allow inspectors to enter private dwellings without the consent of an occupant or a warrant. As always, should Health Canada inspectors believe that illicit activities with controlled substances are taking place, they would refer the case to law enforcement officers.

Bill C-37 would also improve compliance and enforcement under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by providing the Minister of Health the authority to compel regulated parties or persons importing a designated device to provide information regarding their activities. This authority could be used in only two circumstances: to verify compliance or prevent non-compliance with the act, or to address a risk to public health or public safety. Having access to timely information would alert the minister to potential diversion risks and improve the minister's ability to address a public health or safety threat. This authority is in line with other modern federal legislation, such as the Food and Drugs Act.

This bill also provides for an administrative monetary penalty scheme. Currently, Health Canada has limited options to address non-compliance within the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Health Canada can send a warning letter, which may not be effective at resolving a non-compliance situation, or suspend or revoke a licence. However, licence suspension or revocation is often considered to be a disproportionate penalty and may not always be appropriate or in the public interest. For example, revocation of a pharmaceutical company's licence could result in a shortage of critical drugs used in medical care.

Further, not all regulated parties are issued licences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. For example, pharmacists, health care practitioners, and hospitals are subject to specific requirements set out in regulations under the act but are not licenced per se.

The introduction of an administrative monetary penalty scheme would offer Health Canada a greater range of tools to promote compliance with the act and its regulations. For example, regulated parties could be liable to pay a fine in cases where they do not follow the required security or record-keeping procedures. While exercising this authority will require regulations, the bill provides a legislative authority to introduce an administrative monetary penalty scheme.

Another aspect of this bill would introduce a new, expedited process for the disposal of seized controlled substances, precursors, and chemical offence-related property whose storage or handling poses a risk to health and safety. The current rules related to the handling and disposal of seized controlled substances, precursors, and other drug-related property are cumbersome and complex. Law enforcement agencies must seek a court order and approval from Health Canada before they dispose of these items, which takes time. This results in large quantities of controlled substances, potentially dangerous chemicals, and other offence-related property needing to be stored for longer periods of time. This poses a risk to public health and public safety. It is also costly, particularly for law enforcement.

The new process proposed in this bill would not require a court order for the disposal of controlled substances, nor for precursors and chemical offence-related property that pose a risk to health and safety. This would therefore reduce the burden on courts, government, and law enforcement agencies.

As members can see, this integrated approach puts evidence-based public health and public safety measures at the forefront of our drug policy here in Canada. Tackling this crisis will require commitment and innovation from all levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal. We must work together in solidarity to put an end to this crisis that is tearing at our communities and taking lives.

I encourage all members of this House to put saving lives and securing our communities before ideology. I ask all members to support Bill C-37, to stand up for the best interests of our communities, and be part of ushering in a new era of evidence-based drug policy.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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January 31st, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am a new MP. What I can remember is that years ago when the first consumption site in B.C. was brought in there was so much uproar against it. It was challenged over and over again.

I am a member of Parliament today, able to respond and able to actually implement this. What would have happened if we had done this years ago? Would we still be where we are today? Would we still be in a crisis situation?

The time for talk is over. That is why I am proud of Bill C-37. It is taking action when it needs to be taken.