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

Sponsor

Jane Philpott  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Feb. 16, 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 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, the information on safe consumption sites and the science behind it is very clear. That is just one part of the puzzle.

If we do not address mental health at a young age, that is what they turn to. This is just a piece of a puzzle in a complex equation. We need to have the means for people to go, and for them to remember that while they are there, people are trying to help them find a better way. That is part of the success of that program.

The alternative is to do nothing and double the number of deaths we see going on in my province. That is not acceptable to me. We need to move forward on this. That is why I am supporting Bill C-37.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

Today I am proud to speak on Bill C-37, which I unreservedly support. This is an essential step in overcoming the opioid crisis that is afflicting our country.

The bill amends the Customs Act and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, but I will actually be addressing its proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The changes to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are important to our government's revision of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, which restores harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada's drug policy. The return of this evidence-based approach to substances marks a return of our drug policy to a health matter once again.

I want to acknowledge the pain that has been experienced by so many families across our country as a result of the opioid crisis. My hope is that by passing this bill, we will be preventing further deaths from the use of opioids.

This bill gives health professionals the freedom to plan and implement harm reduction strategies to help people with substance abuse issues. It helps to de-stigmatize this disease that is taking lives every day across Canada. It will let people get medical assistance when they need it most. It is important that we all stand and support these changes.

First, I will address the situation in Ontario, specifically in my community.

The chief coroner for Ontario, Dr. Dirk Huyer, reports annually on deaths from opioid toxicity. If we look at the numbers, we see quickly that it is not just fentanyl that is killing people in Ontario. It is also codeine, heroin, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone, sometimes mixed with alcohol.

The number of deaths is rising. In 2004, there were 246 deaths from opioid and opioid-alcohol toxicity. In 2015, that number had risen to 707 deaths.

It is estimated that one in eight deaths of Ontarians between the ages of 25 and 34 is related to opioid use. Toronto has seen a 77% increase in overdose deaths over the past decade.

The toll in east Toronto, where my community is located, has been high. Research cited by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre shows a disproportionately high number of injection drug users in our community and higher rates of emergency department visits due to opioid or cocaine use than in Toronto overall.

In 2013, a memorial was unveiled at Queen St. and Carlaw Avenue in my riding. The memorial, believed to be the first of its kind in North America, helps us to remember the people in our community who have died from drug overdoses.

It is a space to help families and friends heal. It encourages us to support public education and highlights the impact the war on drugs has had on the lives of people who are with us and those who have gone beyond.

More than 60 people contributed to the creation of the memorial, with the guidance of artist Rocky Dobey. Regarding the memorial, he stated:

But the sculpture is only a small part of this project; many more ideas have been generated, including a print exhibit, an annual memorial at the sculpture, and the simple storytelling of memories at these meetings; hopefully the project will continue to draw this community together.

At the time that it was unveiled, there were 79 names. By this summer we had 130 names, and more are being added. The stories and memories that are embodied in the sculpture should recall to all of us that work remains to be done to support our neighbours in this struggle.

This past summer, the sculpture was the site of a memorial for a young community peer and street outreach worker who specialized in harm reduction, Brooklyn McNeil. She was a strong advocate for safe consumption sites in Toronto.

She appeared before the Toronto Board of Health and spoke very eloquently in favour of harm reduction. I listened to her deputation last night, and her presentation hits hard. She spoke of how accidental overdoses could be prevented by safe injection sites, and she recounted her own overdose experiences.

She closed her statement saying that “respect for all members of the community is so important, especially not looking at addicts as invaders but as part of the community.” Unfortunately, she died of a drug overdose in June at the age of 22. She died before the Toronto Board of Health voted to approve three safe consumption sites in Toronto.

I do feel that Brooklyn McNeil's view of community is echoed, however, in the deputation made by the chair of the Leslieville BIA, Andrew Sherbin, who spoke at Toronto City Hall in favour of a safe consumption site in my community at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre. He stated, “We will always be a neighbourhood that welcomes people, not turns them away.”

Both of their statements strike to the very point of harm reduction, that we do not help people by turning them away. As we face a growing opioid crisis we need to look directly at this problem, we need to help people get the health care they need.

The bill we are discussing today helps communities to apply for exemptions to allow for the creation of safe consumption sites. It puts into place five benchmarks to be met for a safe consumption site to be approved. The benchmarks are:

One, demonstration of the need for such a site to exist; two, demonstration of appropriate consultation of the community; three, presentation of evidence on whether the site will impact crime in the community; four, ensuring regulatory systems are in place; and, five, site proponents will need to prove that appropriate resources are in place.

By putting these benchmarks into place, the bill returns our law to the state it was in after the Supreme Court of Canada's 2011 decision that allowed lnsite to operate in British Columbia, without the overbearing, harmful, and unnecessary regulatory framework set up by the former Conservative government.

An organization in my community, as I have mentioned, the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, has applied to expand the harm reduction services they already provide. The centre is one of three that was approved by the Toronto Board of Health, and it has been operating a harm reduction needle exchange since 1998. That is about 20 years. It is one of the busiest harm reduction needle exchange programs in Toronto, and in 2015 served over 3,000 people who use drugs.

The South Riverdale Community Health Centre states in their background document relating to their application for a supervised injection site that international and Canadian research shows that such sites have benefits for individuals using the services and the community, including reducing the number of drug overdoses and deaths, reducing risk factors leading to infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, increasing the use of detox and drug treatment services, connecting people with other health and social services, and reducing the amount of publicly discarded needles.

The centre’s study of clients who seek help relating to injection drugs showed that around 30% of the clients injected in public. Ensuring needles are not discarded in public is an important health goal, and is something that this bill helps us achieve.

Members of my community signed a petition in support of a safe consumption site, and the wording of the petition stated as follows:

Leslieville is a progressive, welcoming and inclusive community. As individuals who live and work in the community, we support the establishment of a small-scale safe injection service at the South Riverdale Community Health Center (SRCHC). With a 41% increase in fatal overdoses over a 10 year period in Toronto and the existence of discarded needles in the neighbourhood, this service will not only prevent unnecessary deaths but keep the community safer. South Riverdale CHC has been operating a robust and successful Harm Reduction program for almost 20 years and this small but important addition will protect both individuals who already use the program and the community at large.

I would like to conclude with the comments that one of my constituents made at the Toronto Board of Health. Her name is Margaret Harvey, and she said, “As a community, we owe it to ourselves and to each other to make harm reduction a priority, to give the vulnerable a chance to get the help they need and to make our streets, parks, and other public spaces safer for everyone”.

So too, as a country, do we owe it to the vulnerable to make sure that they do not face barriers to access the health care that they need to keep them safe.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to get to my feet in today's debate on Bill C-37. We are all terribly concerned. I am desperately concerned, as a member of Parliament from British Columbia, about the fentanyl crisis. Over 900 people died last year; I think it was 162 in December alone.

While this bill is definitely helpful, we must be able to have safe injection sites available to Canadians where we need them. I know the hon. member is not the Minister of Health, but could she outline for us the Liberal government's position on why this is not a national health emergency? A lot of us want to see a national health emergency declared.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.

Today I rise in the House to address a grave situation. Bill C-37, which was introduced by the Minister of Health, is supposedly a solution to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in Canada. However, if carried through, the bill would have the potential to devastate communities, while creating no real solution for addicts.

I have no issues with certain parts of the bill. It must be acknowledged that certain sections are steps in the right direction.

It is appropriate that the bill would grant more authority to the Canada Border Services Agency in order for it to open international mail of any weight. We know that imports from certain countries are a major contributor to Canada's growing opioid problem. As it stands, the Canada Border Services Agency is not permitted to open, search, or test suspicious packages that weigh less than 30 grams. As a result, drug dealers in Canada have been able to order chemicals and illicit drugs online and have them shipped here.

It is vital that the government continue to ensure that these deadly chemicals are not crossing our borders and that those importing them are punished and held accountable.

I support the bill's prohibition of importing unregistered devices, such as pill pressers, which are used to manufacture bootleg fentanyl.

Broadening prohibitions so they apply to the possession, production, sale, importation, or transportation of anything intended to be used in the production of any controlled substance, including fentanyl, is welcome. However, the penalties, especially for the schedule I substances, are far too soft.

I also support the section of the bill that would allow the addition of a temporary schedule to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, because often new substances are designed to mimic illegal drugs while being different enough to avoid existing laws.

For the most part, these are steps in the right direction. However, there exist dangerous flaws in the rest of Bill C-37, which I cannot in good conscience support as is.

It is immensely disappointing that the Liberals refuse to acknowledge that prescription opioids are a major contributor to the opioid crisis.

In 2014, the previous Conservative government announced a plan to pursue tamper-resistant properties in prescription drugs. This would make it tough for people to crush, inject, or snort the pill. The Liberals have decided to abandon this plan, claiming it would not help Canada's growing drug problem. This decision is ill-informed and irresponsible. We encourage the Liberals to reintroduce tamper-resistant properties in order to save the lives of Canadians.

I am especially disturbed by the portion of the bill that severely weakens the Respect for Communities Act, which is crucial to ensuring that communities are consulted before a supervised injection site is approved.

Bill C-37 would make the consultative process surrounding injection sites practically non-existent. It would prevent communities from voicing legitimate concerns regarding proposed injection sites. Ironically, the government promised to engage and listen to the concerns of Canadians. It is essential that all members of communities have the opportunity to give input on proposed injection sites. This must include police, neighbourhood groups, public health organizations, the province, and the municipal government.

It ought to be mandatory to acquire a letter of support from the mayor of the city in which an injection site is to be located. It is not acceptable that if this ill-advised bill is enacted, a supervised injection site may be approved after meeting only five criteria as opposed to 26 previous safeguards.

Last year I held a public round table on these so-called safe injection sites in my riding of Markham—Unionville. Over 100 residents attended. They all told me they fear these injection sites are normalizing illegal behaviour and creating an unsafe environment for children. They are worried these sites will decrease their property values. Furthermore, they are furious that the Liberal government is wasting taxpayer dollars on purchasing drugs and paraphernalia for addicts.

I also wrote a letter to each Markham councillor asking whether they would support a safe injection site in Markham. Any response other than a definitive no is unsatisfactory for me and all residents of Markham—Unionville. I have yet to receive such a reply.

Markham council will have the final say on whether or not a safe injection site is located in Markham. I am extremely concerned that if presented with a proposal to open a safe injection site in Markham, council will approve this request. Markham residents can expect to hear more from me on this issue. I will not stop until I am satisfied that there will be no safe injection site in Markham.

This bill proves that the Liberals would rather encourage drug users than help them get back on their feet through rehabilitation and treatment.

Drugs that are used in supervised injection sites are illegally obtained. The Liberal government's actions would enable criminal behaviour and give addicts a safe space to get their fix instead of investing in proper treatment. Substance abuse experts, medical experts, and law enforcement officials all agree that the best way to spend money is on effective treatment programs, not injection sites.

The Liberals have given up on people who need help. Instead of allocating money to programs that can treat addicts, the Liberals are attempting to push ahead with a plan that would jeopardize the safety of communities. We ask ourselves, why would the Liberals do this? The answer, it seems, is that they are pursuing a shocking hidden agenda.

I was alarmed last Thursday when I read a Liberal MP's bombshell opinion editorial for Vice News Canada with the headline “Decriminalize all drugs”. This is a dangerous and irresponsible proposal.

Only a couple of weeks ago, a drug lab was discovered in the heart of a residential neighbourhood in Markham—Unionville forcing residents to evacuate.

For concerned families and communities like ours, these reckless Liberal ideas are reprehensible and also highlight the minister's out-of-touch ideas about drug policies. Helping rehabilitate drug addicts is a noble policy, but handing out drug paraphernalia and decriminalizing the most dangerous illicit narcotics are not.

While I support certain sections of the bill that would make it more difficult to import drugs and chemicals from overseas, I strongly condemn the parts of the bill regarding injection sites that encourage drug use instead of helping drug users quit and get back on their feet.

I urge members of the House to stand up for their communities and for all Canadians and reject this disturbing and careless bill until it protects Canadians instead of jeopardizing communities and to reject the Liberals' hidden drug agenda.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Saroya Markham—Unionville, ON

Madam Speaker, the previous Conservative government brought in the Safe Streets and Communities Act. There are 26 restrictions. They are restricted to certain areas. They have to talk to the neighbourhoods and talk to the police. That is what people said to me at my round table discussions. They were extremely happy that this was put in by the Conservative government. However, in Bill C-37, that is all gone. As the member said, it can be done in five hours. Instead of 26 restrictions, there are only five restrictions left.

What I heard at my round tables was about the Liberals' hidden agenda on legalizing drugs. They are dangerous, deadly, addictive drugs. We know that street drugs tear families apart as well as users' own lives.

The Liberal member for Beaches—East York made the argument a couple of days ago that the criminal aspect of drug use stigmatizes users and makes them less likely to seek help. The problem is that there is no proper help to offer addicts seeking it across the country. We are hearing that when a drug addict finally decides to take the steps to seek treatment, there are no beds available for them.

In this opioid crisis, it is irresponsible for any member of Parliament to be advocating the legalization of all life-ruining drugs.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Oakville, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brampton East.

The emergence of fentanyl and its analogues, an opioid at least 100 times more potent than morphine, has given rise to a public health crisis in Canada that requires urgent action.

Bill C-37 proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in a number of ways to address this crisis. In terms of harm reduction, it proposes to simplify the process of applying both for a supervised consumption site and for the exemptions that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised site. I am pleased to see an evidence-based health-centric focus on harm reduction return to our health policy and legislation.

With regard to law enforcement and border security, amongst many changes, it would prohibit the importation of designated devices, unless they are registered with the Minister of Health. This would specifically prohibit unregistered importation of pill presses and encapsulators. It would expand the offence of possession, production, sale, or importation of anything with the knowledge that it will be used to produce or traffic in methamphetamines.

The bill would authorize the minister to temporarily add to a schedule substances that the minister has reasonable grounds to believe pose a significant risk to public health and safety. It would modernize inspection powers allowing border officers to open mail weighing 30 grams or less in order to stop drugs like fentanyl from entering Canada illegally through the mail system.

I would like to add my support for this bill and the proposed amendments to the CDSA. I would frame my support with particular reference to the recommendations from the December 2016 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, entitled “Report and Recommendations on the Opioid Crisis in Canada”. I am pleased to be a member of the standing committee.

My following remarks draw heavily on this report and the excellent summation of the witnesses' testimony and the committee's deliberations, as provided by the committee's members and supporting staff. The members of the standing committee agreed to undertake an emergency study of the opioid crisis in Canada. During the course of its study, the committee held five meetings, where it heard from a range of stakeholders, including federal and provincial government representatives, health care professionals, addiction experts, emergency front-line responders, representatives of first nations communities, and individuals with lived experience in substance abuse and addiction.

These witnesses outlined specific ways to address the opioid crisis and implored the committee to make recommendations that would lead to concrete action. I cannot emphasize enough the powerful, emotional, and compelling testimony that we heard from all witnesses urging the government to take action on this crisis.

The committee heard from witnesses that this situation began reaching crisis proportions in July 2013, when fentanyl, a prescription opioid 100 times more potent than morphine, became increasingly available on the illicit drug market. The assistant commissioner for federal policing special services with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police advised the committee that, because of the high demand for this drug, organized crime groups began importing illegal fentanyl from China. These are then transformed into tablet forms in clandestine labs in Canada using pill presses and are disguised as legal prescriptions, such as OxyContin, or are used in powder form as cutting agents for other illicit drugs.

The unknown potency of illegal fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, coupled with the fact that users are often unaware that they are taking the drug, has resulted in a dramatic increase in drug deaths in Canada. British Columbia has become the epicentre of the crisis because of its maritime ports and relative proximity to China.

According to the chief coroner for British Columbia, the percentage of drug deaths involving fentanyl increased from 5% in 2012 to 60% in 2016, with the involvement of fentanyl doubling the rates of drug deaths in the province. According to the coroner, the province had experienced—and this at the date of the testimony—488 illicit drug deaths at the end of August 2016, or approximately 61 deaths a month.

In addition—and again, I am drawing from the text of the my committee's report—the committee heard that the RCMP is collaborating with law enforcement agencies in China to combat international drug trafficking networks, as well as to gain support for regulatory control of fentanyl analogues to prevent their distribution in Canada.

In terms of federal efforts at the border, the committee heard that Canada Border Services Agency is using innovative technologies and dogs to detect fentanyl at borders and maritime ports, resulting in more than 115 seizures since 2010.

However, the vice-president of the operations branch of the CBSA explained to the committee that the agency faces challenges detecting and intercepting fentanyl sent through the postal system. Fentanyl powder and equivalent substances are most often smuggled into Canada through the postal stream. Due to the increased volume of packages sent through postal and courier services, it can be a challenge for the CBSA to identify and intercept all shipments of concern. Postal and courier shipments are often accompanied by false declarations or are intentionally mislabelled. The RCMP further elaborated that these shipments are disguised or labelled in a variety of ways, such as printer ink, toys, and DVDs. To address this issue, Canada Border Services was reviewing the Customs Act to see if it could remove the restrictions on the agency's ability to open packages weighing under 30 grams.

With respect to harm reduction strategies, the committee heard that supervised consumption sites are an evidence-based harm reduction measure. A number of witnesses expressed the opinion that changes to the CDSA, introduced in 2015, through Bill C-2, were a barrier to establishing new supervised consumption sites across the country and should be repealed or significantly amended.

After much deliberation, the committee made a number of recommendations.

Specific to harm reduction measures is recommendation number eight: “That the Government of Canada repeal or significantly amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act where it creates barriers to communities in establishing supervised consumption sites...”. Bill C-37 addresses this recommendation specifically.

Specific to law enforcement and border security, the committee made the following recommendations:

Recommendation 33 says:

That the Government of Canada take measures to grant authority and lawful privilege to Canada Border Services Agency officials to search and/or test suspect packages that weigh under 30 grams.

Recommendation 34 says:

That the Government of Canada develop a federal enforcement and interdiction strategy around the importation of illicit opioids.

Recommendation 35 says:

That the Government of Canada adopt measures to regulate commercial pill presses to limit their possession to pharmacists and others who hold an appropriate licence.

Recommendation 36 says:

That stronger criminal penalties for having a production machine be established.

Finally, recommendation 37 says:

That the Government of Canada provide more resources for drug testing packages and other shipments.

I am pleased to see that Bill C-37 addresses these recommendations and is consistent with the cited findings of the committee.

Looking beyond Bill C-37 and the amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the committee heard that this crisis should be considered a public health crisis, and the committee produced many other recommendations related to harm reduction, addictions prevention including prescribing practices and public education, addictions treatment, the need for mental health supports, and issues unique to first nations.

The Minister of Health has already responded to this crisis through a five-point action plan that includes better informing Canadians about the risks of opioids, supporting better prescribing practices, reducing easy access to unnecessary opioids, supporting better treatment options for patients, improving the evidence base and improving data collection, and also by making naloxone available as an emergency treatment.

Progressive action was also initiated by the minister through a pan-Canadian opioid summit held in November 2016.

Further, the minister has responded to every request that the provinces have raised with the government, and she continues to work with the provinces.

Finally, while this public health crisis must be addressed through the measures proposed in Bill C-37, and while as Canadians we battle the addictions brought on by opioid usage, it is important to remember that some Canadians, like Christina in my riding of Oakville, suffer from unrelenting and incurable pain. My thoughts are with her today. We must always ensure that their needs are addressed and that appropriate pharmaceutical care remains available to them.

I want the residents of my riding of Oakville to be protected from the opioid crisis and illicit fentanyl distribution. I will be supporting Bill C-37, and I encourage all members of the House to support this bill and to work to address this terrible public health crisis. Let us get this bill through the House and the other place as quickly as we can to help these Canadians.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague and I serve together on the health committee. I would like to thank him for a lot of the good work that has been done.

As my colleague from Calgary said, we are all in agreement with much of what Bill C-37 contains, but one of the things we are not in agreement with is the Liberals' idea of a consultation process. During the election campaign, they said they would consult with Canadians. We saw them do that with their policy on pipelines, but here, on something to do with public health, the bill basically guts the consultation process.

From the testimony we heard in committee, my colleague knows it is essential that there be community buy-in for these injection sites or consumption sites to be successful. Everybody wants anything to do with addicts to be successful in its implementation.

If an injection site goes into a community, it is going to be the local community that will have to pay for police enforcement. The province has to put out money for these things.

Ottawa, for example, has a Liberal mayor who is on the record as saying he is opposed to having an injection site in this community. The chief of police and the former chief of police have also stated that they are not in favour of this type of intervention in this community. Because the Liberals have cut the consultation process on this issue, does my colleague think that if the mayor, the chief of police, and stakeholders who are going to be responsible for enforcement and payment, are not onside with it, the minister should still put an injection site in Ottawa?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Oakville, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to serve with the member on the health committee. We have worked together to make some really good recommendations and directions in our report.

With respect to supervised consumption sites and harm reduction, we heard from many witnesses how important these sites are as part of early treatment and early intervention and better management for people who are consuming.

We also heard from witnesses that the previous government's Respect for Communities Act, Bill C-2, introduced such stringent rules and 26 application criteria that we have not been able to open a new safe consumption site across Canada since Bill C-2 was introduced. The Supreme Court has ruled on this and Bill C-37 would simply enshrine the court's ruling.

I would note that one of the five criteria is support and expressions of community support for the centre. I do believe there is appropriate response to community concerns and that part of the process of approval deals specifically with hearing from and looking for communities' expressions of support or their expressions of opposition.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Oakville, ON

Madam Speaker, likewise, it is an honour to serve with the hon. member on the health committee. I do find that we work together quite collaboratively on these issues.

It is really important that we remember in the House as we are debating Bill C-37 that there are federal and provincial jurisdictions at work here. Many of the situations and cases that the hon. member mentioned are really provincial authority. We are in the middle of a health accord negotiation. There is $6 billion available for mental health and addictions for provinces from the federal government which would go a long way toward implementing the treatment programs and services that some of these people need.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Raj Grewal Brampton East, ON

Madam Speaker, before I present my thoughts on Bill C-37, I do want to say that I come from Brampton East, which has the second most diverse population in the entire country. We have five Sikh gurdwaras, four Hindu temples, four mosques, two churches, and we all live in great harmony. The events that happened in Quebec affected all of us across this country. A place of worship where people go to pray is no place for violence. We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and we pray for all of them that we recover united as Canadians.

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

The bill proposes important legislative changes that would help to support the new recently announced Canadian drugs and substances strategy, a comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate strategy made up of the four key pillars of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement, all of which are built on a strong foundation of evidence.

We are in the midst of a national public health crisis in Canada. In 2016, thousands of Canadians tragically died of accidental opioid overdoses, and more will die this year. Just last year in British Columbia alone, more than 900 people died from drug overdoses. That is an 80% increase from 2015. This is proof that the situation is getting worse. Deaths from overdoses will now be greater than deaths by car accidents. This tragic crisis continues to move eastward in Canada, with increasing drug seizures of fentanyl across our country.

As every member in this House knows, problematic substance use and addiction are serious public health issues. It seems that not a day goes by without seeing a story published in a Canadian newspaper about yet another overdose, another life lost, or another new dangerous drug on the streets. At the heart of these stories are everyday Canadians, their families, our communities.

Our government has taken action from day one. We are building on our five-point action plan to address opioid misuse. We have taken concrete steps, such as granting section 56 exemptions for the Dr. Peter Centre and extending the exemption for Insite for an additional four years. We made the overdose antidote more widely available in Canada. Last autumn, the Minister of Health co-hosted a conference and summit on opioids which resulted in 42 organizations bringing forward concrete proposals of their own. However, we must continue to respond to this tragedy in a way that is comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate.

Bill C-37 would provide the government and law enforcement with the tools needed to support Canadian communities in addressing problematic substance use, including the opioid crisis.

With the dramatic increase in overdose deaths due to opioids occurring in Canada right now, it is crucial that the bill be passed swiftly.

Bill C-37 would demonstrate true support for communities grappling with the crisis by, among other things, removing unnecessary barriers to establishing supervised consumption sites. These barriers were put in place by the previous government in 2015.

When Bill C-37 passes, it will streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites by replacing the current 26 criteria set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish such a site with the requirement to submit evidence related to the five factors set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2011 decision regarding Insite. These factors include: impact on crime rates; location conditions indicating need; a regulatory structure in place to support the facility; resources available to support its maintenance; and expressions of community support or opposition.

By reducing the number of criteria, the administrative burden on communities seeking to establish a supervised consumption site would be lessened. However, the health and safety of those operating these sites, their clients, and the surrounding community would not be compromised.

I want to take a moment to address the misunderstanding about these proposed amendments.

Some members of this House have contended that the views of a community would no longer be important in the assessment of an application to establish a supervised consumption site. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that the Minister of Health must consider expressions of community support or opposition when reviewing such applications.

Our government is respecting the Supreme Court of Canada's decision by proposing to include these factors in the legislation. The Government of Canada supports the need for community consultation in the application process for considering the establishment of supervised consumption sites. We understand and respect that communities may have valid concerns about a proposed site and that these concerns deserve to be heard and should be adequately addressed by applicants in their applications.

The proposed amendments would demonstrate that respect for communities is a multi-faceted issue. Yes, it means that the concerns of the community must be considered and addressed by the applicants; however, it also means that the federal government should not place any unnecessary barriers in the way of communities that want to establish a supervised consumption site as part of their local drug strategies.

Under Bill C-37, communities can be assured that their voices will be heard and that each application will be subject to a comprehensive review, yet it would do so without inevitably stalling the implementation of these life-saving programs in communities where they are wanted and needed. Just like any other regulated program, our government has a responsibility to the public.