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

Sponsor

Jane Philpott  Liberal

Status

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(f) add an administrative monetary penalties scheme;

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

(h) modernize inspection powers; and

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-37. Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key priority of this government, and 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 would make several amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Customs Act in connection with the government's efforts to address the current opioid crisis as well as problematic substance use more generally.

This a comprehensive bill that seeks 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 this issue.

Over the last decade, the harms associated with problematic substance 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 is committed to helping Canadians affected by problematic substance abuse. 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 substance abuse must include preventing and treating addiction, supporting recovery, and reducing the negative and social impacts of drug use on individuals and their communities through evidence-based harm-reduction measures. These obviously must also be part of our approach to addressing the problem.

Harm reduction is viewed by experts as a cost-effective element of a well-balanced approach to public health and safety.

It has been a very good debate. I have listened intently, and it has been very informative.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 10th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and pleasure to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Health in relation to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

At this time, I want to thank all members of the health committee who worked diligently to get this through in an appropriate time. Although there were some philosophical differences, everyone appreciated the sense of urgency and helped to get the bill through. I want to thank all members from all parties for their co-operation on this bill. We think that this bill will save lives.

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

February 1st, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, an agreement has been reached between a majority of the representatives of the recognized parties under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

Therefore, I move:

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that NDP members, who claim to care about this issue, would co-operate in this fashion.

I propose to them another option. My House leader has circulated a motion to all parties, and I hope you will find unanimous consent for the proposal.

The motion separates out the supervised injection sites section of the bill. It also adopts at all stages the remaining parts of the bill. We are also willing to allow the supervised injection sites section of the bill to go to committee today, without the need for time allocation. I know the members across would like that.

Therefore, I ask for unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts be divided into two bills: Bill C-37(A), an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts (supervised consumption sites), and Bill C-37(B), an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts; that Bill C-37(A) be composed of clause 26(6), new section 31(1.1); clause 26(7), revised section 31(8); clause 40(6), revised section 55(1)n; clause 40(14); clause 40(15); clause 41, and clause 42; that Bill C-37(B) be composed of all the remaining parts of Bill C-37; that the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary; that the House order the printing of bills C-37(A) and C-37(B); and that Bill C-37(A) be placed on the Order Paper for consideration of the House at second reading and referral to the Standing Committee on Health; and Bill C-37(B) be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.

If we can get together and unanimously make these changes, we can start saving lives today, instead of having to go through procedural shenanigans. It would make a real difference to Canadians. I think we would all like to co-operate on that.

Second readingControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Vancouver East.

I thank the House for allowing me to speak today on Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. Before I get into the substance of Bill C-37, I would like to remind the House of some of the events that occurred before it was introduced.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government must grant Vancouver's safe injection site, Insite, and other such sites section 56 exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to uphold the fundamental right of all people to life and security. The Supreme Court added that safe injection sites will “decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that [they] will have a negative impact on public safety”.

In response to this decision by Canada's highest court, the then Conservative government finally tabled Bill C-2 in 2015. With the thinly veiled intent of not allowing new supervised injection sites to open, the government put in place 26 conditions for obtaining a legal exemption, making it virtually impossible to open new centres.

As if that were not enough, the bill also gave discretionary power to the minister responsible to refuse to grant the legal exemption even if the 26 conditions were met. I always maintained that it would not be possible to obtain an exemption given the number of requirements already imposed by the law. However, this discretionary power proves that the Conservatives were not going to allow, under any circumstances, new centres to open.

I sat on the committee and heard witnesses, with supporting evidence, describe the benefits of injection sites, including harm reduction and public health, and tell us that public safety would not be jeopardized.

By refusing to consider clear and compelling evidence that supervised injection sites save the lives of many very vulnerable people, the Conservatives and their ideological approach only continued to marginalize and criminalize people suffering from addiction. This unfortunately also resulted in overdoses and deaths that could have been prevented.

A serious opioid crisis is plaguing the country, particularly the west coast, as my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, our health critic, has repeatedly stated here in the House.

In 2016, in British Columbia alone, opioid overdoses took the lives of 914 people, 80% more than in 2015. In April, the situation prompted B.C. public health authorities to declare a state of emergency for the first time in the province's history.

Although we do not have statistics for the number of overdose-related deaths in Canada, it is estimated to have been over 2,000 across the country in 2015. It is easy to imagine the death toll in 2016 being much higher because of the rapid spread of extremely powerful opioids across the country.

Overdoses and drug-related deaths are on the rise in every part of the country, and the crisis is expected to hit Ontario and Quebec this year. The opioid crisis in Canada is now officially out of control.

One of the main reasons the crisis is mounting is that fentanyl is cheap and easy to transport, and just a small amount can be used to make thousands of doses. Because this drug is so cheap, and because too few resources are invested in raising awareness and prevention, young and inexperienced users are overdosing. In many cases, they do not even know that there is fentanyl in the drug they are using.

In February 2016, when the crisis was emerging, the New Democratic Party called for the repeal of Bill C-2 to make it easier for organizations to get legal exemptions to open supervised consumption sites.

Last fall, the NDP got the Standing Committee on Health to study the opioid overdose crisis. In its report, the committee made 38 recommendations to the federal government.

We were also the first to request that a national public health emergency be declared in order to give the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada the authority to take extraordinary measures in order to coordinate a response to the opioid crisis, including the creation of injection sites on an emergency basis. Last December, after Bill C-37 was introduced, we also tried to have the bill fast-tracked in order to resolve the crisis as quickly as possible.

The Liberals say they support supervised injection sites, and yet their government has not approved a single new facility since coming to power. In fact, the Minister of Health initially argued that legislative changes to Bill C-2 were not even necessary, even though the real problem was with the bill itself, with its 26 separate requirements acting as effective barriers to any new sites, as had been pointed out by stakeholders and the NDP.

Faced with the growing crisis across the country and mounting pressure from stakeholders and the NDP, the Minister of Health finally gave in and, on December 12, 2016, introduced Bill C-37, which we are debating here today. Specifically, the bills seeks to simplify the process for applying for a legal exemption so that communities dealing with the opioid crisis can actually open supervised injection sites.

In the preamble, the bill states:

Whereas harm reduction is an important component of a comprehensive, compassionate and evidence-based drug policy that complements prevention, treatment and enforcement measures;

It is in the context of harm prevention that the City of Montreal and the public health authority officially submitted their application for legal exemption in May 2015 for three fixed services in three neighbourhoods and one mobile service. They are still awaiting. It is not surprising. Not a single supervised consumption site has opened in Canada since Bill C-2 was passed.

We are not the only ones calling for the government to move forward with implementing injection services. In summer 2015, the mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, who wanted to get moving on this by the fall, said the following to The Montreal Gazette.

“What are we waiting for? People are dying”.

One year later, in July 2016, Sterling Downey, municipal councillor and Project Montréal critic, asked the mayor a question:

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

Then, concerned organizations also tired of waiting. Jean-François Mary, executive director of the Association québécoise pour la promotion de la santé des personnes utilisatrices de drogues, had this to say to the Montreal Gazette.

The organizations that are supposed to host the sites don’t even dare set opening dates anymore. We’re stuck in a grey area where, every year for the last three years, we’re told they’ll be open in the spring. But it doesn’t happen.”

We need to move forward quickly. Many groups, such as Anonyme and Dopamine in Montreal, have been waiting for too long to establish services that have been proven to save lives.

In the meantime, in Montreal alone, 70 people on average die every year as a result of drug overdoses. As I have already said, the crisis in western Canada will be coming to Quebec this year. Even without this crisis, and if only for the sake of harm reduction and public health, the services provided by supervised injection sites are vital.

In Montreal, 68% of injection drug users have hepatitis C. Opening these centres could do much to decrease the incidence of disease related to the use of syringes. Speaking of syringes, Hochelaga, the riding I represent, is the second largest area in Montreal after the downtown area, which has the largest number of injection drug users. A supervised injection site could help get needles out of parks where our children play.

I will support this bill in the hope that it will come into effect quickly.

Second readingControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, last night I was here and I listened to the NDP rage for hours against the Liberal government. Today we came into question period and we heard that their whole electoral reform position has been betrayed by the government.

The New Democrats had the opportunity about a half-hour or an hour ago to start saving lives today. They chose to stand against that. We could have taken huge steps today, right now, to deal with this ongoing opioid crisis, and New Democrats have chosen not to support that.

For years and years we have heard them talking about time allocation and raging against it. Today we find the New Democrats in bed with the Liberals.

Can the member tell us why New Democrats are now supporting the Liberals in their ongoing attempt to limit debate on bills in this House, including on Bill C-37?

Second readingControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the opioid crisis unfolding right now in our communities, big and small, right across Canada, is nothing short of a national emergency. The suffering and damage this crisis is causing, not just in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the epicentre of the crisis, but in Vancouver East and cities across British Columbia and Canada, is absolutely devastating.

I am very grateful for the Herculean efforts of first responders, front-line workers, medical practitioners, family members, advocates, and activists who have and are continuing to work tirelessly to save lives in the midst of this terrible crisis.

People are dying in our communities. Both the city of Vancouver's chief medical health officer, Dr. Patricia Daly, and the provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, have declared this crisis a medical health emergency. In fact, this is the first time in the history of British Columbia that a health emergency has been declared.

It was noted by Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, that the number of overdose deaths across Canada has vastly outpaced the toll during the 2003 SARS crisis that gripped this country and was declared an emergency by the Ontario government. He stated, “Forty-four people died of SARS. We lose 70 people a week to opioids in Canada”.

Still, the federal Minister of Health has refused to declare this a national health emergency.

From the beginning of 2016 to October 2016, 338 Albertans died from an apparent drug overdose related to opioids. Fentanyl was involved in 193 of them. Two Ontarians die from opioid overdoses a day. An average of 79 people die of drug overdoses every year in Montreal. If this is not a national health emergency, I do not know what is.

Today I am here once again urging the government to do what is right and what is necessary: declare a national public health emergency. Let us remember as we debate Bill C-37 that people in communities across the country are still dying.

Bill C-37 came on the heels of an announcement by the B.C. government, which was no longer willing to wait for federal approval and decided that it would take “the extraordinary measure” of signing a ministerial order making the provincial operation of temporary overdose prevention sites legal.

For those who want to put up roadblocks to harm reduction initiatives, including supervised injection facilities, I say this. It has been more than a decade since Insite, the first supervised injection facility in North America, was established. There has not been one single overdose death in that facility. Insite has saved countless lives. It has reduced the spread of diseases. The evidence is clear, and it is irrefutable.

Van East led the way, and I am so proud of the progressive forces and the movement in a community that cares so deeply that it took this issue and drove it until we had the first supervised injection facility in North America.

I still recall vividly the imagery of 1,000 crosses planted at Oppenheimer Park in our community, what we call the killing fields. Each one of those crosses bears a name, the name of a person who somebody loved in our community, a daughter, a son, an aunt, an uncle, somebody's child. I still recall how family and friends came together and mourned those preventable deaths. It was a call to action, and we drove the issue and eventually Insite was established.

It is sad to me that despite this irrefutable evidence-based outcome, there are still those who want to block this critical health measure.

The former government took every step possible to undermine the work of Insite. Even after the Supreme Court of Canada's 9-0 decision that ordered the government to exempt Insite from prosecution, stating clearly that the government cannot close Insite because of its ideology, the Harper government passed Bill C-2, the ill-named Respect for Communities Act, which introduced near insurmountable barriers to opening new supervised injection sites in Canada. The roadblocks have been widely condemned and no doubt have contributed to preventable deaths.

After more than a year of foot-dragging, thousands of overdoses, and hundreds of needless deaths, the Liberal government today is finally bringing in measures to address the ideological relic of the years past.

While I support Bill C-37, to be clear, I would much rather that the bill was about repealing Bill C-2. Nonetheless, this is a move in the right direction. It is a step forward, so I am here to support it.

Bill C-37 has to get through the House, then it has to be sent to committee, then has to go to the Senate. It will be some time before the bill passes. I want to applaud my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the NDP's critic for health. His proposal to try to get the bill through all stages as quickly as possible, sadly was rejected.

Many concerned citizens and organizers are so frustrated by the glaring absence of substantive action on this that they have felt compelled to act unilaterally with pop-up supervised injection sites. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. This is a testament to those individuals' courage and dedication to saving lives in our community.

Let me take a moment to thank them and acknowledge the numerous volunteers and activists; the leadership shown by Ann Livingston and her peers at VANDU; Sarah Blyth, the former Vancouver Park Board chair; and many others for their incredible dedication and caring. Were it not for their efforts, I can say with confidence that many more people would have died.

In going forward, as we wait for Bill C-37 to become law, what action can be taken to save lives? Let me start with a shout-out to all the tireless first responders for their incredible efforts.

I heard first-hand from firefighters about their experiences in this crisis, particularly from those men and women at Fire Hall No. 2, with the incredible overload of calls that came into that hall and the stresses firefighters had to face each and every day as they had to witness death. Imagine that as their work every single day.

It is not limited to Fire Hall No. 2 in my riding. In fact, all the other fire halls in my community across East Van have had an increase in calls with respect to overdose challenges and issues. I heard from firefighters who told me that during their shifts, sometimes they would have two, three, four, or more calls to go out and try to save lives. That is what they are faced with. Imagine the stress.

The BC Coalition of Nursing Associations hosted an emergency forum on the nursing response to the opioid crisis. Like so many, they are devastated by this medical health emergency, and they themselves are suffering from stress, trauma, and exhaustion. All first responders, nurses, health care workers at emergency rooms, and front-line workers with NGOs are overextended, and they deserve our support.

While the Minister of Health said that the Liberals would take action and provide support to first responders, we are still waiting. Let us get on with it.

I want to say that we need to do much more. We need to move to a longer-term resolution. Real effort needs to be made to provide addiction treatment. For some, traditional treatment works; for others, not so much. We need to move forward with providing treatment that deals with the addiction, including opioid prescriptions and opioid substitutes. The goal of stabilizing people and getting them away from the illegal market saves lives.

We also need to look at the issues around the social determinants of health. We need safe, secure, affordable housing. We need to address poverty. We need to look at the issue of breaking that cycle. We need to address aboriginal child apprehension.

We need a comprehensive approach so that we can move forward once and for all and save lives.

Second readingControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am 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 harms associated with problematic substance use in Canada.

One of the many important amendments proposed in the bill is to streamline the application process for communities seeking to establish supervised consumption sites. Supervised consumption sites are controlled hygienic settings where people can bring previously obtained drugs to use under the supervision of health care professionals and gain access to or information regarding other health and social services, including treatment. In other words, supervised consumption sites are a harm reduction measure and have been proven to be effective for communities where they are needed.

Our government, since the beginning of its mandate, has been very clear in its support for harm reduction measures. These measures have been proven to reduce the negative health and social impacts associated with problematic substance abuse.

Addiction is a complex issue. I also want to be clear with my fellow members in the House that addiction is a health issue and not a criminal one. Not every individual will respond positively to the same treatment and not every individual is even willing or able to enter treatment on any given day. Evidence demonstrates that individuals who are outside of treatment are at increased risk of major health and social harms, including overdose and death. This is why we must be pragmatic in our response and must let evidence guide us to effective solutions. Now, more than ever, as our country grapples with an ever-increasing opioid crisis, it is essential that evidence-based harm reduction measures be part of the government's comprehensive drug policy.

On December 12, the Minister of Health announced the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy, which restores harm reduction as a key pillar alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Officially including harm reduction in Canada's new drug strategy was the first step. Putting that commitment into action to save lives is the next step.

The evidence available on the effectiveness of properly establishing and maintaining supervised consumption sites is indisputable. These sites save lives without having a negative impact on the surrounding community. Let me be clear. This commitment will save lives, including in my community.

Surrey and, more broadly, British Columbia face a health crisis. I take solace in how neighbourhoods, communities, cities, the province, and now the federal government have stepped up to respond. I often hear stories in my riding of how this drug has devastated lives and families, but for every one story I hear, I hear three more about how folks have stepped up and responded, whether it is local soup kitchens or the newly created Surrey RCMP Outreach Team, which, in the last two weeks, responded to over 55 overdoses. It is heartening to see how Canadians have come together to respond to this crisis, and this new drug strategy is the next step.

I should have mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the member of Parliament for Victoria.

This legislation is widely viewed by public health experts as a barrier to establishing new supervised consumption sites in communities where they are wanted and needed to help prevent the spread of disease and countless overdose deaths. It is time for these barriers to be removed and I am proud that Bill C-37 proposes to do just that.

Bill C-37 would support the establishment of supervised consumption sites by assuring communities that their voices would be heard and that each application would be subject to a comprehensive review, while, at the same time, starting from a position that would recognize and acknowledge the compelling evidence that supervised consumption sites work.

In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada considered this same evidence and concluded that where a "site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption."

To guide the making of future decisions, the Supreme Court set out five factors that must be considered. These include: evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates; the local conditions indicating a need for such a site; the regulatory structure in place the support the facility; the resources available to support its maintenance; and expression of community support or opposition.

Bill C-37 respects the decision rendered by the highest court in Canada by proposing to replace the 26-point criteria currently in legislation with these five factors.

Reducing the number of criteria applicants would have to address would relieve the administrative burden on communities seeking to establish a supervised consumption site, but it would do so without compromising the health and safety of those operating the site, its clients, or the surrounding community.

To help applicants through the supervised consumption site application process, our government would post an application form and simplified guidance document online. The application would indicate the type of information that would support the five Supreme Court criteria and would reduce unnecessary burden on applicants.

With respect to other stakeholders, such as the municipal government and local police, their views would continue to be considered through the requirement for broad community consultation, thus removing the need to attain formal letters from these stakeholders.

The proposed amendments will also simply the information required to support an application. For example, applicants will no longer be required to submit evidence that supervised consumption sites are effective and have public health benefits. The evidence in this regard is clear. Instead, applicants will need to demonstrate the need for the site and the public health benefits of the proposed site for their local community.

Further, with respect to renewals, existing supervised consumption sites would not longer require application. Instead, a renewal would simply be requested by informing Health Canada of any changes to the information that was submitted as part of a site's last application. This proposal will ensure that the existing sites can focus on serving the needs of their community rather than filling out onerous application forms.

Beyond the criteria, the Respect for Communities Act also includes specific principles that the minister must consider when evaluating an application.

Bill C-37 proposes to remove these principles so that decisions on applications can be based on evidence. It will also increase transparency around the decision made on applications for supervised consumption sites.

If passed, the bill will require decisions on applications to be made public including, if applicable, the reasons for refusing an application.

Our government is committed to making objective, transparent, and evidence-based decisions on any future application to establish supervised consumption sites, and we are committed to making those decisions within a reasonable time frame.

I can assure the House that the review process would continue to be comprehensive, but it would no longer present unnecessary barriers.

These proposed changes will introduce flexibility into the application process so it can be adapted and updated over time to reflect new science and allow communities to respond more quickly to emerging health issues.

I hope all members of the House will support this important legislation so we can better support communities in their effort to address this serious public health issue.

Second readingControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying a few words about how this affects the people of Victoria who sent me here to speak on their behalf. Where I come from this is not an academic debate; it is a crisis across our community.

In the first 11 months of last year, my community lost 60 people to overdoses. I personally know families who have lost loved ones. None of us remain unaffected. We have been robbed of far too many people who might still be our friends, our neighbours, and coworkers today if we had the services to prevent overdoses and provide the treatment that is so desperately needed in our community. Still, people in Victoria and across British Columbia have taken what action they can in the absence of leadership from their federal government.

Last April, British Columbia declared the first public health emergency in our history. In December, the provincial health minister authorized temporary overdose prevention sites. There are now three such sites in my city of Victoria.

On January 4, thanks to the hard work of so many in our community, the Vancouver Island Health Authority submitted an application for the first full service safe consumption site in Victoria, and there will be more. That application is now before the Minister of Health, and I hope that she will do everything in her power as I will do everything in mine to see that this life-saving community initiative is approved without further delay.

The hard work of those who are fighting to save lives on the streets of Victoria has not been in vain. Because of their efforts, we have three small overdose prevention sites in place. In its first month, one such site reported an overdose nearly every day. But because the right services were available, not a single life was lost. That is the difference these services make in the real world. That is why we called for this legislation a year ago. That is why we will not allow it to be delayed any further.

To understand the scale and urgency of this crisis, we need to look beyond our own communities. My home province, British Columbia, lost 914 citizens to illicit drug overdoses just last year. That is not only the deadliest year on record for us, it is on par with the highest overdose rates among the American states. Last year, Ontario lost two citizens a day. That many lives are now lost each and every day in the city of Vancouver alone.

Some 2,000 Canadians died of this in 2015. We know that many more died in 2016 as powerful opioids like fentanyl spread across the country. I know it can be hard to give meaning to numbers like that unless we know some of the victims by name.

Consider what my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway, our NDP health critic, reminded us of yesterday. In 2003, we lost 44 Canadians during the SARS crisis. During the opioid crisis, we are now losing that many fellow citizens every week. If 40 or 50 Canadians were dying of an infectious disease every week, this House surely would not stand idly by. So let me address something head-on.

There are some in this place who think there is nothing we can do to stop the crisis, who think that addiction represents a moral failure, that it has always existed on the margins of society, and all that has changed is that the drugs just get stronger.

For too long, that outdated view guided government policy, and refused to bend to evidence from doctors, courts, and front-line workers. So let us be clear. What we are facing today is unlike anything Canada has ever experienced before.

This is not just about Downtown Eastside Vancouver. It is about suburban kids experimenting with recreational drugs that turn out to be laced with opiates 100 times stronger than heroin, and then they die. It is about athletes and office workers becoming dependent on prescription painkillers, folks who have never struggled before with addiction, but now have nowhere to turn but the street.

It is about firefighters and paramedics who have to wear masks to stop inhaling drugs so powerful that a dose no bigger than a grain of salt can be deadly. Opioid use disorder is a disease and it should be treated as such. One of those firefighters is Chris Coleman. He came from Vancouver to testify before the House health committee. He said this:

It takes a toll...to work extremely hard but to feel that you are having little or no impact on a problem that is growing exponentially, like a tidal wave, on the streets of your city.

...our brothers and sisters who work in the Downtown Eastside are in trouble. They feel abandoned and they feel hopeless.

It has taken the government far too long to act, but now we have a bill before us that can begin to help. By passing this bill we can lift the barriers, some of them at least, that prevent communities from establishing life-saving safe consumption sites. We can send a signal to provinces, like British Columbia, that the federal government will step up and do its part. We can show people like Chris Coleman, and the thousands of firefighters and paramedics, police officers, and front-line workers like him, that they are not abandoned, that their work does matter, that we do care, and that their community has their back.

We have to be realistic. This bill alone will not solve the opioid crisis. We are here because government after government has failed to invest in detox, treatment, education, and prevention. The government has failed to put in place that foundation of services that would save lives and connect drug users to the support they need to stabilize and begin the long journey out of addiction.

Hundreds of Canadians are now dying in the gaps that governments have let grow year after year. For more than a year, we have been calling for a bill to repeal the Conservatives' Bill C-2 and lift the barriers that the previous government erected to make it harder for communities to open life-saving safe consumption sites. When I spoke to that bill, I called it the “24 ways to say 'no' act”.

It has taken far too long to get here. I regret that the government took so long to come around to our point of view and accept that legislative action repealing Bill C-2, or replacing it, was necessary. Thankfully, here we are.

Bill C-37 would save lives. We must pass it as soon as possible. For that reason, the NDP moved in December to fast-track the bill right to the Senate. It was blocked. I want to make sure that does not happen again and that we get this done.

I will continue to urge the minister to declare a public health emergency and allow emergency overdose prevention sites to operate legally across the country. I will continue to call on the government to use the powers it already has and expedite applications from cities like Montreal, Victoria, and Toronto, that have been gathering dust as Health Canada sits around and looks at them for months at a time. I will continue to ask why the government continues to ignore the recommendations from major cities, medical authorities, and even Parliament's own health committee, on other steps to turn the tide on this crisis.

In conclusion, passing this bill is not sufficient, but it is necessary. Therefore, on behalf of a Canadian community at ground zero in this crisis, I urge all members to support this life-saving bill and pass it now before more Canadians are lost to this preventable crisis.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 10:15 a.m.
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Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

moved that Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin debate today on Bill C-37 to address a serious and pressing public health matter, to improve public safety, and to protect the health of Canadians.

I am eager to work with all the MPs to help advance this important bill, in particular with my new parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Louis-Hébert.

This legislation is introduced in the context where Canada is facing a national public health crisis related to opioids, characterized by ever-increasing rates of harm, overdose, and death.

The opioid crisis raises many concerns, and the one we hear about perhaps most often is the rapid rise in the numbers of deaths from accidental overdose. Last year, in British Columbia alone, more than 900 people died from overdose. That is an 80% increase from 2015. The majority were linked to the swift spread of powerful drugs like fentanyl. Alas, the situation is getting worse. Last week it was reported that there were 20,000 overdoses in British Columbia alone. At a national level, deaths from overdoses are now more numerous than deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents.

Before I continue, I would like to extend my condolences to the families and friends who have lost a loved one. We share their grief. We are aware of the pressing need to turn the tide of this crisis as quickly as possible.

I would also comment at the outset that while the focus of the legislation is on immediate action to address the opioid crisis, we must bear in mind that lasting solutions require an understanding of the roots of the opioid crisis, which are messy, but not mysterious. It should be acknowledged, for example, that pain is a central theme at the heart of the drug crisis. Sometimes, problematic drug use begins with physical pain, but we must also admit that emotional pain is a factor in substance use. To fully resolve the opioid crisis we must address the multiple social drivers, including poverty, social isolation, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, and mental illness.

Addressing the roots of the crisis demands a whole of society response. It means calling out stigma and discrimination as barriers to accessing care. It means building a society where children receive tender attention and adults are not isolated and lonely. It means an international search for effective answers and being willing to discuss bold policy alternatives and the evidence associated with them. We must deal with this crisis comprehensively, collaboratively, and compassionately. We must assess what works and what does not work, and then we must do what works.

The crisis is moving eastward in Canada, with more drug seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil.

Canadians are increasingly aware that problematic substance abuse spares no one—people of all ages and from all socio-economic groups—and that it has devastating consequences on individuals, families, and communities.

In the past year, I have met with bereaved parents, people who use drugs, first responders, addiction specialists, mental health experts, indigenous leaders, health educators, and others to learn their perspective on the challenges we face. A complex, multi-dimensional social challenge of this nature demands timely, coordinated, and effective action.

Before I discuss the details of this proposed legislation, I would like to thank many members of this House who have been outspoken on the urgent need to respond together. I thank the member for Vancouver Kingsway for his support and advocacy on the issue, and especially for his calls to pass this legislation by unanimous consent.

I would also like to thank the Standing Committee on Health. Its members are actively working on this issue, and they made a series of recommendations that we reviewed carefully. We have acted on that. I look forward to responding formally to the committee report in due course.

There are many important components of this proposed legislation that would support communities and enhance public health and public safety when it comes to the use of drugs and substances. Bill C-37 would save lives. It needs to be passed without delay.

At this point, please permit me to outline some of the federal actions to date on the matter.

Early last year we made naloxone, the antidote to overdose, available without prescription. We arranged an expedited review of naloxone nasal spray and ensured an emergency supply for Canadians.

We granted an exemption to the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver to operate Canada's second supervised consumption site, along with an unprecedented four-year renewal of the exemption for Insite in Vancouver.

Last summer, we announced Health Canada's opioid action plan to improve education for the public and prescribers, to expand access to treatment, and to build the database.

In September, we overturned a ban on the use of prescription heroin, so that it is available to treat the most severe cases of addiction.

Our government has supported the good Samaritan overdose act to remove the fear of drug possession charges for individuals who call 911 when they witness an overdose.

We added regulations to schedule fentanyl precursors as controlled substances, making it harder for illicit substances to be manufactured in Canada.

In November, along with the Ontario Minister of Health, Eric Hoskins, I hosted a national conference and summit on opioids, which led to a joint statement of action to address the opioid crisis. That statement includes 128 separate commitments made by Health Canada, nine provincial or territorial health departments, and over 30 other organizations. In February we will provide Canadians with an update on the progress made so far regarding those commitments.

In work led by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the RCMP now has an agreement with China to combat the flow of illicit fentanyl.

Because this is a national crisis, we activated additional supports. In collaboration with the provinces and territories, we have established a special advisory committee on illicit opioids that includes the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health to advance information among jurisdictions related to the opioid crisis.

We have built a task force within the federal health portfolio to work with other federal departments in a comprehensive response to the crisis. We funded McMaster University to produce new evidence-based guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. They are now available for consultation.

We funded the Canadian research initiative in substance misuse to provide evidence-based guidelines for medication-assisted treatment; and with the support of the Prime Minister, we identified new federal funding of $5 billion over the next 10 years to address mental health and addictions. We know that untreated mental illness is a common cause of addiction, and early intervention is key.

We introduced the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy, to reinstate harm reduction as a pillar in Canadian drug policy and return the lead for drug policy to the Minister of Health.

In December, I introduced Bill C-37, which proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and other acts. This legislative framework is an important part of our comprehensive approach to drug policy. It aims to accomplish three important goals: one, to provide support for harm reduction, in particular the establishment of supervised consumption sites; two, to reduce the supply of illicit substances; and three, to reduce the risk of diversion of other legitimate controlled substances.

Evidence shows that, when properly established and maintained, supervised consumption sites in communities that want and need them will save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime rates.

Last year, I visited Insite in Vancouver to witness the important work it does to help vulnerable people and communities. I was moved by what I saw. Facilities like Insite promote health-seeking behaviour by introducing people who use drugs to the health system in a non-judgmental and non-stigmatizing manner. They have hygienic facilities and sterile equipment, and are supervised by qualified health professionals who provide advice on harm reduction and treatment options as well as prevention of overdose.

Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Minister of Health has the ability to provide exemptions to allow supervised consumption sites, but the Respect for Communities Act from the previous government introduced unnecessarily onerous requirements that must be met by communities before the Minister of Health could even respond to the request for an exemption.

We have heard desperate cries for help from communities most affected by the opioid crisis. They have indicated that the current requirements are burdensome and hinder their ability to offer services needed to reduce harm and to save lives. Currently there are applications being reviewed by Health Canada from across the country from communities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

Proposed legislation would simplify and streamline the application process for communities that want and need to establish supervised consumption sites. It would replace the current 26 application criteria with the five factors outlined in the Supreme Court of Canada 2011 decision regarding Insite. In fact, the criteria in the proposed legislation are exactly those written in paragraph 153 of the Supreme Court decision.

A vital criterion that Bill C-37 retains is the requirement for community consultation. It would improve transparency by adding a requirement for decisions on applications to be made public, including reasons for denial.

To support these proposed changes, Health Canada would post new information online about what is required in applications, how to process works, and the status of applications.

To help keep opioids and other illicit substances off the street in Canada, we need to make sure that they are not easy to produce. To that end, the bill proposes to prohibit the unregistered importation of pill presses and encapsulators. This measure has been included in part because certain jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, have asked for it. While it is true that those devices do have legitimate uses, they can also be used to manufacture counterfeit drugs that contain dangerous substances, including fentanyl.

This legislation would also give Canada Border Services officers greater flexibility to inspect suspicious mail, no matter the size, that may contain goods that are prohibited, controlled, or regulated. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is of the utmost importance. The measure would only be for incoming international mail where the prevalence of illicit drugs is greater. In fact, just one standard size mail envelope can contain 30 grams of fentanyl, enough to cause 15,000 overdoses.

Lastly, the bill updates a number of provisions regarding compliance and enforcement of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to modernize that piece of legislation. These legislative measures allow over 600 licensed dealers to manufacture, purchase, sell, distribute, import, export, and transport controlled substances for legitimate purposes.

The proposed amendments will allow Health Canada inspectors to conduct inspections in a variety of situations, especially in any location where it is suspected that any activities involving controlled substances are taking place. These amendments will help prevent the diversion of controlled substances to the illegal market.

Bill C-37 supports our government's new Canadian drugs and substances strategy, which the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and I announced on December 12. In the past, federal drug strategies aimed to balance public health and public safety objectives through key pillars of prevention, treatment, enforcement, and at times, harm reduction; but in 2006, under the national anti-drug strategy of the previous government, the harm reduction pillar was removed. Our government will pursue an evidence-based approach to drug policy. Accordingly, this new strategy would formally reinstate harm reduction as a key pillar, in addition to prevention, treatment, and enforcement.

It should be noted that the reintroduction of harm reduction does not diminish the importance of the other pillars. In particular, we must not let up on our efforts for prevention and treatment. I will continue to encourage the expansion of access to a broad range of treatment options, which are essential to reducing the number of overdose deaths. In reframing problematic substance use as the public health issue that it is, it returns the lead to the Minister of Health from the Minister of Justice.

In conclusion, the opioid crisis has taken a toll on many communities across Canada. It requires swift action, as well as a more balanced approach to deal with problematic substance use. Our renewed evidence-based approach would allow the government to better protect Canadians, save lives, and address the root causes of this crisis. Canada needs this action now.

While our focus must be on the current crisis, we must also pursue a balanced approach over the long term to address the upstream causes of problematic substance use.

We will continue to work with our partners, including the provinces, territories, municipalities, and indigenous communities.

While we cannot end this crisis immediately, we can markedly reduce its impact and set ourselves on a path to health for all. Measures proposed in Bill C-37 aim to take swift action to address the opioid crisis. I call on hon. members of the House to support the passage of Bill C-37 without delay.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Jane Philpott Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

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

Colin Carrie Conservative 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 ActGovernment Orders

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

Ron McKinnon Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

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

Randy Boissonnault Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal 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.