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

January 31st, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. In essence, this is the government's response to the fentanyl and opioid health crisis facing this country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the constituents of my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge. Today, I rise to speak in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

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

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

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

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