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

Sponsor

Jane Philpott  Liberal

Status

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(f) add an administrative monetary penalties scheme;

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

(h) modernize inspection powers; and

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Markham—Stouffville
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott Minister 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 third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise on the third reading of Bill C-37. I am particularly gratified at the speed with which the bill has moved through the House of Commons. I want to thank all members, including all parties, who have been very helpful in agreeing to time allocation, agreeing to expediting the committee process, and the fantastic work at the committee level to move the bill along. This demonstrates the serious nature of the bill, and recognizes the ongoing opioid crisis and the need for urgent action.

Bill C-37 is one of a range of comprehensive responses to this very challenging issue. We are eager to advance the bill through Parliament to help protect the health and safety of Canadians and their communities.

It has been said before in the House that problematic substance use is an issue that affects Canadians of all ages. It affects people from all socio-economic groups. We should also point out that there are, however, particular groups that are excessively vulnerable to the risks associated with problematic substance use, people living in poverty, people who have experienced trauma in their lives, and indigenous peoples of Canada.

We are facing nothing short of the greatest drug crisis our country has faced. It is a national public health crisis related to opioids. For example, one may draw attention to the fact that in British Columbia last year more than 900 people died from overdoses. That was an 80% increase over 2015. The majority of those deaths were related to the rapid spread of the drug fentanyl.

Elsewhere in Canada, we are hearing from law enforce officials that there are increasing numbers of seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil.

Last week, we heard about the distressing number of deaths linked to opioids in Alberta. For example, in 2016, 343 people died in Alberta from fentanyl overdoses. That was an increase over 257 the previous year.

It is necessary that the Government of Canada use every single tool at our disposal to help turn the tide on this crisis. We need a policy approach that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based.

Bill C-37 would further strengthen our government's response to the opioid crisis.

Lest there be any doubt that we are pulling out all the stops to respond to this crisis, let me review what we have done over the past year. It includes things like ensuring naloxone, which is the antidote to overdose, is available on a non-prescription basis across the country. That involved me ensuring that we had naloxone nasal spray available on an emergency order so it would be available to Canadians, and expediting the approval of naloxone nasal spray.

We also launched Health Canada's opioid action plan. This is a plan to improve access to education for both the public, as well as prescribers, to ensure that we support better treatment options, that we reduce access to unnecessary opioids, and that we expand the evidence base.

In the matter of expanding the evidence base and getting better data, we supported McMaster University to produce guidelines for prescribing opioids in situations of chronic pain. Those new guidelines are now available for consultation.

We overturned a ban on prescription heroin so doctors might use it through Health Canada's special access programs to treat the most severe cases of addiction.

We have supported the good Samaritan drug overdose act, which offers immunity against charges for simple possession for individuals so they will call 911 if they witness an overdose and they will stay at the scene to help.

We have also put in place a number of regulations to schedule fentanyl precursors for controlled substances, making it harder for illicit substances to be manufactured in Canada.

I co-hosted, along with the minister of health for Ontario, the opioid conference and summit. At that summit, we had nine provincial and territorial health ministers. We also had 30 other organizations. We produced a joint statement of action that had 128 commitments.

In addition, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, we have put together a special advisory committee that includes the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health. This committee is very active at ensuring we have better access to data that is up to date about the state of the circumstances.

We also have a task force within the federal health portfolio to work with all federal departments in a comprehensive response to the crisis.

We funded the Canadian research initiative on substance misuse. It is providing now evidence-based guidelines for medication-assisted treatment.

In December, I joined the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in introducing Canada's new drugs and substances strategy. We reintroduced at that time harm reduction as a key pillar in drug policy.

I would like to talk now a bit about what we have done to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites. Early on, we granted an exemption to the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver to operate a facility, and we provided an unprecedented four year exemption to Insite to continue the good work it was doing.

For communities that have demonstrated a need and desire to have such a site in their community, we want to create an environment that will encourage applicants to come forward. That is why, pending passage of the bill, we have adjusted operational procedures in the interests of removing unnecessary barriers to the review and approval of supervised consumption sites.

Just last week, I was very pleased that we were able to issue exemptions for three new supervised consumption sites at fixed locations in Montreal. The time frame to approve these sites was unacceptable. It took a year and a half, and that was due to the onerous 26 criteria that existed under the previous legislation. However, finally we were able to get an exemption for them. These new sites, located in Hochelaga, Maisonneuve and Ville-Marie districts and operated by the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Sud-de-l'Ile-de-Montréal, will be able to provide care for people in those areas.

Health Canada has expedited a review of 10 pending requests for approval in other communities. There is an additional site in Montreal, three sites in Toronto, two in Vancouver, two in Surrey, one in Ottawa and one in Victoria.

Even while doing this, we have maintained the key essential criteria to ensure we protect the health and safety of staff, people who use drugs, and the neighbours who are in the areas of the proposed sites. We are working with all applicants to ensure that those applications are complete and that the department has received the necessary information.

Passing Bill C-37 will be so helpful to streamline the application process and it will be a big step forward for these communities.

Some have wondered why we have not declared a public health emergency. What I have said for months is that clearly we are in the midst of a national public health crisis of unprecedented proportions related to a growing number of opioid overdose deaths. However, the Federal Emergencies Act, which was formerly called the War Measures Act, is a tool of last resort. It is there to ensure public safety and security when a national emergency cannot be addressed by any other law. This act was not used in the case of SARS, H1N1 or Ebola. It is not the right instrument, but as I have already noted, we will make use of every tool at our disposal. We have already taken extraordinary steps at the federal level, and Bill C-37 is another essential step.

Bill C-37 needs to be passed without delay. This is not a political matter or an ideological matter; it is a matter of saving lives.

With the current growing rates of opioid overdoses and deaths, we have recognized there are gaps and weaknesses in the current federal legislative framework as it relates to controlled substances. To address those under Bill C-37, we will provide the government with the ability to more easily support the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key measure in harm reduction.

We will also address the illegal supply, production and distribution of drugs. We will reduce the risk of diversion of controlled substances that are used for legitimate purposes to the illegal market by providing improved compliance and enforcement tools.

Bill C-37 would simplify and streamline the application process for communities that want and need supervised consumption sites. It would replace the 26 application criteria with the five factors that were identified by the Supreme Court in its 2011 decision regarding Insite.

It is important for all members to understand that Bill C-37 retains the need for community consultation, and it also adds increased transparency, making it a requirement for the Minister of Health to make public decisions on applications, including any reasons for denial.

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

Supervised consumption sites are an essential part of a harm reduction measure. There is a vast abundance of international and Canadian evidence that shows that when they are properly established and maintained, they save lives and improve health without increasing drug use or crime in surrounding areas, they prevent infection, and, best of all, they provide a safe, non-stigmatizing, non-judgmental way for people to be introduced to the health care system.

Harm reduction measures in Bill C-37 complement a number of other actions that the government is taking to protect community safety. For example, the RCMP is working with the Chinese ministry of public safety to combat the flow of illicit fentanyl and other opioids into Canada.

Bill C-37 is proposing to prohibit the unregistered importation of pill presses and encapsulators, which would make it more difficult to produce illicit drugs and, in turn, keep these illicitly produced opioids and other substances off our streets. Bill C-37 would also give border services officers greater flexibility to inspect suspicious incoming international mail. As has been said before, just a standard-sized envelope can contain enough fentanyl to cause thousands of overdoses.

Before I conclude, I want to say a few words about treatment. It is absolutely essential to understand that we will not turn this crisis around by harm reduction alone. People need to have access to the broadest range of treatment options. Delivery of health services, including the treatment of addictions, falls largely under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. That is why I am very pleased to say that this fiscal year the federal government is transferring $36 billion to the provinces and territories to support the delivery of care. With the support of the Prime Minister, we identified new funding for the provinces and territories, in the order of $5 billion for mental health over the next decade, which will help people facing mental illness, including addiction.

We need to address the social drivers of the opioid overdose crisis. That includes things like poverty, social isolation, unresolved trauma, sexual abuse, and mental illness. It is widely understood that untreated mental illness is a common cause of addiction and early intervention is absolutely essential if we are going to counter such addiction.

I want to emphasize in the House that we need to include all four pillars in our Canadian drugs policy: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement. Prevention is so essential, as we understand that issues like social equity are absolutely important, cultural continuity, people having the opportunity to have healthy and safe childhoods, and making sure people heal from any unresolved trauma and grief in their lives, which might drive them to problematic substance use.

There is no single action that, on its own, is going to end this opioid crisis immediately, but Bill C-37 is an absolutely essential step in the process of moving to that end. We need a balanced approach. We need to work collaboratively with all other levels of government and civil society organizations. All Canadians need to work together. We need to have partnerships across the country, including, as I said, with provinces, territories, and municipalities that are very much engaged on this matter and, of course, indigenous leaders. We need to protect Canadians, to save lives, to address the root causes of this crisis, to give people hope, and to make sure that all matters are addressed in order to turn the tide of the opioid overdose crisis.

I encourage all hon. members to recognize the importance of this bill and to support its speedy passage through the House. I look forward to working with all members to that end.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the Minister of Health, for her work on the health file. There is no question in my mind that she has the best interests of Canadians at heart. However, we may agree to disagree on a couple of facts.

First, we agree on this side of the House that the opioid crisis needs attention quickly and forcefully. There is no question about that. The other part of Bill C-37 refers to supervised injection sites. I think we would find on this side of the House, and, indeed, probably within each party, that there are differing opinions on that. In fact, some of the opinions are supported, clearly, by front-line police officers in terms of their safety and efficacy and public safety.

My question for the minister is this. Why did her party not allow the bill to be split into two component parts, which would have clearly allowed fulsome debate on both issues, and then, more importantly, why are Liberals shutting down debate and minimizing the amount of time that members of Parliament, who were elected to represent their communities here in the House, can debate this issue?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tracey Ramsey Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, the NDP will be supporting Bill C-37. It is so incredibly important to my riding of Essex. I am holding an opioid round table this Friday with stakeholders, and very concerned families who are desperate for help for their family members, and for those in their community who are suffering under this crisis.

As a member of a committee of this House, it is incredibly important that we honour the work that is done at committee. Therefore, my question to the minister revolves around the health committee and the emergency study that it conducted 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 to act immediately while Bill C-37 works its way through Parliament.

My question to the minister is this. In the face of this mounting death toll across our country, will the minister stand today and declare a national public health emergency so we can start saving lives in Canada?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this bill because I was a member of the health committee that studied it. We heard from doctors, nurses, scientists, and police, but the most compelling testimony was from paramedics. I want to mention the paramedics from Vancouver especially, because they deal with this issue day in, day out, all day long. I do not know how they can do it repeatedly. They told stories about finding young people unconscious in alleys with needles still in them, how they would bring them back to life, and then two days later they would get another call and come back to the same situation with the same person. It was an incredible story. What we are dealing with is an incredible emergency, and Bill C-37 is designed to deal with that emergency.

I want to ask the minister this. How can passing Bill C-37 help those paramedics especially, because I do not know how they can do it, day in, day out? It must have a tremendous effect on them and their families.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jane Philpott Markham—Stouffville, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his excellent leadership role on the committee, which has done such outstanding work on this crisis. He draws attention to something that is very important, which is that we need to recognize the incredible work of first responders, in particular, paramedics. The pressure on these paramedics is remarkable, and I have heard similar stories.

Bill C-37 would allow the increasing availability of supervised consumption sites so that these paramedics would have somewhere to take people where they would be welcomed, where people would know that they can be introduced safely into the health care system, and where we can prevent death from overdose. They might have an opportunity as well to be introduced to treatment when they are ready for that. Therefore, we encourage the availability of these sites, and encourage all players to make sure that we increase access to treatment so that lives will be saved, so that people will find that there is a way to find hope for their future, and so that we can also make sure that first responders are respected and do not have to go through this terrible ongoing crisis.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address Bill C-37, certainly a very important discussion as we confront what is a national crisis around drug use. However, we have seen a funny pattern from government members, where they draw our attention to a significant problem yet actually refuse to collaborate in a non-partisan way to move these things forward. That is very clearly on the record. Members can laugh, but this is not a funny topic, and it is not funny that we tried to move this forward quickly and the Liberals got in the way.

Let us review the record of what happened. The bill contains certain provisions that are vital for addressing the challenges we face. It also, though, contains a provision that would remove effective community engagement on supervised injection sites. We have a big problem with that, and I will talk about why that is later on in my speech.

It is important for people to understand what the government has done here. Recognizing the need to move quickly on certain provisions but also the need to have thorough debate on this one particular provision on community consultation, our very hard-working member for Oshawa, our health critic, brought forward a request for unanimous consent to split the bill.

What he proposed was very reasonable, and it would have effectively addressed this issue. What he proposed was to split the bill into two sections. The sections on which we all agreed there be urgent action, and I will talk about what those are, he and all of us would agree to immediately deem adopted at third reading, fully adopted by the House, and sent to the Senate. Very likely the Senate would have moved quickly on that as well. Those provisions could already be law today and already addressing this problem right now as we speak. That was our proposal brought forward by the member for Oshawa.

However, the government said no. Why? It insisted that removing an effective voice for communities in the process had to be tied to these other important life-saving measures. It was the Liberals' decision to slow this down by refusing to split the bill. In fact, the offer we proposed in our unanimous consent motion was not just to expedite the provisions on which we agreed. It was also to immediately deem referred to the Standing Committee on Health the provisions on which we disagreed. We were even willing to move that immediately to committee for study while immediately adopting those things on which we agreed. This is how we proposed to work in a non-partisan fashion to move quickly on the things we could move quickly on to get this done.

The government, while pleading about the need and the urgency of this crisis, actually refused to give unanimous consent to our proposal to expedite those sections. Given the strong words coming from the health minister and other members of the government, it is utterly shameful that they refused to work to move this forward.

I would like to highlight the sections of the bill we agree on and the sections of the bill that could today already be law had the government been willing to work in a non-partisan manner. They will still become law eventually, but it is unfortunate that we were not able to move on the timeline we wanted.

The bill proposes to regulate the import of pill presses. Currently, pill presses, which are used for putting together illegal drugs, can be imported freely. The bill contains important provisions that would have any pill press imported registered with Health Canada and that would give our border services officials the authority to detain unregistered pill presses at the border. This is a very important measure that we have strongly supported. It could be law today if the government had been willing to work to expedite this in a non-partisan manner.

Another great provision in the bill would increase prohibitions against certain actions related to controlled substances. This would enhance the ability of the government to stop, in this instance, the transportation of illicit substances. It would enhance the power to do that under the relevant legislation. Again, it is a very positive provision. It would be making a difference if it were law today. It is something we could have moved forward on more quickly.

The bill would grant increased powers to the Canada Border Services Agency to open and inspect packages entering Canada, packages that it suspects may contain contraband such as drugs. Again, it is an important provision that CBSA be given the power to move forward and open packages that it believes contain illicit substances. Again, there is no reason anyone should oppose that. That is why it should have been done by now. It should have been passed quickly. It would have been passed quickly had the government agreed to work with the opposition and split the bill, as we proposed.

In terms of the category of things we agree on, the bill proposes temporarily accelerated scheduling, essentially allowing the Minister of Health to quickly, but temporarily, schedule and control new drugs and substances under the relevant legislation. This is important, because we have seen new drugs coming to the fore on a regular basis. These powers are important.

Four out of the five changes that we would say yes to on this side of the House could already have been law today had the government been willing to work with us.

Why was it so important for us to raise concerns and to insist on further debate on the one provision on which we disagree? The government is proposing to change the community consultation process on supervised injection sites. I have talked before about broader concerns about supervised injection sites. I know that there are many Canadians who do not believe we should have legal islands that allow people to use drugs legally. If we want to send the strongest possible message about the dangers of drug use, we may want to be optimistic in our compassion instead of pessimistic in our compassion. Many Canadians reflecting on that have broader concerns about these supervised injection sites.

Let us be very clear. That is not the question in this legislation. The question in this legislation is the degree to which, and the nature of how, communities should be engaged in the conversation about that.

The original provisions that were put in place under the previous government established some key requirements with respect to how communities had to be engaged. There had to be strong engagement with the community to maximize the chances that these types of facilities would be successful. The previous legislation put in place a reasonable process to get that done.

The government is proposing in this legislation to significantly pare down any kind of engagement. Previously, there was a requirement that the period of consultation be at least 90 days. The new provisions would allow a period of consultation of up to 90 days. There would actually be no minimum. They could spend two days undertaking the consultation. The requirements in the legislation they put forward are pared down. It says:

An application for an exemption under subsection (1) shall include information, submitted in the form and manner determined by the Minister, regarding the intended public health benefits of the site and information, if any, related to (a) the impact of the site on crime rates; (b) the local conditions indicating a need for the site; (c) the administrative structure in place to support the site; (d) the resources available to support the maintenance of the site; and (e) expressions of community support or opposition.

They have to provide some of that basic information.

They would satisfy the provisions of the new bill if applicants simply said that they talked to a few people in the community about opening a supervised injection site and no one liked it, but at least they talked to some people. That would be sufficient under the proposed legislation.

Let us talk about what the Liberals took out. We hear a lot from the government about the importance of scientific evidence. Actually, the existing application requirements we put in place require “scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites”. Among other things, the previous legislation actually requires that scientific evidence be presented on what the impacts would be in the context of the application. That would be removed by these new requirements.

We put requirements in place for consultation with local law enforcement and local governments, which are going to be called upon to respond to the challenges and situations that are in place. Those were things that were in place before and would now be pulled back.

One of the defences we hear often from the government and the NDP about supervised injections sites is that there are actually some drug treatment services available at the sites. I know that still does not allay many people's concerns, but the consultation process that currently exists, that we put in place, requires that a description of drug treatment services available at the site be provided with the application. If people are going to apply to open a supervised injection site, they actually have to provide information to the government about the kind of drug treatment services that would be available.

If that is one of the key arguments for allowing supervised injection sites, because it seems that it is, listening to the comments that have been made, then it should be particularly emphasized and required that the person who is applying to open a supervised injection site actually provide some information to the government about what is going to exist in that space vis-à-vis drug treatment. That should be there.

The existing legislation requires, for example, that we have criminal record checks for those who are going to be involved with these facilities. There are a lot of important requirements the existing legislation has in place, and these are basic things, like consultation and engagement with the community and providing information about what is going to be in place in terms of support for people who are trying to get off drugs.

All these things should be there, but we have this vastly pared down proposal in terms of what would actually be required for the application. It is going to be so much easier for people to apply to open these supervised injection sites, and there are no requirements to ensure that we will have the due diligence in place.

Again, members can debate the merits of supervised injection sites, but the existing legislation at least ensures that they are doing the kinds of things they are supposed to be doing. The new proposed legislation by the government completely turns the page on that by not engaging communities and not requiring the kind of due diligence we included in that application at all.

I will conclude by saying again that we had an opportunity to move forward with those provisions on which we all agree. Those could be law today, but instead, we are still debating the entire bill, because the government refused to split it. The Liberals brought in closure on these important community consultation measures.

I say that we move forward with the things that will save lives now, but let us continue an important conversation about whether communities should be engaged when these types of injection sites are opened.

I think it is important that communities be engaged in conversations. I believe that communities are compassionate and that they care about these issues. It is not only the federal government that cares. If we engage communities, if we engage local law enforcement, we will get better solutions that will be more responsive to the needs of the community and will be more likely to solve this problem.

The government needs to know that it cannot fix this problem on its own. It needs to work with the opposition. It needs to work with other levels of government. It needs to work with communities. If we are going to address this problem, we need more voices at the table and more collaboration. That is what we are standing for in the opposition, and that is why, in its current form, I have to oppose the bill.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, for any Canadians who are watching, I am glad that they can see that the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, and I am not sure about the Bloc, are willing and ready to move quickly on this legislation and not sit here and debate and slow down legislation when Canadians are dying every day.

It has been well established that Canada is currently in the grips of an unprecedented national public health emergency. I am glad to hear both my Liberal and Conservative colleagues increasingly using that term to describe the opioid crisis. The New Democratic Party started using the term back in November, and that is because this is a national public health emergency and our fellow Canadians are suffering and dying every single day.

Fifty Canadians are dying every week from opioid overdoses in this country. That is a national crisis. It also bears repeating that this crisis has become dramatically worse in recent months.

In 2016, in my home province of British Columbia alone, there were 914 drug overdose deaths. That is an 80% increase from the year before. In December, just a couple of months ago, we recorded the highest number of overdose deaths in B.C.'s history with 142 lives lost. That is more than double the monthly average of overdose deaths since 2015 and a sharp increase over September, October, and November. There were 57 overdose deaths in B.C. in September, 67 in October, 128 in November, and 142 in December. I can only guess that the number will be even higher for January. While the Conservatives want us to debate and consult, New Democrats want to act and save lives.

In December, the B.C. Coroners Service announced that morgues in the city of Vancouver were frequently full as a result of the unprecedented number of overdose deaths, forcing health authorities to store bodies at funeral homes.

This crisis is in large part the legacy of Canada's now defunct anti-drug strategy. Decades of a misguided criminal approach to drug policy has proven to be counterproductive, fuelling Canada's unregulated illegal drug market and leaving a scarcity of evidence-based health services, including harm reduction and treatment programs for people suffering from substance use disorder.

The Conservatives cut 15% from the addiction service budget in their last year in office. International research demonstrates that the criminalization of drugs increases rates of drug production, consumption, availability, and adverse drug-related health effects, but that is the evidence, and for the last 10 years our drug policy in this country was not based on evidence. It was based on ideology.

Because this crisis has been years in the making, it will not be solved by any one action or piece of legislation. I think we all know that. The passage of Bill C-37 must be the beginning of a much deeper examination of how we understand and respond to drug use and addiction in Canada.

For many years, New Democrats have been advocating for an evidence-based and health-focussed approach to drug use and addiction. Our party understands that substance use is not a moral failure. We also understand that criminal approaches that aim to punish or isolate those with addiction issues only serve to compound the suffering of those already experiencing tremendous pain.

As Dr. Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician who specializes in addictions has said:

Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden — but it’s there.

That is why New Democrats have pushed the federal government to reinstate harm reduction as one of the four pillars of Canadian drug policy ever since it was removed by Stephen Harper. That is why New Democrats led the fight against the Conservatives' Bill C-2 from the day it was introduced. That is why we have pressed the Liberal government to repeal or amend Bill C-2 since February 2016, one year ago, when the opioid overdose crisis was in its earliest stage.

Last fall, the NDP successfully moved a motion at the Standing Committee on Health to conduct a study on the opioid overdose crisis. This led to a report with 38 recommendations to the federal government, most of which have not yet been implemented, I would point out.

We were the first to call for a declaration of a national public health emergency. Such a declaration would empower Canada's Chief Public Health Officer to take extraordinary measures to coordinate a national response to the crisis, a measure the Liberal government, still to this day, refuses to take.

Last December, we attempted to fast-track Bill C-37 because of the dire need to deal with this crisis as quickly as possible, but that, again, was blocked by the Conservatives.

Indeed, Bill C-37 continues to be delayed because the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge the crucial importance of harm reduction, and the evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives now.

Today, I am saddened to see that the Conservatives still have not learned from their mistakes, and I am deeply troubled that they continue to liken supervised consumption sites and the approval of same to pipeline approval processes.

After their bizarre offer to trade supervised consumption site approvals for pipelines, at the health committee, the Conservative member for Lethbridge argued that these health facilities should require the same social licence as energy projects before they are permitted to save lives. The member argued that we must maintain Bill C-2's unnecessary barriers because the placement of a site will impact the communities in which they are located.

For once, I agree with the member for Lethbridge. It is absolutely correct that these sites do indeed impact communities: by saving lives, by reducing crime, and by providing opportunities for recovery to people suffering from a disease.

The Conservative Party likes to imagine that supervised consumption sites might be imposed on communities by the federal government. The opposite is true. Supervised consumption sites only exist in Canada due to the tireless efforts of advocates and community members who contribute their time and talent to provide evidence-based, life saving health services. Sometimes, they have even done so at the risk of their own liberty.

Vancouver's Dr. Peter Centre provided supervised consumption services, in violation of federal law, for over a decade, since 2002, before the federal government finally granted it a legal exemption.

Vancouver's Insite had to fight the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to keep its doors open. Even then, instead of complying with the spirit of the ruling, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper passed Bill C-2 as a thinly veiled attempt to prevent any new site from opening in Canada.

Today, as we speak, at least three overdose prevention sites are operating in the open in Vancouver without a legal exemption, against the law, exposing the staff who work there to criminal sanction because they are answering a higher call. They are answering the call of saving lives. That is why they are doing it.

The truth is supervised consumption sites do not harm communities; they help them. The evidence from Insite has been overwhelming and crystal clear.

By the way, the Conservatives talk about the negative impact of supervised consumption sites on communities. They never quote a single piece of evidence, not a shred, from any operating supervised consumption site because there are only two in Canada. Those two in Canada have been studied and written up in periodicals as respected as The Lancet and the evidence is crystal clear. They save lives. They reduce crime around the area. They stop open drug use. They reduce the spread of disease, and they stop the detritus of used needles in consumption sites from being out in the community where they can harm our community members and our children. That is the evidence.

When the Conservatives say that these sites impact communities, darn right they do, and they do so by helping the community. There is not an iota of evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps the Conservatives should listen to Edmonton's Mayor Don Iveson who recently said, “This is not a homeless, addicted issue. This is in pretty much every neighbourhood.”

The opioid crisis is here. It is already affecting our communities. Every day, it is claiming the lives of our friends, our family members, our neighbours.

The Conservative Party's argument that supervised consumption sites will somehow introduce opioid addiction to unaffected communities is baseless fearmongering, and it is deeply stigmatizing to Canadians with substance use disorders.

The truth is communities across Canada have been asking to open supervised consumption sites for years. It was by refusing to grant section 56 exemptions that the federal government was overruling both my home city of Vancouver and my home province's repeated requests. Indeed as Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson has said: “Factors such as the impact of the site on crime rates and expressions of community support or opposition should not be relevant to the federal government's approval process. Those issues are local matters, and as such, are best dealt with by local officials, such as municipalities, health authorities, and local police agencies, who understand the issue.”

I will leave it to the Conservative Party to explain why it does not trust local authorities to make those determinations.

It has been community heroes, not the federal government, who have been on the front lines showing leadership throughout the current crisis. The efforts of these selfless people have undoubtedly saved lives and although there are too many to name individually here, I would like to specifically acknowledge the Herculean efforts of a few people.

The are: Ann Livingston and Sarah Blyth, founders of B.C.'s Overdose Prevention Society; Hugh Lampkin, long-time member of the Vancouver area network of drug users; Daniel Benson of the Portland Hotel Society; Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver; Kerry Jang, city councillor of Vancouver; Maxine Davis, executive director of Vancouver's Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation; Katrina Pacey, executive director of Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society; Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Chief Medical Officer, the first and only medical officer in the country who has declared a public health emergency in British Columbia because he recognizes the extent of the crisis facing our community; and Dr. Gabor Maté, who is an internationally-renowned expert in addictions.

Having repeated requests for a declaration of a national public health emergency ignored by the current federal Liberal government, these front line organizations and the Government of British Columbia were forced to take the extraordinary measure of disregarding federal law by opening non-exempt pop-up supervised consumption sites which are operating right now as I speak. These sites have operated for months despite the daily risk of prosecution faced by those working at them as staff and volunteers.

Here is what the College of Registered Nurses of B.C. said to its membership last month.

This crisis may be prolonged and continue to worsen; as these overdose prevention services are being established across our province, in any place there is a need, we are being asked by nurses, “Is my licence at risk if I provide nursing care in these sites and conditions that can be less than ideal?”

Our courageous front line health workers should never be forced to ask that question.

That is why the NDP introduced an amendment at the health committee that would have allowed provincial health ministers to request in writing from the federal health minister emergency approval for supervised consumption sites in response to a local crisis.

Such an exemption would bypass the normal application process, and go into effect immediately for up to a year with the possibility of renewal. The federal minister would be required to post a provincial request online and post the response within five days.

This change was aimed at removing the potential for distant political considerations in Ottawa, many of which we hear expressed by members of the House today, to undermine or impede timely evidence-based decision responses to provincial public emergencies.

In the unusual situation where a province has declared a provincial health emergency, instead of forcing it to go through the application process which takes time, and time in a crisis like this costs lives, it gives the federal health minister the ability to grant a temporary approval quickly.

The Liberal government has repeatedly claimed that, with this legislation, it is now doing everything in its power to address this crisis, but that is demonstrably false. The government has failed to take many actions. There are literally dozens of them that are open to the government to take to respond to this crisis which it seems reluctant to do.

Recently, the City of Vancouver sent a list of nine recommendations to the federal government to help address this crisis, including calling for a central command structure, daily meetings with Health Canada, and improved treatment services.

A coroner's jury in British Columbia recently issued a list of 21 recommendations for action and the Standing Committee on Health in December issued a report detailing 38 recommendations for the government alone, again most of which remain unimplemented. The Liberal government is not doing everything it can to address the opioid crisis. It is taking some measures, but not all the measures it needs to.

When the health committee conducted the emergency study last fall into the crisis, the first recommendation made with all-party support was to declare opioid overdoses a national public health emergency. This call was echoed by Dr. David Juurlink, the keynote speaker at the health minister's own opioid summit last fall and now by B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, a Liberal, and stakeholders across the country. In the face of a mounting death toll, a declaration of a national public health emergency would allow us to start saving more lives today.

Furthermore, during our study, the health committee heard that access to treatment for opioid addiction is almost nonexistent in indigenous communities, and where there is access, it is short-term access. That is because nurses employed by Health Canada do not have the scope of practice to support indigenous people in addressing opioid addiction in their own communities beyond 30 days. Yet, the Liberal government has made absolutely no commitment to ensuring full access to long-term, culturally appropriate addictions treatment in indigenous communities.

Finally, the health committee's recent report on the crisis made three separate and specific recommendations, calling for significant new federal funding for public community-based detox and addictions treatment. But the federal government will not commit to making any new funding available for detox and treatment in budget 2017, so far.

The health minister continues to recycle money dedicated to mental health, and claims that money can be used for addictions treatment. We are looking for new, specific, targeted funds for addictions treatment in this country. Mental health is a huge area, and there are many needs in this country. We all know that. We wanted targeted money from the government, and the government has refused to make that commitment so far.

I believe it behooves this House to be honest with itself. Would the federal government be so noncommittal and cautious in its approach if these deaths were caused by any other disease? As we look to the future, we must let go of our prejudices in order to hold on to our loved ones. Donna May, the founding member and facilitator of mumsDU, moms united and mandated to saving drug users, lost her daughter Jac to addiction at the age of 35. She said:

Most people would think that the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face was her death; the death of a child; the death of my only girl. However, that’s not it at all.

The hardest thing I’ve had to face in my life is realizing how my ignorance towards my daughter’s addiction cost me years with her that I will never get back. There are no ‘do-overs’ when your child is dead! Now I can only share my experience and what I’ve learned since, so that other parents can take something from it.

In many respects, substance abuse is one of the last remaining acceptable targets for health care discrimination. With all the evidence available to us, we should know better. If we are to succeed in treating addiction as a disease, which it is, we need to acknowledge that fear, stigma, and ignorance about those who suffer from addiction are widespread and in many respects have framed our approach to this crisis.

That is why, although these legislative changes are long overdue, they do not go far enough, fast enough. We need federal coordination and funding to address the crisis right now and over the long term. Canada's failure to treat addiction and substance use disorders by successive federal governments as a medical condition was explained to the health committee by Dr. Evan Wood from UBC.

He said:

I'll just ask you to imagine a scenario of somebody having an acute medical condition like a heart attack. They would be taken into an acute care environment. They would be seen by a medical team with ex1pertise in cardiology. The cardiovascular team would then look to guidelines and standards to diagnose the condition and to effectively treat it. Unfortunately, in Canada, because we haven't traditionally trained health care providers in addiction medicine, we have health care providers who don't know what to do, and routinely do things that actually put patients at risk.

In addition to the lack of training for health care providers, the overall lack of investments in this area has meant that there aren't standards, guidelines [or beds] for the treatment of addiction.

Dr. Mark Ujjainwalla, medical director of Recovery Ottawa, said:

The problem we face here is that the real issue with addiction is not opiates. The real issue is the inability of the present health care system to treat the disease of addiction. An addiction is a biopsychosocial illness that affects 10% of society, probably more if you include families, and it is the most underfunded medical illness in our society.

The problem is that it's also a highly preventable and very highly treatable illness. It's very unfortunate that people don't see that. When it affects your family or you, you can feel the pain and suffering, and you watch the tragedy unfold in front of you.

I would like to conclude my remarks by imploring this House to take a lesson from Estonia, a country that recently overcame an opioid crisis very similar to Canada's. The head of Estonia's drug abuse prevention department said, “I think the most important thing is you don't waste time. If you really want to learn from us, that's the mistake we made. Don't look for some new solutions, because you have them.”

We could say that history does not look kindly on those who dither in times of crisis. To put it bluntly, it is not the history books that should keep us up at night; it is the lives that we continue to lose every single day to entirely preventable causes.

Canadians are looking to us to provide leadership in a crisis. It is time for us to deliver.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for his work on this, and on the health committee. I had a chance to be part of the clause-by-clause on Bill C-37, and I appreciate all his efforts there.

I want to thank him for raising the comparison to pipelines, which has been made all too often here, that somehow there is a contradiction in trying to save lives and reducing the obstacles to saving lives that can be compared to the reasonable regulatory hurdles for building thousands of kilometres of pipeline across first nations lands, which would threaten every stream it crosses, and the oceans and coastlines that will be traversed by tankers carrying bitumen and diluent, which cannot be cleaned up. I found the comparison distasteful, and I appreciate him dealing with it in the House this afternoon.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton South.

The bill before is an extremely important one. We have a health crisis, and we need to respond quickly. Our government, with the support of many members in the House, is doing just that.

I would like to begin by extending my sympathy to all those who have lost a friend, neighbour, family member, or co-worker through this crisis.

In the past eight years in Nova Scotia alone there have been over 800 overdoses, and half of those have been due to the use of opioids. This is the situation in Nova Scotia, but the situation is much greater in other provinces. For example, in British Columbia, 900 people lost their lives through overdose in the last year, which is 80% more than in 2015. At a national level, overdoses now outnumber the deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. This gives us an interesting comparison, and shows how sad this crisis is.

This crisis has no boundaries. There is no age, gender, or income factor. This is an addiction; it is an illness. All governments need to respond to this crisis. We have to find the root causes and then find solutions through the most current evidenced-based policies to support that. Addictions can take hold of someone trying to cope with physical or emotional pain.

The tragic thing about fentanyl is that the drug is so powerful, a minuscule amount can have dramatic effects and even cause death. As little as 30 grams, enough to fill a regular envelope, can cause as many as 15,000 people to die of an overdose.

That is why our government and all members of the House must pass a bill quickly, because every moment counts.

This legislation would roll back changes made by the previous government, the so-called Respect for Communities Act. That legislation added an unnecessary burden on provinces, local governments, and communities in applying for an exception under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish a safe consumption site. Bill C-37 would accomplish this by simplifying and streamlining the previous process and its 26 application criteria. That is why only three sites in the last two years have been established under those criteria.

Our government is applying the wisdom of the Supreme Court of Canada, which indicated five important factors: one, evidence on the impact of such facilities on crime rates; two, local communities indicating that there is a need for those types of sites; three, establishing regulatory structures and making sure they are in place to support the sites; four, having the necessary resources; and, five, having communities express support or opposition. That is what is important and what the bill would provide. In addition, whichever applications are denied or approved, the decisions would be made public. It is important that they be public.

The fact is that supervised consumption sites save lives. That is the important thing here: they save lives. The Vancouver sites help integrate people with addiction problems into the health system in an environment where they are not judged or stigmatized.

Harm reduction is not our government's only strategy. Our government has made it clear that we will invest $5 billion in mental health as part of the health agreement.

Prior to 2006, the Government of Canada had a federal drug strategy that had a balanced approach between public health and public safety that included the four key pillars: prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction. The previous government removed harm reduction as a pillar in our national drug strategy. This was unfortunate, because evidence has shown time and time again that harm reduction strategies are needed to ensure good public health outcomes.

As part of this government's commitment to evidence-based policy-making, the Minister of Health has reinstated harm reduction as a pillar of our strategy.

Along with harm reduction, our government has also eased access to the life-saving overdose treatment naloxone. Canadians can now access this drug antidote without a prescription and we have ensured emergency supplies are available for all Canadians.

In terms of enforcement, the RCMP has been diligently working to try to stop the flow of fentanyl. An agreement was recently reached with China on this issue. Furthermore, under this legislation, the Canada Border Services Agency would have more flexibility to inspect suspicious mail which it believes may contain prohibited goods. This measure would only apply to incoming international mail from areas of the world where prevalence of illicit drugs is greater.

In closing, I would like to commend the Minister of Health for her hard work in combatting this crisis and working toward a solution, and her leadership in bringing this legislation forward. I also want to thank members in all parties in the House for their contribution to this debate, as well as the NDP, the Bloc, and the Green Party that have directly supported this bill.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook that there are many positive aspects in Bill C-37 but the real problem with the bill is that it would gut the Respect for Communities Act.

Some say that the criteria in the Respect for Communities Act is too onerous and I disagree with them. Nonetheless, we on this side of the House try to work with the government. We put forward some simple amendments that, for example, would require a letter of support from the local municipality and local police force, an amendment that would require that persons within a two-kilometre radius of a supervised injection site be consulted, and an amendment that would require a 45-day consultation period, given that Bill C-37 would gut the minimum 90-day consultation period.

What could possibly justify the government rejecting all three of these common-sense amendments? Is it really just because the government wants to gut—

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity 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.

While I am supporting this positive move, I must say I am still deeply troubled by this crisis that continues to hit communities. On a personal note, I was deeply touched after hearing from those affected. As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I, with my colleagues from all parties, studied this crisis. In fact, we chose to pass a motion to undertake an emergency study of the crisis.

We were all in lockstep with the minister, trying to make a positive difference and to make choices that would save lives. That motivation drove us to work hard, and work together. We worked collectively and openly on this. That is something I am quite proud of and something I have valued in my time as the MP for Brampton South, and as a fellow parliamentarian of all who serve together in this place.

In committee, we heard from wide-ranging front-line perspectives, experts, and from the Minister of Health directly on this. I would like to make particular note of the testimony the committee heard from indigenous peoples on October 25, which I feel was compelling, honest, and a real wake-up call about what we need to do to ensure we address the needs of indigenous communities. For starters, improving access to naloxone treatment, the life-saving medication used in the case of an opioid overdose, was needed for rural and remote first nations in particular. That was a key part of the minister's action plan coming out of the summit, and goes to show what we can do when we consult all communities.

In looking at the bill, I see that Bill C-37 addresses what we heard from the Canada Border Services Agency about practical changes that would help prevent drug-making materials from entering the country. I applaud the minister's work also to check suspicious international mail packages that are 30 grams or less, which could be used to smuggle in any amounts of substances that may cause harm. This is a good precaution to benefit Canadians.

I want to remind colleagues that the bill is the product of hundreds of voices coming together. Our committee members were graciously invited to join in the health minister's summit on this as well. Coming out of the summit, we saw action. In fact, the joint statement of action by 42 organizations to address the opioid crisis was a broad but concrete approach that includes all those involved, from health care providers, to first responders, to educators, to researchers, and to families as well. I want to applaud our Minister of Health, and Ontario's minister of health as well, for leading that conference, which focused on concrete steps and delivering clear results.

Our government has taken action from day one, building on our five-point action plan to address opioid misuse. We have taken concrete steps, such as granting section 56 exemptions for the Dr. Peter Centre and extending the exemption for lnsite for an additional four years. We made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada. Our government recently approved three safe consumption sites in Montreal that the community asked for.

Further, at the local level, we have seen action already undertaken. In the city of Toronto, the mayor met with the mayor of Vancouver and other officials in order to plan a proactive not reactive response for Ontario as the crisis drifts eastward. The mayor of Hamilton held a discussion about this as well, and other municipalities have been doing the same. I hope more municipalities will reach out, learn from one another, and take proactive measures in their communities.

The numbers and the experts support this as the right way to public health, and it also delivers cost savings. I see how various aspects of the bill address a lot of the concerns we heard at committee and at the opioids summit. While many members have made note of the urgency of passing the bill, I think the majority of members showed time and time again in recent weeks that they were willing to collaborate to move quickly on this.

I want to reassure members that I believe the bill is an extremely collaborative and well-thought-out bill that responds to experts in the field as well as front-line needs. It gives me comfort to know that this bill would make a difference.

As others have said before, and I agree, we are in a national public health crisis in Canada. In 2016, thousands of Canadians tragically died of accidental opioid overdoses, and more will die this year. Our government and its partners must work together aggressively to save lives.

If people have friends or neighbours who are hearing the Conservatives' argument that facilities like Insite are the wrong approach, I would encourage them to contact me or other members on the health committee who would be happy to provide non-partisan, evidence-based information on why that does not reflect the safe consumption site model we see working already in Canada. All members of this House can agree that our hearts go out to the families and friends affected personally when a loved one has lost his or her life instead of having another chance. Last year in British Columbia alone, more than 900 people died from a drug overdose, an 80% increase from 2015.

This legislation simply proposes to ease the burden on communities that wish to open a supervised consumption site, while putting stronger measures in place to stop the flow of illicit drugs and strengthening the system in place for licensed controlled substances facilities. Experts and stakeholders told the previous government and then told our government that Bill C-2 as it stood was not helping this crisis. That is why we took action to reverse the barriers that were holding back communities that have long been asking for the ability to save their citizens' lives.

We know there is more to be done as we move forward. We know that sadly the situation is getting worse. The deaths from overdoses will now be greater than deaths caused by car accidents. This tragic crisis continues to move eastward in Canada, with increasing drug seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil across the country. We will continue to work with our partners across the country to continue bringing forward evidence-based solutions to save lives and ensure that 2017 is the year that will mark a turn in this national public health crisis.

Many people in Brampton South have asked me about my work on the health committee, and I have mentioned over and over that we all agreed we should turn our focus to this study due to the emergency at hand. They ask me why and they are always engaged when hearing about how we can work together at committee to address real problems and issues that our fellow Canadians face. Again, the way our committee worked together is one of the cherished moments I have of being an MP, and I hope we get more chances to work collaboratively again. This crisis called on us as leaders in our communities and as parliamentarians to take action.

In October 2016, I put forward a motion that the health committee call upon the Minister of Health to move as quickly as possible to conduct a review of the laws and regulations in place with regard to safe injection sites. I suggested that the review have an end goal to improve the health and safety of Canadians, using a strong evidence-based approach. With Bill C-37, I feel the minister and government have responded fully to the motion that the health committee passed in October of last year.

I am proud to be supporting this legislation that would save the lives of Canadians who need our help.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, our government made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada. It saves Canadians' lives. I appreciate that our Minister of Health took this step.

Last November, the Minister of Health co-hosted a conference on opioid overdose crisis which resulted in 42 organizations bringing forward concrete proposals on their own.

Our government is also continuing to respond to the tragic crisis in the way that is comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate. We will continue to work with our partners across the country to continue bringing forward evidence-based solutions to save lives. That is why all members, as well as those across the way, are debating Bill C-37. We are all working together to save Canadians' lives.

Bill C-37--Time Allocation Motion
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Waterloo
Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Leader 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 recognized parties under the provisions of Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the report stage and third 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 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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have already had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-37, and I have made it clear that my colleagues on this side of the House and I are very much in favour of the majority of the bill. Saving lives and tackling the production, distribution, importation, and consumption of these dangerous and deadly drugs needs to be made a priority.

The bill seeks to allow the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA, the authority to seize unregistered pill presses and allows CBSA to open suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams. The bill also seeks to grant the Minister of Health more powers to quickly and temporarily class and schedule new synthetic and dangerous drugs. It also seeks to severely weaken the Respect for Communities Act, which has been called onerous on the applicant and impossible to meet the criteria. Yet just last week, three injection sites, I repeat, three injection sites, in Montreal were approved under the previous legislation, so I am not sure if “impossible” and “onerous” are the words that should be used here.

As stated, I have had the opportunity to speak to the bill already, but I have not had the chance to speak to how the government has pushed the bill through both the House of Commons and the health committee. I know that the response to this argument is that this needs to be pushed through in order to start saving lives. I could not agree more that saving lives is our priority and primary goal, but there are many Canadians who are worried that an injection site will appear in their neighbourhood without community support.

As parliamentarians, it is our job to listen to our constituents and ensure that we represent them in the House. That is why on February 1, 2017, I proposed splitting the bill. This would have allowed the majority of the bill to pass unanimously through the House and likely through the Senate. This would have granted the CBSA the authority and powers it has been asking for to combat the inflow of illegal substances and seize unregistered devices. This would have granted the minister the power she is seeking when classing new substances.

Splitting the bill would have also given members more opportunity to debate the importance of community engagement in the consultation process when applying and approving injection sites. Splitting the bill would have started to save lives immediately while allowing parliamentarians to do their job and represent Canadians.

Instead, the Liberals moved closure, with the support of the New Democrats, who had previously complained about the use of time allocation. They said Canadians want vivid debate, a government that actually listens to the improvements that can be made to the bill, and for their members of Parliament to have the ability to speak out. What this means is that the Liberals used a procedural device to ultimately bring debate on this very important issue to an end, and the NDP, unfortunately, agreed.

The NDP agreed to move closure and silence members of Parliament, which is surprising considering the NDP is the party which time and time again accused the previous Conservative government of stifling debate. Both the Liberals and the NDP silenced parliamentarians who were scheduled to speak and represent their communities.

Again, ministers are not following their mandate letters. The mandate letter to the Minister of Health clearly states the following:

As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the public service....

It says, “meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament“ and “close collaboration with your colleagues”. When it comes to Bill C-37, the Minister of Health has done anything but engage with opposition members and work collaboratively both in the House and committee.

Once debate was shut down in the House, the Liberals then moved to shut down debate in committee. Shutting down debate in committee meant that no witnesses could appear on Bill C-37 and suggest their own amendments. It meant opposition members did not have the chance the ask the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, or the Minister of Justice questions that their communities had for them.

The Liberals know there are concerns and questions from this side of the House when it comes to weakening community consultations with regard to injection sites, just as the Conservatives know that the Liberals' agenda includes harm reduction strategies.

That is why we proposed reasonable amendments at committee. We proposed two amendments. The first would ensure that there was at least a 45-day consultation period, which is in line with all the other consultations put in place by the government. The second would give the mayor and the head of police the right to be part of the application process by including their opposition or support for an injection site in their community. These amendments would not obstruct the minister's authority to approve the site; they would just ensure that the people who are ultimately responsible for the success of an injection site are properly consulted and informed. These amendments were reasonable.

It is disappointing that, unlike what the minister's mandate letter sets out, there was no chance for meaningful engagement with the government on making this bill stronger for all Canadians. That is why I am asking that clause 42 of Bill C-37 be deleted.

As the bill stands today, injection sites could be forced on communities that do not want or need them. My NDP colleague stated that the application process should be made easier for applicants, and it seems that the Liberals agree.

Again, I ask the minister why consultations for pipelines are entirely on the applicant, yet for injection sites, the application process should be made simpler? When it comes to pipelines, community consultation is the pillar of approval, yet for injection sites, the community does not matter. It is a double standard that I do not agree with, and it is another inconsistency within the government's policies.

I already know the Minister of Health's response. She will tell Canadians that these sites will save lives and perhaps that is true. However, truly saving a life is offering an alternative to committing crimes, getting high, and potentially overdosing. Saving a life is ensuring the option to get proper treatment is available the moment it is requested. We know the lack of detox treatment around the country is a huge problem and a huge discouragement for addicts looking to treat their treatable disease.

We also know that those who are overdosing from these dangerous drugs are not only injecting them, they are also snorting them and taking them orally. Not all those who have overdosed are struggling addicts. Some are recreational users.

This is a complex issue, an issue that all parties can agree needs to be addressed, and needs to be addressed immediately. That is why, as I stated earlier, I had proposed splitting the bill in two. We could have ensured the CBSA had the powers it has been asking for while clause 42 was further debated. This is entirely reasonable. We are not trying to play politics. We are not trying to be insensitive. In fact, I think all members are working hard to protect all Canadians.

I would ask the minister to reconsider clause 42 and take into consideration the importance of community consultation and, of course, community support, because we know that without community support, the chance of success is almost nil. I would ask the minister to further allow debate on injection sites before the bill gets passed as it.

I know I speak for many Canadians that injection sites do not belong in every single community. We know that the current process in place for the approval of injection sites is not impossible to meet, as three injection sites were recently approved by the Minister of Health.

For this reason, I ask all of my colleagues to agree to remove clause 42 and allow proper and full debate on the consultation process when approving a supervised injection site. That is what Canadians expect of us: to have full and proper debate.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to the hon. parliamentary secretary's question is that it was something in the order of 16 months, or perhaps even longer, for the groups in Montreal to get the safe consumption sites.

I wanted to point out for the hon. member for Oshawa that the so-called Respect for Communities Act was an attempt to do indirectly that which the previous Conservative government could not do directly. In other words, it wanted to defy the Supreme Court of Canada, which found that safe injection sites are a matter of law, and on the evidence, save lives.

The response from the previous Conservative government was to create 12 conditions, which I am amazed any facility managed to get through, because they required such things as the curriculum vitae of staff who would work at a site that was not yet built. The kind of criteria we would get rid of with Bill C-37 were there for the purpose of stopping the facilities from even being available for the people who need them.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present an amendment to the bill, but I want to say that it is extremely important that this legislation be passed and that we move expeditiously on the fentanyl crisis. The opioid crisis is a national public health crisis, and for the first time in my life as a parliamentarian, I actually voted with the government on time allocation, because it is critical that we get the bill passed.

There were things said just moments ago in this chamber to which I must respond. This is not hogwash. It is based on the evidence. I was part of this Parliament when we debated the attempts by the Conservatives to bring forward conditions that were not reasonable. They were not put there in the interests of public health and safety. They were explicitly and clearly part of an ongoing effort by the previous Harper government to fight against the existence of Insite in Vancouver or its application as a model for safe consumption sites, which worked in saving lives, and to make them unavailable to people in the other jurisdictions.

I support Bill C-37, but I would have wished, as I moved at committee and as the member for Vancouver East also moved at committee, that there would have been more effort to streamline the approval of safe consumption sites where they are desperately needed to confront the opioid crisis.

I am bringing forward an amendment. It is difficult, I have to say, to bring forward an amendment at this stage. However, it is often the case that when there is an urgent circumstance and our attention is focused in one area, it is easy to say yes, it will be okay, because the need is so great that we can ignore other concerns.

This amendment has been brought forward by both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. There is concern about clause 53 of the bill. Clause 53 of the bill allows suppression of excerpts in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Again, when focusing on one thing, such as terrorism, concern for civil liberties can be lessened, and that is definitely the trend. In the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, Canada Border Services agents and employees of Canada Post are allowed to open packages in a way that would not have previously been allowed. Packages that weigh 30 grams or more are not to be opened, but if they are larger, and they constitute packages, they are routinely now opened.

It is critical that we examine the practicality of this. If a civil liberties organization said that in the case of fentanyl, which we know can be absolutely lethal in tiny grains of an amount, we are going to turn a blind eye and say that no one should be allowed to open letters, that would be an unreasonable position.

What the Civil Liberties Association is saying is that if a letter is identified and there are reasonable and probable grounds to open that letter, then get a warrant. This is not cumbersome. This is why we have the rule of law and protections for privacy and for civil liberties. Once law enforcement agencies have extreme and sweeping powers to open any letter, it does not take much imagination to imagine the ways in which this power can and will be abused.

I want to draw the attention of the House to this amendment. It would suppress just one clause of the bill. It would not have the effect of saying that border services agents and Canada Post could not open letters that they suspected contained fentanyl. That is not the purpose of my amendment. The purpose of my amendment is to underscore that if they are going to open letters, they need to have a warrant. It is very clear that these broad and sweeping powers will be in the future misused. Letters will be opened by people who are suspecting something else and not necessarily because of the fentanyl crisis.

I do not need to use all the speaking time I have available to speak to the amendment. I support Bill C-37. I want to see it passed, but it should not pass with our focus exclusively on the opioid crisis without taking a moment to consider whether we are making a mistake here. Should we not require at least a warrant before border services agents and postal officials have the right to open very small packages?

I dedicate my commitment to Bill C-37 and to working on the opioid crisis to one of my constituents, Leslie McBain, a founder of Moms Stop the Harm, because she lost her son in this crisis.

It is not just downtown Vancouver that is seeing an unreasonable and extraordinary number of deaths from this crisis. Within in my own riding, and on the remote Gulf Islands, we have seen people die from the fentanyl crisis. We need this piece of legislation.

I will agree with my friend, the member for Oshawa, on one thing. We need more. We need these safe consumption sites, but we also need programming for mental health. We need programs for addiction counselling. We need ongoing support so that people who have gone through addiction crisis counselling and are clean of the drug have the support they need so they do not go back to it. This is a very large problem.

It will, I hope, be a focus in the 2017 budget and we will see money for mental health, money for addiction counselling, and money targeted particularly to adolescents. They are very often not in the right place when they have addiction counselling with older people with addictions and a lifestyle that may scare a younger adolescent. We need to think about how we target our mental health and addiction counselling.

We need Bill C-37. I support the bill. This one amendment would ensure that we do the right thing to respond to the fentanyl crisis without doing the wrong thing for civil liberties.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her support of Bill C-37 as well as for her tireless efforts and advocacy in responding to the opioid crisis in Canada.

She raises an interesting point. Our goal, of course, is to balance privacy with responding to the crisis we are seeing. I would like to simply highlight that the provision, as stated in Bill C-37, would allow customs agents to open only international mail. The reason for that disposition is that we know that only 2 mg of fentanyl can cause an overdose. This means that a 30-gram package could contain as many as 15,000 fatal doses, which is why we have included this in the bill. The goal is to strike a balance, but we think that a 30-gram package that can cause 15,000 overdoses is out of proportion. That is why the disposition is in the bill.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37 is the government's response to the opioid, fentanyl, and carfentanil crisis. I hear of young kids who have died in their 20s. They are 21, 23, 24, and 25 years old. Some are leaving behind small children. However, the bill is silent on the treatment aspect. These kids would not go to a consumption site. There has to be another strategy. I want to ask the member if she would not have liked to have seen the bill be more expansive and broader in strategy to deal with the issue of these young kids taking pills, not injecting.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that we need a broader strategy.

When we had the previous bill, Bill C-2 at the time, the Respect for Communities Act, so branded by the previous government, we needed to get rid of a lot of the provisions that were making it extremely difficult, close to impossible, to open a safe consumption site.

We may even have consensus on all sides of the House that safe consumption sites in Bill C-37 are not the whole answer to the fentanyl crisis. A lot more needs to be done, particularly for facilities designed, as the hon. member just said, for an adolescent who might not go to to a safe consumption site, and we are looking at better education.

I hope we are using the best diplomacy we have with the People's Republic of China in asking it to do more to stop the flow of fentanyl coming into Canada.

There are many steps: going from the full range of mental health and addiction counselling, supports in communities, helping law enforcement, yes, with safe consumption sites being available, and other steps as needed. They do not all have to be in this piece of legislation. This piece of legislation is likely to pass more quickly by focusing on only one aspect of what I hope will be a much broader strategy.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House of Commons 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. This legislation is long-awaited and evidence-based, and it can save lives. I wish to thank the Standing Committee on Health for its timely and helpful review of Bill C-37.

As everyone knows, our government is deeply concerned about Canada’s ongoing opioid crisis. Over the last year, we have seen an unprecedented number of deaths in this country. In British Columbia and Alberta, opioid-related overdoses are overtaking motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death. While some parts of the country have been more severely hit than others, no part of the country is immune. Sadly, many Canadians have lost friends or family members, or know someone who has.

The government is therefore committed to addressing this complex public health crisis, and problematic substance use more generally, through a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach.

That is why on December 12, 2016, the Minister of Health, with the support of the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, announced the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy. This new strategy formalizes our government's commitment to taking a health-focused approach to addressing problematic substance use by restoring harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada's drug policy. It also aims to strengthen the evidence-based underpinning of Canada's drug policy.

At the same time, the minister introduced a comprehensive bill in the House of Commons that would support the new strategy, Bill C-37, a bill that strives to address certain gaps and weaknesses in the existing legislation by better equipping health professionals and law enforcement with the tools they need to protect the public, protect public health, and maintain public safety. The provisions contained in Bill C-37 would help to address the ongoing opioid crisis, and for this reason I encourage all members of the House of Commons to support the bill's quick passage.

Addiction is a complex issue. Not everyone will respond to treatment the same way, and not everyone is willing or able to enter treatment. Unfortunately, evidence demonstrates that individuals who are outside of treatment are at an increased risk for major health and social harms, including overdose and death. This is why the government recognizes that we must be pragmatic in our approach to problematic substance use.

As Canadian communities struggle to respond to the opioid crisis, it is essential that evidence-based harm reduction measures, including supervised consumption sites, be a part of that response. Concrete evidence demonstrates that, when properly established and maintained, these sites save lives and improve health.

However, in 2015, the previous government passed the Respect for Communities Act, which required applicants interested in establishing supervised consumption sites to address 26 criteria in their application before the minister of health could consider it.

On top of that, to renew an exemption for an existing site, applicants have to submit information to address the 26 criteria as well as information related to two additional criteria before an application can be considered.

As a result, this legislation is widely viewed by public health experts as a barrier to establishing new supervised consumption sites, which is unfortunate.

As I have already stated, the evidence shows that supervised consumption sites save lives. As we work to stem the crisis of opioid overdose deaths, facilitating the establishment of these sites in communities where they are wanted and needed is a priority.

That is why Bill C-37 proposes to relieve the administrative burden on communities seeking to establish a supervised consumption site, without compromising the health and safety of those operating the site, its clients, or the surrounding community.

Further, with respect to renewals, existing supervised consumption sites would no longer require a new application. Instead, under Bill C-37, 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.

Last week, the Standing Committee on Health adopted Bill C-37 with one amendment to clarify the information requirement for an application for a supervised consumption site. This is an amendment that our government fully supports.

Now at report state there is a motion from the member for Oshawa to delete clause 42 of Bill C-37. This would remove from Bill C-37 all of the amendments designed to streamline the application process for a supervised consumption site. The government cannot support this motion.

Supervised consumption sites are a key element to responding to the opioid crisis, and our government has heard that the current legislative framework is a barrier to their successful implementation in communities that want and need them.

An important aspect of this crisis is the extraordinary potency of the drugs being consumed, often unintentionally. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is one of particular concern. While it has legal pharmaceutical use for severe pain relief, it can be misused for its heroin-like effects. Fentanyl is often disguised as other opioids, such as oxycodone or heroin, or added to other drugs.

A pilot drug checking project at Insite, a supervised consumption site in Vancouver, found that 91% of drugs reported as heroin or containing heroin were also positive for fentanyl. Disguising fentanyl in other drugs leads to overdoses, as individuals are not aware of the potency of the substances they are using.

We know that pill presses and encapsulators, which can be used for legitimate purposes, are also being imported to manufacture illegal pills containing opioids. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, a single pill press can turn a kilogram of raw fentanyl worth a few thousand dollars into hundreds of thousands of pills worth millions of dollars on the black market

Currently, these devices can be legally imported into Canada by anyone, with no regulatory requirements. Under Bill C-37, every bill press and encapsulator imported into Canada would need to be registered with Health Canada.

The most illicit fentanyl is produced in other countries illegally and imported in small packages. Pure fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid where even a few milligrams can cause a fatal overdose. A small package of pure fentanyl smuggled into Canada through international mail can contain the equivalent of thousands of fatal doses.

Currently, all mail entering Canada may be examined by an officer at the border prior to being allowed into the domestic postal stream, if the officer has reasonable grounds to do so. However, mail weighing 30 grams or less may only be opened if consent is obtained from the sender or the addressee. If no consent is given, suspicious mail is simply returned to the sender. It is believed that this exception is being exploited by drug smugglers and resulting in the proliferation of trafficking via international mail.

Bill C-37 would address this by enabling officers at the border to open all items in the international mail stream if they have reasonable grounds to be suspicious that the mail contains illicit goods.

Finally, we know that the opioid crisis has introduced very real workplace health and safety concerns for front-line staff, including border agents, law enforcement officers, and others who may be exposed to fentanyl and carfentanil during the course of their duties.

This concern is only made worse by the current rules related to the handling and disposition of seized controlled substances; precursors and other offence-related property are cumbersome and complex and include requirements for agencies to store materials until a court order can be obtained. This results in large quantities of controlled substances, potentially dangerous chemicals, and other offence-related property sitting in police evidence holdings for long periods, increasing the risk of exposure to these dangerous substances and increasing the risk of their being diverted to the illicit market.

Among the many provisions included in this bill to modernize the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to keep pace with changes in the licit and illicit drug market, there are provisions that would introduce a new expedited process for the disposal of seized controlled substances, precursors, and chemical offence-related property.

Since I have only a few seconds left, I will wrap up now.

In conclusion, I would say that Bill C-37 would address gaps and weaknesses with existing legislation in order to better respond to the opioid crisis. This bill is another example of our government's commitment to establishing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy in order to reduce the harms currently being experienced by individuals and communities, caused by drugs.

I strongly, therefore, encourage all members of the House to support this bill, as amended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Louis-Hébert, QC

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Parkdale—High Park
Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Hope, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These kinds of enforcement mechanisms are important to save lives.

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts South Surrey—White Rock, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sean Fraser Central Nova, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to stand today and speak to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

I have listened to many of the speakers in the last few debates on this, and everyone is pointing fingers, saying that the other government did not do this and we are doing this, but I am coming here as a mom. I am the official critic for families, children, and social development, and I am thinking about what we can do that is best for our families and best for our communities.

Many people are giving information regarding safe injection sites and why they work, but I am looking at the communities. One of the most important things to me is having a safe community and having a good place to raise my children and all Canadian children. When we are talking about this, we have to go back to why we are putting in these laws. It is about the safety of Canadians, whether it is the safety of those people who are unfortunately addicted or the safety of the families that are living beside injection sites or living in areas where there is a huge drug issue.

When this started being discussed in December, I sent an op-ed to The London Free Press, which is one of our local newspapers. Immediately following that, I set up an appointment with Dr. Christopher Mackie, who is the medical officer of health and the CEO of the mental health unit. Many people thought we would be on different sides. He comes at it in a more liberated way, and I come at it in a more conservative way, basically because of being a mom. At the end of the day, we had basically no things that were not in common. Our concerns were the same. It was all about making sure that when our children go to school, they are safe. It was about making sure that when people are dealing drugs, they are not interfering in our communities. We recognize that it happens, and it is extremely unfortunate that it happens.

What is happening is that we are moving forward on things that we are really not comfortable with. As a mom, when l spoke to Dr. Mackie, I told him about my discussions with my own children regarding marijuana and about why it is so important for families to sit down and have these discussions. Things like marijuana, heroin, opioids, and all of these things are coming into our children's paths much more frequently, and they are something we do not understand.

I am a child of the eighties, and my teenage years were great in the eighties. We heard of cocaine and marijuana, but we did not see it in our small communities.

Everyone is looking at the discussions we are having, but we have to look at them through a family filter. We talk about gender-based analysis. I want to ask every member of Parliament to look at this through the filter of a parent. That is what I am asking.

In the city of London, when they were putting in a methadone clinic, there were discussions about where it would go. There were so many people concerned, because it was going directly across the street from a high school on Dundas Street in St. Thomas. To this day, five years later, it is still a huge concern, because in that pocket of the community, there has been a lot of turbulence, whether it is crime, increased drug use, or things of that sort. What is it teaching our children as they exit from the high school and there is a methadone clinic across the road? What signals are we sending to our children? Is it saying no to drugs or that we are there to assist them?

We are failing our children. We are failing the next generation by not teaching them right from wrong and not teaching them that the use of drugs and hard drugs is difficult. They are going to have addiction issues. They are going to have problems with brain development.

We are not starting at step one anymore. We are going to step 10 and saying, as one of the members said, let us legalize all drugs. I do not know if he was serious, because he was looking at drugs as not being a crime. Let us be serious. It may not be a crime to use drugs, but what does it lead to?

I have a lot of personal experience in my community with my own family's drug use. It is not me personally, but I have been touched intimately because of drugs. I have known people who have passed away. A person I grew up playing baseball with died right before Christmas, in our own community, from taking carfentanil. I knew this gentleman, Jeff. He died at the age of 46. He was a father with children. He had a son he loved like members would not believe and tons of friends. The problem was that he got mixed up with drugs when he was very young, and that is the life that led him down the path to his death.

I think what is happening is that we are blurring what is right and wrong, and we are saying that this is how we are going to help. Why do we not start at the front end, which is education and letting people know how to speak to their children and letting people know that the use of heroin is not right? We give so many reasons for saying that we need to have this. Why do we not start at square one and make it right in the first place?

I believe that we have to have places where we can help people rehabilitate. We know that there is a drug crisis, and we need to do better. Where do we start?

I like 90% of this bill. I think it is really important that when packages come into Canada, they are tested, that we do not allow counterfeit companies that come in to manufacture pills, and that we do not allow pill presses or anything like that. I think it is really important to have legislation against that, because it is helping in the war against drugs, and we know that this is happening.

However, when we start talking about the one piece, the safe injection sites and the fact that there would not be consultations in our communities, that is where I have to say stop. As I said, back in the city of London, where, across from H.B. Beal, they have a methadone clinic, there were many parents who came forward to the Thames Valley District School Board to state their opinions.

In a letter I read last year regarding safe injection sites, a woman spoke about her daughter who, at the age of 13, became addicted to cocaine. The daughter, who went into one of these clinics, at the time said that the ability to get drugs was even easier once these clinics were available to her.

We have to understand that it is not a fix. It is a band-aid approach unless we go into it full scale to help Canadians, whether it is Canadian families or Canadian youth at risk. We need to make sure that we are doing better, and we are not doing that. That is what makes me so concerned.

We are talking about fentanyl. We know that in Vancouver, more than 950 people have died because of it. In my own community, we had six overdoses in one weekend right before Christmas, and unfortunately, one person died.

I was speaking to both the police chief of the city of St. Thomas, Darryl Pinnell, who will be retiring shortly, and the police chief of the city of London, John Pare. I wanted to discuss with them some of their concerns in their cities. To be honest, I thought when I went into this conversation with the police chiefs, we would be talking about prostitution, because we know that there has been some sex trafficking going on in our communities. I thought we would be talking about marijuana and the concern about people driving under the influence of marijuana, but the big issue for the two police chiefs was fentanyl. In the city of London, I know that there have been three different seizures of fentanyl that has come into our communities. I applaud them for doing their great work. However, we have to do more.

We sit here and become so open and so allowing of things, whether we are talking about sexual expression or drug use. We have lost our innocence. As a parent, I can tell members that each and every time I have a conversation with my children, it is about talking about right and wrong. However, when we are watching television, when we are watching the news, when we are seeing things on the Internet, when we are having these discussions, do we not think we are also saying, “Drug use, well, you know, it happens”? It happens, but it has to stop happening. Our job is to change that.

Maybe I am coming out here as a Pollyanna. A gentleman, many years ago, said that I was his Pollyanna. I like to see the positive side. When I look at this, we are starting the wrong way. We should be educating people. We should be having a program and educating people about the use of drugs. Instead, we are allowing it. We are even talking about legalizing all drugs. What the heck?

What really concerns me is that we are going in the wrong direction. I am worried about what we are doing to the future of Canadians. What are we saying? What is right and wrong? Those are some of my concerns.

We can do better. I think we are all just kind of saying that opening these clinics will be fine. It is a band-aid approach. Unless we have wraparound services to allow people to rehabilitate and get off drugs, it is not going to help anybody. It is a short-term cure. Although I understand the need, it is just that, a short-term cure. When the municipalities and the communities are not involved in the decision on where these sites are going to go, we are in trouble.

I thank all members for their time and for listening to Karen, the mom, today. That is what I believe, and I wanted to share it with members today.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Conservative Party member for her speech.

I often hear Conservatives on the other side of the House talking as though the communities were never consulted about the bill that we introduced.

I would simply like to remind them that, under paragraph 42(2)(e), some of the information that will be requested by the Minister of Health will be expressions of community support or opposition. That is one of the criteria that must be considered, as set out in the Supreme Court ruling.

With regard to what the member was saying about the importance of education, it is true that people need to stay far away from drugs. I think that everyone agrees on that. At the same time, we cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that there are no Canadians struggling with this problem, which is causing too many deaths.

In British Columbia alone, 1,000 people died of drug-related overdoses in 2016. There has also been a major increase in the number of overdose deaths in Alberta. This is a problem in cities all across Canada.

I believe we are taking a fact-based approach. We are trying to reduce the harm that this can cause while still cracking down on the problem. We are doing that by allowing authorities to open packages weighing less than 30 grams, which could contain as many as 15,000 fatal doses, while adopting an approach that seeks to reduce the devastation caused by drugs.

My question is simple. Can the member see the balance that exists in Bill C-37, and can she comment on that?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour 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. The bill directly addresses the national public health crisis of opioid overdoses and provides measures to prevent increasing harm to Canadians and communities all across the country.

I would like to speak to the importance of two key components of the bill: first, streamlining the process of supervised consumption sites; and second, providing additional enforcement capacities to the Canadian Border Services Agency, which would help prevent illicit opioids from entering Canada through international routes and therefore reduce the risk of controlled substances entering the hands of Canadians.

These components of the bill are critical to Canada's fight against the opioid epidemic currently sweeping across Canada.

As we know, when the previous federal government decided it would not extend the legal exemption for Insite in Vancouver, advocates initiated a legal challenge, which reached the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the health evidence in support of Insite was substantial and opened up the possibility of establishing additional facilities in Canada if there was an appropriate balance between achieving public health and public safety.

This balance was organized into five criteria: first, evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates; second, the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site; third, the regulatory structure in place to support the facility; fourth, the resources available to support its maintenance; and fifth, expressions of community support or opposition.

Simply put, the legislation removes the burdensome 26 application criteria put forward by the previous government. Instead, it uses the five factors outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2011 ruling on Insite in order to streamline the process.

It has been established that opioid addiction is typically chronic, lifelong, difficult to treat, and associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality. Our ultimate goal is to reduce, and ultimately help eliminate opioid addiction but we first have to stop people from dying. We know that supervised consumption sites work to do just that.

Just a few of the organizations that support supervised consumption sites are: the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Association of Nurses in HIV/AIDS Care, the Public Health Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, and the Urban Public Health Network. Furthermore, international organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, are in favour of harm reduction services.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I had the honour of assisting with the swift passage of Bill C-37 through the committee stage. With the current health crisis across Canada, the rapid passage of the bill is imperative. Time is of the essence to help save lives, and as I previously mentioned, a key outcome of the legislation is that the length of time required to process applications for supervised consumption sites would be significantly reduced, while still providing the necessary balance between public health and public safety.

Many witnesses throughout the Standing Committee of Health's study on the opioid crisis stated that there were significant barriers associated with the previous government's Respect for Communities Act and its 26 criteria. The act created an onerous application process for community groups wishing to apply for a supervised consumption site, as evidenced by the lack of applications that have been successful since the legislation was put in place.

For example, three supervised consumption sites were approved last month in Montreal under the previous government's legislation. Although their approval is positive, the time it took to process the application was quite long, as it was submitted in May 2015. That is 17 months the city of Montreal had to wait to assist their vulnerable citizens with opioid addictions. That is too long. I agree the important criteria must be met before supervised consumption sites are established within communities, but the application process must reflect the urgency of the situation. I believe Bill C-37 would do just that.

One significant statement made during the Standing Committee on Health's clause-by-clause on Bill C-37 was by the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. He stated, “On the first day that Insite opened, they reversed 15 overdoses”. That is a staggering number of people saved in one day.

By streamlining the application process, Bill C-37 would ensure applications would be approved in a timely fashion, paving the way to save more lives. For example, at Insite there have been over 4,922 overdose reversals, and not a single death has occurred at that facility. Supervised consumption sites save lives and help reduce the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases.

I was shocked to hear that in 2016 in B.C. alone, a total of 914 people died from an overdose, an 80% increase from the previous year. This alarming statistic shows that it is our responsibility as federal members of Parliament to act now.

Another key component of the legislation that I wish to speak to is how the bill addresses the illegal supply, production, and distribution of drugs. One of the key findings of the September 2016 report published by the RCMP regarding the current opioid crisis Canada faced was that China continued to be the pivotal source for illicit fentanyl and its analogues, precursors, other novel emerging opioids, and tableting equipment that supplied Canada-based traffickers.

Bill C-37 addresses this issue by proposing to give Canada's border services officers greater flexibility to inspect suspicious mail, no matter the size, that may contain goods that are prohibited, controlled, or regulated. The current legislation prohibits the CBSA from opening suspicious mail that weighs 30 grams or less. If the CBSA found such a package, it would have to seek the permission of the addressee, which would prove to be difficult. This gap in enforcement capacity is problematic as just one standard size mail envelope, 30 grams, can contain enough fentanyl to cause 15,000 overdoses.

Given the prevalence of illicit drugs found in international packages is greater than domestic mail, this measure would only be for international incoming mail. Our border agents need to be given the clearance to inspect these packages to help stem the flow of illicit drugs entering into Canada.

According to the same report by the RCMP, in May and June of 2016 the CBSA intercepted for the first time two separate shipments of carfentanil, which is estimated to be 100 times more potent and toxic than fentanyl and 10,000 times greater than morphine.

Therefore, we know there has been an increase in trafficking and it is our responsibility to equip the Canada Border Services Agency with the tools needed to stop it.

Bill C-37 would save lives, whether that would be by the seizure of a shipment of an illicit opioid by the CBSA or through the nurses at new supervised consumption sites, whose applications would be approved based on the new set of five criteria. This legislation is the next step in fighting the crisis we see across Canada, and I believe this bill is a step in the right direction to help Canadians today.

Many Canadians are one overdose away from becoming another tragic statistic in the ever-increasing Canadian epidemic of opioid addiction. This evidence-based legislation could not be more timely. With these rising fatalities, it is now more important to act. It is my hope that Bill C-37 will be granted the same swift movement through the Senate as it is being granted in the House of Commons. It would enable Canada to tackle this nationwide problem and help to ensure the safety of vulnerable Canadians. The faster it is enacted, the faster it will help save lives.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question because I know this is a multifaceted issue. There are many streams and it is a very complex. The member spoke about saving lives and said that the injection sites would do just that. I do not have any disagreement with that.

However, I have before me just a random snapshot of 12 kids who are dead. They were aged 21, 23, 24, three at 21. A Delta mother lost two of her children within 20 minutes of each other, both kids in their 20s. We are talking about deaths, overdoses and adolescents.

Could the member please tell me how Bill C-37 would address that issue for those adolescents who are taking pills and not using injection sites?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

John Aldag Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, 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. The bill is part of the Government of Canada's comprehensive approach to drug policy, one that strikes a balance between public health and public safety.

Last year in my province of British Columbia, over 900 people died of drug overdoses. This was an 80% increase from 2015 and we now know that the opioid fentanyl was disproportionately responsible for these deaths.

As the medical community has known for some time and as the general public is becoming increasingly aware, fentanyl is a difficult drug to combat. When used legitimately, it is a powerful pain suppressor which can help people who are suffering with acute and chronic ailments. However, when used inappropriately, incredibly small doses can be fatal.

What has become evident to my community is that illicit fentanyl has become both widely available and far too easy to obtain, so today I stand in the House not only for my riding of Cloverdale—Langley City or even as a British Columbian, but for all Canadians who have been or may be affected by the opioid crisis.

Central to the Government of Canada's efforts to help individuals and communities affected by the current drug emergency is the reintroduction of harm reduction as an integral part of our country's narcotics strategy. This bill includes changes to streamline the application process for new supervised consumption sites, which I believe is not simply a compassionate course of action but a responsible and evidence-based decision which has been proven to save lives.

This important public health initiative will be partnered with the recently announced Canadian drugs and substances strategy. This strategy is built on four pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement, which will be grounded in a strong evidence base to bring about a decrease in both the manufacture and consumption of illicit opioids and the tragic incidence of overdose deaths across our country.

This government knows that while we must address the public health perspective in dealing with the crisis at hand, we must also deal with the illicit drug supply issue. That is why Bill C-37 addresses problematic drug use from all sides and includes proposals to respond to controlled substances obtained through illicit sources.

Canada's drug control laws are centred on the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, also known as the CDSA. This act serves the dual purpose of protecting public health and maintaining public safety.

The CDSA provides controls over drugs that can alter mental processes and that may result in harm to one's health and to society when misused. This is done by regulating the legitimate use of controlled substances and prohibiting unlawful activities, such as the import, export, and trafficking of controlled substances and precursors.

As I discussed earlier, problematic and illegal substance use coupled with an illicit drug supply that has become increasingly more dangerous has led to a spike in overdoses and deaths. This risk is especially pertinent to fentanyl given its extreme potency and difficulty to detect in other so-called recreational drugs. Our government is committed to protecting public health and safety by curbing production and trafficking of banned substances. Bill C-37 would amend the CDSA to provide the necessary tools to do so.

At the end of 2016, the Government of Canada added six fentanyl precursors to the list of controlled substances under the CDSA to help address the illegal production of fentanyl and related drugs. If passed, Bill C-37 would provide a wider array of effective tools to fight the illegal production and trafficking of all dangerous narcotics, including fentanyl and carfentanil.

In addition, many overdoses have come as a result of ingesting drugs that appear identical to legitimately produced pharmaceuticals. These drugs are made without adequate controls and often contain unpredictable amounts of high potency and potentially lethal substances, such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

Essential to making these illegal drugs are pill presses and encapsulator devices that allow illegal producers to turn out thousands of counterfeit pills or capsules in a very short time. This presents a significant risk to public health and safety.

That being said, pill presses and encapsulators are also used in legitimate manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical, food, and consumer product industries. This is why a registration system is being proposed. This new requirement would impose minimal burden on legitimate manufacturers. Importers of pill presses and encapsulators would simply have to register with Health Canada prior to bringing these devices into this country. Importation of these devices without proof of registration would be prohibited and border officials could detain those arriving without proper registration.

Changes are also being proposed to help information sharing between Health Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency about the importation of pill presses and encapsulators, as well as with law enforcement agencies in the course of an investigation.

In addition to the registration of imported pill press and encapsulator equipment, Bill C-37 would broaden the scope of pre-production activities associated with the production of illegal drugs. Pre-production activities include buying and assembling the chemical ingredients or industrial equipment with the intention of using it to make illicit narcotics. The offences and punishments would be extended to capture equipment and chemicals not currently listed in the CDSA schedules.

Bill C-37's proposed amendments to the Customs Act would also allow border officials to open incoming international mail weighing 30 grams or less if there are grounds to suspect it contains goods which are prohibited, controlled, or regulated under another act of Parliament. This would allow border officials to open packages that are suspected to contain substances intended for use in the production of illicit drugs. It is in response to substantial evidence that illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, are being brought into Canada through the postal system. As was noted by a member previously, 30 grams may seem like a small amount, but it is equivalent to approximately 15,000 lethal doses of fentanyl.

The changes proposed in Bill C-37 are an important part of the government's multi-faceted plan to address the growing opioid crisis in Canada. The bill would provide law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to take early action against suspected drug production operations and to respond to the ever-changing illicit drug market.

At the end of 2016, news of over 10 overdose deaths in one night in British Columbia highlighted an already alarming and tragic situation, and the opioid crisis has not gone away since the beginning of the new year. Instead, it gets worse, as hard-working emergency responders and public health officials struggle to keep up with the increasing number of those afflicted. Unfortunately, I witness this challenge in my own riding of Cloverdale—Langley City, one of Canada's communities most affected by the opioid crisis. Sadly, my constituents are not alone in facing this issue.

As we in this House study legislation from day to day, we must often ask ourselves: What will be the direct result of this legislation, this action? With Bill C-37, we have an opportunity to pass legislation that would directly save lives. There is currently tremendous work being done to combat this issue, such as the RCMP's Surrey outreach team, which has been effective in addressing addiction and homelessness issues in the local community. This team responded to 55 overdoses in just two weeks and has continued saving lives in the city of Surrey. While the individual efforts of police detachments and public health officials have resulted in positive results at the local level, these front-line responders need federal assistance and a national framework to tackle the issue.

The sooner Bill C-37 becomes law in Canada, the sooner it can help those most afflicted by this ongoing public health emergency. I trust that all members of the House understand the importance of this bill and hope that they will support it.

I would like to close with a comment relating to an earlier speaker, who talked about needing to take a family approach to this crisis. I would like to remind all members that we have seen 900 deaths in B.C. in the last year. Those are 900 families affected by this tragic opioid crisis. It is only by working together across all parties that we will actually be able to make Canadians safe, focus on families, give them a safe and healthy upbringing, and deal with those who are facing crises in their lives.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-37, all language that articulated the process for public consultation has been removed. At the health committee, amendments were put forward to try to obtain letters of support or opposition within a two-kilometre radius of a site, which the Liberals voted against; to identify schools and day cares within a two-kilometre radius, which they voted against; a letter of support or opposition from the mayor and council, and the police chief, which they voted against; and a minimum of 40 days' consultation, a maximum of 90 days, which they voted against.

Could the member please tell me why the Liberals do not want any public consultation?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, though I stand in support of much of Bill C-37, there are a few issues I have trouble supporting. I will take the time to share my thoughts today.

Whether we support supervised injection sites or not, one thing is certainly true, and that is that the placement of a site will impact the communities in which they are located. For this reason, I believe it is absolutely necessary for communities to adequately consult with members of the public and hear them out. As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I was very troubled when the Liberals voted against my amendment that would ensure public consultation be carried out before the building of a site.

“Social licence” was a phrase that we heard repeatedly used by the Liberals during the last federal election. We heard buzz phrases like “community input”, “consultation”, and “evidence-based decision making”. In the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the health minister, he said, “I expect that our work will be informed by performance measurement, evidence, and feedback from Canadians”.

The Prime Minister went on to say:

Government and its information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.

This begs a question then. Why do the Liberals not trust Canadians to have a voice when it comes to the placement of a safe consumption site? Under the current text of Bill C-37, the minister is under no obligation to issue public notice that a supervised injection site is being considered for a community. Further, the organization that is applying for the authorization is the only group required to demonstrate that local consultations have in fact taken place. This clearly undermines the impartiality of these consultations, since an applying organization can simply cherry-pick who it consults with.

Let us imagine an alternate scenario here for just a moment: say, the construction of an oil pipeline. No one would be comfortable with a decision to go ahead with building a pipeline if the decision were based solely on the oil company's report of its consultations with local environmentalists and first nations representatives. Moreover, no one would expect that a federal minister in Ottawa would have the facts to sufficiently decide where a pipeline should go, at least not without significant study by impartial experts and wide-ranging consultation with those who would be most impacted by the decision. Why then does the present Liberal government feel it is acceptable to trust that an applying organization has indeed consulted comprehensively when it comes to building a supervised injection site?

In my riding of Lethbridge, Alberta, I have to say that I am incredibly impressed with the efforts to which my community has gone with regard to collaboration and consultation. The organization that is taking the lead on studying the need and feasibility of opening a supervised consumption site is going beyond the scope of this legislation in order to ensure that community members are respected and given a voice and that all levels of government are included. It is very concerned that community partnerships are formed and that comprehensive services are created that include a treatment model.

Why is it doing so much work? It is doing this because it understands the importance of social licence, something the Liberals use as buzzwords but do not actually understand how to do. The organization in my riding understands that, while it could get the application approved without broad consultation, the suspicion and animosity that this would generate within our community would actually go against the very nature and purpose of the site.

I believe that education, consultation, and collaboration are very key components to dealing with the crisis at hand. This is why I, as a member of the health committee, sought to amend this legislation. My amendment would have required the minister to provide 45 days' public notice to communities where an application was being considered and that the feedback would then be made available to the public. Across government, it is typical for consultations of this sort to last between 30 and 90 days. For my efforts at the committee, I was accused by my Liberal and NDP counterparts of wanting to kill addicts who would overdose while consultations were taking place. Apparently they believe an application will be processed in fewer than 45 days, which is usually unheard of.

It does, however, beg the question as to just how thorough this application process would be when it comes to considering whether or not a site should be opened. I believe it is not a simple process, but I wonder if the Liberals just plan on ramming them through.

The health department will need to review the information provided, confirm the information is accurate, write its recommendation, brief the minister, and receive her decision. This takes time. If the government expects this process to take fewer than 30 working days, it would mean the department would have virtually no time to confirm the accuracy of the material provided. There is a real concern, then, that the Liberal's so-called streamlined process is nothing more than a rubber stamp.

When our Conservative government was in power, one of the bills the government of the day brought forward was the Safe Streets and Communities Act. This legislation required that meaningful consultation with community members be carried out before a supervised injection site could be established. Because this legislation was quite detailed, having 26 different requirements, it ensured that a fully informed decision was made.

The Liberals have gutted these requirements, removing the requirement for evidence and reducing the criteria from 26 to five. The Liberals justified their decision to gut the Safe Streets and Communities Act by saying it was too onerous, but the same week the Liberals forced a stop to debate, silenced the health committee, and rammed this bill through, the Minister of Health announced the approval of three new supervised injection sites for Montreal. Clearly, the former criteria were not too cumbersome.

A thorough application process helps organizations avoid mistakes and sets them up for long-term success. This has been affirmed by one centre after another in European countries. The fact that the Liberals rushed Bill C-37 through the House, by cutting off debate and imposing unprecedented restrictions at committee, shows they are unwilling to listen and unwilling to consult, as they promised they would during the election. Furthermore, refusing to hear from a single witness, either in favour or opposed to the bill, means parliamentarians have no context to understand whether or not the bill actually lives up to the intention of the drafters.

Ironically, at committee, the Liberal members voted to amend their own legislation. This is odd. They deleted the requirement that applicants must provide evidence to support their application. This is something the Supreme Court actually outlined. This is from the government that claims to value science and evidence-based decision-making. It is one of the tag lines they like to use quite commonly.

It is really quite concerning, because, as my Liberal colleagues have pointed out, lives do in fact hang in the balance. On December 16 of last year, nine people passed away from drug overdoses in Vancouver. Eight of these deaths took place in the Downtown Eastside. Interestingly enough, it was in the Downtown Eastside that the Vancouver fire and rescue department responded to 745 calls due to overdoses in November. This is significant, because the Downtown Eastside is the home of Insite, the first legal supervised injection site in Canada. Interestingly, the Liberals and the NDP have rushed Bill C-37 through Parliament with the rationale that legalizing supervised injection sites is the only way to stop rising numbers of opioid overdose fatalities. However, the evidence from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside appears to contradict this narrative. Despite the presence of a supervised injection site, offering clean needles and the ability to test street drugs for fentanyl, there continue to be dozens of overdose fatalities only steps away from the Insite building. It is clear that the Liberals have not fully considered the impact of this legislation.

Our Conservative caucus supports all but one section of the bill. The Conservative critic for health attempted to work with the Liberals to separate out that one section, while passing the remaining sections, in order to allow the health committee to conduct a proper study. The Liberals refused this offer. Instead, they have used every procedural trick in the book to ram the bill through the House with absolutely no scrutiny or thorough process.

Again and again, the Liberals have shown that they uphold democracy the same way a screen holds water. This reckless approach undermines the authority of local communities to have a voice over their own affairs. It threatens the effectiveness of this legislation by preventing drafting errors from coming to light. It also increases suspicion around the approvals process, thus undercutting local support for harm-reduction facilities. For these reasons, I stand in opposition to Bill C-37.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I always find it a little rich to be lectured on democracy by the Conservatives, who developed an expertise in all sorts of measures that were, frankly, far from democratic, and they developed quite the expertise on time allocation.

The reason we are moving forward with the bill as fast as possible, and we have the support of the NDP, is precisely because the bill would save lives. The member does not have to take my word for it. She can take the word of the medical experts, the mayors, the provincial officers who have asked for these safe injection sites.

Had the previous Conservative government responded to the Supreme Court judgment in a way that reflected what is asked instead of making it so onerous for communities where these sites are needed, where these sites would save lives and prevent transmission of diseases, we would not be here today with Bill C-37.

Does the member at least agree that the section, which their amendment requests to remove, is one major section that would make the laws in Canada closer to what the Supreme Court has said, that would prevent the loss of life that we have seen occurring far too often in this country, with regard to opioids?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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February 14th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again I would like to acknowledge that under the previous criteria, three safe injection sites were approved for the city of Montreal, clearly showing that those 26 criteria were not in fact too cumbersome, but actually very much needed in order to make sure that these centres were set up to be effective for the long term.

Many experts whom I have talked to have affirmed that it is good to go through a thorough application process to make sure that these injection sites are set up to effectively serve the communities in which they are placed.

On a second note, with regard to evidence again, I would love to see evidence, and that is why I was so impressed that our former government's criteria beforehand actually called for evidence, because we should be making evidence-based approaches.

Unfortunately, the Liberals gutted the word “evidence” from the piece of legislation, Bill C-37 that is before us today, so it is no longer required. We are not making decisions based on evidence anymore, because the Liberal government took it out.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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February 14th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Brampton West
Ontario

Liberal

Kamal Khera Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House 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.

As members are aware, Canada is facing an opioids overdose crisis across this country. We have seen very troubling figures and have heard many tragic stories. As stated earlier in the House, British Columbia alone saw 916 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2016, an almost 80% increase from the year before. The majority of these overdoses are due to opioids. Other parts of the country have been impacted as well, with Alberta reporting 343 apparent overdoses related to fentanyl in 2016, which is an over 30% increase from the year before. While some areas have been more acutely affected that others, drug use is not unique to one part of the country, and the potential for this crisis to spread is very real.

Our government is committed to addressing this complex public health issue through a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy in Canada. To that end, the Minister of Health with support from the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice announced the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy on December 12 of last year.

This new strategy replaces the previous national anti-drug strategy with a more balanced approach for restoring harm reduction as a core pillar alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement, and supporting these pillars with a strong evidence base. The Canadian drugs and substances strategy formalizes our government's commitment to taking an evidence-based and more appropriate health-focused approach to addressing problematic substance abuse in our country.

The bill before us would ensure a sound and modernized legislative base to support this new strategy. This comprehensive bill aims to balance protecting public health and maintaining public safety. It is designed to better equip health professionals and law enforcement with the tools they need to address this issue.

Specifically, this bill would improve the government's ability to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites as a key harm reduction measure in communities. It would 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.

In addition to introducing this new strategy, proposing this bill, and building on our five-point action plan, our government has taken and continues to take concrete steps to address problematic substance use. Since coming into office, our government has used all the tools available to address this issue.

One of the first steps our government took, as expressed by experts, was calling for an increase in availability of naloxone, a drug that temporarily reverses an opioid overdose. We acted quickly in this regard to remove the requirement to have a prescription to facilitate access to naloxone in March 2016. Further, our government completed an expedited review of an easier to use nasal spray version of naloxone, which, as of October 2016, is now approved for sale in Canada.

In the meantime, our Minister of Health used the extraordinary legal authorities available to her under the Food and Drugs Act to issue an interim order to allow the emergency import of naloxone nasal spray from the United States. This significant step has increased access for emergency responders and helps to address the growing number of opioid overdoses.

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

Not long after that, in March 2016, Health Canada granted Insite an unprecedented four-year exemption to continue its extremely important work in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver. Insite has demonstrated time and again through a countless number of peer-reviewed research studies that it saves lives without increasing drug use and crime in the surrounding area. This four-year exemption is a positive shift from the previous annual exemptions. Just last week, Health Canada issued three new exemptions for supervised consumption sites in the city of Montreal, the first such exemptions outside of the province of British Columbia.

I do want to briefly touch upon a concern that was raised in this House by the opposition, that the views of communities would no longer be important in the assessment of an application to establish a supervised consumption site. Let me be very clear; this was actually determined by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that the Minister of Health must consider expressions of community support or opposition when reviewing such applications.

Our government is respecting the Supreme Court of Canada's decision by proposing to include these factors in this legislation. We support the need for community consultation in the application process for considering the establishment of supervised consumption sites. We understand and respect that communities may have valid concerns about a proposed site, and that these concerns deserve to be heard and should be adequately addressed by applicants in their applications. The proposed amendments would demonstrate that respect for communities is a multi-faceted issue. It means that the concerns of communities must be considered and addressed by the applicants. However, it also means that the federal government should not place any unnecessary barriers in the way of communities that need and want to establish supervised consumption sites as part of their local drug harm reduction strategy.

In order to combat this crisis head on, our government is also supporting private member's bill, Bill C-224, the good Samaritan drug overdose act, a bill that would help encourage individuals who witness an overdose to call for emergency help. It would provide immunity from minor drug possession charges for individuals who experience or witness an overdose and call for emergency assistance.

The opioid crisis is something we know we cannot fix alone. We need collaboration with all levels of government, experts, and professionals. This is why we are committed to working with our colleagues across Canada to address the opioid crisis, from medical professionals to law enforcement partners.

In November last year, the Minister of Health co-hosted an opioid summit and conference along with the Ontario minister of health. The summit and conference brought together governments, experts, and key stakeholders to address the opioid crisis and to determine a path forward. Participants heard a number of perspectives on this crisis from people who use drugs, families devastated by opioid misuse, health care providers, first responders, educators, and researchers. Provincial ministers and heads of organizations with the ability to bring about change committed to a joint statement of action to address the opioid crisis. This joint statement of action reflects a combined commitment for each participant to work within respective areas of responsibility to improve prevention, treatment, and harm reduction associated with problematic opioid use by delivering on concrete actions. We will publicly report on the progress of these actions, starting in March 2017.

In conclusion, Bill C-37 is a key example of our government's commitment to establishing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy in order to reduce the harms caused by drugs that are currently being experienced by individuals. One life lost to an opioid overdose is one too many. We need to take action now. As this bill would help save lives, I strongly encourage all the members in this House to support this very important piece of legislation.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak on behalf of the people of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, but this is certainly a hard story. I support the government's approach moving forward, but I want to talk about the impact in my immediate community, to describe the imperative of why action is so important.

Since 2008, Nanaimo has had more deaths per capita from drug overdoses than anywhere else in British Columbia. Our region had a 135% increase in opioid deaths last year, and fentanyl was present in 50% of overdoses. This is a national emergency. Our region has not had the action that we need on it and the federal government response has been unacceptably slow.

In October, at the health committee, I urged action of a study, which was initiated by an NDP motion by my colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, that federal leadership was needed immediately to tackle the opioid overdose epidemic. I urged better access to Drug treatment programs and safe consumption sites, and support for health professionals, including addiction training. I urged that the government also create a national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder for front-line emergency personnel and public safety officers in this vital line of work.

When I talk with firefighters in Nanaimo, they tell me they used to see three overdose calls a year. Now they see three a shift. These fine young men and women signed up to fight fires mostly. I want to read some of the words from Mike Rispin, one of the chiefs at the downtown Nanaimo fire department. He says:

In my 25 years as a fire fighter we have had periods when there was a sharp increase in opioid overdoses, due to a stronger drug on the streets. These periods lasted usually only a few weeks.

Sadly, the recent introduction of fentanyl has made our response to overdoses a regular occurrence and I can only foresee this as a regular ongoing issue...I...can only imagine what we will see with the use of carfentanil (which has been discovered in town now). We will be having even more O/D's and more difficulty bringing those patients back to consciousness.

Nanaimo is a small community of 90,000 but the overdoses we are seeing now is increasing dramatically. Thankfully the Island health authority has opened a safe injection site which should assist in reducing deaths from the use of opioids.

How did we get here? Opioid prescription rates are sky-high in Canada versus other countries. Our doctors over-prescribe, and that is because the pharmaceutical companies oversell.

Chronic pain is not managed well in our country. Some people are just left completely on their own and they do become drug-dependent because they are not getting the pain management support they need.

We also have, and we have seen this particularly in the riding of my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, childhood sexual abuse unrecognized, unreported, untreated. Gabor Maté, a doctor who has worked particularly in the Downtown Eastside, said every drug-addicted woman patient of his, every one of them, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. This is the “hungry ghost” syndrome that he describes a psychic wound that cannot be healed, people turn to drugs.

Some communities were used as a test market for new drug ingredients. That certainly is our speculation about Nanaimo. Many people using illegal drugs are not aware that fentanyl is included in them and they get into terrible trouble.

In my community, I want to salute the many heros who have stepped up in the absence of provincial and federal leadership. They have saved a lot of lives, but it has been at a great personal cost to them. I am hugely grateful for their work. By supporting this bill, I hope we will get the support they need to do this very difficult job they have been given.

Another group that is such a hero in my community is AIDS Vancouver Island and the AVI Health Centre. Claire Dineen, the health promotion educator in Nanaimo, has led training for 800 people who are now trained in how to administer naloxone, which is the antidote to fentanyl. That woman has saved a lot of lives.

I also want to salute Dr. Paul Hasselback, who is the chief medical officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority. People are very lucky to have a man like him in our riding. When I meet with him, he has both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on his desk. That is a sign of a man who is fully integrated in his work and making change in our country. He wrote:

For the past four years, the riding that “you” represent has had rates of narcotic overdose fatalities that are some of the highest in the country....During this time close to one hundred of our neighbours, friends, and families have passed away from this preventable tragedy. In four years, overdoses have become a leading cause of preventable deaths in our community....an integrated approach to a community response has resulted in a much smaller increase in 2016 when compared to other BC communities. Action can save lives.

He went on in his letter to state:

When finally presented through actions of the province of BC with ways to implement overdose prevention sites where emergency response is available, the community has overwhelmingly embraced the service....Supervised consumption is to be recognized as a health service that can and should be provided in a variety of settings....We also need to look to the future and how to prevent drug addiction. Youth employment, affordable housing, meaningful community contributions are our best approach to engaging those that illicit drug predators would target as future consumers.

Action is needed now to mitigate this crisis, and needs to consider what could be done to reverse the recruitment of persons to experiment with potentially addictive drugs....While legislation is welcomed, it focused again predominantly on the enforcement side of the equation, permitting for harm reduction services. What actions will the federal government take in prevention and in facilitating treatment or at least research into effective treatment? What actions will the government take on engaging youth on drugs similar to past efforts to work on tobacco?

He finished by saying:

Family Day is a great day to remember that many of our friends and colleagues have personally been affected through a member of their family. I have many stories that I have heard that are gut wrenching efforts to help loved ones. There are also stories of success to be shared.

I have another success story from my riding. This is sent by a third-year biology student attending Vancouver Island University. He was one of the organizers of Vancouver's first unsanctioned supervised injection sites. When people were dying on the streets and we could not get provincial or federal support, Jeremy Kalicum and others took action, and he writes this description:

In short order, we established an unsanctioned supervised injection site equipped with harm reduction supplies, volunteer nurses, and naloxone. Our goal was to provide a judgment-free space that would allow people who use drugs to feel that their situation and struggles were not being ignored. Although people who use drugs were initially skeptical of our service they soon learned that we were not there to entrap them...[we] wanted them to be safe.

That facility is not operating now because the health authority opened a supervised injection site in the last few weeks.

I am proud that the New Democrats led the fight against the Conservatives' Bill C-2, which was absolutely damaging at the exact time we needed progressive action. I am glad the Liberals are bringing forward Bill C-37. It is overdue. We wanted it a year ago. We want the Liberals to call this a national emergency.

The war on drugs approach has clearly been a failure. Instead of stigmatizing and punishing Canadians who are suffering from substance abuse disorders, it is time for bold and compassionate leadership from the federal government. We need to rapidly expand proven harm reduction approaches, while making significant long-term investments in prevention and public addiction treatments of all kinds.

I urge Parliament to vote in favour of Bill C-37. I urge the government to accelerate its action in some of the other areas that New Democrats have identified, to view drug addiction as a health issue, and, most important right now, to send our thanks and support to the front-line responders who fill a tremendous gap in a time of true national emergency.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Vaudreuil—Soulanges
Québec

Liberal

Peter Schiefke Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth)

Mr. Speaker, today I will be talking about Bill C-37.

I rise today in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, which contains essential amendments to address the current opioid crisis as well as problematic substance use more generally.

Problematic substance use and addiction pose significant risks for individuals, families, and communities. Our government is committed to addressing this complex public health issue using an approach that protects public health and maintains public safety through drug policy that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based.

Problematic substance use and addiction pose significant risks for individuals, families, and indeed, communities. Our government is committed to addressing this complex public health issue using an approach that protects public health and maintains public safety through drug policy that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and most importantly, evidence based.

A comprehensive public health approach to this crisis must include harm reduction alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement. Harm reduction recognizes that not all individuals are ready, willing, or able to seek treatment for drug addiction. Those who for whatever reason are outside the treatment system deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Just like every other Canadian, their lives are valuable and they are worth saving.

Supervised consumption sites and other evidence-based harm reduction measures provide services to active drug users to help improve their health and prevent harms, including death. I know some members in the House talk about supervised consumption sites as controversial and say that they have well-grounded concerns about this portion of Bill C-37. Today, I want to address these concerns by discussing the evidence on supervised consumption sites. This evidence is available in peer-reviewed journals, including some of the most esteemed medical journals around the world. We are living in a time when opinions can somehow become facts simply by stating them in a public forum. This concerns me and it should concern everyone in the House.

As Canadians, we are lucky to have the most well-researched supervised consumption site in our own backyard, Insite. While supervised consumption sites have existed in Europe since the 1980s, the studies done on Insite produced specific, measurable evidence of the impact of this supervised consumption site on drug users and on the surrounding community. Insite began as a pilot project and was the focus of a significant scientific evaluation. Over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles came out of this evaluation, all of which demonstrated that Insite was achieving its objectives without having a negative impact on the surrounding community. I will not stand here and list off each of these studies, but I will mention a few.

For example, a 2004 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that in the 12 weeks after Insite opened, the number of drug users injecting in public and the number of publicly discarded syringes and injection-related litter were reduced as a direct result of Insite being there.

Further, a 2006 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that at least weekly use of Insite and any contact with the facility's addictions counsellors were both independently associated with people entering a detoxification program more quickly.

Finally, given the opioid crisis that we are currently facing, I want to highlight a 2011 study published in The Lancet. It found that fatal overdose rates in the area around Insite decreased by 35% after the opening of the site. This is compared to a decrease of only 9.3% in the rest of the city during the same time period.

Furthermore, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction indicates that the common concerns regarding supervised consumption sites, such as increases in crime and drug use, are simply not grounded in evidence.

It is clear from the research that supervised consumption sites can play an important role in a community's response to problematic drug use. However, this does not mean that supervised consumption sites should be opened without taking into account the needs of a community and public health and safety considerations through a thorough review of an application. Rather, it means that the application process should start from a place that acknowledges the evidence. Sites need to be properly established, considering the need for a site, community concerns, and local conditions that may influence the effectiveness of the site. They must be properly maintained to ensure clients continue to receive proper care and communities continue to have confidence in the service that is being provided.

It is understandable that Canadians may have questions and concerns regarding the establishment of such a site in their community. These sites are still relatively novel in North America. That is why consultation with communities plays an integral role in the success of a site.

The Supreme Court clearly recognized the importance of consulting with community members when establishing such facilities and included community support or opposition as one of the five key factors the Minister of Health must consider when assessing any application.

I do want to make one thing clear. Consultations are just one part of the application process. The government is committed to evidence-based decision-making. That means casting aside current ideological debate during discussions about drug use, taking all of the relevant information into account, and making informed, evidence-based decisions.

That is why Bill C-37 would replace the 26 criteria currently in the legislation with five factors described by the Supreme Court of Canada in Attorney General of Canada, et al. v. PHS Community Services Society, et al. in 2011.

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 also do so without compromising the health and safety of those operating the site, its clients, or the surrounding community. Removing the application criteria from legislation allows the government to maintain a thorough evidence-based application process that can be adapted and updated over time to reflect emerging science. At the same time, it would keep communities at the heart of applications and allow applicants to respond more quickly to emerging health issues.

For example, there would no longer be a requirement for applicants to submit evidence that supervised consumption sites are effective and have public health benefits. As I noted earlier, the evidence in this regard is clear. Instead, applicants would need to demonstrate the need for the site and the public health benefits of the proposed site for the local community. This change would help ensure that applicants considered their local context, including the needs of their community, when designing their proposed site.

This government is committed to making objective, transparent, and evidence-based decisions. With respect to supervised consumption sites, the evidence is clear: properly established and maintained sites can save lives without having a negative impact on the surrounding community.

I urge all members to support Bill C-37 so that we can move forward on addressing the opioid crisis through a comprehensive response that includes evidence-based harm reduction measures that help save lives.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to hear that the consultation was an integral part of the strategy and that the community was at the heart. However, all of the language around community consultation was removed from the bill.

Several amendments were also voted down. I will touch on some of them. One was regarding obtaining letters of support or opposition within a two-kilometre radius of a site. That was voted down. One was regarding identifying schools and day cares within a two-kilometre radius. That was voted down. One was regarding obtaining a letter of support or opposition from the mayor and council, or the police chief. That was voted against.

There is no criteria laid out within the bill, and I wonder where the integral part of community consultation within Bill C-37 is as it relates to the comments that my colleague has just made.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Peter Schiefke Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, one thing I can say is that this government takes this crisis very seriously. There are many aspects of Bill C-37 that are going to do some good across the country. We are ensuring that we are doing all that we can as a government to respond to this crisis.

There are two key components. One is to ensure that we provide the CBSA with the tools necessary to allow it to look at packages that are less than 30 grams that are coming in from the United States and elsewhere. This would make sure that the primary source of this product coming into our country is being addressed by the CBSA. The other component is to ensure that we register the pill pressers and other devices that are required to make some of these opioids.

We are taking a comprehensive approach, a wide-eyed view. I am very proud of the different initiatives that are included in Bill C-37. I will add that we are always looking at different ways that we can ensure we are doing right by Canadians, particularly youth who are affected by the opioid crisis. We are going to continue to look at different ways that we can help them.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Len Webber Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-37. The bill would amend the minister's powers and discretion when it comes to approving drug injection sites in communities across Canada. It would remove community safeguards and put these important decisions entirely in the hands of a single minister and not in the hands of the local community.

In an ideal world, we would not have to deal with the issue of drug addicts and where they choose to consume their deadly drugs, but we do. In an ideal world, drug abuse and the crime it causes in our communities would not be something we would have to face, but it is. In an ideal world, every addict would be on the road to recovery and the success rate would be 100%. That is just not the case. In reality, drug abuse has been around as long as anyone can remember, and it is getting worse. Literally, people are dying every day from their addiction and drug abuse.

Many years ago, before I entered politics, I served on the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, or AADAC. I served on it for a number of years. I learned a lot about drug addiction and the incredible pain that it causes. The experience there affirmed to me why we should never deal with drugs in a cavalier manner.

Canada already has good legislation in place to permit drug consumption sites or safe injection sites, whatever we want to call it, but let me stress before I continue that there is no such thing as a safe injection site as there is nothing safe about drug injection and the abuse of drugs.

The Liberals and the NDP claim that this current legislation is so onerous that no organization can succeed in getting the drug consumption site approved, yet we see that the government approved three of them in Montreal earlier this month. This proves the current legislation does strike a good balance.

Referring to the current legislation and its purpose, the Supreme Court of Canada has set out clear criteria that must be met before a drug consumption site can be approved. One pillar of the current Conservative legislation was strong community consultation, which the Supreme Court agreed was essential. These consultations were not meant as a way to prevent sites from opening, but rather to adhere to the advice of experts in the field and to respect the community that would eventually have to support such a facility.

Experts in drug addiction have testified before Parliament that for a drug consumption site to be effective and have any benefit, there must be a buy-in from the local community, a buy-in from the local law enforcement, and a buy-in from the local health officials.

Let us stop for a moment and explain what these sites are. These sites are a designated place where we allow people to cause harm to themselves while immune from the law of the land. They can shoot up with a deadly illegal drug as long as they do it at one of these sites. If they do the same thing a block away, they are breaking the law. We must ask ourselves, how do we allow certain people to break the law multiple times a day, and how do we square that with society's expectations as laid out in our criminal laws? How do we condone the use of illegal drugs as a society and then tell our kids that they are not good for them?

Very few people who are offered help at these injection sites ever accept an offer for treatment. They do not want to give up their highs and face the reality that awaits them. Of those who do enter treatment, even fewer see the program through. Of those who see the program through, even fewer actually stay clean.

I have had numerous conversations with addictions counsellors in the past, and many have told me that the reality is, finding someone they can take from a drug abuser status to a somebody clean status is like finding a needle in a haystack. They say that in reality, most of these people currently addicted to drugs will die from their addiction. They may die earlier in life. They may develop health-related issues. They may die while engaged in crime to feed their addiction or they may simply overdose.

These addiction counsellors say that these sites do save lives but then they question if they really do. If an addict's life is saved today or tomorrow or next week, but that individual dies the week after from an overdose, was that life really saved? The counsellors suggested that these consumption sites are therefore not really a conduit to treatment but rather facilities for self-destruction and abuse until the addiction wins the war on its victims. That is a sobering assessment of what we face.

Therefore, we really need to target the source of this problem as it appears rarely fixable after the fact. We need to prevent access to addictive substances before an addict develops. We need to stop the Liberal and NDP attitude of acceptance when it comes to drugs. Instead of campaigning to make drugs legal, those members should be campaigning to make it harder for folks to get introduced to the world of drugs. I along with my Conservative colleagues have been pushing for the Liberal government to tackle the root cause and that is the continuous flow of illegal drugs into our country and onto our streets.

I was appalled when all Liberal members voted down a motion I introduced a few months back in health committee to get the Chinese ambassador to come and tell us what his government is doing to prevent deadly drugs from being shipped into Canada, because 98% of illicit drugs come from China. Voting down that motion was disheartening and disgraceful. The Liberal government is more concerned about being friends with the Chinese government than it is with stopping the flow of deadly drugs on Canadian streets.

The Liberals and the NDP want to make it really easy to open up a drug consumption site by removing the safeguards, removing community consultations, and turning a blind eye to the effect it will have on the community. The NDP wants to remove all of the burden of proof from the applicants when it comes to opening up drug injection sites. It is funny. Those members want a less onerous application process for safe injection sites, yet they want to increase the burden on job-creating applicants when it comes to building pipelines. They argue that safe injection sites will save lives. I say that getting pipelines built will save lives as building them would reduce our escalating suicide rate in Alberta. High unemployment and the despair in our oil patch is also costing lives.

As I stated before, the experts are telling us that we need community buy-in for these facilities to be successful. Why do the Liberals and the NDP want to sneak these facilities into our communities without proper consultation?

Drug consumption sites do have some benefits. They allow us to hide our problems away from the streets and they do save addicts so that they can fuel their addiction for another day. In very few cases they also facilitate a path for recovery. Let us not kid ourselves and believe that there is a lot of light at the end of this tunnel. These sites do help keep things like dirty needles out of our parks. They do make it cheaper for the health care system to monitor and save some addicts. They do not reduce the drug problem in Canada. They do not stop people from becoming addicts. They very seldom get addicts off drugs. These sites do not curtail the profits for organized crime. They are not a silver bullet. They are one very weak tool in our fight against addiction and its deadly toll.

If we want these sites to have some positive benefit and improve outcomes then we need community buy-in and this is done through open, transparent, and exclusive consultations. Sadly, this is not what this bill would do. It would weaken the existing legislation. Therefore I must vote against it.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia 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.

Health
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

February 10th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Casey 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 Motion
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 1st, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Waterloo
Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Leader 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 Act
Government Orders

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

Conservative

Colin Carrie 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 reading
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet 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 reading
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Conservative

David Anderson 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 reading
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

NDP

Jenny Kwan 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 reading
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Liberal

Randeep Sarai 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 reading
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

NDP

Murray Rankin 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 Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Markham—Stouffville
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott Minister 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 Act
Government Orders

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

Jane Philpott Markham—Stouffville, ON

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abbotsford Police Deputy Chief Mike Serr stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Ron McKinnon Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

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

I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. My private member's bill, Bill C-224, the good Samaritan drug overdose act, is currently in the other place. Just like Bill C-37, it is just one piece in the harm reduction tool kit that would help to save lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

January 31st, 2017 / noon
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Liberal

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Randy Boissonnault Edmonton Centre, AB

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

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

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

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

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

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

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

Dianne Lynn Watts South Surrey—White Rock, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Julian New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

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

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

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

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

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Beaches—East York, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracey Ramsey Essex, ON

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

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

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

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

Dan Ruimy Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Ruimy Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

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

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

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

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

Dan Ruimy Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, 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.

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

Julie Dabrusin Toronto—Danforth, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

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

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

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

Bob Saroya Markham—Unionville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Saroya Markham—Unionville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

John Oliver Oakville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation 33 says:

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

Recommendation 34 says:

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

Recommendation 35 says:

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

Recommendation 36 says:

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

Finally, recommendation 37 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Oliver Oakville, ON

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

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

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

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

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

John Oliver Oakville, ON

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

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

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

Raj Grewal Brampton East, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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