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

Sponsor

Jane Philpott  Liberal

Status

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(f) add an administrative monetary penalties scheme;

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

(h) modernize inspection powers; and

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

November 9th, 2017 / 9:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Various analysts, including the Auditor General, have from time to time pointed to the need to improve our interdiction capacity at the border. There have been several comments made by the Auditor General in that regard.

As you know, in Bill C-37 we've also given the new authority to intensify inspections. Previously, inspections applied to items that were over 30 grams. Now we have the capacity to inspect items under 30 grams.

HealthOral Questions

November 2nd, 2017 / 2:45 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his work and his tireless efforts in this matter. Like him, I was extremely disappointed yesterday when I heard the opposition leader's outdated belief. Unlike the Conservatives, our government is actually supporting law enforcement where it matters. Rather than prosecuting those with mental health and addiction issues, we are disrupting illegal drugs at the border and diverting people out of the criminal justice system.

With Bill C-37 and C-224, our government is taking a compassionate, evidence-based approach to reduce barriers to treatment and encourage innovative measures to prevent overdoses and save lives.

HealthOral Questions

October 16th, 2017 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his advocacy on this issue. Our government has been very clear that this is a national public health crisis in Canada, and we are responding in a way that is collaborative, compassionate, and comprehensive.

In addition to passing Bill C-37, which streamlines the application process for supervised consumption sites, we are also providing over $10 million in urgent support to British Columbia to assist with its response to the opioid crisis.

Our government will continue to bring forward evidence-based solutions to help save lives in Canada.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2017 / 6 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today and speak in favour of the private member's bill put forward by my colleague, the member for Markham—Unionville. I want to thank the other members who have risen in the House today to speak on this important piece of legislation to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to increase sentences for offences related to the importing and exporting of controlled drugs and substances.

I want to be very clear. We have an opioid crisis. It is plaguing our communities. As legislators, we must take some sort of action. We heard from some of my colleagues earlier today on Bill C-37, which would give our border services agents additional tools to address things like illegal pill presses and to search small packages. Those are all steps to address what I think all of us in this House would agree is a plague that is impacting communities across the country.

Bill C-338 is another step for us as parliamentarians to give our law enforcement officers, as well as the judicial system, the tools they need to fight this opioid crisis that is unfortunately taking away our friends, neighbours, and, in some cases, our family.

I want to talk a little about what is going on in my home province of Alberta. My riding is almost completely rural. We have never seen something like this affect the communities in my riding for as long as most of us have been there. For example, in 2016 there were 338 accidental opioid deaths, and the 2017 numbers are predicted to be much worse.

I have a first nations community in my riding, the Kainai Blood first nation, which had to declare a state of emergency in 2016 because of the number of deaths they were facing in their community. Many of those were young people. About 80% of the deaths in Alberta were people 20 to 35 years old. These were young people who had their entire lives ahead of them.

We have to understand that we have to get away from that stereotype that these are somehow down-and-out people or those who have long-term drug addiction problems. Some of them may, but what is most frightening to me and to many of my colleagues in this House is that a large number of those who have died from these opioid overdoses were trying opioids for the first time, or had taken something else that unknown to them was laced with fentanyl or carfentanil.

My colleague across the floor was talking about trying to take marijuana out of the hands of children and out of the black market. Unfortunately, many of these deaths are from people smoking marijuana that has been laced with some of these very dangerous opioid products. It is disingenuous to say that the legislation brought forward by the Liberal government is going to take marijuana out of the hands of children. That is what concerns me on the approach to fentanyl.

If people are allowed to have four plants, three feet high, in their house, how is it possibly going to make it less accessible to children? For example, in Ontario the provincial Wynne government is saying it is going to look at the LCBO as the avenue or vehicle to sell marijuana. The odds of the LCBO selling marijuana at a cheaper price than what is available on the street is probably slim to none.

We have to take stronger action to address some of these issues. What is attractive in Bill C-338 is that it takes a hard line on those who are importing and exporting fentanyl and carfentanil and these other very harmful opioids. These products are flooding our communities. I would attest that there is not a community, not a constituency, not a riding anywhere in Canada that is immune to this opioid crisis.

I think those of us who are in western Canada, in B.C. and Alberta, felt it a little sooner than maybe the rest of the Canadian provinces and territories. It is certainly making its way across Canada. There are massive numbers of these fentanyl and carfentanil pills. I know some of it is from prescriptions, from pharmacy patients who are distributing or reselling these products, but the vast majority of it is being imported from out of the country. A lot of it is from China.

We have to take some very strong steps as parliamentarians to ensure that those who import these products face some very harsh punishment, as well as those who export them, even though we do not have as much control over that aspect of it.

I have been to far too many funerals over the last two or three years for young people who have overdosed on fentanyl. The last one I was at was for a young man who was 26 years old. I had known him for most of his life. I coached him in hockey. I certainly never expected something like that to happen. This is a life that was taken much too soon. I know the bill does not address some of the consequences of fentanyl and opioid abuse, but it certainly addresses some of the root causes of it. I am not saying we cannot focus on funding for mental health. That is a key part of this issue as well.

Certainly access to counselling, access to addictions counselling and recovery, those things are also very critical. I hope we have those discussions in Parliament moving forward. However, a big part of this is also on the justice side. What tools can we as parliamentarians give to our law enforcement and justice to ensure they can take hard action against people who import these products and then sell them in our neighbourhoods, schoolyards, and in communities across the country.

That is why as Conservatives we have taken such a hard stance on ensuring we have safe communities, mandatory sentencing, being tough on crime. As Canadians, we want to ensure we have safe communities, safe streets. I want to feel comfortable that my children are safe in my community. That is why it is so critical to do everything we can to stop the illegal importation of these drugs, methamphetamines, ecstasy, fentanyl. Again, we must provide our health services with the tools they need for mental health, resources on counselling, but we must ensure that those who import and sell these drugs face the harshest of punishments. They must be severely held accountable when they import these types of products.

I want to emphasize the fact that Bill C-338 does not talk about substance misuse. I do not want our friends across the floor to think we are not focusing on the consequences of drug addiction. That was a large issue with Bill C-37, which we talked about in the last session. We are talking about people who are bringing in these illegal substances into our country and making them available for sale and distribution in our communities. I recognize the importance of mental health services, but it is also to ensure we have the tools in place so those who import and sell these drugs face the most severe consequences.

The bill from my colleague from Ontario is one step, one tool in taking action against drug dealers.

We are facing an emergency. Drugs do not discriminate. It does not matter what age, gender, or how much money people make. These drugs are dangerous and unfortunately for many of us in the House we have seen they can kill our friends, neighbours, or loved ones.

It is important as parliamentarians that we take action. Canadians are looking to us to take strong action on the opioid crisis. I believe Bill C-338 brought forward by my colleague from Markham—Unionville is a key part of that strategy. It is one tool we can take to ensure our communities and our families are safe.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-338, which proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to increase mandatory minimum penalties, or MMPs, of imprisonment for offences relating to the importation and exportation of certain drugs and substances.

I would like to begin by commending my hon. colleague across the way for bringing forward this private member's bill. It will encourage and foster an ongoing and important discussion regarding how we best regulate controlled substances.

Let me also say that I have been listening carefully to the debate on Bill C-338 and I would like to echo the political and legal concerns that have already been raised, including the constitutional implications of this bill.

To start, it strikes me as inappropriate to provide the same MMP for substances that have vastly different levels of potency and danger. It is exactly this type of situation that the Supreme Court of Canada has raised concerns about in recent cases in which it struck down MMPs. I refer the House to the Supreme Court of Canada case in Regina v. Muir, in which the court cited R v. Lloyd in stating that “mandatory minimum sentences that...apply to offences that can be committed in various ways, under a broad range of circumstances...are vulnerable to constitutional challenge.”

Although the bill targets the importation of powerful opiates like fentanyl and carfentanil that are lethal in very small quantities, the increased MMPs would also apply to other substances like cannabis. Hon. members will recall that the government has introduced Bill C-45 and Bill C-46 to address and introduce a new comprehensive regime so that we can keep cannabis out of the hands of our youth and vulnerable communities.

Although a highly regulated substance, cannabis simply does not share the devastating qualities of fentanyl for instance. Suffice it to say that such differences are material from a sentencing and charter perspective, so it does not make sense to treat these two substances in the same way.

That said, there is no doubt that the increasing prevalence of potent opioids in our communities has sparked a public health crisis in Canada.

The onslaught of this deadly epidemic in Canada is twofold. First, the overdose crisis has been driven by the emergence of these powerful illicit opioids on the black market, leading to an unprecedented number of deaths among illegal drug users. This unfortunate reality is exacerbated by vile and deceitful drug dealers who mix these incredibly cheap yet highly addictive and potent substances with other more expensive drugs, for instance heroin or cocaine, in an effort to maximize their profits. The relative ease with which these opioids can be produced further compounds these problems.

A secondary contributing factor has been the high levels of addiction to legal opioids across Canada. This trend has been caused in part by inappropriate prescribing practices and poor education on the risks associated with opioid use.

Unfortunately, once prescription renewals expire, many individuals turn to the black market to supply their addiction. The demand that emanates from legal opioid addiction helps fuel the demand for such substances on the black market.

To effectively respond to the opioid crisis in Canada both contributing factors must be addressed. This is partly why I have strong reservations about the approach proposed in Bill C-338. It proposes an unnecessary, costly, and likely ineffective approach to a complex drug problem. The bill is focused on increasing MMPs for offenders engaged in importing and exporting instead of focusing on the root causes of this epidemic.

Evidentiary support is simply lacking to suggest that increasing MMPs in the way proposed by the bill will reduce the influx of these lethal drugs into Canadian communities. In fact, research on the “war on drugs” in the United States reveals that increased penalties do little to deter high-level drug traffickers from engaging in this lucrative criminal conduct, nor do they do anything to help those battling addictions. Health and criminal justice experts assert that addressing the demand side is critical to comprehensively responding to complex social problems like these.

The import and export offences targeted by Bill C-338 are already punishable by a maximum term of life in prison. In Canada, this is the highest penalty a judge can impose. In my personal experience as a drug prosecutor, our judges consistently use their discretion to impose stiff penalties if and when they are warranted. In fact, courts around the country are already treating fentanyl trafficking very seriously.

For example, in a recent decision this year, Regina v. Fyfe, the judge imposed a total sentence of five years' imprisonment on a low level first-time fentanyl trafficker. I would point out that this is two more years than the mandatory minimum jail sentence proposed by this private member's bill. In the decision, the court noted that an appropriate sentence for fentanyl trafficking must be more serious than other hard drugs, for example cocaine, given the substantial risks posed by this and similar opioids.

Moreover, appellate courts across the country are revisiting sentencing ranges for those who traffic in these dangerous substances, noting that previous ranges are “out of sync” with the dangers these substances pose to society. I offer and commend to the House the case of Regina v. Smith, decided by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2017.

I will pause to note that it is important that we reaffirm the fundamental principle of the independence of the judiciary as that imparts a high degree of confidence among the public that the judiciary will do their job.

Let me be clear. We are talking about an unprecedented number of fatal drug overdoses in Canada. Our government fully understands the gravity of the situation, and we continue to take action to address the problem. The policies put in place to deal with this crisis need to be guided by performance measurement standards and evidence. These policies must have an immediate impact in order to reduce the number of tragic deaths.

That is why I am so pleased that our government has introduced a new Canadian drug and substances strategy. The strategy focuses on prevention, treatment, and enforcement, but it also reinstates harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada's drug policy. The strategy champions a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy.

To further advance this strategy, the Minister of Health introduced Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments under other acts. Together, these will address the serious and pressing public health issues related to opioids. That bill has now received royal assent, which is something all members in the House should celebrate.

This legislative response is one important part of our government's comprehensive approach to drug policy in Canada. Bill C-37 will simplify and streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites, clamp down on illegal pill presses, and extend the authority of border officers to inspect suspicious small packages coming into Canada, which is precisely the object of what this private member's bill tries to address.

In relation to this last point, extending the inspection powers of the CBSA officers is important, because one standard-sized envelope can contain 30 grams of fentanyl, potent enough to cause 15,000 overdoses. These numbers will increase exponentially where the substance in question is carfentanil.

In addition, our government is also investing over $100 million to support the new Canadian drugs and substances strategy. This is in addition to $10 million in emergency support that the federal government has provided to the province of British Columbia to assist in responding to the overwhelming number of overdoses.

While the private member's bill is well intentioned, its objectives will not be accomplished through the provisions set out in it. This is for all the reasons I have stated in my remarks. I therefore encourage all members to vote this private member's bill down and continue to support all the good work our government is doing with regard to controlled substances.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

moved:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, commencing upon the adoption of this Order and concluding on Friday, June 23, 2017:

(a) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12:00 a.m., except that it shall be 10:00 p.m. on a day when a debate, pursuant to Standing Order 52 or 53.1, is to take place;

(b) subject to paragraph (e), when a recorded division is demanded in respect of a debatable motion, including any division arising as a consequence of the application of Standing Order 61(2) or Standing Order 78, but not including any division in relation to the Business of Supply or arising as a consequence of an order made pursuant to Standing Order 57, (i) before 2:00 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at that day’s sitting, or (ii) after 2:00 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, or at any time on a Friday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at the next sitting day that is not a Friday;

(c) notwithstanding Standing Order 45(6) and paragraph (b) of this Order, no recorded division requested after 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, 2017, or at any time on Friday, June 23, 2017, shall be deferred, except for any recorded division which, under the Standing Orders, would be deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business on Wednesday, September 20, 2017;

(d) the time provided for Government Orders shall not be extended pursuant to Standing Order 45(7.1) or Standing Order 67.1(2);

(e) when a recorded division, which would have ordinarily been deemed deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business on a Wednesday governed by this Order, is demanded, the said division is deemed to have been deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday;

(f) any recorded division which, at the time of the adoption of this Order, stands deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business on the Wednesday immediately following the adoption of this Order shall be deemed to stand deferred to the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday;

(g) a recorded division demanded in respect of a motion to concur in a government bill at the report stage pursuant to Standing Order 76.1(9), where the bill has neither been amended nor debated at the report stage, shall be deferred in the manner prescribed by paragraph (b);

(h) for greater certainty, this Order shall not limit the application of Standing Order 45(7);

(i) no dilatory motion may be proposed after 6:30 p.m.;

(j) notwithstanding Standing Orders 81(16)(b) and (c) and 81 (18)(c), proceedings on any opposition motion shall conclude no later than 5:30 p.m. on the sitting day that is designated for that purpose, except on a Monday when they shall conclude at 6:30 p.m. or on a Friday when they shall conclude at 1:30 p.m.; and

(k) when debate on a motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing, standing joint or special committee is adjourned or interrupted, the debate shall again be considered on a day designated by the government, after consultation with the House Leaders of the other parties, but in any case not later than the twentieth sitting day after the interruption.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to government Motion No. 14. For the benefit of members, the motion would extend the sitting of the House until we rise for the summer adjournment.

We have much to accomplish in the coming weeks. Our government has an ambitious legislative agenda that we would like to advance in order to deliver on the commitments we made to Canadians in the last election. Let me reflect on our recent legislative achievements before I turn to the important work that lies before us over the next four weeks.

In our last sitting week, the House and Senate were able to reach agreement on securing passage of Bill C-37, which would put in place important measures to fight the opioid crisis in Canada. I would like to thank members of the House for the thoughtful debate on this bill and for not playing politics with such an important piece of legislation. In particular, I would like to thank members of the New Democratic Party for co-operating with the government to advance this bill when it was in the House and for helping us dispense with amendments from the Senate. This was a high watermark for the House and I hope that we can take this professional and courteous approach forward. I would also like to thank senators for their important contributions to this bill.

I would also like to point out the passage of two crucial bills related to trade. The first, Bill C-30, would implement an historic trade agreement with the European Union. The second, Bill C-31, would implement a trade agreement with Ukraine, a country that is dear to many members.

I am proud that our government continues to open the doors to trade and potential investment in Canada to grow our economy and help build a strong middle class.

In looking forward to the next four sitting weeks, I would like to highlight a few priority bills that our government will seek to advance. I will start with Bill C-44, which would implement budget 2017. This bill is about creating good middle-class jobs today while preparing Canadians for the jobs of tomorrow.

I will provide some examples of the initiatives that will contribute to building a strong middle class. The budget makes smart investments to help adult workers retain or upgrade their skills to adapt to changes in the new economy and to help young people get the skills and work experience they need to start their careers.

The budget also provides for investments in the well-being of Canadians, with the emphasis on mental health, home care, and health care for indigenous peoples.

Bill C-44 would provide financing to the provinces for home care and mental health care. It would also create leave for those who wish to care for a critically ill adult or child in their family. These initiatives help build stronger communities.

I would also like to point to initiatives in the budget that deal with gender equality. The first-ever gender statement will serve as a basis for ongoing, open, and transparent discussions about the role gender plays in policy development. Our government has other initiatives that aim to strengthen gender equality. For example, Bill C-25 encourages federally regulated companies to promote gender parity on boards of directors and to publicly report on the gender balance on these boards.

Another bill, which I will discuss in greater detail later in my remarks, is Bill C-24, a bill that would level the playing field to ensure a one-tier ministry. The bill has a simple premise. It recognizes that a minister is a minister, no matter what portfolio he or she holds.

Our government has committed to legalizing and strictly regulating the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis. I look forward to the debate on this important bill tomorrow. I will note that the bill would provide strong safeguards and deterrents to protect young people from enticements to use or access cannabis.

The government has taken a responsible approach in seeking to legalize cannabis by ensuring that law enforcement agencies have approved methods to test the sobriety of drivers to guard against cannabis use while operating a motorized vehicle. This afternoon, the House will continue to debate this bill, which, I will happily note, has support from all opposition parties in the House. I hope that we can agree to send this bill to committee on Wednesday.

Now I would like to return to our government's commitment to improving gender equality. Bill C-24, which stands in my name, seeks to formalize the equal status of the ministerial team. This bill is very straightforward in its nature. It is fundamentally about the equality of all ministers. We strongly believe that the Minister of Status of Women should be a full minister. We believe that the Minister of Science and the Minister of Democratic Institutions should be full ministers.

I am disappointed that the Conservatives do not share this fundamental belief in equality. I think we should send this bill to committee for a detailed study of what the bill actually does.

I would like to draw members' attention to another piece of legislation, Bill C-23, regarding an agreement with the United States on the preclearance of persons and goods between our two countries.

This bill is currently being studied by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The principle of the bill is simple. It is about ensuring a more efficient and secure border by expanding preclearance operations for all modes of transportation. This will increase the number of trips and the volume of trade, which will strengthen both of our economies.

As members may know, preclearance operations currently take place at eight Canadian airports, and immigration pre-inspection is also conducted at multiple locations in British Columbia in the rail and marine modes.

Once that bill comes back from committee, I hope that we can work together to send it to the other place.

In our last sitting week, our government introduced comprehensive modernization of our transportation systems. A strong transportation system is fundamental to Canada's economic performance and competitiveness. Bill C-49 does just that. The bill would enhance the utility, efficiency, and fluidity of our rail system so that it works for all participants in the system. Freight rail is the backbone of the Canadian economy. It moves everything from grain and potash to oil and coal, to the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the food we eat.

I would also like to draw to the attention of members provisions in Bill C-49 that would strengthen Canada's air passenger rights. While the precise details of the air passenger rights scheme will be set out in regulations, the objective is that rights should be clear, consistent, transparent, and fair for passengers and air carriers.

Finally, our government committed to creating a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. Bill C-22 seeks to accomplish two interrelated goals, ensuring that our security intelligence agencies are effective in keeping Canadians safe, while at the same time safeguarding our values, rights and freedoms, and the open, generous, inclusive nature of our country.

I appreciate the work that was done in the House committee to improve the bill. The bill is currently before the Senate national security committee, and I look forward to appearing before that committee with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Sitting a few extra hours for four days per week will also give the House greater flexibility in dealing with unexpected events. While it is expected that the Senate will amend bills, it is not always clear which bills and the number of bills that could be amended by the Senate. As we have come to know, the consideration of Senate amendments in the House takes time. This is, in part, why we need to sit extra hours. I know that members work extremely hard balancing their House duties and other political duties. I expect that extending the hours will add to the already significant workload.

I wish to thank members for their co-operation in these coming weeks. As I reflect upon my time as government House leader, there were examples where members of the House came together, despite their political differences, and advanced initiatives that touched directly upon the interests of all Canadians. I hope that over the four remaining sitting weeks before we head back to work in our ridings, we can have honest and frank deliberations on the government's priorities and work collaboratively to advance the agenda that Canadians sent us here to implement.

In the previous Parliament, when the government decided to extend the sittings in June of 2014, Liberal members supported that motion. We knew then, as we know now, that our role as legislators is a privilege, and we discharge our parliamentary functions in support of our constituents.

There will be initiatives that the government will bring forward over the coming weeks that will enjoy the support of all members, and there will be issues on which parties will not agree. Our comportment during this time will demonstrate to Canadians that we are all in this together, despite our differences, for the good of this great country. Let us not lose sight of that.

I believe the motion before the House is reasonable. I hope opposition members can support sitting a few extra hours for four days a week for the next few weeks to consider important legislation for Canadians.

May 18th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 18, 2017

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that Ms. Patricia Jaton, Deputy Secretary to the Governor General, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 18th day of May, 2017, at 10:32 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace

The schedule indicates the bill assented to Thursday, May 18, 2017 was Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

Message from the Senate

May 18th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has concurred in the amendment made by the House of Commons to amendment No. 1(b) to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, without amendment.

HealthOral Questions

May 16th, 2017 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising this issue again in the House. Again, we will talk about the fact that this is an unprecedented national public health crisis. We are working determinedly on all aspects of the crisis. Our response is comprehensive. We have invested money in prevention. We are investing money in treatment. We are scaling up access to all ranges of treatment, including pharmaceutical grade diacetylmorphine. We are making sure we are expanding harm reduction sites, including the passage of Bill C-37 in the House yesterday, to make sure people will have harms reduced. We will continue to work at all levels to save the lives of Canadians.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

May 15th, 2017 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year in question period, I asked the government for immediate action on the opioid crisis. I said that we cannot afford to wait for Bill C-37 to wind its way through the parliamentary process. Ironically, months later, while this legislation has made progress, it has not yet received royal assent.

At the time, I asked the government to provide immediate and direct support to communities like those I represent in Essex which continue to grapple with this public health emergency. Unfortunately, this crisis continues to spiral. Front-line workers do not have the resources that they need. People in my community are frustrated and angry by the lack of response from the government.

Earlier today, the Minister of Health spoke about emergency funding to B.C. and Alberta. I would like to remind her that communities across Canada need emergency funding. Small communities especially are struggling to deal with this issue when there is not a holistic plan. We need care in this country that sees people from detox through transition and into rehab. That is very difficult to find in small communities. We need the government to step up with the resources necessary to bring this crisis under control.

In my riding of Essex, youth addiction is a significant issue. In fact, our county has the seventh highest rate of youth addiction in the province. People in law enforcement feel that their hands are tied and they are stuck in the cycle as well. They pick up the same person, bring him or her to the hospital, and then the person is back on the street again. They want to be part of the solution, but there is currently no way for them to participate in that.

Families are feeling desperate. When a loved one experiences an addiction, the parents and the family struggle so much. It is life or death. They try to support their loved one in getting help, but there are so many gaps in the system that it often feels like the system is working against them. Families are doing all they can to help each other.

This morning I spoke with a woman from my riding who was trying to help another family save their child. Fortunately, she was able to get her daughter into treatment and her daughter is healthy today, but this is not the case for everyone. If it were not for Narconon and family support systems that are popping up, we would have no formal way for people to be able to find out what treatment is available to them.

When someone with an addiction is ready to detox and then go to rehab, it is often the beginning of a frustrating experience of running up against the common problems of lack of beds, long wait lists, and a complete lack of resources. People with addictions simply cannot get the help they need and sadly, this can have tragic consequences. People not being able to get into help is heartbreaking.

I have met with some of these families. They have visited me in my office. It is a very emotional conversation with people who are struggling to get their loved ones the help that they need. I have heard their pain and sorrow, and more often, their frustration and anger. When families tell me that their only hope is that their loved one will somehow end up in jail so that their loved one can get the treatment that he or she needs, this tells us how incredibly broken our system is.

Since I held a round table several months ago, seven more people have died in our region due to opioid addictions. I implore the government to revisit its five point plan and reconsider the level of resources that this public health crisis deserves. I would like to ask what the government can offer to rural communities like those in Essex to assist with strengthening the response to the opioid crisis.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 6:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the amendments tabled by the Senate to Bill C-37 now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to discuss the amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

I would like to start my remarks by thanking the Standing Committee on Health, and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as well as members of both Houses of Parliament for their time and expertise in the review of Bill C-37.

This bill proposes a number of amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and other acts, to support our government's efforts to address the current opioid crisis, as well as problematic substance abuse more generally. I will focus my remarks on Bill C-37 and the opioid crisis in Canada.

Canada is in a public health crisis due to an increasing number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths. The reality is that individuals, families, and communities across Canada are losing loved ones to this crisis, and it is more and more likely that the majority of Canadians know someone, directly or indirectly, who has been impacted.

Until very recently, only British Columbia and Alberta regularly reported on opioid overdoses and deaths. While I cannot speak about a national picture of overdoses and deaths due to drug substances, it is clear that the numbers we do have are rising. For example, in British Columbia, 931 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, an increase of 80% from 2015. In Alberta, 343 fentanyl-related deaths occurred in 2016, an increase of 33% from 2015.

According to Ontario's chief medical officer of health, approximately one in every 170 deaths in Ontario is related to opioid overdose. Furthermore, we all see the severity, through daily news articles that outline the number of overdoses and deaths from the night before. The news cannot be ignored. People are suffering and people are dying.

Our government has already taken many actions to date to address this crisis. These actions include commitments in the areas of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement, all supported by strong evidence-based and targeted public health emergency response.

In addition, recognizing that provinces, territories, and other stakeholders have an important role to play, the Minister of Health co-hosted an opioid conference and summit in November 2016, which brought together a broad range of stakeholders for a national dialogue on actions to address and reduce the harms related to opioid use in Canada.

In December 2016, the Canadian drugs and substances strategy was introduced, replacing the national anti-drug strategy with a balanced and health-focused approach. Also, Health Canada funded the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre, at McMaster University, to lead a project to update the Canadian guideline for safe and effective use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, which was published this May. The goal of the updated guidelines is to maximize the benefits of opioid therapy for chronic non-cancer pain, while reducing the risk of harm.

Bill C-37 was introduced on December 12, 2016. As mentioned, it proposes a number of amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and other acts to support our government's efforts to address the current opioid crisis, as well as problematic substance use more generally. For example, it makes important proposed changes to the establishment of supervised consumption sites. Currently, supervised consumption sites are governed by the Respect for Communities Act. This act requires that applicants interested in establishing supervised consumption sites address 26 criteria in their application. Further, to renew an exemption for an existing site, the same 26 criteria must be addressed, as well as information related to two additional criteria.

Many experts agree that this administrative burden makes it difficult for supervised consumption sites to be created in communities that need them.

Evidence guides our government's current approach to drug policy, and Canadian and international research shows that when properly established and maintained, supervised consumption sites can and do save lives and indeed improve health. Without compromising the health and safety of those operating the site, its clients, or its surrounding community, Bill C-37 proposes to relieve the administrative burden on communities seeking to establish a supervised consumption site.

Rather than 26 criteria, Bill C-37 proposes five factors to be included in applications. These factors examine the impact on crime rates, the local conditions indicating need, the regulatory structure in place to support the facility, the resources available to support its maintenance, and the expressions of community support or opposition. Streamlining the application and renewal process and adding in a new transparency provision means that applicants can be assured that the process will not cause unreasonable delay. If assented to, Bill C-37 would support the establishment of supervised consumption sites by showing communities that their voices would be heard and that each application would be subject to a comprehensive review.

Also, for renewals, a new application would no longer be required. Instead, a renewal would simply be requested by informing Health Canada of any changes to the information that was submitted as part of the site's last application. If a community is benefiting from an existing supervised consumption site, then why would the federal government make it burdensome for their application to be renewed?

The Senate has adopted amendments to Bill C-37 that focus on further involving the public in their input regarding supervised consumption sites. Our government supports one of those amendments fully, the amendment to establish a minimum consultation period of 45 days when the minister chooses to post a public notice of consideration in cases where there may be extenuating circumstances.

However, our government does not support the second amendment, which is to allow for citizen advisory committees for supervised consumption sites. By setting out a mechanism for oversight that does not apply to any other health service, this would add stigma to the use of harm reduction services at a time when the focus needs to be on saving lives.

Finally, our government seeks to amend the provision requiring an offer of alternative pharmaceutical treatment at supervised consumption sites. While we share the goal of improving access to treatment, the mandatory wording could pose an additional burden to applicants seeking to establish supervised consumption sites. I repeat that this cannot be risked during such a time of urgent need.

Bill C-37 also contains additional provisions to reduce the availability and harm of street drugs. Another pressing aspect of the opioid crisis is that street drugs are being made more and more potent as they are being laced with fentanyl. Illegal fentanyl, often imported, is increasingly available, and overdoses are occurring when individuals are not aware of the potency of the substances they are using. This includes counterfeit pills made using pill presses and encapsulators. Currently, these devices can be and are legally imported into Canada by anyone, with no specific regulatory requirements.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, last month brought with it a grim reminder for those struggling on the front lines of Canada's opioid crisis. April 14 was the one year anniversary of British Columba provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall's decision to declare the overdose epidemic a public health emergency in British Columbia. Unfortunately, despite a year of amplified efforts from municipalities, health professionals, and community volunteers, the overdose epidemic is getting worse across Canada, not better.

The first week of May marked the second time in less than a month that Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services reported more than 150 overdose calls in a week, responding to 168 calls. Vancouver police reported seven suspected overdose deaths for the same period.

That brings Vancouver's total to 148 lives lost to overdose so far in 2017, with 41 alone in April. Only January, with 47 suspected overdose fatalities, was deadlier in the history of British Columbia. The city is on pace to reach 400 overdose deaths this year, double the 2016 number, which was in itself a record. Overall, the province of British of Columbia is on pace for 1,400 overdose deaths in 2017; that again would be a 50% increase over last year.

In April, B.C.'s first responders once again broke the record for suspected overdose calls in a single day. BC Emergency Health Services says it responded to 130 suspected overdoses in the province on Wednesday, April 26, mere weeks ago. The previous record was 121, and that was on November 20, 2016.

Early in 2015, Downtown Eastside fire Hall No. 2 answered about 50 overdose calls a month. By December 2016, that had jumped to 438 as the opioid crisis deepened, according to data released by the city of Vancouver.

In total, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services reported 688 overdose calls in April, the highest on record this year and a 22% increase from March. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services has now capped the time spent by firefighters at Hall No. 2 at one year to limit their emotional and physical burnout.

Vancouver's mayor Gregor Robertson has said he feels “incredible frustration and anger” at the preventable loss of life, and directed his comments at the federal and provincial governments. He said, “This crisis is B.C.’s most tragic public health emergency in decades, and yet urgent health-care interventions that could immediately save lives are not being facilitated.” City councillor Raymond Louie has described the situation as a disaster.

As the death toll increasingly mounts, it is difficult to understand exactly what the federal government is waiting for or how it can claim progress is being made. It is time for Ottawa to stop overstating this progress and start responding to this crisis with the urgency and resources that it deserves.

Despite repeated NDP attempts to fast-track Bill C-37, the Senate delayed this critical life-saving legislation for three months. That is unacceptable in the midst of a national public health emergency.

In Canada, we had over 2,000 overdose deaths last year. That is an average of six Canadian lives lost every day. This means that in the past three months, while this bill has languished in the Senate, we should expect that at least 500 Canadians have died, perhaps preventable deaths, due to overdoses. However, given the escalation in fatal overdose rates so far in 2017, that number is likely even higher.

On the first day that the Vancouver-based facility Insite opened, it reversed 15 overdoses. Not all of those people would have died of course, but odds are that some of them would have if those overdoses had happened out on the street. Indeed, we have over a decade of clear and overwhelming evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives. There is not a shred of credible evidence to substantiate the baseless fearmongering that has shrouded this debate for too long.

Today, there will be 600 supervised injections at Insite and not one of them will result in a fatal overdose. No one has ever died of an overdose at Insite since it opened in 2003. In the immediate area around Insite, the 40 block area surrounding the facility, there has been a 35% decline in overdose deaths. People who use Insite on a regular basis are 30% more likely to enter addiction treatment.

The three months this bill unnecessarily was held up in the Senate has cost lives in our country, and that should be condemned.

In the end, I cannot imagine a more irresponsible way to respond to a health crisis than by wasting our time rehashing a settled debate on the efficacy of supervised consumption sites, when every day we delay their approval means more overdoses and more lives lost. Yet, after three months of delay, the Senate has now returned the bill to the House with three problematic amendments, motivated by those who, based on a narrow ideology, are opposed to supervised consumption sites, reject the clear evidence they save lives, and really want to obstruct or delay their opening.

These amendments, and the concepts behind them, were specifically raised, debated and rejected at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. They are not evidence based, they represent poor public health policy, and they are contrary to the very intent of the legislation.

I will deal with amendment 1.

Before it was amended, the bill set out a maximum 90-day consultation period with the public in order to allow the public to have its say on the site and location of the supervised consumption site. The amendment by the senators proposes to put in a minimum 45-day public consultation for these applications. There is only one reason someone would want to put in a minimum time for public consultations, and that is to slow down an application for a supervised injection site.

There is no doubt that this amendment, were it to pass, will slow down the approval process and hinder quick action in the case of emergency where we may have to open supervised consumption sites very quickly, as have volunteers and activists on the ground in Vancouver as we speak. Some people in Vancouver have opened what are called “overdose prevention clinics”, right now operating courageously outside the law because they know they are saving lives. They are risking their professional credentials. They are risking being arrested. They are risking running afoul of the law. However, they are not waiting around for an application to be approved by the minister. We have had none approved over the last several years, other than this weekend when finally two were approved in Montreal. They are opening these sites to save lives now, yet this amendment, which the Conservatives have put in, would delay the opening of a site even in an emergency basis. I will get to this in a moment, but to their everlasting disgrace, the Liberal government will support that.

Amendment 2 proposes that the minister may appoint a citizen advisory committee for each supervised consumption site. This is unnecessary and redundant because community consultation is already a core criterion in the main part of the bill. The amendment is an attempt to delay supervised consumption sites and try to create public opposition to them. Last, site decisions should be health based. Community input, as I have already stated, is already provided for in the body of the bill.

Finally, amendment 3 would require a person who is operating a safe injection site to offer what is called “alternative pharmaceutical therapy” to each person entering that facility before the person consumes a controlled substance. First, that provision is very likely unconstitutional and outside the power of the federal government. Second, it is unnecessary because treatment options are already part of harm reduction facilities. Had any of those senators bothered to go to Insite and tour that facility, they would have been told that all over that facility anyone entering it is exposed to treatment modalities of all types. Third, such an amendment would be counterproductive because it could have the effect of discouraging some clients from entering and using supervised consumption sites.

Do not take my word for it. When Bill C-37 was being debated before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, the Liberal members of that committee said what I just said.

The Liberal member for Oakville cautioned the committee. He said:

...it's really important that we remember what we're doing here. This isn't designing the treatment programs and the whole care model around people with drug addictions. That's the province's responsibility.... What we're doing here is deciding who would be exempted from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act because of medical conditions.

On the 45-day minimum consultation, the Liberal member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley told the committee:

I have a very quick point to the question that was asked about what the harm would be in 45 days [as a minimum consultation period] and whether it would matter.

The question I would ask in return is if there's an urgent enough need....the day that Insite opened, they reversed 15 overdoses. Multiply that by 45 potential deaths. Does that matter? I would say it does.

The Liberal member for Calgary Skyview reminded the committee of this. He said:

Time is of the essence when we are setting up these clinics. This amendment will constrain or tie the minister's hands for 45 days in terms of taking any action. Look at all the lives that may be lost in that delay.

Those are my comments.

It will be interesting to see if those members of the health committee, who sat with me when we heard from witnesses about the opioid overdose crisis due to a New Democrat amendment to study that very issue, will stand and vote with the New Democrats in opposing these three amendments that are contrary to the intent of the bill and actually make opening supervised consumption sites more difficult or more difficult for clients to access.

Those on the front lines of this crisis are unanimously opposed to these amendments because they know that they will delay the opening of critical public health facilities. Canada's New Democrats will stand with them, because we support sound, evidence-based health policy. We support these critical public health facilities that save lives. We therefore oppose these ill-advised amendments and we are deeply disappointed that the Liberal government would ignore evidence-based decision-making by agreeing to support any of them.

There is no reason to believe that this crisis is over, under control, or indeed will not continue to get worse with the proliferation of carfentanil in our communities. We need to fast-track the opening of supervised consumption sites and expand opioid substitution programs. We need better pain management regimens and substantial investments in addictions treatment across the board. These are needed to start the tectonic shift to transform how we think about addiction and to create better policies to address it after a decade of moralizing and criminalizing what is a public health issue.

First we must make long-term investments in mental health programs and addictions research. Canadian mental health experts, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, do not yet have an explicit understanding of the relationship between drug and mental health issues. Research identifying these associations will aid in defining the upstream mental health factors contributing to substance misuse. These factors can form the foundation of targeted and proactive mental health strategies, including community-based treatment and support programs for youth, indigenous people, women, and any other group that requires special support. Research shows that 70% of mental illness begins in childhood or adolescence, and those suffering are twice as likely to have a substance use problem.

In addition, national tracking of co-morbidity of mental illness and drug-related fatalities, similar to what is done in the U.S. and Australia, would enable faster access and a better understanding of trends for use in the development of targeted solutions.

In short, we need to know more, we need to invest more, and we need to devote more efforts to acquire the science and knowledge to address this public health crisis.

Second, we need substantial investments in addictions treatment across the board, and by that I mean significant new funding by all levels of government, in a myriad of modalities, for all distinct populations.

I will stop and point out that my Liberal colleague mentioned the $10 million given by the Minister of Health to British Columbia. That was in 2016. The current 2017 budget tabled in this House devotes zero dollars to address the emergency opioid overdose crisis in this country.

There is currently an unacceptably narrow portal for access to detox services and an appalling lack of publicly funded longer-term treatment beds. In Vancouver, where I have the privilege of representing a riding, it takes an average of eight days to access detox services. That is directly contrary to everything we know about addiction. If someone is willing to get treatment, we have to get them into treatment right away. If we wait even a day, that moment is usually lost.

In truth, effective treatment is really only available to those who can pay or are desperate enough to go into debt to access it. It is not unusual to have to pay $10,000 or more a month to receive timely access to quality addiction treatment facilities in Canada, a shocking gap in our so-called universal heath care system.

This has to change, and we must start building the infrastructure to provide universal access to essential health services for everyone suffering from substance use disorder. Different treatment modalities are needed for different populations, including treatment centres for youth, women, men, and indigenous Canadians. They must be built like any other health care facility and cover treatment for existing ones. It is time to start treating addiction as a bona fide health issue, and that means public coverage for effective treatment universally delivered.

Third, much of the opioid dependence and addiction phenomenon has been driven by millions of Canadians who cannot find effective treatment for chronic pain. This must be acknowledged and addressed.

Access to multidisciplinary pain management programs such as physiotherapy, weight loss, nutrition, massage, and counselling have been shown to improve pain treatment outcomes, as well as reduce the inappropriate use of pain medications, including reliance on opioids, which are highly addictive. Multidisciplinary management of chronic pain also has the potential to produce significant cost savings in health care expenditure by restoring lost workplace productivity and reducing hospitalization.

Access to effective interdisciplinary chronic pain treatment currently varies widely by province and territory, is particularly lacking in rural areas, and wait times are long. The cost is often prohibitive, as visits to non-physician health professionals are paid through private sector insurance or usually out of pocket. Therefore, we must prioritize the development of these chronic pain centres by supporting provincial and territorial efforts to establish and expand these programs.

Fourth, we must expand alternative treatments for people with chronic opioid addictions who are not benefiting sufficiently from available treatments such as oral methadone. For example, the SALOME study found that patients receiving medically-prescribed heroin, or diacetylmorphine, are more likely to live longer than someone receiving methadone maintenance therapy, more likely to stabilize their lives, and more likely to seek long-term treatment. Despite this, Vancouver's Providence Crosstown Clinic remains the only harm reduction treatment centre in North America where diacetylmorphine is used for treating long-term users.

This has to change, and change now. We need to encourage the opening of medically prescribed diacetylmorphine facilities across the country and ensure access to this phenomenally successful program to everyone who qualifies for and wants it. Let us be realistic. These policy initiatives will require a substantial allocation of resources after being chronically underfunded, indeed some actively opposed, by successive federal governments.

I have returned to the House day after day, month after month, and now year after year to push the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health to see the shocking scale of human suffering involved with this crisis, each time with news of a new horrifying record-breaking number for overdose deaths in my home city, province, and now across the country. On this point, I feel I must be blunt. Canadians' patience with the Liberal government has become exhausted. They no longer wish to listen to platitudes while Canadians continue to die.

Prior to the release of the last budget, the Prime Minister travelled to Vancouver and promised the crisis would no longer be ignored. He pledged, “There are no barriers to the federal government being able to do exactly what it needs to do. We will ensure resources are available”. Shockingly, budget 2017 fails to allocate the resources necessary. As former vice-president Joe Biden used to say, “Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”

While the Liberals may pay lip service to progressive values, their funding decisions do not back them up. That is why at a recent town hall forum the Prime Minister was called out by harm-reduction worker Zoe Dodd, who accused his government of not going far enough to combat this epidemic, saying, “We need millions of dollars. I am a frontline worker who has not been on the job for the last six weeks because people keep dying around me, and I'm completely traumatized.”

These overdoses are not merely statistics. They are someone's son, daughter, sister, or brother. They are someone's mother or father, aunt, uncle, cousin, or colleague. They may even be someone we know. It is time the House came together and gave them the support they need.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-37 was introduced in the House in December, and here we are in May. I think questions about the delay of this legislation coming forward are quite legitimate.

My friend and colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, has stood in this House as the NDP health critic, and in public, on numerous occasions and has asked the health minister and the Liberal government why they have not used the resources of the federal government to declare a national health emergency under the Emergencies Act. We still have not received a good answer. If we had 40 to 50 Canadians a week dying from Ebola or Zika viruses, there would be no hesitation in this House or by the government in mobilizing the resources it has at its disposal.

I would like to know why the government has not entertained the idea of enacting a national health emergency to give this crisis, and he has referred to it as a crisis, the resources it needs and demands.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the House today with respect to amendments adopted in the Senate to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. I will take this opportunity to thank the Senate, the House, and their committees for their hard work in studying this bill.

I will never forget last summer, when over one weekend in July, the city of Surrey had more than 60 fentanyl overdoses within a 48-hour stretch. This was a wake-up call for residents of Surrey—Newton and many across all of Surrey, as it shed light on how bad the opiate addiction crisis had become.

Following that horrible 48-hour stretch, my office called for an immediate emergency summit. The summit was attended by representatives of all three levels of government, including Surrey-based members of Parliament and members of the Legislative Assembly, irrespective of their political stripes. We gathered together front-line workers, such as Darlene Bowyer of the Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities, Shayne Williams of Lookout Emergency Aid Society, and Brenda Locke and Mike Musgrove of Surrey Urban Mission.

We had health care officials, such as Dr. Mark Tyndall of the UBC Centre for Disease Control; Shovita Padhi representing Fraser Health authority; and Clayton Pecknold, director of police services, representing the law enforcement community; and Tonia Enger, B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

We listened that day to the stories of those who were dealing with this crisis first-hand, every day of the week. We heard about how fentanyl is an opiate narcotic that is prescribed for cancer patients to treat their pain. I learned about how it is 100 times more toxic than morphine and how it was responsible for more than half of the overdoses that occurred in British Columbia in 2015.

There is an ongoing crisis of opioid-related overdose deaths and the devastating impact that this is having on individuals and their families. Canadians are dying from drug overdoses in record numbers, with the majority of those overdoses associated with opioids. In a number of provinces, including my own British Columbia, opioid overdoses are surpassing motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death. It is evident that Canadians across the country are feeling the impact of this crisis. People from all walks of life are affected.

Substance use is an extremely complex issue, and effectively responding to it requires a comprehensive, coordinated approach. On that note, this bill was introduced in the House of Commons on December 12, 2016 by the Minister of Health. It is aligned with one of our government's key priorities, which is protecting the health and safety of Canadians. The legislation is driven by our government's goal of adopting a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to drug policy.

Bill C-37 would improve our government's ability to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key harm reduction measure; address the illegal supply, production, and distribution of drugs; and reduce the use of controlled substances to the illicit market by improving compliance and enforcement tools.

Today, we are here to discuss amendments proposed by the Senate in three areas of the bill, to address the following issues: the period of time dedicated to public consultation as part of an application for a new supervised consumption site, the creation of a citizen advisory committee for supervised consumption sites, and the requirement that users of supervised consumption sites be offered alternative pharmaceutical therapy.

All aspects of this legislation are important, and we must act to pass Bill C-37 without delay. My comments today will focus on key legislative proposals to modernize the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act through a strengthening of law enforcement, and the government's ability to monitor, promote, and enforce compliance. These measures would reduce the risk of diversion of controlled substances used for legitimate purposes, such as prescription opioids, to the illegal market, which contributes to problematic substance use in Canada.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act has been amended over the years since it came into force in 1997. However, it has not kept pace with changes seen in both the controlled substances industry and the illicit drug market.

A specific measure that this bill would employ to modernize compliance and enforcement is the alignment of inspection authorities with other federal legislation. More than 600 licensed dealers are regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, conducting activities with controlled substances for legitimate purposes.

Health Canada inspectors are currently only able to inspect sites where authorized activities with controlled substances or precursors take place. This legislation would allow Health Canada inspectors to enter places where they have reasonable grounds to believe there are activities with controlled substances. With these new powers, inspectors will also have the power to conduct follow-up visits with establishments whose licences have been suspended or revoked. These changes would not allow inspectors to enter private residences without consent of the occupant or a warrant. Cases would continue to be referred to law enforcement officers if Health Canada's inspectors believe that illicit activities are taking place.

Bill C-37 would further improve compliance and enforcement by providing the Minister of Health with the power to compel regulated parties to provide information regarding their activities with controlled substances. This authority could only be used to verify compliance with the act, to prevent non-compliance, and to address a public health or safety threat. Access to timely information would be of great benefit to the decision-making process when responding to public health or safety risks. This is the approach in other modernized legislation, for example, the Food and Drugs Act.

The bill would also provide the Minister of Health with the ability to establish an administrative monetary penalties scheme as a way of addressing non-compliance with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. For example, the department would be in a position to issue fines in cases where regulated parties do not follow required protocol, which would be a valuable addition to the tool kit at Health Canada's disposal in compliance promotion. These amendments would place the act in line with other Canadian regulatory frameworks, like the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, and the Pest Control Products Act.

Currently, Health Canada's options for compliance promotion include the sending of a warning letter, which is often ineffective, or the suspension or revocation of a licence, which may be too severe a penalty, since it could lead to a shortage of drugs used for legitimate medical purposes.

In addition, not all regulated parties are issued licences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Some are simply subject to requirements established in regulations under the act. While this legislation would allow an administrative monetary penalty scheme to be put in place, regulations would be required to exercise this power.

Another aspect of Bill C-37 would be to modernize the disposal process for seized controlled substances or any property related to a chemical offence. Current handling and disposition rules are cumbersome and complex. Law enforcement agencies are required to follow the time-consuming process of obtaining a court order and Health Canada approval before disposal can take place, which results in longer storage times. The storage and handling of seized materials of this type poses a risk to the health and safety of Canadians and is very costly. With the increase in seizures of dangerous, illicit opioids, these changes are more important now than ever before. To reduce the burden on courts, government, and law enforcement agencies, this bill introduces an expedited process for the disposal of seized materials. The proposed improvement would eliminate the need for a court order or Health Canada authorization.

Bill C-37 would also allow military police to be designated a police force under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This amendment would provide military police with a greater set of tools when investigating drug-related crimes on military bases.

Military police currently have the authority to enforce offences of a criminal nature within the jurisdiction of the Department of National Defence. However, they are not covered by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Police Enforcement) Regulations. The regulations allow the use of a full set of techniques, such as the possession and trafficking of drugs as part of an investigation. Without that authority, tools and techniques at the disposal of military police in the course of an active investigation are limited. RCMP support currently fills this gap, which is both inefficient and costly.

All these legislative proposals would contribute to the modernization of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, aiming to better balance the key objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety. This would be accomplished by better equipping health and law enforcement officials with the tools and authority needed to reduce the risk and harm linked to substance use in Canada.

The ultimate goal of Bill C-37 is to decrease the diversion of controlled substances to the illicit market, which is a significant contributor to Canada's opioid crisis. The problematic substance use situation we are facing as a country is an immense concern, and I stress the urgent need for the passage of this bill to help address it. I therefore urge all members of Parliament to support Bill C-37 and the amendments as a step towards ensuring the continued protection of the health and safety of Canadians.

I have been out on the ground talking to people, health professionals, and first responders. I want to thank all of them for the input they have provided over the past many months. People say that knowledge is power, and my knowledge comes from the grassroots that have brought this issue to this level.

All parliamentarians feel, whether they sit on this side or the other side of the House, that the opioid crisis a health crisis, and we have to deal with it immediately. I ask all members in the House to support the bill, and let us do it on a non-political basis.