Mr. Speaker, in putting forward some thoughts on the discussion of Bill C-9, I would also like to put on the record an observation made yesterday in this chamber by the Minister for International Cooperation, because it seems to me that she made a very important point which ought to be repeated.
She said that the legislation before us in this chamber, namely Bill C-9, otherwise known as the Jean Chrétien pledge to Africa, is one that recognizes, on Canada's part, a “moral imperative”, that is, the imperative that we have to make available those medical treatments that are required, and in African countries in particular, to the millions of people who are suffering from these pandemics, in particular, of course, the pandemic of HIV-AIDS.
That point was elaborated on further by the Minister for International Cooperation with regard to voluntary licensing, when she said that “the amendments eliminate the requirement that patent holders be given the right of first refusal”. That was of course an amendment of considerable significance and importance during the deliberation at second reading.
In the discussion before question period, the member for Palliser made reference to Stephen Lewis, and quite rightly so, because this Canadian at the United Nations has been actively engaged in advancing the cause of helping African countries and the population there with respect to HIV-AIDS on that continent.
Mr. Stephen Lewis made a statement a few days ago which I would like to put on the record because it gives further background as to why we are engaged with this legislation and why we have developed such a unique parliamentary cohesion and unanimity behind it.
On April 6 of this year, in New York, Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy on this matter, made the following statement:
I wish to join today with the legions of activists and advocates in Africa and worldwide who salute the quite remarkable collaboration on the provision of anti-retroviral drugs, jointly announced by The Clinton Foundation, The World Bank, UNICEF and the Global Fund. This initiative...could well spell the turnaround of the...pandemic in Africa.
Simply put, the Clinton Foundation will negotiate the drug prices, UNICEF will employ its procurement capacity, and the Global Fund and World Bank will provide the funding. There will be protocols and administrative requirements, of course, but nothing should now stand in the way of rolling out treatment to hundreds of thousands--soon to be millions--in the immediate future.
The best dimension of all of this is the price tag to be paid. We're talking of fixed-dose combinations of generic drugs, pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, to be purchased overwhelmingly from generic companies...at prices as low as $140 per person per year. It falls entirely within the World Trade Organization consensus agreement negotiated on August 30th, 2003. And it puts to rest the self-defeating jousting between generics and brand name pharmaceuticals. Clearly, when you have the power, the imprimatur and the dollars of the Clinton Foundation, World Bank, UNICEF and Global Fund weighing in behind generics, the debate is over. These four bodies make it clear in their statement that brand name companies are free--indeed, invited--to tender, and to meet the low prices. But it's equally clear that huge numbers of African lives will be prolonged and saved by generics...generic drugs at one-third to one-half the cost of the patent drugs. Just think of how much further the money will go.
Mr. Lewis concluded by saying:
This is all tremendously exciting, and it will be made even more so if WHO finally receives the seed money it needs--$200 million over two years--to help to coordinate the interventions at country level, to train the tens of thousands of additional people, to provide the emergency technical assistance, to keep the drug supplies flowing and to address the ongoing problems of infrastructure. In a phrase: to achieve 3 by 5.
Namely, that would be putting three million people into treatment by the end of 2005.
It seemed to me quite appropriate to put this statement by Stephen Lewis at the United Nations within the larger context of the Jean Chrétien pledge to Africa, namely Bill C-9, because it fits perfectly in it and it also gives us a broader picture as to why we are all engaged in this global effort, which is really bringing out the best in humanity and definitely appeals to the basic and most positive constructive sentiments that inspire the global community in every country.
I would like to congratulate the government for having persisted in bringing the bill to a happy conclusion despite all the technical difficulties. We look forward to third reading approval and to the speedy processing of it by the Senate so that it can be promulgated at a very early date.