This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hours.

Topics

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The next question is on Motion No. 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Karen Redman

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred until 3 o'clock tomorrow.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The vote on the motions will be deferred until 3 o'clock tomorrow.

The House resumed from May 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. I have had a lot of input from constituents. I want to discuss some of the aspects of the bill and to put on the record some of the input from constituents, mostly to identify concerns that need to be looked at during the detailed analysis of the bill at committee and the testimony of expert witnesses.

The bill would amend the Food and Drugs Act to modernize the regulatory system for foods and therapeutic products, such as contact lenses, breast implants or pharmaceuticals, for example, to improve the surveillance of benefits and risks of therapeutic products through their life cycle, to improve the compliance and enforcement measures by corporations to encourage them to report adverse reactions or potential health threats associated with market products and to give substantial regulatory powers to the minister.

The bill would also create new offences relating to food therapeutic products. It is a new term in the bill, which includes drugs and cosmetics. It would require licences for importing food, in interprovincial trade in food, make amendments to the therapeutic product listing, expand the powers of inspectors, add new administration enforcement measures, including mandatory recalls of therapeutic products and cosmetics, substantially increase the penalties related to offences and provide for the disclosure of confidential business information in certain circumstances.

I have had a lot of input on the bill. I will state some of the concerns at the outset before I go through them in some detail. I do not think anyone in Canada would be against making products safer. Many products have gone as far as to cause the deaths of Canadians. I do not imagine anyone would argue against aspects of the bill that would make products safer for Canadians. A number of elements in the bill are beneficial.

I have reviewed the Debates and have not seen one MP who spoke against the items in the bill, which would make products safer. However, people have many concerns about the bill. These concerns have to be looked at in great detail in committee stage to ensure they are addressed.

One of the biggest concerns is that natural health products would be targeted. At least one company has suggested there would be a huge reduction in health food products or naturopathic cures available to Canadians. Independent analysts at the Library of Parliament and other references have suggested that is not in the wording of the bill, that there is no targeting of natural products. All products would have the same types of controls.

I was quite relieved about that, but nevertheless, I want to find out why there is a problem with the license timing success rates for natural products. Apparently right now there is a backlog of 33,000 to 40,000 products, including food products, natural health products, consumer products and drugs. Many MPs agree that we need to put the resources in to get these approvals done. No matter what products, whether drugs or natural products, if they have proven to be safe for Canadians, why would we have this huge backlog of 30,000 products when they could help to improve the lives of Canadians?

You are doing a great job, Mr. Speaker. You have been in the House for a long time. I know you are retiring soon, so I congratulate you on your excellence work as interim Speaker.

For a particular constituent, I want to ensure the Empowerplus remains available to Canadians. If not, I want to know why. This is very important. She is a professional and suggests in her email, which if I get a chance I will read later, that it keeps her out of the health care system. It keeps her healthy and able to work as a valuable contributor to society.

If some result of this bill would prevent Empowerplus from being available to Canadians, I would certainly want to know why. I would want to investigate that in committee.

There is the relieving of a regulation that could allow big drug companies to advertise directly to consumers. I am a little worried about this. There are all sorts of funds available to do this type of product advertising. I am not sure this is a good step forward. People should be getting recommendations from their doctors or health practitioners, not basing their decisions on whichever company has the most money to advertise.

There are a number of changes in regulations. I mentioned this at the beginning. A number of things in regulating foods, drugs, health food products, natural products, everything covered in this bill are done by regulation. I want to ensure that the committee looks at that in great detail, that the items deferred to regulation are ones that should be done at an administrative level and not come back to Parliament. That is our system.

One of the natural food companies suggested that this bill would allow the bypassing of Parliament in making laws. Obviously that is not true. We can never bypass Parliament, but regulations do not come before Parliament. I would want to ensure there is a reasonable level of administrative items that are allowed to go through under regulations and that they are not at a level of law making but of Parliament. I hope the committee will review that in great detail because a number of people have raised that concern.

As I said earlier, some people suggest there is going to be a massive reduction in products available to them, natural products, health food products, other types of products, because the bill does not target specific types of products but targets everything equally. I want to ensure when the expert witnesses appear before the committee that committee members ask questions and get confirmation that would not be the case, especially in light of the evidence I mentioned earlier about the backlog in analyses of products for licensing. Hopefully, resources will be put forward by the government to make sure that backlog disappears.

One of the benefits of the bill are larger fines. There used to be tiny fines, which for big drug companies were no more than mosquito bites. Drug companies are very professional and do an excellent job, but every once in a while there is a rogue company. We have heard examples of cases where people died. We want to make sure that if this had been done knowingly, a judge would have access to imposing fines and penalties at a level that would be reasonable in those situations.

The government would have the ability to recall unsafe products when discovered. Right now it is up to the companies. Companies by and large have cooperated. It is in their best interests to cooperate, but it should not be left up to them. What if a company becomes insolvent? The government needs the power to recall products. I do not imagine anyone would disagree with that.

It is an offence to give the minister false information about products. I cannot imagine any Canadian objecting to that. Similarly, tampering with products or their labels to make them injurious to people's health would be an offence. I believe everyone would agree that is an improvement.

We do not want people telling consumers something that is not true and tampering with the label to suggest people are getting something they are not. There are provisions regarding false or reckless alarms and prohibiting the importation of food that is injurious to human health. Obviously, Canadians would not want products that were injurious to their health to be imported. Canadians want the controls on imported foods, drugs and other types of products that are dangerous to be as strong as the controls on locally produced foods, drugs or other types of products that are dangerous.

I am curious about why the regulations relating to crossing provincial borders are in the bill, considering the efforts to which the federal government has gone to leave interprovincial matters to the provinces and not create interprovincial border problems. I wonder why that is in the bill.

Bill C-51 would require hospitals and health care institutions to report adverse reactions. I cannot imagine anyone objecting to that. Canadians certainly want to know if some drug or other product is causing adverse reactions. If that provision was not in the bill, an institution might report the adverse reactions and no one would take notice of it. When there is mandatory reporting and officials see the same problem occurring in several places in Canada, they would know it is something that has to be looked into.

The legislation also allows for life cycle testing and monitoring of a product. Sometimes new products come out, are tested and approved and then their use is changed. People use them in different ways or as a remedy for something else. There is no testing down the road. Bill C-51 would allow testing and life cycle monitoring of a product to ensure that it and its uses continued to be safe for Canadians down the road.

During the debate previously on this bill, some members mentioned products that had been a problem in the past and why Canada needs such a bill. I am quoting from Hansard the names of drugs that were mentioned by other MPs. Heparin was mentioned. There was mention of a contaminated drug from China, Vioxx, which led to many deaths. Evra is a birth control drug which leads to clotting. Singulair is an asthma drug which causes suicidal ideation. Champix is an anti-smoking drug which causes suicidal ideation and depression. There are also some anti-psychotic drugs for children that apparently cause obesity. People are worried about the vast majority of drugs and products coming on the market.

The Minister of Health said when he introduced the bill that he issued warnings practically every week about this or that dangerous product, some of which are natural products which have an impact on cardiac arrest, strokes or liver damage. If drugs or whatever products happen to cause those problems and the minister is giving a lot of warnings, obviously Canadians want that type of danger to their health dealt with.

The minister also said that he wants to ensure that natural health products are available to Canadians. Indeed, the government wants more natural health products in the marketplace in order to provide more choice. It is good if that is true, but the minister has not necessarily convinced Canadians yet. From the many concerns that I have heard about, a number of people have not been convinced.

I want to go through some of the emails that I have received regarding concerns that have to be dealt with at second reading before the bill can proceed. The first email is very cogent to my riding:

My limited understanding to this Act may impose restrictions on the collection, preservation and use of, in our case, traditional medicines etc. I don't think anyone is sure at this point the impact on First Nations, Self-Governing or otherwise. What I do know is that there has to be meaningful consultation if legislation is developed that could potentially diminish or impact on our rights under our Self-Government and Final Agreements.

As you know, First Nations gather, preserve and use all kinds of traditional medicines and this activity is protected under our agreements.

Others including our Health & Social Director are also raising this as an issue, and it is certainly has potential to impact on our culture and lifestyle.

As a citizen of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, this concerns me greatly--

As she says, it is mandatory by law to have consultation. Certainly, I hope that such first nation witnesses are called and that there is an analysis and consultation to the effects on their products that they have used since time immemorial.

Someone named Carole states:

I am opposed to the Police State Powers in Bill C-51. I want my access to natural health products protected and there is something wrong with the State making Personal and health decisions...health decisions are fundamental to our personal Autonomy...

There has been more than one comment on the types of powers in the bill. The committee definitely has to review those to ensure they are not out of line with the standard types of enforcement. In particular, search and seizure powers have been raised by a number of people, and that certainly has to be cleared up by the committee.

A person by the name of Shawn states:

--I do not support bill C-51...I prefer to have access to natural products “free and clear”.

The next one is from Elizabeth. I will pass that one for now because this is the one I was talking about where the person has bipolar disorder and definitely needs this particular drug I was talking about, Empowerplus, a vitamin supplement, to keep her healthy and she does not want to be denied this important medicine.

The next one is from a person who distributes these types of natural products. It states:

Many Canadians rely upon natural health products for their health. These products are endangered and consumers need to act now to save them.

Since 2004, when the Natural Health Product Regulations were introduced, natural health products have been increasingly threatened. The new Regulations were Health Canada's response to consumer demands for the government to protect their access to natural health products. The Regulations have had the opposite effect. To “legally” sell a health product, the new Regulations impose a licensing requirement. The problem is that 60% of licence applications have failed. These have been the “easy” applications. Expectations are that 70-75% of applications will fail. For the [natural health product] Community this means 75% of [natural health products] we rely upon for our health will become illegal.

I certainly think this person has experience in the field. I certainly think those answers have to be given by the committee as to what is purported that this bill would do and the results on the ground, not only of this bill but the regulations of 2004 and the effects they are having.

I also have all sorts of concerns from a chap named Werner. I will not go into them now because they are so long. Also, as he is not one of my constituents, I am sure his MP will bring them up. However, he has a lot of concerns about, first, the minister's past history related to the drug companies. He has a whole bunch of detailed information that I am sure he sent to many MPs and they can bring out those concerns related to the bill.

Another one from my riding, though, is from Bryan. He states:

I'm afraid [this] will eliminate our choices. I find [the] assurances to the contrary empty promises. They say the bill doesn't target natural products, practitioners and consumers, but there is nothing in the wording of the bill that says that. Big Pharma can afford to do the testing, pay fines and market their products. This bill will help them consolidate control of the market by eliminating what little competition they have now - alternative medicines and suppliers.

He, too, talks about individuals who need to deal with diabetes, arthritis and bipolar depression with diet and supplements. We want to make sure that we do not lose those.

I have another practitioner of herbal medicine, named Andrew, who thinks that a huge number of the products, 75%, will be eliminated. Unfortunately, I do not have time to go over all of these because I can see my time is up, yet I wanted to present many more.

I commend people to read a Globe and Mail article of May 23, 2008, that goes into this in more detail. I urge the committee to deal with a number of the questions raised by my constituents, the final one being the fact that the inspectors who have the ability to do these inspections and recalls will hopefully not be forced to do a lot of them.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order. It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Thornhill.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of my Thornhill constituents have also raised concerns with me about the impact that Bill C-51 will potentially have on natural health products. Among other concerns, Thornhill residents have suggested that Bill C-51 will place unfair regulations on vitamins, limit their access to natural health products, restrict their ability to grow herbs, and will potentially hurt small business owners.

I would like to ask my colleague to elaborate a bit more on the impact that Bill C-51 will have on natural health products and what response he would like to give to these concerns raised by residents of Thornhill.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I have had a number of similar concerns raised. There is a campaign by a particular company that has had products with wide distribution. I had those concerns too, and that is why I wanted more analysis done on the bill as well as feedback from people who know more than I about these particular regulations and drugs.

As I said, any independent analysis that I found of the bill suggests, first of all, that there is no targeting of any type of product. All products are covered equally in the bill. Whether it is a drug, natural health product or a cosmetic, it has to be safe, so there is definitely nothing being targeted.

However, one of my concerns, as I mentioned in my speech, is if these things are going to be licensed and there is no problem as long as they are safe, why are there 30,000 products of all types in the backlog? I think people will be worried if their products are in a backlog and not approved because then obviously they will not be available.

I want to read from the Globe and Mail article of May 23 that I mentioned. It has looked into this as well. It states:

But in reality, medical experts say the changes probably won't have a major impact on the way natural health products are marketed and sold in Canada. In fact, they may finally bring accountability to a largely unregulated industry that has typically been able to market products with little proof of their effectiveness and limited safety guarantees, according to Lloyd Oppel, a physician responsible for health promotion at the British Columbia Medical Association.

Many companies selling herbs and vitamins fear the changes could force them to provide the same level of safety and quality evidence as pharmaceutical companies - requirements that are excessive considering the high level of safety of natural health products, said Penelope Marrett, president and CEO of the Canadian Health Food Association--

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Question and comments, the hon. member for Trinity--Spadina.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member read many articles and letters, but will the Liberal Party and this member stand up and say no to this bill as it is drafted now?

Really, it is a power grab for the health minister to have an inordinate amount of discretion on the whole natural health products industry. Lumping natural health products with drugs causes all sorts of problems. Yes, there is a huge backlog of licensing but that is partially because of the way past regulations have been implemented by both the previous Liberal government and now the Conservative government.

Many of the amendments that may be necessary and that the member read into the record, if this bill were to pass the way it is at second reading, and if it gets to committee, I am afraid they will be ruled out of order by the health committee chair.

By that time it might be too late, even though I understand that there will be concerns from all across the country. Therefore, will the member vote against this bill now or at lease not say yes now and not send it to committee, or if it is sent to committee send it without a recommendation?

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, if the member had noticed, members from all parties are very supportive of a number of items in the bill that makes products safer for Canadians.

Not a single member of the House of Commons had a problem with many of the things I listed. They want to improve the safety of products for Canadians. They do not want, for instance, big drug companies being able to put things on the market that are dangerous without there being sufficient controls.

I also said in my speech that I wanted to ensure that a number of concerns I raised that people have put forward, whether they are real or perceived, are dealt with at second reading.

The member suggested a power grab. That is why I said in my speech that the regulations have to be reasonable at an administrative level. Things that Canadians should be able to change by law are at the legislative level. The committee has to look at that.

The committee has to look at the type of enforcement to make sure it is similar, that it is not an abrogation of our rights that we normally expect to have as Canadians, as well as other types of enforcement regimes.

The purpose of the committee review, and members of all parties have talked about the things to be looked at in committee, is to bring these types of concerns forward. Fortunately, the experts on these items will come before the committee as witnesses. The natural health food people have to be there.

I raised the point that I do not think anyone raised in the previous debate about first nations. People with products should be witnesses at that committee to make sure that the legally required consultation is done, so that Canadians can be made safer with the good parts of the bill, but that the concerns are also dealt with before the bill proceeds any further.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the hon. member on his speech because it does reflect much of the correspondence I have been receiving on it and on which people have been approaching me.

There seems to be a concern about natural health products and the hon. member has outlined that concern quite well.

Indeed, my family has been a beneficiary of natural health products where pharmaceutical products have failed. I have a great deal of personal sympathy with the concerns that are raised in correspondence.

However, there does seem to be a discrepancy sometimes between the claims of natural health products and what the empirical evidence might be.

It seems to me that the approach that has been taken by our party is, in fact, the proper approach, which is to at least let the evidence come out in committee and hear what the experts have to say, particularly on the issue of potential discrepancies between the claim of a natural health product and any evidential, as opposed to anecdotal, evidence.

I would be interested in the hon. member's comments as to whether he feels that the committee can perform a useful service to the people of Canada in allowing that evidence to come forward, so that Canadians have some assurance that what they see on the label is in fact the product that they will not only receive but that the product will do what it says it will do.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I definitely agree with the member. I want to make sure my position is clear. I agree with him that it helps natural products.

I am a big supporter of alternative medicines. I hope there will be more of them and that they will be approved. However, I agree with the hon. member. There has to be a system where they are approved safe for Canadians.

There are examples, and I do not have them in my notes, of certain natural products, and I remember one related to iodine, that had properties that were not listed on the label or in amounts that were unsafe to Canadians. These have already been analysed and discovered. I am sure these are few and far between, as are problems with drugs. However, if it could be injurious to the health of Canadians, we have to ensure that what is on the label is in the package, and it has the proven effects and that the company is not making false claims.

I hope the committee will be able to do that type of work. Fortunately, we have a majority of opposition members at committee that could certainly lead to the right witnesses being called.

I am not on that particular committee, but in other committees of which I am a member, my experience has been that when good knowledge and input came forward, the government was not very forthwith in allowing amendments to improve bills at committee. I hope this will not be--

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Cambridge.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today and speak at second reading of Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This is an important bill with an important goal.

Many members in the House know, and most people in my riding of Cambridge know, that I was a chiropractor for 20 years. I prescribed natural health products to improve the health of my patients, to limit the time of their disablement or their disease, if I may call it that, or at least to ease some of their symptoms. I have not only prescribed these products or recommended many of them to my patients over many years, and still do to this day, but I have also recommended them to my children, my wife, my in-laws, and my mother. I take them myself.

I congratulate the Minister of Health and the government, whose goal, in the introduction of this bill to the House, is simply to better protect Canadians, to keep them safe, and to modernize the safety system within the existing act.

As a result of my background and my passion for these products, I would like to limit my comments today to the natural health products aspect of this bill.

In 2005, a Health Canada survey showed that 71% of Canadians regularly took vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic treatments, and naturopathic treatments. In fact, we have known for decades that a vast percentage of the Canadian population use non-traditional forms of medicine, whether they are chiropractors, naturopaths, homeopaths, or reflexologists, all of these being outside the traditional allopathic course of action. In fact, if we were to lump it all together, there would be a compelling argument that more people actually see non-medical doctors than medical doctors.

These products can decrease the cost to the public purse significantly. In saying that, it is the government's intention to keep access to these products open. There will be no changes in accessing these products by Canadians than there was a few years ago. Nothing technically is going to change. I am appreciative of the opportunity to explain more clearly exactly what is going to happen with respect to natural health products as a result of this legislation.

As a member whose past history is that of a chiropractor, I want to support the demand that Canadians have for a broader choice but for safe and effective natural health products. It is important that natural health products be regulated to protect Canadians, and no one argues that. There are clear examples where tainted products have been found not just among natural health products but even among prescription medication.

Sometimes it happens that products have something in them that makes them unsafe. Everyone will remember the Tylenol incident of a decade ago where some of those products had to be removed from the market very quickly because they had been tampered with.

The other issue is that Canadians deserve to know what is in the bottle. They deserve to be protected from poor quality production or from malicious tampering with a product. Canadians need to know that if they are buying vitamin C that they are actually getting vitamin C. This makes simple sense and there are many examples.

One example that the House is fully aware of is a product called black cohosh, which was found to contain a species of the plant different from what was stated on the label. Some people, of course, think that natural health products are very safe and of low impact, and generally speaking they are, but the fact is that in this particular product the presence of this other plant actually caused liver toxicity. It was a major health problem for the people who were taking it.

These people were innocent. They read the label. They took their advice from their chiropractor, their medical practitioner or their naturopath. They went to the natural health store and purchased the product, but it was not the product that they were led to believe.

As well, we have had instances where folks come along and make unfounded claims. They actually might stand up and say that if we take this product, this pond algae from some obscure place around the world, making it sound attractive and exotic, it will cure cancer. There have been examples of such claims being made in regard to a cure for SARS.

Not only is this misleading to the public, but let me explain the danger in doing something like that. We do know that there are proven aids for these types of conditions. There are treatments available to Canadians that will help certain conditions, such as terminal cancer, for example, treatments to extend the life of the patient or make the patient feel more comfortable.

Of course, a patient with one form of cancer also can have other conditions, not just the single terminal cancer. A lot of patients with these types of diseases have other problems. Those other problems need to be treated as well, but when someone comes along and says that all a patient needs to do to cure his or her cancer is take a particular product, that patient sometimes delays appropriate care. Through delaying appropriate care, the condition worsens.

In some cases, not cancer cases in particular, but SARS, as was the case in Toronto, there were claims by some manufacturers or suppliers of certain products that if people took their product it would cure SARS. That kind of claim is extremely dangerous, because it prevents Canadians from getting appropriate care and, in some cases, can lead to the death of the patient. It often leads to a delay in proper care, making the disease itself more chronic, more difficult to treat and significantly more dangerous for the patient.

Despite our good intentions as a government to come along and revamp a very old, outdated regulatory system, despite our good intentions as a government to have the simple intention of making these products safer for Canadians but still keep alive access for Canadians to health practitioners, complementary treatment professionals and manufacturers, despite those good intentions, as my friend opposite mentioned, there has been a campaign on the Internet and elsewhere that has led to a lot of misinformation and a lot of concerns for Canadians. Unfounded as all of this may be, it is out there and I believe we need to address it.

I, too, have received these types of emails. Not only am I the member of Parliament for Cambridge-North Dumfries, but I was a chiropractor for 20 years, so a lot of my old patients have been writing to me. They have expressed some of these concerns.

For example, they are concerned that the way natural health products will be regulated will change and they will lose access to these products. That is absolutely not true.

There is a concern that natural health products will need a prescription. Again, that is not true.

We use the word prescription probably a bit too loosely when we speak of things. I myself say that I prescribe these products for patients, but not in the way that one needs a prescription, where one goes to a medical doctor, costing the provincial health care system some $35 to $50 and gets a prescription written out, which means then going to a pharmacist and paying another $9, $10 or $12 dispensing fee.

None of that is true. It is another myth that for some reason is being propagated on the Internet. I want to assure Canadians that it is not true.

As well, there is a false belief that inspectors would be able to enter private homes without permission or a warrant. No one in this House would ever allow such a thing to happen. That is absolutely not true. In fact, as with any law in Canada, no one can enter a private home without a warrant, which would require a judge to review the case. The case would have to be extremely compelling.

I will mention a little later on in my speech that there are times when private property has to be walked upon to get to a manufacturing facility, but these are rare cases and I am here to say that this belief is absolutely not true.

I want to make this clear to members of the House, particularly my friends in the NDP, who seem to prefer to send out misinformation. I heard one of the hon. members this morning again using phrases like lumping NHPs, natural health products, together with foods and drugs. As for the phrase “lumping together”, that member either has not done her research at all or is actually trying scare Canadians on purpose into somehow supporting her misguided approach to this bill.

I am sure the member knows that this is a very complex piece of proposed legislation. It has been around for years. It has been modified somewhat. Perhaps the member has not read the new legislation that we have introduced and is relying, much like the misinformation campaign on the Internet, on outdated information.

It is very important that we not use these tactics to create fear in Canadians. What is important in this place of honour is that we try our hardest to find the absolute truth with respect to every piece of legislation. The bottom line is that we need to alleviate Canadians' concerns, not make them fearful by misinformation on those kinds of things.

I want to step back for a second on the issue of Health Canada officials. In fact, the minister has met with Health Canada officials, who have had multiple stakeholder meetings over the last month or more to explain Bill C-51 and hear suggestions for change.

I should mention that I myself have received hundreds of emails, as many members have, but I have also sent out hundreds of letters and have made phone calls to many of the natural health product stores in my riding. I have sent letters to every single chiropractor, naturopath, dietician, herbalist, medical doctor, and physiotherapist, I believe, all of whom would have access to patients who may wish to have advice on products.

I congratulate all of the folks in my riding who have written back. It is indeed an honour to have a constructive, bilateral conversation with constituents and hear their concerns, but that is only the first half of it. There is then the ability to bring those concerns to Ottawa, to this place, and sit down with the Minister of Health and his team. I have to tell members that I have done so on no less than six occasions.

It has been an absolute honour to be able to bring forth the concerns from my riding of Cambridge and North Dumfries and have the minister listen to those concerns, knowing full well that the minister and his team have listened to the concerns of all members in the House who, in totality, have heard the concerns of the manufacturers, the people who use these products, Canadians, and professionals abroad.

On behalf of the Minister of Health and in response to this government's concern for the opinions of Canadians and manufacturers, I believe we should in fact refer Bill C-51 to committee. It is the government's intention as a result of all of these consultations to introduce amendments for the committee's consideration.

If I may, I would like to share some of the results of those conversations, some of the end points, so to speak, of a minister who has listened to stakeholders and has discussed with a number of members of the House some of the proposed amendments that we would make to Bill C-51.

First, we fully accept and agree with what we have heard from natural health products stakeholders. This very important amendment is to create legislatively a third category for natural health products. I want to say that existing now is a sort of regulatory third category, but the government wants to make it a legislative third category. This is a very important step in protecting natural health products from ever being lumped into foods or drugs, neither of which they are.

I think that takes into consideration all of the fears that Canadians have expressed, because it will protect natural health products. It will be impossible to silently change the way health products will be treated when they are in a third and separate category.

We understand that natural health products should be recognized in legislation as different from drugs. We recognize that they are unique within an overall umbrella of therapeutic products.

To do this, we propose to bring into Bill C-51 a definition of natural health products which is actually consistent with the current definition under the regulatory regime that now exists and has existed since 2004. The reason we want to do that is reasonably simple: we feel it would be appropriate given that this definition has already been subjected to extensive consultation.

Bill C-51 will thus support the existing NHP regulations, which reflect the unique nature of NHPs and recognize that these are generally lower risk products. In regard to this separate and legislated third category, this amendment would also make clear that regulations relating to drugs would not apply to natural health products.

We have also heard great concern that in defining NHPs care should be taken to avoid lumping them, as I am sure NDP members will continue to say, into the regulatory standards for foods. Foods are outlined in Codex Alimentarius.

We agree with that. Therefore, it is the government's view that our proposed approach to defining NHPs separate from drugs, but within an overall umbrella of therapeutic products, will prevent the application of Codex to NHPs.

Second, we have listened to many people and professionals who say the same level of scientific evidence that Health Canada requires for drugs should not apply to NHPs. This is a very good amendment by the government. It is our intention to propose an amendment which would make it clear that the type and amount of information required for NHPs shall include traditional knowledge, knowledge of first nations, knowledge of the 5,000 year history of the Chinese on their types of medicine, and history of use, with history of use being safe use, or as has been used for decades by chiropractors, naturopaths and so on.

In addition, given the wide range of therapeutic products, we proposed an amendment which would make it clear that the type and amount of information required to obtain a licence depends on the nature of the product and its intended use. In other words, a new product may require more information. Or if a product claims to cure cancer, versus the common cold, then certain things would be different. We will underline this in the preamble of the bill: that the use of history and traditional knowledge are valuable and important sources of information.

Third, we want to talk about compliance and enforcement provisions. The government's intention is that the powers of Health Canada should be exercised in a very reasonable way and only for good purpose. Amendments to the bill and as suggested at committee will be that an inspector must carry out his or her duties in a reasonable fashion, having regard to risk of injury. As well, if any product is seized, it has to be dealt with in a timely manner so as not to impact small businesses.

I see my time is up. Perhaps I will have the opportunity during questions and answer to get a couple of these other points out.