Mr. Speaker, I echo the comments of my colleagues here this morning in welcoming everybody back. It is good to be here and to be participating in such an important debate.
I too have had many opportunities in the past number of months to meet with representatives from Grandmothers to Grandmothers in my riding and to appreciate the commitment and compassion that they come to me with in sharing their concerns for providing this kind of aid to folks in Africa. I am thankful for the opportunity to provide my views on Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act as well as on the motions to amend Bill C-393 that are being discussed today at report stage.
Given that Bill C-393 has been under discussion in Parliament since 2009, I will begin my comments with a short review of the bill's history as well as the goals of the Access to Medicines Regime, which the bill seeks to substantially revise.
Canada's Access to Medicines Regime was developed in 2005 with three key principles in mind. The first was to provide a mechanism for developing and least developed countries to access the drugs and medical devices they need to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other public health epidemics. The second was to ensure that Canada's intellectual property regime for patents continues to respect international obligations. The third principle was to maintain the integrity of Canada's business environment and ensure that Canadians continue to have access to the latest pharmaceutical products and innovations.
In my view, years might have passed since the regime's development, but all three of these objectives are still relevant today and must be kept in mind when considering next steps on Bill C-393. I would urge my fellow members of Parliament to also keep in mind that Canada's Access to Medicines Regime is the only one of its kind worldwide to have successfully authorized an export of drugs to a country in need. Thanks to the regime, in 2008 and 2009 over 15 million tablets of an HIV/AIDS drug were successfully delivered to Rwanda. This demonstrates that Canada's Access to Medicines Regime works as it was intended to support public health objectives.
As we may recall, Bill C-393 recently underwent an extensive review by members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. During this review, the committee heard from a wide array of witnesses, including technical experts in the government, representatives of several non-governmental organizations focused on HIV/AIDS initiatives, members of the pharmaceutical industry and concerned citizens. This extensive testimony thoroughly informed the committee about the health challenges facing people living in the developing world, which go beyond the issue of drug patent protection.
It is my understanding that after this extensive testimony was carefully reviewed by members of the House of Commons standing committee, the committee decided to eliminate many of the proposed changes in Bill C-393. In particular, it voted to remove clauses from the bill that would have expanded the definition of an eligible product for export under Canada's Access to Medicines Regime to any drug, and that would have allowed the regime to export any amount of any drug to almost any country for an unlimited period of time. This is sometimes referred to as “the one-licence solution”.
The trouble with this is that if the one-licence approach is applied to Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, it would allow drugs to be sent to high-income countries like Singapore, obviously counter to the original principles of the regime.