Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the Bill C-398. I will start by giving some context to this bill. Then I will build on what has already been mentioned.
I want to discuss where this bill will matter the most, and that is in places like Africa. In fact, it is where the Prime Minister just visited, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was there a couple of years ago to see some of the projects that had been funded by the World Bank. One of the projects I remember well was the HIV testing labs that had been set up. This was a good project. It was one that allowed people access to testing for HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Particularly important, was that access to testing there had been elusive and the capacity was set up. This is important because this is part of the bill that people have critiqued before, the capacity on the ground and that some might interfere.
I was able to see the testing being done with modern equipment. Testing all people was very successful, young people, men and women, and it was done in a way that we would see here. There was the same standard of anonymous testing that allowed people to be tested without stigma, which has been a huge problem during the years that people have been fighting this disease and others.
I was then taken to a warehouse, which Canada in the past had been helping out, where medicines were stored. That warehouse was half empty. This was the place where the medicines were stored for the people who had been tested and identified as having the HIV virus, in some cases full blown AIDS and other diseases were reliant upon. I was stunned. I was there with members of Parliament from other countries and asked where all the medicines were. They said that they could not get any. I asked why not and they said that was the problem with the system, that they could not get any because there were problems with patent barriers and getting safe drugs.
I will never forget it because we essentially gave people false hope. We gave them the indication that we were going to be helping them out, fortifying their health system and ensuring that people who we wanted to help were going to be identified first. We all know that without the next step, without providing treatment, we are essentially giving people notification of a death sentence. We are not there to help them. In fact we are there to say, “Here you are, here is your death sentence”, and walk away from them. That is what I saw on the ground in the Congo. That story is happening right across the developing world. We can do something about that. This bill is about that.
We can talk, and I will, about compliance, what happens with the WTO. This is about standards and ensuring there will be requirements in this bill to ensure we are going to follow the highest standards we have in place and not jeopardize the pharmaceutical, generic or research companies. We will be saying that a kid in the Congo will get the same access as my son would get, or a woman with HIV-AIDS in any part of the developing world will have the same access as my sister or nieces. That is what this is about. Fundamentally, this is about social justice. That is why so many people are in favour of it.
When we passed the bill in the House, I was very proud to be the author of the bill. However, it was not about me. It was about many people in the House who saw the value of working together as members of Parliament to make a difference for people in the rest of the world, in particular, the people in two-thirds of the world who live in poverty. It was a proud moment for me. I saw members of the Conservative Party working with members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc and New Democrats. It was a very proud day.
I would like to re-energize the House on this bill again. For those who might have some questions, let us talk about it. Let us see how we can make this work.
As was mentioned already, when the bill was first passed, it was a great idea. However, looking at the record, we were unable to get the drugs to those countries that needed them because of the barriers. Rwanda tried once, but there were too many barriers and it would not do it again.
This is analogous to getting oneself, or someone in one's family, a prescription for a life-saving medicine, but each time a pill is needed, one has to go back to the doctor, get the prescription, go to the store again and one may not even have money to buy it. This is what we are talking about, but on a national scale.
The bill would refine the process to have one licence. Therefore, once there is an arrangement between a country, ourselves and industry, it is done.
Do we monitor? Absolutely, and those provisions have been talked about. Do we make sure there is quality? Yes, no question about it. Who would want to jeopardize the quality of Canadian drugs?
One of the stories we heard today was from a senator who had been to Uganda. It was a very touching story about a pen pal of her grandson who she went to meet on a regular basis in Uganda. This past year she went to meet with this young boy, who is younger than my son who turns 14 today, and it was for the last time. She could not meet with him because he did not have access to safe malaria drugs in Uganda. This is the real world now and this bill could deal with that.
There are so many stories. There are stories of women who have been tested and have been told they can be helped. They could be given first-line treatment and if that did not work, then they could go to the second-line treatment. On this file, things have not stayed static, some things are fluid, and that is another important point.
We have fought the fight against HIV-AIDS and we have won many battles. We have not found the cure, but we have been able to manage the disease. However, as members know, over time the virus adapts to some of these medicines, so we need to have second and third-line regimes, or different combinations of drugs. The bill deals with this as well and it is crucial for the people we have helped in the past to stay alive.
For my friend for Peace River, let us talk. Anyone on that side who has a concern, let us sit down and talk. We have been talking to industry and this is something we can do. There are so many people who are counting on us to do this. This is not the time to turn away. It is not about partisanship. This is about reaching out to each other to help people somewhere else.
I am so damn proud of what the House did before. I saw Conservative members and people from all parts of Canada come together, faith communities particularly, standing up to say that they were going to do something to help their fellow men, women and children. They did not want to talk about it; they wanted do it. Fundamentally, that is what the bill is about and that is why I support it.
We need to talk about the issues so we can solve the problem. When I go back to Congo with any member of Parliament and we go to that warehouse after people have been tested, we will not see an empty warehouse. We will see it full. We will see people being taken care of. When we are asked, we can say that we stood up, we were there for people and we made a difference.