House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was community.


Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Kellie Leitch

moved that Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to our government's respect for communities act, which would help to ensure the health and safety of our communities.

Our government has always maintained the principle that Canadians deserve a voice in how their country and their communities are developed and protected. The legislation before us today proposes to entrench this belief into law regarding supervised injection sites and is guided by a ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2011.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act provides the legal framework for the control of substances that include dangerous and addictive drugs. Because of the potentially harmful nature of these substances on the health and safety of our communities, there need to be guidelines around their use. The respect for communities act helps to strengthen that framework and entrenches elements of the Supreme Court's 2011 ruling into law.

The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act prohibits the possession, import, export, production, and distribution of controlled substances. However, there are certain situations when there may be a legitimate activity that involves the use of a controlled substance. These include activities by researchers, law enforcement agencies, and health professionals. The act has the capacity to allow for these activities under section 56.

In its ruling, the court affirmed that it remains the Minister of Health's authority to exercise discretion in granting section 56 exemptions and noted that its decision was not an invitation, for anyone who chooses, to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a safe injection facility. This ruling was unique in that it touched upon illicit substances and their application with regard to supervised injection sites. No such provision exists in the current wording of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Given what we know about the serious risks associated with the possession, use, and production of illicit substances, exemptions to undertake activities with them should be granted only in exceptional circumstances and only once rigorous criteria have been addressed by the applicant seeking to conduct such activities.

The court included five factors in its 2011 ruling that it indicated the minister must consider when assessing an application to undertake activities at a supervised injection site. These factors include evidence, if any, on the following: the impact of such a site on crime rates; local conditions indicating a need for such a site; the regulatory structure in place to support the site; resources available to support its maintenance; and expressions of community support or opposition, which is quite critical indeed.

The bill being debated here today would codify these factors into law and provide a mechanism for the minister to receive the information needed to properly assess any such applications. The proposed approach would add a new section to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that would deal specifically with exemptions for activities involving the use of illicit substances. This section would also establish the rigorous criteria an applicant would have to address before the minister would consider an exemption for activities involving illicit substances at a supervised consumption site.

I would like to use the remainder of my remarks to explain some of the information applicants would have to provide when applying for an exemption under this new regime for activities involving illicit substances at a supervised consumption site.

In order to have an application for an exemption considered by the Minister of Health, an applicant would have to address all of the criteria included in the bill before us today in the application. This would give the minister the information needed to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling on the decision-making process. This information would obviously have to be provided before an application to undertake activities at a supervised injection site could be considered.

First, the applicant would be required to provide evidence that there was a need for a supervised consumption site.

This evidence could include such information as the number of persons who consume illicit substances in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located; relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of persons with infectious diseases that may be related to the consumption of illicit substances; and finally, relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of deaths, if any, due to overdoses in relation to activities that take place at the site.

The applicant would also need to provide a description of the potential impacts of the proposed activities at the site on public safety. Information about crime, public nuisance, public consumption of illicit substances, or the presence of inappropriately discarded drug-related litter, such as used needles, would need to be provided, along with any law enforcement research or statistics on public safety.

There would also be a requirement to provide information on how the applicant would mitigate the risk of illicit substances being diverted from the proposed site. The applicant would have to describe the measures to be taken to minimize the possible diversion of controlled substances or their precursors as well as the risk to the health, safety, and security of all persons at the site. This could include criminal record checks for key staff members and careful record-keeping on the disposal, loss, theft, and transfer of controlled substances and precursors.

The applicant would also have to provide a letter from the head of the local police force for the area where the proposed site would be located. This letter would describe his or her opinion on the proposed activities and any concerns related to public safety and security. The applicant would also be required to indicate any proposed measures to address concerns identified by the head of the local police force.

The applicant would have to provide a letter from the provincial minister responsible for health describing his or her opinion on the proposed activities and how the activities would be integrated into the health care system. The letter should also identify any available treatment services for individuals who would use the site.

The applicant would also have to provide a letter from the local government of the municipality where the site would be located describing his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site. This would include any concerns, again, about risks to public health or safety. If any relevant concerns were noted in the letter, the applicant would have to provide a description of the measures that had been or would be taken to address them.

The applicant would also have to include a report on the consultations held with relevant community groups in the municipality where the site would be located. This report would provide a summary of the opinions of the community groups about the proposed activities, copies of all of the written submissions received, and a description of the steps that would be taken to address any relevant concerns that were raised.

Once all of the information was submitted, including, if necessary, the explanation of why there was a lack of information or evidence for certain criteria, the Minister of Health would be able to consider the application. The minister could also ask the applicant to provide additional relevant information, as required, to help in the decision-making process.

These application requirements for supervised consumption sites are in line with the Supreme Court of Canada's decision and would enable the Minister of Health to make informed decisions on supervised injection sites. Combined, they form the heart of the respect for communities act. They would ensure that Canadian communities are given a voice when any such application is made.

Given the importance of understanding the potential impacts supervised consumption sites may have on the communities in which they exist, the proposed legislation would also provide an opportunity for the Minister of Health to call for public input during a 90-day comment period. It is crucial that members of the community, those individuals who will live and work in the same vicinity as the proposed supervised consumption site, have the opportunity to provide feedback. These are the individuals who would be most impacted by this type of local decision, whether it is the mother pushing a stroller down the street toward the park as an individual who has taken drugs comes out from the supervised consumption site, or whether it is the senior citizen walking the dog down that very same street. Surely these individuals ought to have an opportunity to express their comments.

In assessing an application for an exemption for activities involving illicit substances at a supervised consumption site, the Minister of Health must exercise discretion by balancing both public health and safety. The approach outlined in the respect for communities act would strengthen our laws and give our government the tools we need to follow through on the ruling made by the Supreme Court of Canada. I urge all of my hon. colleagues to support the bill and to work toward its speedy passage.

In the remaining time allotted, if I might digress, I would like to speak a bit to some of my experience as a former municipal councillor. There is a similar consultation process undertaken by communities when any development application is brought forward. As an example, for the sake of this debate, let me cite an elegant four-storey, live-work development being brought in. The proposed tenants are a creative florist and a creative architect who propose to have their shops down on the main floor, and these proprietors would live upstairs.

Before this type of development could take place in my community, the applicant would need to submit a number of items that the municipality would consider. These items would then be circulated to all sorts of bodies within our community, including utilities, Bell, Rogers, and our local airport authority. Schools would be consulted, both on traffic patterns and the availability of school space in the area. All of this information from these external groups would then be gathered and assessed by professional planning staff in our municipal department. They would then make a recommendation to elected councillors and the mayor. All of that information would be available during a public, open, evening meeting. However, long before that public, open meeting ever took place, I would have a local community meeting. I would never drive my constituents down to city hall. I would go to a local school gymnasium or a local church basement and present the application to them.

The applicant would be required to have a number of consultant studies done before this application was even circulated in the community. For example, we could require a shadow impact study. The applicant would have to go out and hire a technical consultant and engineering firm that would then model the shadowing impacts on neighbouring residences' backyards and front yards. They would model for us so that the community could see the shadow impact throughout the day. It would show the impact it would have on the neighbouring homes as the sun rose and set. We would then require them to model what it would look like throughout the course of the year, as the days were shorter or longer, and the impact it would have on residents in the community.

This is a very fair thing to require. I think there is a general consensus nationwide, and certainly in Ontario, that individuals who have already chosen to make their homes in a community ought to be consulted before something new comes into their community. These are the individuals who have helped to build the fabric of that community. They are the ones who define the character of the community. These are the moms and dads and children who come out and volunteer and clean up our green spaces. They are the ones who have fund-raised to build the local arena. They are the individuals who have perhaps lived in the same neighbourhood in the same community for generations. They are the ones who have offered their sweat, their toil, and their vision to build the neighbourhood they would like to live in. When they pop their heads out the front door and look down their sidewalk, the impact of what that streetscape looks like, what the walk to their school looks like, and what the walk to their local grocery store looks like will impact them each and every day.

Therefore, if we have these types of requirements before we allow what by anyone's estimation might be a lovely four-storey development to come into a community, surely it is only reasonable that we would seek the input of local police enforcement officers and local community members before we would allow an illicit drug consumption site to be erected in a community.

Let us remember what this site is actually doing. Individuals are not taking prescribed medications within these sites. They are going out and illegally purchasing illicit drugs. No one knows the contents of those drugs. The addict does not know the contents of those drugs. When the addict walks in with those drugs and is then injected under supervision, even those offering the supervision do not truly know the content of those drugs. That individual then leaves the premises hopped up to do as he or she would. This addict may hang out on the sidewalk or wander down to the local park or the front of the grocery store as our mothers may be trying to walk down that very same street. Surely our mothers ought to be consulted about the impact this will have on their local community.

We also have a number of schools in each and every community. The schoolchildren and their moms and dads ought to be consulted before one of these types of facilities is erected in their community.

We do a lot of debating and a lot of talking here in the House of Commons. We all value an excellent dialogue, a good conversation and a healthy debate. It is incumbent on us to ensure that we allow for that same type of conversation, that same dialogue, to exist within our communities when something of such significance is imposed upon them.

I am very proud to stand in support of Bill C-2 and to support our government, our Minister of Health and our Prime Minister in bringing the bill forward.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Brampton South on her appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

Here we are debating the first bill. The bill could be more properly named the anti-public safety bill because it is very stacked against public safety. Despite what the member has just said, if one looks at the bill and examines it very closely we can see that it is designed to prevent any safe injection site from ever being able to operate.

I would like to ask the member if she knows anything about InSite, the only safe injection site we have in Canada, which is operating in Vancouver, or how it operates. Is she aware that it went through all of the municipal requirements that she just talked about? As a former city councillor, I am very familiar with public notification, input, and so on. I wonder if she is aware that InSite went through a vigorous process of public scrutiny, city council looking at the application, and so on. In fact, it is now very well accepted in the community. Has she ever visited the facility? Does she know what goes on there?

If the member thinks the municipal process is a good process, then why not let these applications be dealt with at the municipal level? Why does it require that the minister have all these criteria in effect so that she can turn it down?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC

Eve Adams

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the kind words of welcome. I, too, look forward to working with the hon. member. I know how passionate she is about the health of Canadians.

By way of clarification, I am not looking to simply impose the same types of municipal controls as we would have on a development application on a site of this nature. I was looking to offer an example before any development takes place. I think I used the example of a flower shop or an architect's office, and the level of scrutiny, circulation, detail and public consultation that takes place before a simple building would be erected. Similarly, the bill proposes that for something that would be a consumption site, which is something that clearly falls under the jurisdiction, as the Supreme Court has ruled, the Minister of Health would use her discretion to invoke a number of factors in making any decision. We should bring that level of scrutiny, detail, rigour and public consultation to something as serious as this.

InSite is currently functioning out in Vancouver. I am well aware of the facility. When its operating status expires it will need to come through this very same system that is being proposed. However, I think that these are very reasonable measures. If we are looking to bring a consumption site into a community, it is very reasonable to have community consultation and to look at surrounding crimes rates.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to my colleague. I wish her well in her new challenges.

As a former municipal councillor, I am well aware of the challenges that communities face when they are trying to find other solutions to what they call “safe injection sites”. I also know the scrutiny that the one in Vancouver underwent. Has the member ever visited the site?

Secondly, it is clear by the millions of dollars and time that we have all invested in the issue of prevention that what continues to be the goal we all want is safe communities, without question. However, we have a serious problem. The only success I have seen so far, which is limited, is the safe injection site in Vancouver. I visited that site and the community with much trepidation, I have to say. I watched it and all of the fears that many of us had were unwarranted. It seems to be a step forward in harm reduction that is actually going to help people. I do not hear a whole lot of complaints from those communities. Even though I am from a Toronto community, I have watched it because what was in Vancouver was a trial project.

If the member does not think this works, what does she think should be done?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC

Eve Adams

Mr. Speaker, it is an excellent question. I thank the member for her kind words. I look forward to working with her.

The bill sets out, based on the Supreme Court's ruling, the factors that the Minister of Health must consider before permitting consumption sites to be erected in a community. Contrary to the member's remarks, scientific evidence is one of the factors that the Minister of Health must consider. We need to respect good science.

To speak to the heart of the issue, of whether or not we are genuinely helping drug addicts continue with their drug addiction, I do not think that is anyone's goal here. I hope that is not anyone's goal here in this chamber. I think the ultimate goal that any compassionate individual would have would be to see a drug addict fully recover and regain a lifestyle that is drug free. That should be our prime goal. For those who are not reaching that goal, we need to offer compassionate, science-based treatment.

The bill certainly recognizes that. In fact it requires that the Minister of Health consider that, along with community impact, local crime rates and public safety factors and considerations.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her thoughtful and thorough presentation today. Clearly, she is dealing with this issue from a well-informed position as a former municipal councillor. I, too, congratulate her on her new role.

I would like to ask the member how the legislation will ensure that Canadian families get a say when a supervised injection site is planned to open down the street from their homes, schools or businesses. How will we know that families will have a say in that relocation?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC

Eve Adams

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent question. The member for Toronto is incredibly hard-working and has spent a great deal of the summer consulting with his community and residents, not only on this issue but on a number of pressing issues that the GTA faces.

This question speaks to the heart of the issue. Many of these illicit and illegal drugs are purchased and acquired through illicit means, such as the proceeds of crime. That is how these drugs are being purchased and taken into an injection site. The individual then leaves the injection site hopped up on drugs.

The bill would require the Minister of Health, when the individual looks at all the information that the applicant looking to establish this type of facility is proposing, to also seek community input. There are a couple of ways to do that. The applicant would be required to seek community input and all written responses would need to be provided to the department. The minister would also have the opportunity to post a public notice and invite comments for a 90-day period.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of concerns about the parliamentary secretary's statements, both in her speech and in her responses to questions.

I live in a community where there is an average of 16 deaths per year from overdoses by injection. We are working very hard in our community to find a solution. When the parliamentary secretary says things like “deaths, if any” and “evidence, if any”, it seems very clear to me that the government has not considered the real evidence here.

The minister who has to make these decisions would be the Minister of Health. It seems very peculiar to me that the government has now chosen, in contrast to the previous bill, to send the bill to the public safety committee, where I sit. It seems to me that the only conclusion one can draw is that there is an attempt right now in the House to create false fears about public health and safety, which I think is a very serious concern to communities that are grappling with this very serious problem.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC

Eve Adams

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court very clearly laid out five rigorous criteria sets that need to be considered by the Minister of Health before any such consumption site can be authorized. That is what the bill does. The bill seeks to enact specific and guiding legislation to assist the minister in making a decision.

I do not know why someone would take issue with providing basic information, basic local statistics, so that the minister can make an informed decision and so the information can be presented to the community, so that the community can make an informed decision.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary present the bill today. It is very important that we look back at the history of this case and begin with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2011, because it has been referenced a lot. If we can just remember, InSite, as I mentioned earlier, did go through a rigorous process to establish itself in the city of Vancouver and has been a very successful operation in saving people's lives, preventing overdoses and improving public safety in the neighbourhood. Of course, it was challenged all the way by the Conservative government and it did end up at the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that InSite was a very important health facility. I want to quote a very key part of its ruling because the legislation that is now before us is supposedly based on this ruling.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruling said:

On future applications, the Minister must exercise that discretion within the constraints imposed by the law and the Charter, aiming to strike the appropriate balance between achieving public health and public safety. In accordance with the Charter, the Minister must consider whether denying an exemption would cause deprivations of life and security of the person that are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Where, as here, a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption.

That is what the Supreme Court of Canada said. What was the government's response to that? Reading from the press release that the Minister of Health issued June 6 when the bill was first introduced, she began by saying, “Our Government believes that creating a location for sanctioned use of drugs obtained from illicit sources has the potential for great harm in a community”.

There was nothing in this press release and in fact when one reads the bill, there is nothing in it that strikes the balance that was referenced by the Supreme Court of Canada for public health and public safety. From the very beginning, from the get-go, it has been very clear that the bill is a stacked deck. It is designed to frustrate and to make it virtually impossible for any safe injection site to be established in this country.

One has to ask the question: why is the government so biased on this issue? Why have Conservatives refused to consider all of the evidence that has been put before them? We just had the recent situation, a very similar case where the Minister of Health overruled her own experts on an application that was approved to provide heroin maintenance in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the inner city. It was quite astounding to see that the minister ignored all of the evidence, overruled her experts, stepped in, intervened and made it clear that this special application, which had been approved by her officials, would not go ahead.

What was most disturbing was to see that both of these cases, the safe injection site bill and also the application for heroin maintenance, within 24 hours, became a fundraising letter for the Conservative Party of Canada. Imagine that government legislation and an intervention and interference by the minister is catapulted and turned into a fundraiser for the Conservatives' base. I find that really alarming and it illuminates for us what this debate is really about. It is about creating an environment of fear. It about creating an environment of division. It is about creating an environment based on them and us. It is about an environment that the Conservatives want to escalate that demonizes people who use drugs and people who are facing serious addiction issues.

The parliamentary secretary made some references to the bill. When we actually read through the bill to see what is required, it is quite incredible. First of all, the parliamentary secretary said that the minister must consider criteria that are laid out as part of a submission for an application to set up a safe injection site in any particular community. However, clearly what the bill says is that the “Minister may consider an application” once the application has been submitted and the criteria met. It is not even that she must then look at it, but she may. Even the discretion takes place at that level.

When we look at the criteria in the bill it literally goes from (a) to (z). There are 26 different criteria considerations that are so onerous and so stacked that they would make it virtually impossible to even meet the criteria laid out in the bill.

For example, it requires a letter from the provincial minister who is responsible for health. It requires a letter from the local municipal government. It requires a letter from the head of the police force, outlining any issues that it has. It requires a letter from the leading health professional organization. It requires a letter from the provincial minister responsible for public safety. It requires a statistical analysis. It requires police checks for people. It requires extensive public consultation.

All of this has to be gathered in addition to a 90-day public notification period that the minister herself can also conduct. There are two streams of information coming in, and even then, as we can see from the bill, the minister actually does not have to consider the application. Once this information has been gathered, there is further consideration in the bill, subsection (5), that lays out that the minister may only grant an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act after having considered the following principles. I think these principles clearly lay out the government's intent.

The principles are:

illicit substances may have serious health effects;

adulterated controlled substances may pose health risks;

the risks of overdose are inherent to the use of certain illicit substances;

strict controls are required...;

organized crime profits from the use of illicit substances;

and criminal activity often results from the use of illicit substances.

What I find really curious about these principles on which this bill is based is that there is absolutely no mention of public health. There is no mention of preventing overdoses. There is no mention of preventing serious infections, like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. There is no mention, no principle of ensuring basic public health or protecting public safety.

What are the principles about? Clearly, they are about frustrating any application and giving the minister so much room that she can easily turn down any application, if she even decides to consider it in the first place. We attended the briefing that the government gave on the bill, and in that briefing it was made very clear that, if the criteria are met, the application may be considered but it will not necessarily be approved.

We find this bill offensive, and we will be opposing it. Clearly the bill does not live up to the spirit and the intent of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling. It is designed to frustrate that ruling, and in fact I would suggest that there will probably be ongoing legal challenges about this legislation. This bill is designed to create a situation where everything will run in the government's favour to not even consider applications or, if it does, to simply turn them down based on the principles it has outlined.

Let us just take a couple of minutes to talk about the one case that we do have in Canada, which is called InSite in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Setting up InSite was probably the most important health measure that has ever been undertaken in this country. It took years for it to be up and running. It went under incredible local scrutiny. There was opposition.

In Vancouver today, not only do the police support the safe injection site, but so do local businesses, the board of trade and municipal politicians. In fact, I think members would be hard pressed to find anyone in Vancouver who would actually dispute the value and the importance of this particular facility that is located on East Hastings Street.

The facility has been scrutinized and has been the subject of 30 scientific studies and reports. It has gone through enormous evaluation.

However, what I think is most important is that if we actually visit the place, we can see for ourselves what work is being done and how important it is to provide a safe, medically supervised environment for people with serious addiction issues to get off the street and to be in an environment where they are safe, where they are taken care of and where they can make contact with health care professionals.

I have seen that because most of the people who use this facility are my constituents. I know many of them personally.

What I find really just incredibly disappointing is that no ministers of health have had the courage, or even just the reasonable wherewithal, to actually visit InSite to find out for themselves what is going on.

So, all of this rhetoric, all of this bias that the Conservatives show is based upon an ideology that they are perpetuating. It is not based upon either experience or first-hand knowledge. It is not based upon consideration of the incredible body of evidence that now exists. It is simply based upon a political position that they have staked out because they think it caters to a Conservative base.

I find that really quite abhorrent, in terms of how we approach public policy in this country.

I do not know how much money has been spent on all of the litigation involving InSite. It is probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, this facility in Vancouver has survived. It has survived all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and is still continuing to operate.

In fact, just a few weeks ago it celebrated its 10th anniversary, and I use the word “celebrate” because it was a celebratory event. To see the people in the community who have become part of the clientele of InSite, to see the people who are actually still alive, who are better off, who are doing better, who are better connected, who have a health connection—these are very important things. Without InSite, many of those individuals would likely have died of overdoses.

However, is there anything in the bill that would address that, the simple basic human fact that InSite is part of the solution, not part of the problem? We do not see anything in the bill on those issues.

I know that the government has come under intense scrutiny and criticism from a number of organizations across the country, which of course it has ignored. For example, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and the Pivot Legal Society issued a statement in which they made it very clear that:

People who use drugs are entitled to needed health care services just like all other Canadians. It is unethical, unconstitutional and damaging to both public health and the public purse to block access to supervised consumption services which save lives and prevent the spread of infections.

I think that is it in a nutshell. What we are talking about here is public health. It is about community safety. It is about people giving people very basic access to health services. Yet, we would never know that by looking at this legislation; we would never know that by reading the minister's press release; and we would never know that by listening to the rhetoric we have heard from the government side on this bill and on the issue generally.

The Canadian Medical Association issued a press release when the bill first came out, in June, in which it said:

...the CMA is deeply concerned that the proposed legislation may be creating unnecessary obstacles and burdens that could ultimately deter creation of more injection sites.

Dr. Evan Wood, a renowned scientist who works for the B.C. Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS, points out that one of the important aspects of a safe injection site is that, given that each HIV infection costs on average approximately $500,000 in medical costs, InSight has contributed to a 90% reduction in new HIV cases caused by intravenous drug use in British Columbia, which is why the B.C. government has been such a strong supporter of the program. That is from an article he wrote in The Globe and Mail in June.

We also have Dr. Mark Tyndall, who is the head of infectious diseases at the Ottawa Hospital. He says:

Supervised injection sites will be opened in Canada and the government will be challenged for its callous and misinformed policies through legal avenues and whatever else it takes to do the right thing. Thousands of Canadians, the poor, the addicted, the mentally ill, our brothers and sisters, are depending on us.

These are just a few of the opinions and analyses that have come in from people who have studied this issue over and over again.

We need to understand that if this bill goes through, not only would it prevent other safe injection sites from being set up in Canada—and we do know that there is a great interest in Toronto, Victoria and Montreal—but it would also have an impact in Vancouver. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, the current exemption permit for InSite will be up in March 2014, so it too will have to go through this process. Given the incredibly ridiculous and absurd criteria and considering the stance of the government, we can see that approval is very unlikely, or it will be very difficult to get.

What does that mean? It means that a place that has been operating successfully for 10 years, that has been well accepted in the community and that went through all of the approval processes will potentially be shut down, and people will be turfed out on the street. It means people will die of overdoses. It means we will see open drug use on the streets. It means we will see greater pain and suffering in this community, and the whole community will be impacted by that.

I want to keep coming back to the most basic point of this whole debate, and that is that a safe injection site is not some kind of bogey man or some kind of scary place; it is simply a health facility. It is a health facility that provides a service that helps people who are facing very difficult addiction issues. It provides a safe, medicalized and supervised environment. It helps people get into treatment. It helps people get off the street. Most important, it stops people from dying of overdoses.

Does that mean anything to these Conservatives? Do they even care that people are dying? What they want to do is vilify those people. We heard the parliamentary secretary. She talks about her mother and somebody else's mother walking down the street. This is about creating fear in local communities. Maybe that is the reason, as my colleague has pointed out, that this bill is going to go to the public safety committee, because the Conservatives want to have it viewed only through a lens of law and order, as opposed to a needed, necessary and essential public health approach that is about public health and public protection for people, not only the drug users but the community as a whole.

This bill that we have before us is the antithesis of a public health approach. What is this bill really about? It is about fear. It is about dividing people. It is about demonizing people. I find that really offensive because we are talking about individuals. Drug use cuts across all classes. It cuts across people of all different political persuasions. So we have to examine whether this bill is something that would hurt not only the existing safe injection site but the potential for others across the country that would save lives.

I will finish my remarks by moving a motion. I move, seconded by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-2, an Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, because it:

(a) fails to reflect the dual purposes of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to maintain and promote both public health and public safety;

(b) runs counter to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, which states that a Minister should generally grant an exemption when there is proof that a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and when there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety; and

(c) establishes onerous requirements for applicants that will create unjustified barriers for the establishment of safe injection sites, which are proven to save lives and increase health outcomes.

(d) further advances the Minister's political tactics to divide communities and use the issue of supervised injection sites for political gain, in place of respecting the advice and opinion of public health experts.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2013 / 10:50 a.m.

Kellie Leitch Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, CPC

Mr. Speaker, the one thing I will start by saying, and this is in my role both as a parliamentarian and as a pediatric surgeon, is that fearmongering is about who talks about fearmongering and that is all the opposition member is doing. We are focused on ensuring that parents with young children feel safe in their communities. All the member opposite wants to focus on are those things that really get parents anxious and concerned and I encourage her not to do that.

Canadians are so proud of their health care system. If we want to save lives, the very best place is in an emergency department. That is where we have all the facilities. That is where we can take care of people and ensure we save lives, unlike what happens when one is on the street and things like that happen. We are proud of the facilities we have in Canada. The physicians who work in those facilities do excellent work and we should commend them for their service.

What I am most concerned about is the lack of understanding of what communities really want and need. What are the member's thoughts with respect to the involvement of communities and families? Why is she, as the parents in my riding of Simcoe-Grey would say, pro-heroin and anti-salt? Why is she pro-heroin and against the potato growers in my riding? Maybe she could answer those questions.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's ignorance is absolutely breathtaking, especially since she is a health professional. To suggest that people just be trundled off to the emergency department tells us that she knows absolutely nothing about InSite and what it does. One of the reasons it was set up was to prevent people from going through a revolving door at the emergency department at an astronomical cost of ambulances and being in and out of emergency departments.

InSite is about public health and public safety. It is not about whether one is pro or against heroin. These drugs and substances exist in our society and unfortunately there are people who use them. Our job as legislators is to bring forward sound public policy based on evidence, not a demonization of people, not on fearmongering, but to bring forward programs based on public policy and health facilities that actually save lives. That is what InSite has done. I challenge the minister to visit and find out actually what it does.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to applaud my colleague. I know the amount of work she has done in her community in the Vancouver area on these kinds of issues. She understands them far better than any of us in the House. She has visited InSite many times. I repeat the fact that I had a lot of apprehension when that InSite location started and I have watched it carefully. Clearly, prevention has not worked to the extent that we wanted.

What other suggestions does the hon. member have with respect to Canada's policies to move forward on the whole issue of drug prevention and to help those when it comes to harm reduction?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my hon. colleague took the time to visit and to find out.

What InSite represents is part of a bigger regime that we call the four-pillar approach, which includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. This was actually pioneered by the city of Vancouver about 13 years ago. There has been a lot of focus on InSite, but it is a very important element of a broader picture. Therefore, yes, prevention and treatment are very important, education is very important, but so is harm reduction.

What is really concerning is that the Conservative government dropped the pillar of harm reduction in 2007. It decided unilaterally, on a political basis, that harm reduction would no longer exist in our country. In actual fact, it is a very important element in ensuring there is street access to health care for people, ensuring that services being provided are accessible and literally get people in the door, into a safer environment, so they can get into treatment and the help they need.

InSite is part of that continuum. It does not exist on its own. It is part of a broader health continuum that needs to happen.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, supervised injection sites are based on the principle of harm reduction, which is an increasingly popular public health principle. Condom distribution is a simple example of harm reduction. We realized that simply telling young people not to have sex did not work. They had sex anyway, and they had unprotected sex. We figured we should at least give them condoms so that they would not get sick.

Can the member draw some parallels with other harm reduction strategies that have proven effective or have worked to keep people from getting sick?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has a background in nursing and understands these questions very well. She makes a very good analogy that we have all kinds of programs, whether it is safer sex or needle exchanges, to reduce the risk, because this is about public health.

One of the problems with injection drug use is the increase and risk of communicable diseases, like HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C. By ensuring a safe and medicalized environment, we are preventing the increase of these very infectious and communicable diseases.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There will be four minutes remaining for questions and comments after question period.

We will move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre.

OktoberfestStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, each October Kitchener residents and visitors from near and far dust off their lederhosen and iron their dirndls for KW Oktoberfest. This Bavarian celebration began in 1969 when the founders at the Concordia Club decided to make it a week-long community event every year. There are more than 40 cultural and family events, 16 fest halls are open all week, the local economy benefits and 70 charities raise money for worthy causes.

This festival celebrated Monday with one of the largest Thanksgiving parades in North America, but there is still time to enjoy German culture and life this weekend. Visit Willkommen Platz in downtown Kitchener for information.

Our thanks to the Government of Canada for delivering $138,000 in support this year. Thanks also to the thousands of volunteers who make Oktoberfest a success. Grab Onkel Hans everyone and zigge zagge zigge zagge hoi hoi hoi. Prosit.

PensionsStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Craig Scott NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, most seniors retiring today will not have the pension savings that experts recommend for a comfortable retirement. Sylvester wrote to me to say fixed pensions cannot compete with the rapid increases in the cots of living.

Jane had this to say, “As a senior renting an apartment in your riding my main concerns are affordable housing and security as a tenant. My rent rose 2.3% this year but my savings earned much less. I am not keeping up with inflation”.

The NDP is calling for concrete measures to increase the financial security of retirees. We must boost the coverage of the CPP, return OAS eligibility to age 65 from 67, increase the GIS to raise all seniors out of poverty and ensure that persons with disabilities receive adequate continuing support when they switch from provincial benefit plans to the federal pension plans.

Allow me to end by thanking all of the organizations in my riding of Toronto—Danforth that are continuously fighting for better living standards for seniors.

IraqStatements by Members

11 a.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Mujahedin-e Khalq , or MeK, are Iranian refugees living in exile in Iraq. MeK refugees have suffered serious hardships living in camps Ashraf and Liberty, including being targeted by mortar and rocket attacks. On September 1, the last remaining residents of Camp Ashraf were attacked leaving 52 dead and 7 abducted.

The MeK are protected refugees and must be provided the necessary protection at Camp Liberty to prevent further atrocities. The seven abducted individuals are feared to be at risk of deportation to Iran, something that is illegal under international law. It is well known that the regressive clerical military dictatorship of Iran subjects political prisoners to inhumane conditions, including torture, rape and executions. In support of the abducted individuals, members of the diaspora around the world are engaged in hunger strikes.

I condemn the latest round of violence in the strongest of terms, demanding the immediate release of those abducted and ask that the government of Iraq uphold its obligations and guarantee their safe passage to Camp Liberty.

Persons DayStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is Persons Day, in celebration of Canada's famous five, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby, who asked the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927 to answer the question does the word “person" in the British North American Act include female persons?

When given the wrong answer, the five took their case to London, England, the highest court of appeal. On October 18, 1929, women were deemed persons, thus paving the way for women to contribute fully to Canadian life. The five are immortalized on Parliament Hill and must be a source of inspiration to us all to end injustice.

Appallingly, today women earn roughly 20% less than men, face barriers to employment, strive to break through the glass ceiling and suffer the violence affecting one-third of all women in Canada.

In the words of Nellie Clung, women must, “Never retract, never explain, never apologize”.

Atlantic Agricultural Hall of FameStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to pay tribute to Gordon Hunter of Florenceville—Bristol, New Brunswick who was inducted in to the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame this week.

While his academic interest led him to the practice of law, Gordon's heart was in egg production. In 1985, Gordon and his wife Brenda assumed the ownership of Hunter's Poultry and guided the operation to new growth levels.

Gordon's foray into egg industry politics began in 1985 when he joined the New Brunswick Egg Marketing Board, which led to roles at the provincial, national and international levels representing egg producers.

Gordon's dedication to egg farming and his ability to provide leadership has made him an outstanding representative, as evidenced by numerous re-elections by his fellow producers.

However, more than just the industry, the local community has also benefited from Gordon's generosity, including his 40-plus years as a member of the Rotary Club and his selection as a Paul Harris fellow.

On behalf of all the good people of Tobique—Mactaquac, I congratulate Gordon on his induction and his steadfast dedication to egg producers and the development of the egg industry in Canada.

Maxime TrépanierStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, on August 11, 2013, the entire region of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu was saddened by the tragic death of Maxime Trépanier, an avid hot-air balloon pilot. Mr. Trépanier was only 27 years old.

Maxime came from a very good family. I know his family because I had my ballooning baptism with his father, Normand, and his brother, Danny. I remember having the honour of being baptized with a bottle of bubbly by his mother, Line, who is missing him terribly.

This father of two young children, a three-year-old and a baby of six months, lost his life trying to help a fellow pilot in trouble. His death was mourned by the entire community of pilots and all members of the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the largest of its kind in Canada. The festival was celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Rest in peace, Maxime. Those who knew you will remember you as a generous man who was always ready to help others.

Sandy WakelingStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the Pitt Meadows Citizen of the Year, Mr. Sandy Wakeling.

Sandy has been a model of the true community servant since moving Pitt Meadows 14 years ago. His local community work included schools, government offices, the chamber of commerce and the Friends in Need Food Bank. He spent countless hours volunteering with non-profit groups too numerous to mention. Much of this was done while he battled a very serious illness.

Sadly, Sandy passed away this past July at just 42 years of age. He is survived by his wife, Ali, and their two young sons, William and Sebastien.

Sandy, in his own words, exemplified true community spirit when he said:

Live life to the fullest and seize the day. Take pride in everything that you do, while remembering never take yourself too seriously. ... Always remember to think about the big picture, and work to make the world of our children a better place than the world we were born into.

That is good advice for us as parliamentarians.

I ask my colleagues to join me in paying tribute to an outstanding Canadian who will be deeply missed.