Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak today to oppose Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. As you are aware, this bill had been introduced as Bill C-65 at the end of the previous parliamentary session. It has now been reintroduced in its current form, as Bill C-2.
We are the only party to comment on the subject today. The NDP is the only party standing up to give a voice to the least fortunate in our society.
The Conservative government has missed a fine opportunity. It should have taken advantage of the House prorogation to consign this bill to oblivion. It is a thinly veiled attempt to stop supervised injection sites from operating, in direct defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on these sites.
The bill sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would have to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These criteria will make it much harder for organizations to open supervised injection sites in Canada.
For new supervised injection sites, preparing the application would be so onerous that it would likely deter applicants from opening such a site. The department's representatives have told us that if an applicant were to accidentally forget to include any detail, the application would automatically be refused. Even if all the required documents were included with the application, and it has the full support of the community, the minister would still be able to refuse the application.
If the bill is passed, new applications will have to include the following: scientific evidence demonstrating a medical benefit; a letter from the ministers responsible for public health and safety, municipal governments, local police chiefs and senior public health officials; information about infectious diseases and overdoses related to the use of illicit substances; a description of the drug treatment services available at the public safety site; a description of the potential impact of the site on public safety; a description of the measures that would be taken to minimize the divergence of controlled substances; information on loitering in a public place that may be related to certain activities involving illicit substances, drug trafficking and crime in the vicinity of the site at the time of the application; a report of the consultations held with a broad range of community groups from the municipality, including copies of all written submissions received and a description of the steps that would be taken to address any relevant concerns.
Needless to say, drug addicts could die 15 times in that timeframe.
Some requests may also take forever for no good reason, which means groups could be kept waiting for months or even years. The bill mentions there will be a 90-day public consultation period when a group requests an exemption, but it does say how long it could take for Health Canada to process a request, or for the minister to reach a decision.
The bill also lays out principles that the minister will have to consider before accepting a request. These principles, stated in section 5, essentially list all reasons why a request could be rejected. I quote:
The Minister may only grant an exemption for a medical purpose under subsection (2) to allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site in exceptional circumstances and after having considered the following principles:
(a) illicit substances may have serious health effects;
(b) adulterated controlled substances may pose health risks;
(c) the risks of overdose are inherent to the use of certain illicit substances;
(d) strict controls are required, given the inherent health risks associated with controlled substances that may alter mental processes;
(e) organized crime profits from the use of illicit substances; and
(f) criminal activity often results from the use of illicit substances.
I am not sure what kind of circus the Conservatives are living in, but they seem to act as if we were still in the 20th century, rather than fully in the 13th year of the 21st century.
I encourage them to open their eyes, and to see that drugs have infiltrated communities all across the country. I encourage them to put on new glasses, and to realize that Canada exports a lot of drugs, mainly to the U.S.
To back up that statement, I would like to quote from an article by Tom Godfrey published on the Canoe network on January 30, 2012. He said:
Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale, police say. The RCMP have seized tonnes of illicit synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and methamphetamine being shipped abroad after being “cooked” in make-shift labs in apartments, homes and businesses in the GTA.
Police are now seizing more chemicals and synthetic drugs, which they say is favoured by young people, at Canadian border checks rather than the traditional cocaine, heroin or hashish that officers call drugs of “a last generation”.
According to a Radio-Canada report broadcast on November 8, 2013, Colorado was about to legalize the free consumption of marijuana for all adults over 21. This is a North American first, and it is happening in a country that has always officially waged war on drugs, including cannabis. The state is unmistakably planning to legalize it, not decriminalize it. We are talking about recreational marijuana use, not medical use. This is unique, and Uruguay and Washington state will soon be doing it too.
Before wrapping up, I would like to talk about an experience I had. I was living with my two daughters in an apartment with a back alley. I frequently found needles in that alley. When the kids found needles, they gave them to us. That is why I would really have appreciated having a place in the community that I could have referred people to when they came to shoot up behind my apartment building.
When people are sick, they get care. When people are using drugs, they are sick and need care. That is why specialized care has been made available to help these people get the unique care they need. That is what Vancouver's InSite provides.
This is a deeply flawed bill based on anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is the latest attempt to rally the Conservative base. The Conservatives' “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign, launched just hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament, makes that very clear. That is what I call turning a blind eye.
This bill will make it practically impossible to open safe injection sites, which will put heroin back in our neighbourhoods. The Conservative government is increasing barriers to providing a service to those in need in a safe place, rather than in an alley where needles can be found by young children. There are many risks associated with that.