Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and address Bill C-2. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. That is why our Conservative government is moving forward with the respect for communities act to ensure that parents have a say before any drug injection sites open in their communities and the most rigorous criteria apply.
Why is this necessary? It stems from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2011, which rendered that any application for a supervised injection site must, among other factors, be considered with an understanding of the circumstances in the community that had led to the need for a site, as well as the opinions of the community in which it would operate.
However, the court was also clear in its ruling that it was not “an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a “safe injection facility”. That is why the government is acting on this Supreme Court ruling. Given the inherent risks in using dangerous and addictive drugs obtained on the street, exemptions to use them at a supervised injection site should be granted only in exceptional circumstances, once rigorous criteria have been addressed by an applicant.
Specifically, the bill would amend the existing Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the federal statute that restricts the usage of dangerous and addictive drugs. Under this act, activities involving controlled substances, including possession, import, export, production and distribution, are prohibited, except as authorized through an exemption obtained through section 56.
As I just said, we believe that exemptions should be granted only in exceptional circumstances and subject to rigorous criteria. That is why this bill, the respect for communities act, would divide section 56 into two distinct categories. Street drugs, or illicit substances, would have a section specific to supervised injection sites. Applications to use illicit substances at such a site would need to address rigorous criteria before such an application would even be considered by the Minister of Health.
One of the criteria an applicant would have to address would relate to the treatments for the proposed site's users. The applicants would have to provide letters from their provincial minister responsible for health, describing their opinion on the proposed activities, how the activities would be integrated in the provincial health care system and any treatment services that would be available in the province for individuals who would use the site. An application would not be considered by the Minister of Health without this information. In addition, an applicant would have to provide a description of the drug treatment services available at the site, if any, for persons who would use this site and the information that would be made available to them in relation to drug treatment services available elsewhere.
These criteria demonstrate that our Conservative government takes the harm caused by dangerous and addictive drugs very seriously. We need to support those in need with treatment and recovery programs. Drug treatment and recovery programs must be focused on ending drug use.
That said, I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House of other actions the Government of Canada is taking to address dangerous and addictive drug use.
In 2007, we launched the national anti-drug strategy. The strategy's goal is to contribute to safer and healthier communities by reducing and eliminating illicit drug use in Canada. Like the bill before us today, the national anti-drug strategy is designed to protect public health and maintain public safety. That is why its three pillars are prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Today, I would like to focus specifically on the treatment aspect of the national anti-drug strategy and outline some of the services that are part of it. The strategy supports innovative approaches to treating and rehabilitating those with illicit drug addiction who pose a risk to themselves and the community. Health Canada also works to increase access to and improve the quality and effectiveness of addiction services for first nations and Inuit youth and their families. Specifically, it aims to enhance treatment and support for first nations and Inuit people, support treatment programs for young offenders with drug-related problem, enable the RCMP to refer youth with drug-related problems to treatment programs and support research on new treatment models.
While responsibility for the delivery of most treatment and rehabilitation services remains with provincial and territorial governments, the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of continued investments in drug treatment programming and works closely with the provincial and territorial governments and other key stakeholders. Our end goal is always to help treat and end the scourge of drug addiction that plagues communities and families. The drug treatment funding program is one such example of this multilateral approach. This program supports provincial and territorial governments, as well as other stakeholders, in making strategic investments in three key areas.
The first area is through the implementation of evidence-informed practice. Health Canada supports the uptake of best practices such as continuous knowledge development and information sharing to improve service delivery.
The second is in strengthening the evaluation and performance measurement capacity and activities. While all jurisdictions collect performance information pertaining to their treatment, services and programs, the type and nature of the data collected as well as the approach to data collection and analysis vary considerably. With the funding in this area, projects are in place to identify and standardize best practices, evaluation and performance measurements.
Third, the program supports linkages and exchange among the funded projects. This is an essential element of the work undertaken in the first two investment areas and includes enhancing knowledge sharing and disseminating lessons learned. For example, in some of these projects, work is under way to implement knowledge-exchange mechanisms for concurrent mental health and substance use best practices. Other tools are also being developed to improve linkages between the specialized addiction sector and other health and community service providers.
Since 2007, this program has provided over $100 million in funding to provinces, territories and key stakeholders.
To highlight one particular project in Alberta, community agencies that serve youth were supported by providing a manual and curriculum to improve staff skills around basic addiction, counselling and screening practices as well as mental health knowledge. The result of this project demonstrated that community service providers improved their skills and confidence in evidence-based addiction practices. In addition, at-risk youth had greater access to addiction information and basic services through the community agencies that they frequented.
Another approach has been taken by Saskatchewan, a project enabled services directed at youth by building upon a strong pre-existing framework. Through these services, individual assessment plans are developed followed by brief interventions and referral to more formal services. Through community partnerships, the project is tracking the impact of its services and moving youth into recovery programs. The program provides between 30 to 50 brief interventions every month with between 200 to 335 participants.
Additionally, as part of the national anti-drug strategy, our government provides almost $10 million annually to improve access to quality addiction treatment services for aboriginals. These investments are targeted in four key areas: improving the quality of services by increasing access to certified training and supporting treatment centres to become accredited; increasing the effectiveness and relevancy of services by supporting these centres to re-profile or strengthen services in response to recognized service gaps; improving access to services by piloting community-based multidisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive additions and mental health services to aboriginal communities; and a comprehensive review renewal process for first nation addiction services carried out in partnership with first nation communities and leadership.
Our government remains committed to addressing dangerous and addictive drug use through the national anti-drug strategy and will continue to invest in prevention and treatment. The respect for communities act is consistent with this strategy and, once more, it takes action in the wake of the Supreme Court decision ensuring that parents have a say before drug injection sites open in their communities.
To me, this is an important point in the bill. It gives local law enforcement, municipal leaders and local residents a voice before a permit is granted for supervised drug consumption sites. Communities must have a say.
All told, the bill would provide the Minister of Health with the information necessary to balance public health and public safety considerations, including how the proposed site would fit within a province's overall approach to treatment services.
Why the NDP, through the motion of the member for Vancouver East, is seeking to kill this bill is beyond me. What NDP members are saying through their motion is that they are against giving parents a say before drug injection sites open in their communities, that they are against the Supreme Court's ruling on this matter and that they are against ensuring that addicts are provided the treatment and support they need at these sites.
I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the respect for communities act and give the Minister of Health the tools she needs to do her job.