House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.


The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-2, which was previously introduced as Bill C-65 at the end of the last parliamentary session. However, it was one of the bills that ended up in parliamentary limbo, with the prorogation requested by the Conservative government. It has therefore come back as BillC-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Mr. Speaker, as is my custom as the justice critic for our party—and having been one yourself, I am sure you will understand—I am looking at this bill as a lawyer. I will not claim to be an excellent lawyer, as I have heard the member for Ottawa—Orléans do in the House, but nevertheless I will have nearly 30 years of experience as a lawyer next year.

This very important bill has quite a striking title: An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. I looked at what it was amending and what it would be changing, because I like to understand what we are trying to do in the House.

The bill basically amends section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which I will read. That really enlightened me about the problem we have and often go through in the House. Prior to the proposed Bill C-2, section 56 provided the following:

The Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister deems necessary, exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor or any class thereof from the application of all or any of the provisions of this Act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest.

This short provision seemed relatively clear to me. Everyone in the House agrees that we want to regulate certain drugs and other substances, especially really hard drugs. I therefore wanted to know how the government was amending section 56. I encourage hon. members to read this atrocity. It is truly a legal atrocity. The original provision was five lines long. Now I have lost track of how many pages it is. When I say that it is many pages long, I mean that I could probably spend the next 18 minutes of my speech in the House reading out the changes that this government is trying to make.

In Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, the nine Supreme Court justices rendered a unanimous decision that was a major slap in the face to the government. The Supreme Court told the government that its actions were inappropriate.

This bill is the Conservative government's response to the Supreme Court of Canada. In its ruling, in very plain and clear language, the court said that InSite provides essential services and should remain open under the exemption set out in section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The court ruled that users were entitled to access InSite's services under the charter and that the delivery of other similar services should also be granted an exemption under that section.

The court therefore provided an unequivocal response to what was happening. There is no denying that this was seen as a victory in Vancouver.

No one wants to provide easy access to drugs. No one wants to tell people to go ahead and shoot up and that we will have a big party and sing Kumbaya. That is not at all the issue. This technique was tested and implemented. It has been shown that supervised injection sites have positive effects and result in fewer overdose-related deaths. These sites have even helped people to overcome their drug addictions.

However, this ideological government decided to simply ignore the lesson given by the Supreme Court in Canada v. PHS Community Services Society—a decision that, I repeat, was rendered by 9 out of 9 judges on September 30, 2011.

I encourage hon. members to read the new version of section 56 that will exist if the House passes this bill. It is an atrocity.

I will spare the House subsections 56(1) and 56(2). Instead, I will focus on subsection 56.1(3). I will not be talking about subsections 56.1(1) and 56.1(2), your honour. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker; I have court on my mind. Perhaps I am psychic, Mr. Speaker, and someday you will be a judge.

Subsection 56.1(3) reads as follows:

56.1(3) The Minister may consider an application for an exemption for a medical purpose under subsection (2) that would allow certain activities to take place at a supervised consumption site [we know what the government is trying to do here] only after the following have been submitted [members will be shocked]:

(a) scientific evidence demonstrating that there is a medical benefit to individual or public health associated with access to activities undertaken at supervised consumption sites [that will be easy enough to demonstrate];

(b) a letter from the provincial minister who is responsible for health in the province in which the site would be located that;

(i) outlines his or her opinion on the proposed activities at the site,

(ii) describes how those activities are integrated within the provincial health care system, and

(iii) provides information about access to drug treatment services, if any, that are available in the province for persons who would use the site;

(c) a letter from the local government of the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines its opinion on the proposed activities at the site, including any concerns with respect to public health or safety;

(d) a description by the applicant of the measures that have been taken or will be taken to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (c);

Paragraph (e) is about the head of the police force.

I am trying to read quickly because it would take all day to read out what applicants would have to prove in order to be granted an exemption.

56.1(3)(f) a description by the applicant of the proposed measures, if any, to address any relevant concerns outlined in the letter referred to in paragraph (e);

To understand these provisions, anyone seeking to provide a service that the Supreme Court has declared necessary to the health and safety of certain individuals would need legal and addictions experts. Good job.

56.1(3)(i) a description of the potential impacts of the proposed activities at the site on public safety, including the following:

(i) information, if any, on crime and public nuisance in the vicinity of the site and information on crime and public nuisance in the municipalities in which supervised consumption sites are located,

I will skip directly to paragraph (m).

56.1(3)(m) relevant information, including trends, if any, on the number of deaths, if any, due to overdose—in relation to activities that would take place at the site—that have occurred in the vicinity of the site and in the municipality in which the site would be located;

(n) official reports, if any, relevant to the establishment of a supervised consumption site, including any coroner’s reports;

I will not discuss paragraphs (o) and (p). I will skip to paragraph (q).

56.1(3)(q) a financing plan that demonstrates the feasibility and sustainability of operating the site;

Now I will go on to paragraph (t). I am skipping some points because they are all more things that have to be proven to the minister.

56.1(3)(t) information on any public health emergency in the vicinity of the site or in the municipality in which the site would be located...

Previously, section 56 read as follows:

56. The Minister may, on such terms and conditions as the Minister deems necessary, exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor or any class thereof from the application of all or any of the provisions of this Act or the regulations if, in the opinion of the Minister, the exemption is necessary for a medical or scientific purpose or is otherwise in the public interest.

I would like to go back to subsection 56.1(3). I will spare you the rest of the bill. I am at paragraph (y).

56.1(3)(y) if any of the persons referred to in paragraph (w) has ordinarily resided in a country other than Canada in the 10 years before the day on which the application is made, a document issued by a police force of that country stating whether in that period that person

(i) was convicted...

Now I will go to paragraph 56.1(4)(a):

56.1(4)(a) evidence, if any, of any variation in crime rates in the vicinity of the site during the period beginning on the day on which the first exemption was granted under subsection (2) in relation to the site and ending on the day on which the application is submitted; and

(b) evidence, if any, of any impacts of the activities at the site on individual or public health during that period.

This goes on for pages and pages. If the government just wanted to say that it does not want any supervised injection sites, it could have simply said so, instead of having us read all this legal gibberish that will not even pass the necessary legal tests, especially considering the Supreme Court's decision in Canada v. PHS Community Services Society. That decision, I repeat, was like a big slap in the face to the Conservative government: nine to zero. The court told the government that what it was doing was wrong and that it was jeopardizing public safety. Yet, this government professes to champion public safety. It engages in all these little schemes that seem to please its militant supporters. It is sending all the wrong messages regarding the benefits this bill will have.

Reading this bill sends the message that as soon as it passes and comes into effect, in some big cities like Vancouver, for instance, which already has a program that works very well, Canadians will be in danger, much more so than before this legislation. Big cities like Ottawa are taking part in this debate. It is a divisive issue. This government really likes to pit people against one another and especially to run fundraising campaigns. That is what really turned me off about this bill, when I saw the government had used this bill to do some fundraising.

Since I am an opposition member, I am sure people will say that I am pro-terrorist and pro-pedophile, and I will probably be pro-drugs in a few minutes. There will probably be a statement by some member based who listened to my speech and who will say that I am encouraging people to inject hard drugs, which is absolutely not true.

I trust the specialists and the scientists who tell us that this approach is effective and that we must not let people use drugs in our neighbourhoods or in the woods where children can find dirty needles on the ground and prick themselves with them. That can cause all kinds of problems. This situation needs to be controlled in some way, so that we can deal with the serious problem of drug addiction and try to refer these people to services that can help them get out of the hell of drug addiction that no one wishes on anyone.

This government is introducing this bill and it will be challenged again. I guess a decision of nine to zero is not enough for this government. We are going to have to say again and again that what the government is doing will cause serious problems for our public safety. What the government is doing is not fair, and it is certainly not a smart move in terms of public health. No matter which way we look at it, it seems incredibly obvious to me that this is a bad decision.

I repeat: the Conservatives need to read. We are always being told by our opponents across the way that we do not read. On the contrary, we read. In fact, this may be the difference between us: we do not read only the notes prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office. We read our own documents and those that are put forward in the House. We read the bills as they are presented, and we cannot believe it.

The Conservatives claim that these sites encourage people to take drugs and that this is something we must not do, but that is not the goal of supervised injection facilities. What they are meant to do is remove drug addicts or people with problems from public areas that might be frequented by children.

Yesterday, I went to speak to young university students about political life. I went along Sparks Street—I am sure everyone here is familiar with it—and there was a young man lying on the ground. Another person came along and I listened to their conversation.

It was a social worker who went to see this young man. Nobody was paying any attention to him and he was lying on the ground. The social worker went to see him and asked if he was all right. He began talking to him.

In our society, there are people dealing with all kinds of problems. We cannot simply ignore them all and act as if they do not exist. They exist, and we must take care of them, and take care of them the right way.

In its ruling on Canada v. PHS Community Services Society, handed down on September 30, 2011, the Supreme Court said that this was a safe approach to dealing with this issue. I repeat that the decision was made by nine judges to zero. This means it was not a majority decision; it was a unanimous decision. No less than public safety and public health are at stake.

Supreme Court rulings cannot be challenged. I appreciate that the government does not seem to be showing much respect when I see the mess that it made with the latest appointment to the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, there is a limit to how much disrespect can be shown for another pillar of our democracy.

The government is responding to the unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in 2011 with Bill C-2. This is absolutely appalling. It is disrespectful of our duties and obligations as legislators in the House.

I will stand proudly and vote against this bill, and I will support my colleague’s amendment. I commend the member for Vancouver East on her remarkable work on this issue, along with all my colleagues from British Columbia.

It is also an issue that is starting to make headlines in Ottawa. When Bill C-2 is passed, I will not be able to guarantee the people in my riding that they will be any safer in the streets.

In conclusion, in addition to the fact that this bill amends section 56, which was very clear, the most appalling thing about this bill is that it is going to be called the Respect for Communities Act. This is Conservative grandstanding at its best. Unbelievable.

I read section 56 and then I read the amendment that goes on forever. No one will be able to meet these criteria. Then I looked at the title and I could not believe my eyes. Then I listened to the speech by my colleague from Vancouver East, who said that they had raised funds on the backs of people with serious problems in our society. You cannot get any cheaper than that.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague listing the requirements the government has put in this legislation. I may have misunderstood. I was getting the impression that she is opposed to all of the requirements. That may not be so.

Which specific requirements the government has put in do you accept, and which do you specifically reject? Do you accept, perhaps, the requirement for—

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order, please.

I draw to the member's attention that comments should be directed to the Chair, not to an individual member of the opposition.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

My mistake, Mr. Speaker.

Which specific criteria are acceptable, and which specific criteria does the hon. member find unacceptable in the legislation?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that I do not have 20 or 30 more minutes to answer my colleague's question.

I encourage him to read subsection 56.1(3) of the bill, on page 8. He should also read the Supreme Court decision, which clearly explains what should be produced in evidence.

As I mentioned earlier, Conservatives seem to think that our one and only goal is to open injection sites to encourage drug users to have huge drug parties. That is not the case. This project is based on science. People who use supervised injection sites must first show that they take this seriously.

They need to have credentials. There is no problem with that.

There is a list of everything an organization would need to submit. We also see at the very end, after paragraph 56.1(3)(z.1), that an organization may submit all the required evidence and still not be approved by the minister.

This type of provision makes the bill less credible and creates a logistical problem. The government should not play people for fools. People are not fools. They are not stupid. The Conservatives should just come out and say they will never approve another project and be clear about it. It would make their position clear. I would have more respect for such a clear-cut approach than for making people believe that the government is willing to approve projects that meet 28 conditions, a dozen sub-conditions and a list of requirements that goes on and on, much like this answer I am giving.

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10:25 a.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Gatineau for her usual clear and precise dissection of Conservative laws, which are designed, really, to deceive the public and the House. In particular, I like the fact that she has pointed out that the current government, which supposedly is against red tape and bureaucracy, is now establishing red tape and bureaucracy specifically to frustrate the establishment of these services that are so needed in communities like mine and, I know, her own.

One of the changes from the last time the bill was before the House is that this time it is being sent to the public safety committee instead of to the health committee. Would the member agree with me that this is an attempt to both divert attention from the Supreme Court decision and to create false public fears about the impact of safe injection sites?

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10:25 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, what a great question.

Yes, that is precisely the image the government wants to convey. Even though it is supposed to be a public health bill, introduced by the Minister of Health, it is being sent to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to create that impression. As I have said, you need only read the title. The advice I often give my colleagues in the House—though there are not many MPs who need my advice—is to look at the short title of Conservative legislation. It really says it all.

This one is called the respect for communities act. What the Conservatives are saying here is that the previous law, as well as the Supreme Court decision, do not keep our communities safe. That is outrageous! Not to mention, outrageously crass. How awful is it to make people believe that the position of the opposition or of the Supreme Court of Canada compromises community safety. It is patently false, but it plays on people's innermost fears.

I am not here to scare people. I am here to attempt to make their lives as pleasant as possible and allow them to grow in a safe society, without telling them a bunch of horror stories that simply do not hold up, legally or scientifically speaking.

So yes, the Conservatives are clearly playing a shell game to make people believe they are making our streets safer, even though they are actually doing the opposite.

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10:25 a.m.


Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her brilliant speech. The attention to detail she brings to her work is an inspiration to all members.

We face a rather philosophical question. On the one hand, we see how easily the Conservatives show compassion and understanding towards powerful people who take drugs, act like deviant alcoholics and make death threats. We see them cry and get all worked up for these poor powerful people. On the other hand, when it comes to ordinary citizens in need, they show no compassion at all.

I would like my colleague to expand on that.

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10:25 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a great point. I thank my colleague for his excellent question and comment.

We need to keep in mind that philosophy often guides our actions. Our friends opposite should take a little more time, on occasion, instead of using shortcuts which will not lead to the desired outcomes. They use a double standard, indeed.

My own upbringing was modest. I know what it means to be part of the middle class because that is how I grew up, like most of us here. My family had opportunities that others did not, and my parents always taught me to be compassionate. Compassion seems to be lacking in our friends opposite at times, when it comes to ordinary people, people like us.

My colleague talked about powerful people. I do not wish to pass judgment on certain major Canadian cities or certain mayors, but I notice, sadly, that the Conservatives's conscience seems more accommodating towards some people than towards the person who is lying on Sparks street right now.

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10:30 a.m.


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gatineau for her speech.

She and I worked together on a bill that claimed to crack down on elder abuse. I am certain she remembers it. The bill changed a handful of words in the Criminal Code so that people who abuse the elderly could be punished a bit more harshly.

It is clear more resources are needed on the ground to prevent elder abuse, respond in cases of abuse and assist seniors who suffer abuse. I see a connection here: there is evidence that injection sites work and reduce crime. Since InSite opened its doors in Vancouver, the crime rate, among other things, has dropped.

The Conservatives claim to be tough on crime, but much of what it takes to fight crime seems to elude them. Since my colleague is very active in the area of justice, I was hoping she could explain how there are other, better ways to fight crime than tinkering with the Criminal Code.

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10:30 a.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard.

I enjoyed working with her on the issue of seniors on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. She and I noticed the same thing, which is that the bill, with its fancy title, claimed to put an end to elder abuse even though it only established an aggravating factor in sentencing. I am looking forward to seeing how that will work out in the field.

The government over there does not understand the meaning of health promotion and protection. It only knows how to punish and seems oblivious to the fact that if we do not address the source of the problem, it may come back to haunt us in a much more brutal fashion. That is not what I would call sound public administration policy.

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10:30 a.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

I am deeply saddened that the Conservative government has seen fit to introduce such a retrograde bill, and, as I will discuss, a bill that flies in the face of the unanimous 2011 Supreme Court decision on InSite. It seems obvious to many lawyers that this bill will also be struck down by the Supreme Court, costing Canadians hundreds of thousands of dollars. How many lives will be lost or wasted until that occurs?

I would first like to salute the remarkable work done by my colleague from Vancouver East, the health critic for the official opposition. Her compassionate leadership on this issue has been truly inspirational. It saddens me greatly that the Conservative government is only appearing to implement the Supreme Court of Canada judgment. In reality, this bill does nothing more than throw hurdle after hurdle in the way of those other communities across Canada that might wish to establish a safe consumption site to assist those who are suffering from the scourge of addiction.

At the outset, let us be clear, the federal government lost in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court agreed unanimously that Vancouver's InSite clinic should be allowed to stay open and required the government to determine the conditions that would allow it and other facilities to do so. This bill is supposed to be the result of that Supreme Court judgment.

Before turning to Bill C-2, let me begin by describing the judgment of the Supreme Court. Then I want to examine the contents of the bill before turning to its importance to communities such as Victoria, which I have the honour to represent.

The court's unanimous judgment is extremely eloquent. I can do no better than to read certain portions of the judgment into the record today. It goes like this:

In the early 1990s, injection drug use reached crisis levels in Vancouver’s downtown eastside [...]. Epidemics of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C soon followed, and a public health emergency was declared [...] in September 1997. Health authorities recognized that creative solutions would be required to address the needs of the population of the [downtown eastside], a marginalized population with complex mental, physical, and emotional health issues. After years of research, planning, and intergovernmental cooperation, the authorities proposed a scheme of care for drug users that would assist them at all points in the treatment of their disease, not simply when they quit drugs for good. The proposed plan included supervised drug consumption facilities which, though controversial in North America, have been used with success to address health issues associated with injection drug use in Europe and Australia.

Operating a supervised injection site required an exemption from the prohibitions of possession and trafficking of controlled substances under s. 56 of the [Controlled Drugs and Substances Act], which provides for exemption at the discretion of the Minister of Health, for medical and scientific purposes. Insite received a conditional exemption in September 2003, and opened its doors days later. North America’s first government-sanctioned safe injection facility, it has operated constantly since then. It is a strictly regulated health facility, and its personnel are guided by strict policies and procedures. It does not provide drugs to its clients, who must check in, sign a waiver, and are closely monitored during and after injection. Its clients are provided with health care information, counselling, and referrals to various service providers or an on-site, on demand detox centre. The experiment has proven successful. Insite has saved lives and improved health without increasing the incidence of drug use and crime in the surrounding area. It is supported by the Vancouver police, the city and provincial governments.

In 2008, a formal application for a new exemption was made. Again, I say, the Supreme Court held in favour of InSite. The court stated:

The Minister [of Health's] failure to grant a s. 56 exemption to Insite engaged the claimants’ s. 7 [charter] rights and contravened the principles of fundamental justice.

The minister's decision not to grant an exemption is not in in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. It is arbitrary because it is undermines the very purpose of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the protection of health and public safety. The court continued:

It is also grossly disproportionate: during its eight years of operation, Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernable negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada.

It further stated:

The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.

The court went on to order the minister to grant that exemption to InSite, and here is the key point. It said this:

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.

What does Bill C-2 do in the face of that judgment? It sets out a daunting 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. Experts agree; these criteria would make it much harder for organizations to open safe injection sites in Canada.

Do not take my word for it. Let us hear what the experts have said. Pivot Legal Society, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition issued this statement on BillC-2 when it was first introduced as Bill C-65. They stated the following:

The bill is an irresponsible initiative that ignores both the extensive evidence that such health services are needed and effective, and the human rights of Canadians with addictions.

It is unethical, unconstitutional and damaging to both public health and the public purse to block access to supervised consumption [sites]....

The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association have also criticized the bill. This is what the CMA stated:

Supervised injection programs are an important harm reduction strategy. Harm reduction is a central pillar in a comprehensive public health approach to disease prevention and health promotion.

The Canadian Nurses Association stated:

Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations....

The NDP's position is clear. New Democrats believe that decisions about programs that may benefit public health must be based on facts and evidence, not ideology or appeals to the base of a particular political party. InSite users were found to have charter rights to access services and that similar services should also be allowed to operate with the appropriate exemption.

Over 30 peer-reviewed studies published in famous journals, like the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal, have all described the beneficial nature of InSite in Vancouver. There has been study after study. There were 70 safe injection sites studied in Europe and Australia. They have all shown the same thing; it is a public health achievement. Canadians should be proud of what was forged in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

Other communities that are seeking to address the scourge of addiction want similar tools to do so, and then the government passes Bill C-2. It is shocking. It is shocking that the Conservative Party's “Keep heroine out of our backyards” fundraising drive started mere hours after it introduced this bill. However, here is the irony. Bill C-2, after setting these virtually unattainable hurdles in the face of safe injection sites, is going to put heroine back in our neighbourhoods. Shame on the government.

We believe in harm reduction programs, including safe injection sites, and we believe that these exemptions should be based on the evidence, not ideology. The bill puts far too much emphasis on communities having to prove the benefits of these sites. No one, for a moment, has suggested that there should not be ample consultation with communities. Of course, there should. However, the number of hurdles in the bill are absolutely daunting.

That brings us back to what the Supreme Court said. It said there cannot be arbitrary decisions by the minister. The NDP believes that any legislation brought forward should respect that ruling imbalance between public health and safety. Bill C-2 does not do that. Therefore, we think the bill is retrograde. We think people in various communities will throw their hands up and not even bother applying, given the hurdles that I will describe. If that is the intent of the bill, which many believe it to be, then the government will have succeeded, at the cost of millions of people around the world who have had similar processes addressed through safe consumption sites, and at the loss of people struggling with addictions in various neighbourhoods in Canada.

If the bill is passed, new applicants in various communities are going to have to include unprecedented amounts of information, such as supporting letters and, ironically, scientific evidence as well. We think that the process will be slowed down. For example, there are no parameters for how long Health Canada is going to have to take to process an application. How long the minister would take to make a decision is wide open and unaddressed. It could be months; it could be years.

In addition, the bill outlines certain principles that the minister must adhere to before approving an application. They are outlined in section 5 of the bill. These principles include a number of things, some of which are entirely appropriate, but when added cumulatively show the government's real objective, which is to thwart the ability to ever have such a facility opened. Therefore, the bill may well achieve its objective, not giving communities the opportunity for a supervised safe injection facility.

What is going on at the ground level? InSite remains the only operational supervised injection facility in our country. Since it opened, what has happened in Vancouver? There has been a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. Furthermore, InSite has been shown to decrease crime, communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. It was part of a public health plan. This statistic is absolutely shocking. Between 1987 and 1993, there was a 12-fold increase in overdose deaths in Vancouver. As the Supreme Court said, there was a public health crisis. That is why the community came together with the police, provinces, health authority and community groups to create this remarkable achievement. Now, of course, it seems like it is going to be for naught.

After the Supreme Court made its decision other public health officials, in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, started to consider opening supervised injection sites. So far, there has not been one such a request made to open a site.

I am indebted to my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, for his research on the implications of Bill C-2 in our community, the lower Vancouver Island. In his earlier speech, he described the crisis in overdose deaths in Victoria and surrounding area.

The B.C. coroner reported last year that there were 44 deaths from illicit drug use on Vancouver Island in 2011, and 16 of those deaths occurred in greater Victoria. He noted that Vancouver Island is the region with the highest rate of deaths related to illicit drug use in British Columbia.

The Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria concluded that Victoria's per capita death rate is almost 30% higher than in the Lower Mainland. That is right, so just a few kilometres away, a ferry ride away from our community, in the Vancouver community where InSite exists, 30% fewer people die from overdoses per capita than on Vancouver Island, where we do not have a safe injection site. All that Bill C-2 would do is make it virtually impossible for us to realize the public health benefits that have been achieved on the mainland.

The Health Officers Council of British Columbia has resolved that “supervised injection services have been studied enough as research projects, and that it is time to move them into the mainstream of health service provision.” The College of Registered Nurses and the Canadian Nurses Association have interpreted their professional standards for nurses and nurse practitioners to encompass and support the supervision of drug consumption by clients.

In September 2010, the City of Victoria presented a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities to lobby the province to “legislate that base levels of harm reduction services, including needle exchange and access to safe substance use equipment”, and detox and treatment beds, “be made available in every [local government]”.

In April 2008, University of Victoria addictions researcher, Dr. Benedikt Fischer, and B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, called on relevant authorities to implement a supervised consumption site trial for high-risk street drug users in Victoria. Their argument would be the basis for an editorial published in the BC Medical Journal on April 1, 2008, which said:

Victoria provides a perfect platform to implement a distinct and scientifically evaluated supervised consumption site program that is uniquely tailored to reflect the local characteristics of street drug use and associated public health needs....

I could go on, but I would like to talk about the recent response to the bill by Katrina Jensen, AIDS Vancouver Island executive director, who said there is a need for such a site in Victoria. In June she said:

“We have had eight overdose deaths in the last six months and those are deaths that could have been prevented if we had a supervised consumption site,” she said.

“I think there’s overwhelming evidence that a site in Victoria would save lives and be beneficial to the community.”

Debra McPherson, head of the BC Nurses' Union, asks:

“How does this respect the Supreme Court of Canada decision that recognized these facilities save lives?”...

She said the legislation is a smokescreen for the government’s real agenda of “pandering to prejudice and misplaced morality over health care, evidence and a coherent strategy on addictions and mental health.”

The bill does not achieve the goals that the Supreme Court of Canada set out. The Supreme Court of Canada suggested a road map for granting exemptions by the Minister of Health to allow supervised safe injection sites, consumption sites, to be established in communities.

The bill would set up all the red tape imaginable in communities that want to do something about this scourge, this public health and safety issue. These communities are only going to be frustrated by the bill. That is essentially why I oppose the bill. I think it is wrong-headed and contrary to public health and safety.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, before I was elected as a member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre, I was a real estate representative serving the GTA and one of the things that I am concerned about with respect to these sites is the value of people's real property.

As a real estate representative, I know too well that it is not just the current condition of a house or the property that it sits on, but it is also factors that are across the street, around the corner or down the road. For example, a gas station is always something to be concerned about. A big factory or even rental properties can decrease the value of real property. With respect that, when we talk about community safety and the concerns of the community, we are also taking into account the safety of investments.

I am wondering if the member would agree with me that an injection site across the street, down the road or around the corner from a family home would actually decrease the value of real property. Or does he actually believe that it would increase the value of that property?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the parliamentary secretary about the concerns she has about real property. I have concerns about real people's lives. I live in a community where people are dying every day on the streets. I am concerned about that. Residents of Victoria are concerned about that. On this side of the House, that weighs more heavily on us than the impact on property prices and investments, as she put it.

I point out that in Vancouver, 80% of people surveyed living or working in the Downtown Eastside support InSite. That is the community, too. People live there and 80% of them are in favour because they know the impact it has had on their community.

I live in a place where people often do not know that there is the possibility of treatment. We need to create, in partnership with local governments, what they did in Vancouver with InSite, which the Supreme Court celebrated in its decision. It is a coming together of the community. The police are in favour, I remind the House, as well as the community, the City of Vancouver and all of the partners.

They figured out that they could find a way to put this in an appropriate location. We are not talking about putting it in places where the community does not want it. We accept and respect the need for ample consultation with the community. That is what happened in Vancouver and that is what would happen here.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is worthy to note that strong social programming in our communities, such as what we have seen in Vancouver with this particular facility, has a very strong benefit overall for all of the community. In fact, in response to the question that was just posed, the value of the community as a whole actually does improve.

I would ask the member to reaffirm what I believe to be the case, that when we bring in strong social programming, quite often what happens is that we will alleviate the concerns that many of the residents have. By centralizing or providing a service, for example, we can prevent individuals in this situation from using these illegal drugs in our schoolyards or back lanes, spread out throughout the community. The benefits far outweigh any sort of negatives that might be there by allowing facilities of this nature to exist.

As elected officials, what we should be doing is looking at creative ways in which we can start dealing with the social issues that are destroying many of our communities or that are extremely negative. This is just one of those tools, if I can put it that way, that can make a positive overall difference.

Could the member provide comment on that?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague's fundamental point that these strong social programs, as he puts it, do help alleviate community concerns.

Let me give the House some examples of that. In a study by Wood et al in 2004 about the Vancouver situation, there was a significant drop in the number of discarded syringes, injection related litter and people injecting on the streets one year after the InSite location had opened. That means, as the member points out, that people are not shooting up in alleys and dropping syringes by schools, they are going to a supervised site.

Secondly, I would point out that at those sites, there are trained nurses. If people are ready, willing and able to seek treatment and detox and get off drugs, that is what they are there for and they will help the addicted person to achieve that.

There are also all of the benefits that come from that, economically and otherwise. First of all, wasted lives, getting people off of drugs and getting into productive lives is certainly something that we really cannot put a price on. Secondly, the cost of less law enforcement, less hospitalization and so on are some of the benefits that, as the member said, clearly outweigh the costs.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Victoria for his excellent speech.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned a potential decrease in the value of real property. Such a decrease could happen anywhere. The parliamentary secretary's use of the term says a lot about her living standards.

Cities like Toronto, Montreal, Charlesbourg and Limoilou all have back alleys. I used to own an apartment building. People would go to the alley behind the building to shoot up, and we would regularly find used syringes.

Would you agree it would be safer for the general public if people who are addicted to drugs and shoot up in back alleys were instead directed to supervised injection sites?

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I should point out, ironically, if there is any issue of real estate, I am from the west coast. We do not need to be told about real estate values. They have gone up in Vancouver. They have gone up in the Downtown Eastside. I think it is a rather specious argument.

I want to repeat that we would be working in partnership, if there were a bill that truly implemented the spirit and the letter of the Supreme Court of Canada's judgment. We would find a community partnership to address some of the concerns there.

Of course there are always benefits and costs in any public policy decision, but I am so persuaded, and all people on this side of the House in the New Democratic Party are persuaded, the benefits will clearly outweigh the cost. We need to move on the basis of public safety and health.

Respect for Communities ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

That brings to an end the debate on the bill for the time being. On resumption of debate we will have about two and a half minutes for questions and comments.

Clémence Le MayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, almost 8,000 people were voted into office in Quebec municipal elections. The Bloc Québécois would like to congratulate them. We would also like to salute those who decided to pass the torch. Clémence Le May decided to retire from politics after serving the people of Saint-Christophe-d'Arthabaska for 39 years, 21 of them as mayor. A nurse by training, Ms. Lemay has taken care of people in so many different ways.

In addition to the people of Saint-Christophe-d'Arthabaska, the clients and employees of Carrefour d'entraide bénévole des Bois-Francs have also been fortunate to have known her and benefited from her talents and generosity.

Clémence Le May is a woman of character and has never hesitated to defend the integrity of her town, fight for safe drinking water and protect her townspeople affected by two floods. A woman of conviction, she has publicly stated that she would like to see Quebec become sovereign.

Thank you Clémence for all your years of public service. As you said so well, you can retire with a sense of accomplishment. Congratulations.

African Institute for Mathematical SciencesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute today to the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

AIMS was founded by Dr. Neil Turok, a director of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo. His revolutionary approach nurtures Africa's brightest students, empowering them to take leadership roles in solving the complex challenges that face their continent.

There can be no more effective investment in Africa's future than in education, and I am proud that the Government of Canada invested $20 million in this initiative. I had the rewarding experience of visiting the AIMS centre in South Africa last May. It was inspirational to meet the students and to witness the tangible results of this investment.

Congratulations to AIMS on this milestone anniversary and for demonstrating the power of knowledge to effect positive change.

Dorothy Mary ChambersStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we enter Remembrance Week, I would like to remember a recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Medal, Dorothy Mary Chambers.

Dorothy was born in Fort William and was a wonderful person, but beyond that, she was also an extremely proud veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Dorothy's family offered the following about her remarkable life: “Our mom lived life to the fullest and was given the gift of a full circle of life. She was a dignified veteran, a proud Canadian and we're all extremely proud of her”. I could not say it better. We are all proud.

I will gather with many others tomorrow at St. Paul's Anglican Church at 11 a.m. to remember and celebrate Dorothy's remarkable life. On behalf of her friends and the people of Thunder Bay—Rainy River, we are sincerely thankful for her service to Canada and all she did for veterans and for her community.

In closing, I would also like to offer a sincere thanks to all of Canada's veterans, our active personnel, and their families for their service and sacrifices on behalf of all Canadians.

Lest we forget.

Remembrance DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour a well-known long-time resident of Estevan, Ken Raine, a kind and trusted elder who has contributed much to his church and community throughout his lifetime. I rise also to recognize and thank him for his participation in the Second World War.

Ken joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and was posted to 434 Squadron, No. 6 Bomber Command, as leading air craftsman. He was then posted to the Northern Ireland Coastal Command.

To Ken, his family, and all veterans on this Remembrance Day, I say thanks for doing your part in the service of our country and in the service of mankind. On the 11th day of the 11th month, we will once again offer our gratitude and our commitment to never forget your service. Thank you, Ken.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled a report on the state of conservation of our natural heritage. The report showed that the government’s track record is a pattern of unfulfilled commitments and responsibilities.

Staffing for conservation work in national parks has decreased 23% compared to the average of the previous seven years. Many national parks lack baseline data on the state of the park, so there is nothing against which to measure whether progress is being made. Environment Canada itself has shown that the ecological integrity of over 70% of fauna reserves and over half of migratory bird refuges are considered inadequate.

We are a country defined by our natural beauty and heritage. Not only is conservation good in and of itself, it is key to preventing disruption associated with economic development.

The government must get its act together on environmental policy. It has had seven years to show some good faith on this file and some concrete actions and results. What is it waiting for?