Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to speak on this important bill, Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
I will begin by commenting on the sad state of affairs of our democracy. I was here last night, when I spoke to a similarly empty House, following numerous speakers from the NDP on legislation that has everything to do with the well-being of Canadians, the best use of our tax dollars, and the creation of the best possible public policy. At one speaking opportunity after another, it was members of the NDP who stood up and represented Canadians on these critical issues. Once again, here we are tonight.
We heard the rhetoric from the government that it cares deeply about the legislation it is putting forward. We heard the rhetoric that it cares about public safety, Canadians, and all sorts of things, yet when there is the opportunity for the Conservatives to defend their own legislation, we hear nothing but silence. There may be some heckling from time to time and maybe the odd question, but at every single opportunity they have to speak up and defend their legislation, as we have seen today and yesterday, they have chosen to sit down.
I think this is problematic for any Canadian, and certainly for those tuned in to CPAC. They will see the New Democrats working hard and representing their constituents and Canadians, but they will wonder what the government members are doing at this time.
On an issue like this one, I think it matters even more that the Conservatives are saying nothing. The bill we are discussing here today has everything to do with the most vulnerable people in our country. These are people who have fallen through the cracks of society, who are ill and struggling with addiction. Many of these people live in abject poverty and are homeless. Some live with the trauma of abuse. Certainly in my part of the country, many are still suffering from the impact of residential schools and the horrific sexual and physical abuse they experienced, which has led them to a life of addiction, self-harm, and struggle.
When these people, their families, or their communities tune in to find out what their parliamentarians are doing to try to help them or to help people who so often want to help themselves, all they hear is silence on one more piece of indefensible legislation that is not founded on evidence, on science, or on public health policy that makes sense. It has everything to do with a narrow, ignorant, ideological agenda.
This is not the first time we have seen a bill that has everything to do with ideology and nothing to do with evidence come to this House. Sadly, we see it every day, but I am deeply disturbed when it comes to this legislation. As my colleague alluded to, this piece of legislation is being used to divide Canadians. These people who need help, people whose lives we cannot play with, are being taken advantage of so that the government can score political points. It is unconscionable.
In my own political experience, sadly, I have numerous examples to point to as to how the Conservative government uses this kind of agenda in constituencies like mine.
One example is the way in which the government tries to score points at the expense of trans people and tries to foil the efforts of so many Canadians—including, I am very proud to say, our NDP—who are fighting for trans rights.
Why am I saying this? It is because I remember the calls we started getting in our campaign office a couple of days before the last election. People were concerned and distraught and upset that they were getting voice blasts telling them that their NDP candidate—me, in this case—was supportive of grown men going into girls' washrooms. One of the people who called us was the father of an eight-year-old girl who answered the phone and heard this message.
This message did not talk about what kind of policy this was about, or about parliamentary debate or legislation. It went to the lowest common denominator of electoral politics, something that the Conservative government has learned from its Republican cousins in the States. It knew exactly what it wanted to do. It wanted to drive a wedge into families, into communities, into where I come from, by saying basically that I was in support of human rights, including trans rights, and by saying how horrifying this was. The Conservatives did this by hiding the facts, by using cryptic language, and then by not fessing up until the last moment that it was actually connected to a very concerted Conservative campaign.
This is yet one more example of an ideological agenda being put forward by the government to score political points.
Another example is how the government targets first nations people. Instead of coming to the table and working in partnership with first nations people, whether it is on education, on health care, on ensuring that treaty rights are being implemented, or on economic development, sadly, the government has been too quick to put first nations down and to actually put obstacles in their way when they are trying to make a difference.
I remember that in one of the communities in my constituency, again leading into the previous election, an urban centre received mail-outs referring to the lack of accountability among first nations leaders. The mail-outs included rhetoric around corruption and associated corruption to first nations leaders and chiefs.
It is pretty rich when we hear that from a government that we know has done everything to suit its own friends, whether in the Senate or through various nefarious appointments or through various commitments it has made. We know that what was very much part of that agenda was the way in which it sought to divide Canadians, in this case non-aboriginal people versus aboriginal people, and build a kind of animosity toward people who are often on the margins of our society.
Bill C-2 is no exception. It falls exactly into that same pattern, and in this case, as I said, it plays with the lives of some of the most vulnerable people and communities across our country. It plays with the lives of people in our own families. In some cases it would be people who have gone through this House who have been touched by addiction, people who know what it means and how important help is.
The government has not listened to health care professionals or read the over 30 peer-reviewed studies that have been published in journals. It does not recognize the facts, such as the fact that the rate of overdose deaths in east Vancouver has dropped by 35% since InSite opened or the fact that the reduction of HIV and AIDS rates has been significant as a result of InSite in Vancouver. Instead of looking at these facts and applying evidence and the principle of care, the Conservative government is seeking to score political points.
We have heard from my colleagues about how this bill contravenes the Supreme Court decision and how it could certainly be challenged. We have heard about how the government does not have a leg to stand on with this legislation.
I want to finish by saying how proud I am to be part of the NDP. The NDP stands with Canadians who want to see us make a difference in our communities, who want to see care for the most vulnerable in our communities, who want to see a government take leadership. Canadians deserve far better than a government that is merely playing with the lives of people who need help and doing it all merely to score political points.