Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise this evening in this quiet chamber where only New Democrats seem to want to talk about how to make a better future for Canada and Canadians.
I am talking tonight about the misguided Bill C-2, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. We are at second reading in the legislative process, but it is certainly early enough to say an unqualified no to this proposed piece of legislation.
It comes to us, into this chamber, in response to the 2011 Supreme Court decision that concluded that the Minister of Health's refusal to grant an extension to InSite's exemption under that act was:
...arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the [Controlled Drugs and Substances Act], which include public health and safety.
Here we have Bill C-2. It is typical legislation from the government in a number of respects. First and foremost, it reflects a government unable to deal with, and unwilling to acknowledge, the complexities of real life. Consequently, it is a government unfit to govern.
It is a government that provides ample evidence of this to us every day, as with Bill C-36, the government's response to the Supreme Court's Bedford ruling, and the monkeying about with judicial appointments in response to the Supreme Court's Nadon ruling. This is a government that does not take advice from, but responds with infantile defiance to, that body in our system of government that is the guardian of basic rights and freedoms for Canadians.
However, there are constraints on its conduct, thankfully. In this particular circumstance, the Supreme Court was clear on the constraints the government had to work within. It was section 7 of the charter in this case. To quote the court on this decision specifically:
...the Minister must exercise 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.
There we have it. No clearer an articulation can be imagined, I do not think.
Now, in defiance of that clear statement, we have a bill that will require InSite to reapply for an exemption, but under the new proposed prejudicial criteria, criteria that make no effort to hide the anti-safe injection site animus.
Under this bill:
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;
and so on and so on.
However, nowhere do we find, along with those principles, anything that even remotely resembles the findings of the Supreme Court in its decision, in which they said:
InSite has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada.
How does this bill make any effort on the mountain of evidence that has accumulated in support of injection sites, and InSite in particular, as mechanisms for finding a balance between public health and public safety?
The Supreme Court, in its decision, turned its mind to all the facts, to the studies that demonstrate the beneficial impacts of InSite and other like sites around the world. The evidence in favour of safe injection sites is overwhelming. Thirty peer-reviewed studies in deeply respected medical journals, the names of which we all know in this House, are dealing with InSite itself. The studies are supported by findings confirmed by research on the other 70 safe injection sites around the world.
What the studies show, and what the Supreme Court had before it for consideration, was the following: between 1987 and 1993, which is pre-InSite, the rate of overdose deaths in Vancouver increased from 16 to 200 per year. Since InSite opened, the rate of overdose deaths in East Vancouver has dropped by 35%.
One study showed that over a one-year period, there were 273 overdoses, but not a single life was lost. Over a one-year period, 2,171 referrals were made to InSite users to addiction counselling or other support services.
Finally, studies found that those who used InSite services at least once a week were 1.7 times more likely to enrol in a detox program than those who visited infrequently.
There are more studies, but let me point to one more important finding. There was a significant drop in the number of discarded syringes, injection-related litter, and people injecting on the streets one year after InSite opened.
I raise this issue not just because I know it is a particularly compelling finding for parents like me, but also because it stands in complete contradiction to the Conservatives' anti-InSite sloganeering, “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. They call on Canadians to support the bill in order to keep “heroin out of our backyards” as though, by abolishing the safe injection site, they will also abolish heroin, as though it will just disappear somehow, as though it was not there before InSite, as though it would not return if we abolish InSite.
This is ideology in the most pejorative sense of the word, a believe that is held tight, not just in ignorance of the facts but in fact in contravention of all outstanding evidence, evidence that is before the Conservatives in plain site that one cannot miss, that the Supreme Court examined in the process of arriving at its decision. Even beyond that, it is the belief that is fundamentally illogical and irrational. This, being prepared to govern a country this way, is why the Conservatives are unfit to govern.
Governing is not some blue sky project where reality changes just because we wish it is different, where heroin disappears because we close safe injection sites, where addictions go away because we do not have harm reduction programs, or climate change does not happen because we silence scientists, empty the libraries and discard the research. It is not as though the charter disappears because the Conservatives can force legislation in contravention of it through this place.
This should properly be the role of government, not to be receiving applications as though we lived in a country without section 7 charter rights, as though the issue of harm reduction was not otherwise a matter of active government concern.
For these reasons, I stand against Bill C-2.