House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was change.


6:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, the member for Trois-Rivieres is clearly concerned about the plight of homeowners in Mauricie and other regions of Quebec whose foundations contain pyrrhotite.

I commend him for that, and I am pleased to confirm for the House that progress is finally being made on this difficult issue. This is a longstanding problem that my colleagues from Saint-Maurice—Champlain and Laurentides—Labelle have spoken to me about on this side of the House.

After a decade of inaction by the previous government, the government finally announced in budget 2016 that we would provide up to $30 million over three years. I will repeat for the hon. member that it is $30 million over three years, starting this year, to help homeowners who are dealing with the consequences of pyrrhotite.

As the member for Trois-Rivieres knows, on July 11, our government and the Government of Quebec announced that an agreement had been signed to provide this assistance to affected homeowners, beginning this fiscal year. As we said at the time, families must get the help they need as soon as possible to deal with this economic and human tragedy.

This is why the federal government worked so closely with the Government of Quebec, so that funding would be distributed through an existing provincial program. As a result of this agreement, the Société d'habitation du Québec, or SHQ, was given the go-ahead to commit the federal funds through the existing Quebec program to indemnify homeowners who have been impacted by pyrrhotite.

The first $10 million in federal funding was immediately available upon signing of the agreement. According to the SHQ's estimates, this initial federal contribution will benefit some 130 homeowners. The SHQ undertook to inform its municipal partners of the budgets that will be made available to them, so they could quickly begin to work the approval process with impacted homeowners.

The member for Trois-Rivieres should never have doubted the government's commitment to help homeowners repair or replace foundations damaged by pyrrhotite, which can cause swelling and deterioration over time as concrete slabs are exposed to water.

When the Prime Minister visited the Mauricie region during the election, he acknowledged that the people struggling with the pyrrhotite problem were victims of a tragedy. Through no fault of their own, their basement foundations were failing. To show his solidarity with the people of Mauricie and underscore his commitment to provide federal assistance, the Prime Minister returned to the area in April to confirm the $30 million in federal assistance.

It is worth noting that the Government of Canada bears no responsibility or liability for this situation. Two years ago, the Quebec Superior Court concluded that professional technical consultants, suppliers, and contractors involved in the supply of the faulty concrete were responsible for this calamity.

While there is no legal obligation for the Government of Canada to provide assistance, we will not stand by and ignore the plight of affected homeowners, who continue to suffer financial hardship due to the mistakes and carelessness of others. The problem is serious, the solution costly, and our government is doing its part to help the affected families.

6:50 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his answer which, quite frankly, nevertheless was rather predictable.

Although the $30 million that has been or will be paid by the federal government is welcome, I would like to remind the member that it is simply not enough, at least not enough to get on their soapbox about solving the pyrrhotite problem.

I would like to come back to this famous standard, so I will attempt to explain the situation. The current federal standard is not clear on the quality of the concrete aggregates. Perhaps my colleague could ask the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development about that. I thought he could give me an answer this evening; however, he could certainly pass on the information. In Canada, we routinely review standards about every five years. Thus, in the previous Parliament, under the Conservatives, the standard for concrete aggregates was reviewed. The conclusion was that there was not enough scientific evidence to make a determination. Thus, it was put off for another five years. In the meantime, nothing is happening.

We should put scientists to work, as was the case at Laval University. Unfortunately, that study was shut down for who knows what reason.

Will the study be reinstated and the standard reviewed?

6:50 p.m.


Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly understand the member's sense of urgency on this issue, as well as his commitment.

As I noted earlier, the previous government's indifference to the problem delayed federal action for a full decade. However, that did not stop the bills from piling up for homeowners whose foundations were falling apart literally under their feet.

We understand that the federal assistance promised in budget 2016 is needed as soon as possible, which is why we moved quickly to negotiate an agreement with the Quebec government to establish a process for distributing the available funding in a fair and responsible manner.

I can assure the member that we are as determined as he is to resolve a problem that has caused much anguish and financial hardship for homeowners in the Mauricie. In fact, we are taking action to do so, and will continue to provide assistance over the next two years.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

October 4th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is going through a deadly opioid overdose crisis that is so severe and widespread that few Canadians are untouched by it.

In my home province of British Columbia alone, 800 more people are expected to die from opioid overdoses than from motor vehicle accidents this year. In Ontario, opioid overdose is the third leading cause of accidental death, and one out of every eight deaths in Ontario among young adults is related to an opioid overdose tragedy. Last year, 274 people in Alberta died from overdosing on the opioid fentanyl, a drug so powerful that a single particle the size of a salt grain is enough to cause an overdose and two are enough to kill. For the country as a whole, opioid overdoses are expected to claim an estimated 2,000 lives by the end of this year. That is one Canadian dying every four hours.

Although, this has been a national crisis for well over a year, the response of the federal government has been unacceptably slow, leaving individual jurisdictions to tackle this crisis alone. For example, B.C. is currently grappling with a massive influx of fentanyl that led to 238 deaths in the first half of this year alone, leaving Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s chief health officer, to declare a public health emergency for the first time ever in B.C. history.

That is why I moved a motion at the health committee to launch an emergency study to provide recommendations for immediate federal action to tackle Canada's overdose epidemic. This morning, the committee began its study. Hearing from witnesses representing Health Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the RCMP, the CBSA, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, we learned a number of cogent and sometimes disturbing facts. Among these are the following.

The federal government has not declared the overdose a public health emergency, even though it recognizes that it displays the characteristics of one and is being regarded as one.

In spite of the overwhelming evidence supporting safe injection sites, the federal government stubbornly refuses to repeal Bill C-2, Conservative legislation that the former Liberal health critic said was deliberately designed to prevent sites from opening.

We learned that the government has no plans to invest any new funding to expand much needed treatment for addictions in partnership with the provinces and territories. We also learned that in the absence of national data on opioid prescribing and overdoses, we have no way to capture the full extent of this crisis. Instead, we continue to rely on fragmented and incomplete data to identify the policy changes most likely to address the overdose epidemic.

Despite being successfully employed by the Vancouver Police Department for a decade, we learned that the RCMP hasn't even considered a policy of non-attendance at 911 calls for overdoses. We also learned that Ottawa has not moved to restrict access to devices involved with drug production, such as pill presses and tableting machines, and Canada will not have new prescribing guidelines for opioids until 2017.

We learned that the CBSA lacks the statutory power to open containers smaller than 30 grams to halt opioid trafficking at our borders. This means that traffickers who mail fentanyl to Canada in envelopes under 30 grams will never have their shipments opened under current legislation. Instead, CBSA will call them and request their permission to open the envelopes.

Given the severity of this overdose crisis, more urgent action is needed. When will the federal government finally step up and show the leadership necessary to more effectively confront the opioid overdose epidemic facing our nation and killing our citizens?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Brampton West Ontario


Kamal Khera LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by stating that both I and our government are deeply concerned about the misuse of opioids.

Misuse causes considerable harm to families and communities. However, we also know that patients need to have access to these drugs for legitimate medical treatment of pain. This is why the Government of Canada is supporting a comprehensive approach to addressing this issue and reducing harm associated with problematic opioid use.

To do this, we are supporting properly established and managed supervised consumption sites. We are proposing regulations to control six precursors that can be used in the production of fentanyl, once again allowing physicians of certain patients to apply for access to heroin-assisted treatment under the special access program, improving access to naloxone, and supporting private member's Bill C-224, the good Samaritan drug overdose act. This bill would encourage people witnessing an overdose to call 911 by providing immunity from minor drug possession charges.

These actions are part of our five-point action plan to address opioid misuse. The plan focuses on informing Canadians about the risks of opioids, supporting better prescribing practices, reducing easy access to unnecessary opioids, supporting better treatment options, and enhancing the evidence base upon which policy decisions are made.

Other specific actions under the plan include, for example, an expedited review of easy-to-administer naloxone nasal spray, proposing regulatory changes that would require a prescription for low-dose codeine products, new warning stickers to be placed on dispensed opioids, and mandatory risk management plans for all high-potency opioids.

Within the context of our comprehensive and evidence-based response to the opioid crisis, we will not be proceeding with new regulations on controlled-release oxycodone at this time. Ultimately these regulations would not have been in the public interest.

Health Canada's review of the evidence concludes that the introduction of tamper-resistant versions of one drug would not reduce the harms associated with opioid misuse writ large. This is because the small number of people who choose to tamper with a drug are more likely to switch to another non-tamper-resistant opioid rather than stop misusing this highly addictive class of drugs. These people may even be at increased risk of harm or death if they switch to using street drugs such as heroin or illegal fentanyl, which are often being disguised as other drugs.

Further, the regulation would have increased the costs to patients that are prescribed oxycodone, because they would have been unable to purchase a lower-cost version of the drug. It would have made no sense to penalize patients with a policy that would not have the intended effect of reducing the harms of opioid misuse.

That being said, the Government of Canada is supportive of tamper-resistant features. Health Canada has published guidance for drug manufacturers that will allow them to request the review and approval of tamper-resistance claims.

I want to be clear. Our government takes the exponential growth in opioid misuse and the rising numbers of overdose deaths very seriously. Next month, the Minister of Health will be hosting a summit on opioids to bring together experts, patient groups, governments, and regulators to discuss the current crisis and identify actions for moving forward.

In closing, I would like to reiterate our commitment to improving public health and safety for Canadians. I look forward to continued collaboration with all my colleagues from across the floor on this extremely important issue.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reaction of the government has been far too slow. Hundreds of Canadians have died while the government simply plans a meeting in November.

If the government truly believes in evidence-based decision-making, why is it ignoring the advice of health experts who say the evidence is overwhelming that safe consumption sites save lives and should be used to help address Canada's overdose epidemic?

The latest call comes from B.C.'s chief medical officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, who recently implored the federal Liberal government to cut the Conservative red tape imposed by Bill C-2. Indeed, Canada's municipalities, including Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa are publicly expressing their desire to set up new safe consumption sites. However, in two years, there has not been a single new safe consumption site opened up in this country. That is because of the legislation passed by the previous government, which remains untouched by the current government. Meanwhile, two people continue to die every day in B.C. from drug overdoses.

When will the government stop applying Stephen Harper's regressive legislation and repeal Bill C-2 to start saving lives?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Kamal Khera Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is very concerned about the opioid crisis and is working hard to address this issue, as I mentioned previously.

As indicated, we concluded that the regulations that would have required tamper-resistant properties for controlled release oxycodone would not have reduced the overall harms of opioid misuse.

The problem with the regulations for controlled release oxycodone is that they would most likely create a balloon effect, where measures to control misuse of one drug would lead people to use another potentially more dangerous drug.

We are deeply concerned about the increasing rates of overdose and deaths from illegal sources of fentanyl in Canada, and we are not willing to take actions that have any possibility of making this crisis even worse and jeopardizing the safety and health of Canadians.

Instead, we have put in place a strong, comprehensive, and evidence-based strategy to address the opioid crisis from various angles, which include support for industry interested in developing tamper-resistant formulations of opioids.

The government will continue to take action to address this serious issue, and again, as I said before, we look forward to working closely with our colleagues and other stakeholders to address this extremely important issue.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, today we recognize the Sisters in Spirit vigil on the front steps of the House of Commons and all across the country. Many survivors of violence against murdered and missing indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people are glad that the inquiry has started, but they are also expressing still a great deal of trauma and sadness. We still have such a long way to go to achieve closure for these families.

I really want to recognize in the House the advocacy and strength of the families and the indigenous organizations that have brought us to this point and that have pushed to make the inquiry a reality.

The inquiry was announced during the summer while the House was not in session. Indigenous organizations and representatives of families articulated five concerns about the terms of reference for the inquiry, and I would like to get on the record what the government's response was to those dissatisfactions. It may be that it tweaked the terms of reference or did incorporate those concerns.

The first one is that the murdered and missing indigenous women inquiry should have full access to trauma-informed and culturally appropriate counselling, and that would not be limited to the duration of their appearance before the commission. That is culturally appropriate support before, during, and following any testimony.

The second area of concern was whether the inquiry would compel the reopening of cold cases and cases that were dismissed maybe accidentally as accidents or suicides.

Third, what is the role of the police, the provinces, and the territories in the inquiry? We need full participation of those provincial agencies to know that we are getting at the child welfare problems, the domestic violence shelters, all of the police forces that are controlled either by provinces, territories, indigenous governments, or the federal government.

The fourth area of concern is that there was no explicit mention of the need to work with justice partners. Does our criminal justice system deal adequately, and what can we do to address the systemic discrimination that indigenous people have faced in the justice system?

Finally, there is the need for the addition of a sixth commissioner who is an Inuit woman. The president of Pauktuutit, Rebecca Kudloo, said:

For this inquiry to be of maximum benefit for Inuit it must be led by indigenous women including us as Inuit women. To me, this is a fundamental matter of principle, equality and trust.

I would like to hear from the government. How did it fill those gaps? How is it moving forward? I hope that some of these identified problems have been filled. We would all benefit from knowing that indigenous families and advocacy organizations were heard and that their concerns are now reflected in the final terms of reference for the inquiry now under way.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question from the hon. member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, here on traditional Algonquin territory.

It is particularly poignant that we are discussing this matter of national importance tonight. Every year, October 4 has become dedicated to honouring the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and supporting families that have been tragically touched by the loss of a loved one to violence.

Earlier today, on in Parliament Hill and across the country, vigils and other ceremonies were held to honour the memory of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We join their families and loved ones in our shared commitment to end the violence.

As members are aware, the government launched a national inquiry to seek recommendations on concrete actions which governments and others can take to address and prevent violence against indigenous women and girls. All indigenous voices are paramount to this government and to this process.

The government would like to thank Pauktuutit and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, or ITK, for their input into the pre-inquiry process.

Indeed, the ITK and Inuit leadership have been very involved in the engagement of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Inuit leaders speak about violence in the home, the need for shelters, safe housing, and needed reform of the justice system.

Over the winter and spring, the hon. Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the hon. Minister of Justice, and the hon. Minister of Status of Women heard first hand the needs and expectations of survivors, family members, and loved ones for the design of this inquiry. They heard from more than 2,100 participants at 18 face-to-face meetings, with one or more ministers present, across the country, including in Inuit regions.

The engagement also involved obtaining the views on the design of the inquiry from national and indigenous organizations.

On August 3, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Minister of Status of Women announced five commissioners who would lead the truly national inquiry, as well as the terms of reference for the national inquiry. The commissioners named to the inquiry have the background, characteristics, and experience we heard was necessary in the pre-design phase to lead this inquiry.

The inquiry will both recommend concrete actions to prevent future violence as well as help identify the underlying causes of this ongoing national strategy.

The government is also taking immediate action on root causes, with historic investments on priorities, including women's shelters, safe water, housing, education, and child welfare.

In the North, this government is investing in a wide variety of areas, including infrastructure, affordable housing, education, and physical and mental health, helping Inuit and northerners to secure the foundations of healthy and safe communities.

Canada is grateful to the survivors, families, loved ones, and indigenous representative organizations which provided input during the pre-inquiry process. The input received helped shape the inquiry that the commissioners will now be leading.

We will rebuild trust, ensure justice for both victims and survivors, and healing for their families.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to my colleague across the floor, he has not answered any of the questions that I asked tonight.

Again, I thought I was giving the government an opportunity to show us, to tell us how it had incorporated the feedback of these most valued partners.

For the government to say that a relationship with indigenous people is the most important relationship it has, but then not be able to say “These are the ways that we've incorporated their input” is very saddening.

We heard people on the front steps of the House of Commons today say that in Cree “sorry” means action. We heard survivors ask, inside the House of Commons, “How would you feel if it was your daughter who disappeared? Would you say that you had done enough?” They asked, “Where's the support for families, for trauma, for victims, for addictions?”. They said that they did not want to wait to the end of the inquiry to see real change. They very much wanted to know that their outstanding concerns about the inquiry had been addressed.

I will give the government a final time to brag about the good work it has done. I express my great hope that we can work together and achieve the result we need in our country for indigenous women and girls.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat for the hon. member that there has been unprecedented engagement in the design of the inquiry, with the input of Pauktuutit and ITK. The pre-inquiry engagement was instrumental in ensuring that the terms of reference reflected the views of indigenous voices from coast to coast to coast in every corner of the country, including from Inuit people.

As I have said, the commissioners named to lead the inquiry have the background, characteristics, and experience we heard in the pre-inquiry design phase were necessary to lead this inquiry. With the commissioners now beginning that work, the inquiry will recommend concrete actions to prevent future violence and identify the underlying causes of this ongoing national strategy.

This government is also determined to work with all those who have been impacted, including Inuit leadership and communities to take immediate action combatting the violence.

I think that answers the hon. member's question.

In addition to budget 2016 investments for on-reserve women's shelters, this government also announced an investment of $89.9 million over two years for the construction and renovation of shelters and transition houses for victims of violence in provinces and territories, and many other measures.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:15 p.m.)