Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for putting forward Bill C-224, an important piece of legislation. Not all of us are so fortunate as to get such an early spot for our private member's bills and to have a bill that is going to potentially make a lifesaving difference. It is truly a privilege.
I would like to provide a bit of perspective around what the issue is that my colleague is trying to address.
In British Columbia, the province both the member and I are from, between 2010 and 2015 there was a 50% increase in deaths due to drug overdose. In 2016 we have seen a really worrisome spike. There have been 201 deaths in three months in British Columbia. The situation is so serious that public health has declared a state of emergency. This is not only a big issue in British Columbia but it is a big issue across Canada.
We think this perhaps happens only in some of our larger centres, such as the Downtown Eastside. That is not accurate. In Kamloops alone there have been 13 fatalities in three months from drug overdoses, and six of those happened in one day. Four individuals managed to get treatment and are fine.
These are not just numbers and facts. These are people. These are our friends. These are our children. In Kamloops, three families have spoken out directly on this issue. They want to raise awareness, especially about fentanyl and the tragic consequences of its use.
Ryan Pinneo's family has spoken out publicly. Their son was an athlete with a very supportive family. He struggled with addiction and succumbed to a tragic overdose.
There was another young man from Kamloops named Lance Ritchie whose parents have also spoken out. The reason they are speaking out is to raise awareness in terms of the incredible danger that is out there. Lance Ritchie loved the outdoors. He loved to fish. His family has beautiful pictures of him. They have shown the people of Kamloops the pictures and have told them that, yes, he did something wrong and foolish but he was a wonderful man.
Twenty-four-year-old Ben Coan is another whose family is grieving, and it is so tragic to hear the mothers and fathers talk about their children.
Someone that I knew from a very young age, and it was a fairly high-profile tragedy in North Vancouver, involved Hardy and Amelia, a couple of young parents. They made a foolish decision, no question about it. They were good people who made a bad mistake.
What would this legislation mean? The research the proponent of the bill shared was that sometimes there is a barrier to getting help quickly and that barrier is because the people who are with their friends or their classmates or their mothers and fathers are worried that there will be some consequences in terms of the substances. The research is clear that at times there has been a barrier because of possession. We also just heard from a doctor across the aisle who, in his own experience, found that there was a barrier for people in terms of self-interest or many reasons in terms of getting help quickly.
In the case of opioids, what does getting help quickly mean? I am a nurse by background. I can remember in the hospital there was a case, and this was a legitimate use of a narcotic for pain control. We had given a woman some pain medication post-surgery and just a couple of minutes later I happened to go into the room and she had stopped breathing as the result of an allergic reaction to the pain medication.
It was absolutely shocking to see someone who had stopped breathing and who was on the brink of death. The hospitals have something called Narcan or naloxone. We injected the naloxone, or Narcan as it was called, into her and she started breathing again. She opened her eyes and wondered what had happened. For someone who has never seen this, Narcan can reverse the effects an allergy to medicaitons.
This is a multi-issue and this is one piece of the puzzle that our colleague has introduced in getting help for people quickly. Removing barriers for them to seek help is a really important piece of the puzzle.
British Columbia has a take-home naloxone program to make it readily available. Health Canada worked rapidly, going through a process to make naloxone available, not a prescription. It is cheaper for patients who have a bee allergy. We will often see their kits and learn how to do an injection to reverse the effects of the allergy to the bee. This particular injection can be easily learned and is truly life-saving.
The other important feature is that lay people can learn how to deliver naloxone. It is absolutely life-saving and there is very minimal adverse effects.
I noted that some people have said that we perhaps should be criticizing this because we are endorsing drug use. That is not actually what is happening. It has been very clear that what is happening is life-saving, whether it is someone who is suffering from an addiction who has taken an overdose, or whether it is a young person who has been at a party and who has made perhaps a foolish decision.
If we put this bill into the context of what is a dramatically escalating situation in British Columbia and across Canada and provide some basic life-saving tools, then we have a good bill. I too hope all members in the House will support the bill. Again, even if it saves one life, it is a bill well done.