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House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-37.

Topics

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government sees the need for continuous improvement. We are proposing measures in Bill C-37. The minister brought forward a six-point action plan in September 2016. We cannot stop and say this crisis is fixed as long as people are dying on the streets from these horrendous illicit substances. Our government will continue to act on this issue.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. As I stated in my speech on January 31, this is the government's response to the fentanyl and opioid health crisis that is facing this country.

Communities struggle to deal with this crisis. We just heard from a member whose son had lost a close friend who was 20 years old. I have a list here of young adolescents who are 21, 23, 25. A Delta mother lost two of her children within 20 minutes of each other, both in their twenties.

I have also heard that this was the response to this crisis, and that it was comprehensive drug policy. However, I would suggest that this is not comprehensive drug policy, because it is silent on the issue of how the current government is going to deal with that aspect of the opioid crisis.

First responders and medical personnel are overwhelmed and have difficulty trying to respond to the overdoses and the deaths. This is a very complex issue that deserves a multi-faceted approach. There is one strategy for those who are street-entrenched and will inject and use consumption sites, there is another strategy for those who use pills and prescription drugs, and another one for those whose use is recreational. Kids swallow a pill and do not realize what they are taking. Therefore, one size does not fit all.

Within the bill there are measures that are supported by all parties. We are happy to support the portion of the bill that gives the Canada Border Services Agency more authority to open international mail, and that prohibits the importation of unregistered pill presses.

It is well known around the world that China has been a significant contributor to the growing opioid, fentanyl, and carfentanil problem in Canada and throughout North America. It is vital that the government work to ensure that the deadly chemicals used in manufacturing labs in China and the illicit drugs that can be ordered online and shipped overseas not be allowed in Canada. I would stress to the Prime Minister, as he goes forward with his trade negotiations with China, that this issue be dealt with first and foremost.

We support the addition to broaden the penalties to now apply to the production, sale, importation, or transportation of anything intended to be used in the production of any controlled substance, including fentanyl. Clearly, there are many pieces of the bill that are supportable.

I want to talk a little bit about the timeline of Bill C-37.

Back in April, B.C. public health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, declared a public health emergency. On December 12, two days before Christmas break, the government tabled Bill C-37 in the House. January 31 was the first debate. February 1, it was debated again, and the government moved time allocation to close down debate. On February 9, the health committee heard from no witnesses and moved straight into clause-by-clause.

The singular issue I have with the bill is that it does not allow a process or criteria for public input before an injection site is located. We have heard that the Conservative government had one that was too onerous. Now, the current government is going in the exact opposite direction in having nothing.

Our health critic moved amendments that called for letters indicating support or opposition from the municipality or the head of the police force. This amendment was voted down by the Liberals.

There was the amendment that all households within a two-kilometre radius be notified with the ability to offer opinions in support or opposition. This was voted down by the Liberals.

There was an amendment proposing that information be provided regarding schools, hospitals, businesses which include day cares, recreational facilities that were located within that two-kilometre radius be provided. That was voted down by the Liberals. There was an amendment proposed that no less than 45 days but no longer than 90 days be included for public input and consultation. That was voted down by the Liberal government.

As a former mayor for almost a decade, I can say that we must consult with the community. We have to look at the community as a whole and support those in need as well as ensure that the community has a voice. I do not think it is unreasonable to request a minimum of 45 days in which to do this. I do not think that it is unreasonable to have an understanding of how many schools or how many day cares are in the vicinity of a proposed injection site.

I do not think it is unreasonable to have a letter of support or opposition from the chief of police or the mayor in council. We need to have a multi-faceted approach to a very complex problem. We need to embark upon a national education awareness campaign and I was happy to hear that one of the Liberal MPs supported our initiative on that. We have to ensure that the general public, young adults, and students have the information and that they are well informed.

We need proper data in each community. We need to know whether people overdosed by injection or taking pills. Were these people street entrenched? Were these people recreational users? As I pointed out earlier, the Liberal government's response needs to be based on data that is gathered. With scarce dollars, Liberals have to identify where those dollars should be directed and where they will have the greatest impact.

For those who are addicted and entrenched in that lifestyle, we need to have wraparound services that care for the whole person: mental health support as well as physical dependency and addiction support, a holistic approach that includes treatment beds, therapeutic communities, and detox. A place for those who want and need support because the window of opportunity in an addicted person's life is fleeting and the response must be immediate and the resources must be available. Every community is different.

In my community and as the former mayor, we worked with the province and with the private sector. We worked together and developed an addictions precinct adjacent to the hospital. We have a detox facility. We have two treatment facilities. We have a sobering centre as a point of entry, transitional housing, along with job and educational training. I have to say we have had some pretty incredible results.

We also have a needle exchange and a mobile unit, but we still have issues that need to be addressed. Is locating an injection site the right answer? I do not know, but I know there must be a conversation and a consultation with the community, with the mayor in council, and the police chief, along with addiction specialists. This is a process that needs to be undertaken, but as I pointed out earlier, every single amendment we proposed to have some form of consultation was voted down by the Liberal government. This is not open. This is not transparent and it flies in the face of the very people who are on the front lines dealing with this health crisis.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Fayçal El-Khoury Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague about her knowledge of alternatives. As she probably knows, uncontrolled drug trafficking will increase the crime rate and will increase the death rates because of overdose and will bring no money to the government. What other alternatives would she propose and what are the solutions?

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what kind of money it brings the government, and I do not think that is a lens we want to look through. I will say this, though, and I just said it earlier in my speech. We know it is coming in from China. We know that, bar none. We know there are thousands of labs in China. We know that people can buy it online. That has to stop. As I said earlier, when the Prime Minister goes forward and starts negotiating a trade agreement, this issue must be dealt with first and foremost.

When we look at the multi-faceted piece, as I said in my speech as well, there are people who will use injection consumption sites; there are people who need treatment. Look at the ages of young people who have died. The parliamentary's secretary's son lost a friend who was 20 years old. I pointed to a dozen kids who are dead. They are not shooting up. They are not using a consumption site. We have to have another avenue to help these kids, and that is what is vacant in this legislation. They are dying, and it is not being addressed.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments in this debate.

When I listen to the Conservatives, I sometimes think that they do not seem to recognize that establishing supervised consumption sites is at the very least part of the solution to today's crisis. Although it is not the only solution to the opioid crisis, it is certainly one element of the response.

Does my colleague recognize that supervised consumption sites, which also recommend ways to get off drugs, are part of the solution to the opioid crisis?

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, what I said in my speech is that it is a multi-faceted approach. There is not one element that fits all of it. The issue that I had and that I clearly articulated is that every amendment to have any kind of public consultation was removed. Within the legislation, there is no process and no criteria that lays it out. That was all removed.

Therefore, when having common-sense consultation is voted down in a health committee, and when it is removed from legislation, clearly the government does not want consultation. That is the issue that I have; not the stream and not the piece of treatment that is going to work or not going to work in a community.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's holistic approach. In the city of Richmond, I already have parents and concerned community people wondering why there is no consultation and their views are not heard. Their representatives' voice is not heard because the Liberals just shut down the debate.

I have two concerns. First, are the safe consumption sites the only way that can help? Second, how important is it to consult the community?

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I was mayor of a community of 520,000 people for almost a decade, and I know that we need to have the voice of the community participate in everything that we do. If we do not have it, it is doomed to fail. Not everybody is going to support it and not everybody is going to be in opposition, but at least have a conversation about how many schools are in the vicinity, how many day cares are in the vicinity, is it the right location. All of those things were voted down. Having 45 days of consultation but not longer than 90 days was again voted down.

Therefore, we have to have the element of openness and transparency and actually have a conversation about addiction because these are the people in the community. It is their kids, their husbands, wives, or friends and we have to speak to them. We have to have that conversation because we are all in it together.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things the Conservative Party has put on the record that I take objection to.

The member who just spoke said that people are dying and this is not being addressed. Nothing could be further from the truth. No matter what the Conservatives want to mesh together as a conspiracy, the bottom line is that if there has been any negligence on this file, it can be rooted in the Conservative Party's approach in dealing with what is a very important issue. To me, what it does, like many other issues, is reinforce that the Conservatives have lost touch with Canadians. They do not understand what good, sound public policy really is. It is demonstrated by what they have articulated on this legislation, not only at third reading of this bill but at second reading. It is somewhat disappointing.

We very much appreciate the supportive attitude by the New Democrats. In fact, I applaud the gesture they made back in December when they recognized that there is only so much the government is able to do and that we have attempted to deal with this issue on a number of fronts, one of which is, in fact, the legislation we are debating today, Bill C-37.

Back in December, New Democrats suggested passing the bill in the House unanimously. What did the Conservatives say? It was obviously no, they did not want to do that. That is fine and I will respect that. I am a parliamentarian and appreciate why the Conservatives said no, but today they stand in their places and say that if the bill did not have the safe injection site issue in it, then it could have easily passed unanimously. There are others in the chamber who wanted that in the legislation.

In fact, it was when Mr. Harper was prime minister that the whole issue of safe consumption sites was raised and fairly well debated. There could always be more debate, no doubt, but there was a debate back then. We knew back then that the Conservatives were going against science, that they were not listening to what the Supreme Court of Canada said, that they had a one-track mind in terms of legislation that would prevent consumption sites as much as possible, or at the very least discourage them.

Now the Conservatives are saying they want more consultation. At the end of the day, Insite has been a huge success. There is not one stakeholder that I am aware of in British Columbia, particularly Vancouver, that is against Insite because it has saved so many lives. This came into being because the federal government at the time, under a Liberal administration, worked with the province, the municipality, first responders, and the community. People recognized the value of having a supervised injection site. Only the Conservatives say no to what makes sense and what different stakeholders want put in place.

In order to prevent it from happening in the future, Conservatives brought in legislation to make it very difficult. The only reason they did was because the Supreme Court of Canada, in a unanimous decision, told the Conservatives that they were wrong, that people had the right of access. They were obligated to do it and then came up with this restrictive list in an attempt to prevent these sites from being created. They were very successful at downplaying it and preventing them from coming into being.

The current government has taken a different approach than the Conservatives and, once again, the Conservatives are out on a limb. This is not only the Government of Canada saying it. The Green Party, New Democrats, and Liberals want to rush the bill through, applying time allocation. Even the New Democrats, who have traditionally not supported time allocation, recognize the importance of using this particular tool in order to pass this legislation, because who knows when the Conservatives will agree to pass it.

I do not think the Conservative Party really understands what is happening within its caucus, because in the standing committee, the Conservatives actually passed unanimous support to get it through the Standing Committee on Health here in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the critic says, “Well, we were roughshod. Why did it go through the committee so fast?” and being so critical of the committee. Some of that member's own caucus colleagues recognized that it was beneficial to get it through the committee.

The Conservative Party has in fact lost touch with reality, with Canadians, on this particular issue and, I would ultimately argue, so many issues.

I would like to think, at the end of the day, that these supervised consumption sites, which are one part of the legislation, as has been illustrated by many inside this chamber, will in fact save lives.

However, that is only one aspect. The legislation would do more than that. It would give more powers to the minister in working with others to ensure that we can, as much as possible, keep some of these deadly drugs out of our country, with Canada border control. It would allow, for this government to work with other governments and stakeholders to prevent more Canadians from overdosing. We have had thousands of Canadians who have died from accidental overdoses. It is a national crisis.

It has been raised in the debates as to why it is that we do not invoke a state of emergency. There are three points on that aspect. We have responded to every request that the provinces have raised with our government in this crisis and we continue to work with them. In the event that a public welfare emergency under the Emergencies Act were declared, the chief public health officer would not have any new special powers. That is a very important point to recognize. The Emergencies Act is considered a tool of last resort and an emergency has never been declared under this act. The Government of Canada is committed to working with the provinces, with the municipalities, with the other stakeholders, in dealing with this national crisis.

Building on that five-point action plan to address opioid misuse, the government has taken concrete, tangible steps forward. Let me highlight a few of them. We granted the section 56 exemption for the Dr. Peter Centre and extended the exemption for Insite for an additional four years. We made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada, which is saving lives in a very tangible way. Last autumn, the Minister of Health co-hosted a summit on opioids that resulted in 42 organizations bringing forward concrete proposals of their own.

That is what I mean, in terms of the government is working with the other stakeholders, because it is not going to be the Government of Canada that beats this issue. What we expect from the Government of Canada is strong national leadership, bringing people together, and that is actually what has been happening, on a number of fronts. The Government of Canada has responded to this crisis virtually from day one, contrary to what other members might try to imply.

The Minister of Health and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness have been on top of this issue. We understand the terror that it is causing in many different regions of our country, if not all regions of our country. We are taking tangible actions in order to minimize the situation. We are working with the different stakeholders, whether they are the first-time responders, whether they are the different levels of government, or whether they are the communities that are trying desperately to look for answers and develop solutions that are going to save lives. This government has made a commitment to not only take those actions, but to continue to act, because we recognize the importance of it.

That is why we are very grateful to have the New Democratic Party's support in bringing forward time allocation today. Ultimately, we hope to see the bill pass. It would be wonderful to see the Conservative Party get onside, stop looking for some reason not to be onside, understand what Canadians really want on this issue, get in touch with them and we could actually see the legislation pass quickly.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. He said that everyone has come together and the government has done everything that the province has said, yet B.C. health minister Terry Lake said, “We haven't seen the response that I think this type of epidemic requires on a national scale.” That was just a few weeks ago.

To suggest that we are not on the same page on a number of these issues is categorically wrong, because we have said over and over again through the limited two days of debate that we have before debate is shut down, that we support many aspects of this. We have said it again that communities will determine if they support or do not support sites. There has to be a multifaceted approach to this, but also there has to be community consultation. As I pointed out in my speech, every single common sense amendment that was put forward was voted down.

The member talked about community consultations. The Liberals removed it from the legislation and they voted it down at committee. Why did his party's representatives on that committee do that? To have some sort of process and criteria for consultation is absolutely fundamental.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the foundation of the argument presented from the Conservative Party seems to be strictly on the idea of consultation. When Insite came to Vancouver there was extensive consultation and that was pre-Conservative legislation. The member was a former mayor. I suspect that if a community were going in a certain direction, she would have some form of dialogue. I would think that any mayor would want to do that.

To try to imply that no consultation is going to occur, that supervised injection sites are going to pop up all over the place is just hogwash. There will be consultation taking place.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He pointed out that the NDP, who are progressive, will be supporting Bill C-37, which is finally going in the right direction. However, I am wondering about the following: why, once in power, did the Liberal Party drag its feet for 16 months before introducing a new bill to correct the mistakes made with the Conservatives' C-2?

Even the Minister of Health said at the start that it was not necessary and that they could work just fine with existing legislation. The Liberals are waking up, a bit late, now that we are facing an emergency and a national crisis and people are dying in the streets. Why did the Liberal government change its position at the beginning and then change it again? In the end, we have lost more than a year.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we very much appreciate the supportive attitude that is coming from the New Democratic Party.

Let me remind the member that the legislation is only one aspect with respect to this national crisis. There are a number of other things on which the Minister of Health has been very diligent in reaching out and taking action, very tangible actions that have ultimately saved many lives in Canada. It is not just this one piece of legislation.

When legislation is brought forward there is a process for doing that in itself. It would not be fair for me to say to the New Democrats that it was not a priority for them because I do not recall hearing them raise the issue in question period back in April and May of last year. Why is it only now when we have the legislation that they want to take a more proactive approach?

I suspect that the NDP could have done more on raising the profile of this issue in April and May, but I will not criticize them on that because that would not necessarily be fair, just as it would not be fair for the New Democrats to imply that this government has not been taking this issue seriously. It is quite the opposite. We understand the issue. We are taking it seriously, and we are delivering for Canadians on what we believe is a national health care crisis.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very touched to be able to rise in the House today to speak to this important bill. I am very touched, but at the same time, I think it is a real shame that we have to talk about this again. This is an extremely important debate. There is likely no other parliamentary debate that is more vital or that will have a greater impact on the lives of Canadians than the debate that we are having right now.

Simply put, it would have been nice if this issue had been resolved years ago because we are now dealing with an urgent situation in our municipalities, in our big cities, and on our streets.

People are dying from overdoses of illegal drugs, particularly opioids, and this is a crisis. Hundreds of people are dying in our communities and on our streets because our facilities are not equipped to adequately respond to this serious substance abuse problem, particularly when it comes to increasingly dangerous and hard drugs. For example, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin, and it is wreaking havoc on our cities and communities.

There is even a fentanyl derivative that is so potent that first responders are now being advised to wear masks and gloves when helping people because, if the drug is inhaled or comes into contact with the skin, it can be deadly for the paramedics and nurses who are in contact with those who need help.

Hundreds of people are dying every day in our streets and alleyways because we have failed to adequately respond to this situation. In all seriousness, this is one case where I am sad to say that our federal government dropped the ball and we have collectively failed. We could have taken measures that would have saved lives. There is a national crisis, and people are dying from lethal opioid injections because of the laws that we pass or fail to pass. This is serious.

Indeed, we in the NDP are calling on the Liberal government to declare this a national emergency and give greater powers and funding to the chief public health officer of Canada, so that he can coordinate efforts to help these individuals. I find it extremely unfortunate that the Conservatives did not respond appropriately to the Supreme Court decision and instead chose to stand in the way of public health stakeholders who wanted to set up safe injection sites to help addicts in crisis.

As I reminded the parliamentary secretary a few minutes ago, I also find it unfortunate that the Liberal government dragged its feet for 16 months before introducing a bill to fix the mistakes of Bill C-2 passed by the Conservatives. I will come back to this point a little later.

I would like to share some statistics. I am talking about people who are dying because of the lack of health facilities, that is, safe injection sites, particularly in our big cities. This is no joke. In 2016, there were 914 overdose fatalities in British Columbia. That represents an 80% increase over the previous year. Across Canada in 2016, there were about 2,000 fatalities. In December alone in British Columbia, 142 people died of drug overdose. In Vancouver, more specifically, there were between 9 and 15 deaths every week.

In Ontario, there are two deaths per day. Our young people are dying in our streets because we do not have what we need to help them. Supervised consumption sites are proven to save lives. When Insite was finally given the go-ahead several years ago in Vancouver, community officials realized that the number of deaths dropped by 35% in the area surrounding the site.

It works. It works in Vancouver, it works in British Columbia, and it works around the world. It has been proven.

Why have we been unable to respond appropriately? The previous government spread all kinds of prejudices, which is a terrible shame. In 2011, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling authorized Insite and encouraged the government to change the law to define the process. The previous government was very right-wing and focused on repression, and it wanted to turn this into a partisan issue. When that government introduced Bill C-2, it was not to help people involved in public health; it was to create more barriers to setting up these very important sites. That is a terrible shame.

What did the Conservatives do in their day? They added 26 eligibility criteria that had to be met before Health Canada could authorize a supervised consumption site. What was the outcome of that? How many sites were given the green light? Zero. Not one. We are years behind because of that.

Health Canada was unable to authorize the opening of such sites despite the fact that the experts, the scientific community, municipal officials, and the groups that work with addicts every day all wanted them. Montreal had been asking for a supervised consumption site since May 2015. We can say that was a while ago. Every year, between 70 and 100 people in Montreal die of an opioid overdose. How many people could we have saved in that time?

Communities approve of this type of measure. I want to share a few short quotes to that effect. The first one is from Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver. “Every month we lose because of Bill C-2, and an onerous process that's totally unnecessary and overboard, means we're losing dozens of people.”

Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, asked, “What are we waiting for? People are dying.”

Adrienne Smith, health and drug policy lawyer at Pivot Legal Society, said that she feared that while we wait, while we set up working groups and give the Liberal government the benefit of the doubt, hundreds of people could die.

Sterling Downey, a Montreal municipal councillor, asked, “How do you go into the media and announce over a year ago that you're going to open these sites and back off and go radio silent?”

According to another quote, the organizations that are supposed to host the sites don't even dare set opening dates any more. They are stuck in a grey area where, every year for the past three years, they are told that the sites will open in the spring, but it doesn't happen.

I have pages and pages of quotes like that. For years, people have been anxious to help our young people, and the older ones too, but especially the street kids who fall victim to these opioids, these hard drugs.

I think it is a shame that society has lost so much time because some people tried to score political points by holding fundraisers. I would remind hon. members that the director of the Conservative Party sent a fundraising email and used the politics of fear by accusing the NDP and the Liberals at the time of wanting to put our children in harm's way, claiming there would be more syringes in our schoolyards and back alleys. They would have people believe that with injection sites comes increased risk, but the facts say otherwise. If a person enters a supervised injection site and is treated by a professional, that person will be given a course of treatment and drugs to help ween them off the hard drugs. That person will pull through. What does that mean? It means that thanks to supervised injection sites, there will be fewer syringes in the streets, in the parks, and in the back alleys, not the opposite. For years, people have tried to convince us that this is more dangerous, but that is not true.

The NDP moved a motion in the House a few weeks ago. My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway wanted the debate to end and to send Bill C-37 to the Senate so that it could come into force as soon as possible.

It is too bad that the Conservatives refused and blocked the NDP's motion. That is why we would like to see this bill pass through all stages, intelligently and diligently of course, but as soon as possible. We have wasted enough time. We need to save lives.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to the thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech, and I thank his party for the position it has taken on Bill C-37. Indeed, this bill will ease the criteria so that safe injection sites can be approved quickly in communities where they are needed most.

I agree with my colleague. We know that safe injection sites save lives and prevent the transmission of disease. In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the previous government unfortunately took a highly ideological approach, but at least now we are taking a facts- and evidence-based approach.

With regard to the opioid crisis, which is killing too many people in Canada and needs to be addressed, earlier I listed a whole series of measures the government has already taken to deal with this crisis, Bill C-37 being one of them.

I wonder if the member could talk about the advantages of coming back to the five criteria set out by the Supreme Court, rather than the 26 onerous and convoluted criteria required under Conservative Bill C-2.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and kind words.

We need to get back to the basics, the five essential criteria set out by the Supreme Court. Obviously, the safety of our communities is an issue, but this is first and foremost a matter of public health.

I also understand that Bill C-37 is not the whole solution but part of a bigger plan. We understand that. It is also very important to work on prevention.

However, we need to speed up the process today. It is too bad that it has taken so long to get to the vote at third reading and move forward with this. I would also like to know why the Liberal government has not started implementing the 38 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health, even though the Liberal members of the committee supported them.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments about the essential nature of prevention. One thing is sadly missed. I believe the member knows that the previous Conservative government set aside $500 million per year for an anti-drug strategy. That strategy was designed to keep needles out of the arms of addicts. The Liberal government cancelled that.

Could he explain how important it is to not only maintain prevention but to implement the funds for detoxification plans? However we feel about injection sites, witnesses at committee were very clear that this was a a stop gap measure, not a permanent measure.

Could he please comment on the necessity for the Liberal government to set aside appropriate funds? Where did that $500 million go? Should it not be put into treatment for addicts? There is treatment for this condition.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and question.

Most of what he said is correct. We have always wanted a government that bases its decisions on science, research, and facts. The facts show that supervised consumption sites work and that they are part of a process to help people overcome their addictions. There are programs that help people get out of this situation, which is extremely harmful to their health and potentially fatal.

The programs offered in these centres reduce the rate of addiction and the number of related deaths. However, it is true that these are not the only programs out there. Broader drug treatment programs offered outside these centres are also required. I agree with the member on that.

Together, we can do many things to prevent our children from being able to access drugs too easily, particularly really hard drugs like those we are talking about today, such as fentanyl and all of the extremely lethal opioids.

The question is, where is the $500 million that my colleague mentioned?

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to debate this important legislation, Bill C-37. It is a response to the national opioid crisis that is particularly severe in western Canada but is spreading throughout the rest of the country. To be blunt, given the time constraints, this bill will save lives, and I hope every member of the House supports it.

Over the course of time that I have to address this issue, I want to give a very brief background on the scope of the fentanyl crisis facing our country and then tackle some of the things we can do, such as trying to undercut the illicit market for this devastating drug and ensuring we are treating addiction like a life-threatening chronic illness and not a crime.

The scope of this crisis is extraordinarily widespread. We have heard hon. members from different parties address its widespread nature, but I specifically would like to draw the attention of members the fact that 947 lives were lost in British Columbia in 2016. By comparison, death from motor vehicle accidents in somewhere in the range of a little more than 300. In Ontario, I believe, on average, two people die a day from an overdose of opioids. In my home province of Nova Scotia, we are losing one life approximately every five or six days.

This drug is migrating from the west coast to the east coast. Even though we know it is being manufactured and imported from parts of Asia and that British Columbia has borne the brunt of it so far, we need to act now so we can stem the bleeding that is happening on the west coast and prevent disaster to such extremes from affecting the rest of the country as well.

I find that a few measures in Bill C-37 are very helpful and will help undermine the illicit market for fentanyl. One of the first things we can do is tackle the equipment that is being imported to help manufacture this drug locally, things like pill presses and encapsulators. Bill C-37 would ensure that we would not allow the importation of these devices, thereby helping to prevent the production of the drug locally in the first place.

We are also planning on criminalizing the possession of any kind of equipment that can be used with the knowledge that it can be used toward trafficking in controlled substances, such as the law that currently applies to methamphetamines. This is a common-sense approach that will make it harder to produce and distribute this dangerous drug.

Should this legislation pass, we plan on making changes that will allow border services agents greater latitude to inspect suspicious packages, even though they may be smaller than the current norm allows. Again, the reason for this policy change is simple common sense. The potency of this drug is so much stronger than even heroin or other drugs found on the streets today. This needs to be addressed by ensuring that even the smallest amount can be detected and prevented from coming into Canada in the first place.

In addition, Bill C-37 makes serious efforts to divert access of this controlled substance to the underground market by introducing a new scheme that is characterized by monetary penalties to ensure we have a better ability to enforce the laws on the books now. Ensuring that compliance is encouraged, non-compliance is deterred, and that we have an effective mechanism to enforce our rules is a key step in stemming the distribution and production of this drug in Canada.

I would like to spend the remaining time I have on the importance of ensuring addiction is treated like a chronic life-threatening illness rather than a crime. This comes to the key feature of Bill C-37, which is the promotion of safe injection sites. Addicts would have a place where they could get the treatment they needed, rather than turn to the streets and bury themselves in communities where they would not have supports and the outcome of their use of the drug would be far more severe.

In preparing for today's speech, I consulted with medical professionals who had recently done research on this. They explained to me that the research was clear. The traditional approach of detox and abstaining is not one that works, particularly when people successfully try to get off the drug and have episodes of relapse. Their risk of overdose is so much higher because their tolerance is reduced.

If we look at the benefits of harm reduction, there is a handful that, again, appeal to common sense and are borne out on the evidence.

We know that the use of methadone prevents cravings and gives a different kind of high to help reduce addiction. We know that treatment in safe injection sites improves retention for people who do enter treatment. We know that it reduces needle sharing, which reduces the impact. Most important, it reduces death resulting from overdoses of opioids.

Motions in amendmentControlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Central Nova will have five minutes remaining for his remarks and also another five minutes for questions and comments when the House next resumes debate on the question.

Thomas GilbertStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, Tommy Gilbert, the patriarch of his family, and many would say, of the communities of Burton and Oromocto, passed away on December 22 at the age of 90. A generous spirt who adored nature and the nature of political debate, Tommy was an active community organizer with strong ties to the region. This led to his election to the New Brunswick legislature in 1987.

A devout member of his church, Tommy organized fundraising efforts to help build and renovate a church hall. A steadfast supporter of Canada's military, Tommy was recognized as an honorary member of the 403 Helicopter Squadron at Base Gagetown. He will be remembered for his unwavering dedication to his community.

We extend our thoughts to his wife, Betty; his sister, Lucy; his 13 children, Catherine, George, Tim, Greg, Malcolm, Eleanor, Gerard, Tony, Mary, Patricia, Charles, Anne, and Susan, and their families; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Employment in Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-LoupStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 2016, I embarked on a tour focusing on the tourism industry. It was such a success that, this year, from March 25 to 31, I will be going on a business tour. I will visit businesses in my riding that are looking for workers.

I will put myself in the shoes of a worker expected to take on duties related to the 1,500 vacant jobs in my riding. I want to talk about how we can better match workers to available jobs in the Lower St. Lawrence and the Chaudières-Appalaches region in order to curb the unfortunate demographic decline those regions have experienced in the past few years.

My tour will be chronicled on social media with video montages of my visits, interviews with passionate business people, and, of course, information to help job seekers apply for jobs.

Since today is Valentine's Day, and since I love my part of the country, I invite all Canadians who are looking for work to come to Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, where they will be given a warm welcome.

Lawrence Costello and Don FieldStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Valentine's Day, I rise to commemorate the lives of two inspirational people in my riding who loved their community, and their community loved them back.

Larry Costello was a powerful advocate for fellow veterans and the profound importance of honouring them in our country. Remembrance Day will not be the same without him. Larry inspired many in his 92 years. We will honour him by continuing his work.

In Tecumseh, our baseball tradition has instilled great civic pride, and for that we owe so much to Don Fields. Don began as a coach, then was team manager, club president, and groundskeeper at Lacasse Park, a stunning showcase that reflects his devotion of over 30 years to building the Tecumseh Baseball Club. Rest in peace, number 22.

We carry them in our hearts and celebrate lives such as theirs that enrich our communities and our own lives.

Translation BureauStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Gatineau Québec

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, here is more good news: last week, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement gave the Translation Bureau the respect it deserves.

Following the announcement, Emmanuelle Tremblay, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said, “On the whole, the minister met our expectations”.

A process is under way to hire a new chief executive officer, whose priorities will be quality, renewal, and recruitment. To ensure quality, the Bureau will be hiring a chief quality officer, and to support recruitment, it will hire 50 students every year, many of them from the co-op program.

This is very good news for official languages in the public service and for Canada.

Cancer ResearchStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to bring congratulations and highlight the excellent ongoing work in the fight against cancer.

The Terry Fox Research Institute, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and the BC Cancer Agency are starting a pilot project to combine the work of investigators and clinicians. This joint project and framework will provide invaluable insight into how to fight cancer.

This collaboration invests $12 million in four projects: a framework for genomic profiling of cancer patients; optimizing T-cell immunotherapy for ovarian cancer; molecular imaging to improve managing prostate cancer; and building the infrastructure for clinical and genomic data-sharing.

As we work towards a cure, I want to applaud the leadership and collaboration of the Terry Fox Research Institute, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and the BC Cancer Agency. Thanks, and well done.