Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise at report stage on Bill C-37 to add my perspective to the debate.
All of us in the House agree that we are facing a very real crisis. The casual or addictive use of drugs is now including a much higher risk of death. Indeed, many people have compared it to playing Russian roulette with what is out on the streets and what is being mixed into drugs. It is truly a risk for everyone.
Bill C-37 represents a partial response to the crisis. There are many measures in the bill that are important and supportable, but there are some areas which obviously we still have some concerns about. Even with the supportable measures, I think we need to talk a bit about the time it took to get us to this point.
It was 10 months ago today, April 14, when British Columbia's provincial health officer declared a state of emergency in relation to the rising death rate being seen every day. It was related to fentanyl being laced into drugs. Back in 2012, it was in about 5% of drugs and it was reaching up to 60% in 2016. It was recognized that we had a crisis and B.C. declared a state of emergency. That was 10 months ago.
Meanwhile, we know that carfentanil has been confirmed on the streets as well. It is very important that we have a public awareness campaign, because many parents, children, youth, and young adults have no idea what is out there on the street. Carfentanil is for use on large animals like elephants. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, 4,000 times more potent than heroin, 10,000 times more potent than morphine. People can actually order it by mail from China, and it can be delivered.
In the fall of last year, a man in Calgary was arrested, and I believe he had a kilogram of carfentanil, which had the potential to kill 50 million people.
We have all agreed that we need to give additional powers to our border security folks. How long has that taken? We had a state of emergency 10 years ago. We finally got a bill that would do this, right before Christmas when there was no time to debate it. The bill was sort of packed with a number of different measures, many of which are supportable, but the government had to know here was one area that was going to create debate.
First of all, the government should have had this bill on the table way back in the fall. Second, let us get that piece that is non-controversial through the House, and then spend a bit of time debating the issues that we are concerned about.
The bill also includes the prohibition of designated devices, such as pill presses. We know that in Canada there is no reason for anyone to have a pill press without it being registered. I understand that this change could have been done in the regulatory framework, but instead, we waited months and months and it was put into the bill. Instead of a quick, simple process that would have been an appropriate response to an emergency, we have gone at a pace similar to that for many of the bills in the House which are not critical. However, this is a bill that is critical, and these items should have been acted on a long time ago.
As I have indicated, we really do support many of the measures in the bill, but it should have been here 10 months ago. It should have been here eight months ago. I was very disappointed that the Liberals did not support moving it through at all stages. We offered to move it through at all stages and it could have been law right now. Our border services agents could be opening those small packages and capturing some of these illicit substances in the mail as we speak. I think the government has been negligent.
It was interesting to hear the member for Vancouver Centre talk about how important this bill is, but even she recognized last summer that her government was moving too slowly. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to ask her a question about that so that she could articulate more clearly what her concerns were at that time.
There is a section of the bill we do have some problems with. The Liberals are gutting community consultation and there is truly a lack of rigour. They talk about complying with the Supreme Court, but they have taken all the rigour out of the compliance. They have some very undefined statements and principles. There is no definition around them. I do have big concerns that they have taken some of those items out.
On November 16, the Minister of Health was at the indigenous affairs committee. I want to refer to a couple of comments she made at that time.
We talked about a lack of proper data. She said:
The point you've raised brings up one of the real challenges on the opioid crisis, which is that there is actually not the kind of data and surveillance we would like to have, even in terms of the total overall number of overdoses and overdose deaths.
Having a solution means we need to have data, and I do not see us making much movement toward having good data, in terms of informing the proper solutions for different communities.
In response to some questions I was asking about the availability of detox and rehabilitation, she said:
I think it would be accurate to say that there is a shortage of treatment facilities and programs.
The government has no trouble putting criteria around home and mental health care. It is very happy to say to the provinces that we have to have some criteria around home and mental health care, but the requirement for associated detox and rehab at safe community injection sites has been taken away.
That is something that was attached because, to be frank, there are a lot of priorities for dollars to be spent within our provinces and our health authorities, and there is a huge and extreme lack of detox and rehabilitation facilities. In spite of the minister's acknowledgement that there is a shortage, she actually chose to remove that from the bill.
Again, at the meeting on November 16, we talked about the importance of community consultation. She said:
I've made it clear that for communities that need them, where they're appropriate and where there's a community desire to have those programs, we need to find mechanisms to make them more available as one of a range of tools. Of course, this is the kind of thing where there would be collaboration with the community and with provincial health authorities.
Then she went on to say “community consultation is absolutely essential” .
Let us take those quotes and look at the very reasonable amendment. There were some concerns from the current government that the process was too onerous, so my colleague, who is the critic for health, made what I thought were very appropriate suggestions for amendments. He suggested that what was needed was mayor and council to support a safe injection site. Many of us have a local government past. We would agree that mayor and council can have critical, absolutely critical, insight in terms of what, where, and how.
They talked about the RCMP having some input. They talked about a public consultation process that includes notices to the people who live within two kilometres of the area.
The minister talked about community consultation. It is very nebulous and unclear in the existing legislation. What was proposed was something that was very reasonable, very sensible, but the government chose to ignore putting any sort of framework around community consultation. I think it has made a big mistake.
Our concern is very important. It is valid. We cannot take the community consultation process away. We need a bit of rigour, and they have taken that rigour out of the process.
I look to members opposite to reconsider that particular element, because anyone who has ever been in local government knows how important it is to have a framework around the local community consultation process.
In my final comments, another really important gap we see that perhaps is not part of legislation, is there has been no commitment at all on the part of the government for a national education and awareness campaign. That is something to which the government should give very serious consideration.