Mr. Speaker, I have already had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-37, and I have made it clear that my colleagues on this side of the House and I are very much in favour of the majority of the bill. Saving lives and tackling the production, distribution, importation, and consumption of these dangerous and deadly drugs needs to be made a priority.
The bill seeks to allow the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA, the authority to seize unregistered pill presses and allows CBSA to open suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams. The bill also seeks to grant the Minister of Health more powers to quickly and temporarily class and schedule new synthetic and dangerous drugs. It also seeks to severely weaken the Respect for Communities Act, which has been called onerous on the applicant and impossible to meet the criteria. Yet just last week, three injection sites, I repeat, three injection sites, in Montreal were approved under the previous legislation, so I am not sure if “impossible” and “onerous” are the words that should be used here.
As stated, I have had the opportunity to speak to the bill already, but I have not had the chance to speak to how the government has pushed the bill through both the House of Commons and the health committee. I know that the response to this argument is that this needs to be pushed through in order to start saving lives. I could not agree more that saving lives is our priority and primary goal, but there are many Canadians who are worried that an injection site will appear in their neighbourhood without community support.
As parliamentarians, it is our job to listen to our constituents and ensure that we represent them in the House. That is why on February 1, 2017, I proposed splitting the bill. This would have allowed the majority of the bill to pass unanimously through the House and likely through the Senate. This would have granted the CBSA the authority and powers it has been asking for to combat the inflow of illegal substances and seize unregistered devices. This would have granted the minister the power she is seeking when classing new substances.
Splitting the bill would have also given members more opportunity to debate the importance of community engagement in the consultation process when applying and approving injection sites. Splitting the bill would have started to save lives immediately while allowing parliamentarians to do their job and represent Canadians.
Instead, the Liberals moved closure, with the support of the New Democrats, who had previously complained about the use of time allocation. They said Canadians want vivid debate, a government that actually listens to the improvements that can be made to the bill, and for their members of Parliament to have the ability to speak out. What this means is that the Liberals used a procedural device to ultimately bring debate on this very important issue to an end, and the NDP, unfortunately, agreed.
The NDP agreed to move closure and silence members of Parliament, which is surprising considering the NDP is the party which time and time again accused the previous Conservative government of stifling debate. Both the Liberals and the NDP silenced parliamentarians who were scheduled to speak and represent their communities.
Again, ministers are not following their mandate letters. The mandate letter to the Minister of Health clearly states the following:
As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the public service....
It says, “meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament“ and “close collaboration with your colleagues”. When it comes to Bill C-37, the Minister of Health has done anything but engage with opposition members and work collaboratively both in the House and committee.
Once debate was shut down in the House, the Liberals then moved to shut down debate in committee. Shutting down debate in committee meant that no witnesses could appear on Bill C-37 and suggest their own amendments. It meant opposition members did not have the chance the ask the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, or the Minister of Justice questions that their communities had for them.
The Liberals know there are concerns and questions from this side of the House when it comes to weakening community consultations with regard to injection sites, just as the Conservatives know that the Liberals' agenda includes harm reduction strategies.
That is why we proposed reasonable amendments at committee. We proposed two amendments. The first would ensure that there was at least a 45-day consultation period, which is in line with all the other consultations put in place by the government. The second would give the mayor and the head of police the right to be part of the application process by including their opposition or support for an injection site in their community. These amendments would not obstruct the minister's authority to approve the site; they would just ensure that the people who are ultimately responsible for the success of an injection site are properly consulted and informed. These amendments were reasonable.
It is disappointing that, unlike what the minister's mandate letter sets out, there was no chance for meaningful engagement with the government on making this bill stronger for all Canadians. That is why I am asking that clause 42 of Bill C-37 be deleted.
As the bill stands today, injection sites could be forced on communities that do not want or need them. My NDP colleague stated that the application process should be made easier for applicants, and it seems that the Liberals agree.
Again, I ask the minister why consultations for pipelines are entirely on the applicant, yet for injection sites, the application process should be made simpler? When it comes to pipelines, community consultation is the pillar of approval, yet for injection sites, the community does not matter. It is a double standard that I do not agree with, and it is another inconsistency within the government's policies.
I already know the Minister of Health's response. She will tell Canadians that these sites will save lives and perhaps that is true. However, truly saving a life is offering an alternative to committing crimes, getting high, and potentially overdosing. Saving a life is ensuring the option to get proper treatment is available the moment it is requested. We know the lack of detox treatment around the country is a huge problem and a huge discouragement for addicts looking to treat their treatable disease.
We also know that those who are overdosing from these dangerous drugs are not only injecting them, they are also snorting them and taking them orally. Not all those who have overdosed are struggling addicts. Some are recreational users.
This is a complex issue, an issue that all parties can agree needs to be addressed, and needs to be addressed immediately. That is why, as I stated earlier, I had proposed splitting the bill in two. We could have ensured the CBSA had the powers it has been asking for while clause 42 was further debated. This is entirely reasonable. We are not trying to play politics. We are not trying to be insensitive. In fact, I think all members are working hard to protect all Canadians.
I would ask the minister to reconsider clause 42 and take into consideration the importance of community consultation and, of course, community support, because we know that without community support, the chance of success is almost nil. I would ask the minister to further allow debate on injection sites before the bill gets passed as it.
I know I speak for many Canadians that injection sites do not belong in every single community. We know that the current process in place for the approval of injection sites is not impossible to meet, as three injection sites were recently approved by the Minister of Health.
For this reason, I ask all of my colleagues to agree to remove clause 42 and allow proper and full debate on the consultation process when approving a supervised injection site. That is what Canadians expect of us: to have full and proper debate.