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

Bill C-37--Time Allocation Motion
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Bill C-37--Time Allocation Motion
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Geoff Regan

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #193

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker’s Ruling
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Geoff Regan

There are two motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-37. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now propose Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-37 be amended by deleting Clause 42.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

, seconded by the member for Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-37 be amended by deleting Clause 53.That Bill C-37 be amended by deleting Clause 53.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

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.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with the member when he said that this issue of the opioid crisis in Canada needs to be addressed immediately.

Safe consumption sites, unlike what he said, do not perhaps save lives. They do save lives. That is why we are moving forward with the bill.

He mentioned the approval of three safe consumption sites in Montreal. Would he inform the House how long it took for this community, where it is needed and appropriate to have these safe consumption sites and which has been asking for these consumption sites for a long time, to get these sites approved under the previous Bill C-2 of the Conservative government?

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that under the Respect for Communities Act, there were certain criteria that had to be fulfilled, and one of the arguments to put this bill forward and change it was that it was impossible and onerous for these sites to be approved. What I am saying to my colleague is that obviously, that is incorrect.

We know that right now, as the member said, there are three sites in Montreal. It took a number of months to get them through the application process, but it allowed the mayor, the police, and community members to be involved in the process. When that happens, the likelihood of these things being successful is greatly improved.

The member talked about saving lives. He missed it in committee because he was not there yet, but we had a specialist come who said that addicts are dying. The witness said it was like being a lifeguard who saves someone in the water. As soon as the lifeguard gets that person breathing again, he or she does not throw the person back in.

I would ask the member and his colleagues to remember that we need proper detoxification treatment. This is not just about band-aid solutions, which is what many have called these injection sites. We would like to see the government take action and make sure that proper treatment is available for addicts, because this is a treatable condition. That is what we are all in favour of. We want to make sure that these injection sites, if they are put in a community, are wanted and have the greatest likelihood of success.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to the hon. parliamentary secretary's question is that it was something in the order of 16 months, or perhaps even longer, for the groups in Montreal to get the safe consumption sites.

I wanted to point out for the hon. member for Oshawa that the so-called Respect for Communities Act was an attempt to do indirectly that which the previous Conservative government could not do directly. In other words, it wanted to defy the Supreme Court of Canada, which found that safe injection sites are a matter of law, and on the evidence, save lives.

The response from the previous Conservative government was to create 12 conditions, which I am amazed any facility managed to get through, because they required such things as the curriculum vitae of staff who would work at a site that was not yet built. The kind of criteria we would get rid of with Bill C-37 were there for the purpose of stopping the facilities from even being available for the people who need them.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, what my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands just said is hogwash. The Respect for Communities Act was compliant with what the Supreme Court said.

The member talked about the criteria. There were 26 criteria that needed to be fulfilled. Now what the Liberals would do is basically take away all of that. The consultation period would be non-existent. It used to be up to 90 days. The Liberals would get rid of that. Fundamentally, the minister could choose to have no consultation or give approval within a day. This is clearly unacceptable. If the member was paying attention in committee, it was quite clear from our experts that they need to have community support, so this is reasonable.

I made amendments in committee. The mayor of a community and the head of the police where one of these sites would be placed would likely want to have a bit of input as to where they would be located. These are only reasonable things we ask.

At the end of the day, all of us have to think about this entire situation in a compassionate way. We should be pressing the government for solutions instead of band-aid solutions that are really not getting rid of the cycle of repeat, repeat, and come back every single day. What does the member think the addicts are doing in the 24 hours if they are coming back to an injection site every day? We need to be compassionate and work for long-term solutions, not just these band-aid solutions. The current government wants to be seen to be doing something without really making a big change.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present an amendment to the bill, but I want to say that it is extremely important that this legislation be passed and that we move expeditiously on the fentanyl crisis. The opioid crisis is a national public health crisis, and for the first time in my life as a parliamentarian, I actually voted with the government on time allocation, because it is critical that we get the bill passed.

There were things said just moments ago in this chamber to which I must respond. This is not hogwash. It is based on the evidence. I was part of this Parliament when we debated the attempts by the Conservatives to bring forward conditions that were not reasonable. They were not put there in the interests of public health and safety. They were explicitly and clearly part of an ongoing effort by the previous Harper government to fight against the existence of Insite in Vancouver or its application as a model for safe consumption sites, which worked in saving lives, and to make them unavailable to people in the other jurisdictions.

I support Bill C-37, but I would have wished, as I moved at committee and as the member for Vancouver East also moved at committee, that there would have been more effort to streamline the approval of safe consumption sites where they are desperately needed to confront the opioid crisis.

I am bringing forward an amendment. It is difficult, I have to say, to bring forward an amendment at this stage. However, it is often the case that when there is an urgent circumstance and our attention is focused in one area, it is easy to say yes, it will be okay, because the need is so great that we can ignore other concerns.

This amendment has been brought forward by both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. There is concern about clause 53 of the bill. Clause 53 of the bill allows suppression of excerpts in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Again, when focusing on one thing, such as terrorism, concern for civil liberties can be lessened, and that is definitely the trend. In the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, Canada Border Services agents and employees of Canada Post are allowed to open packages in a way that would not have previously been allowed. Packages that weigh 30 grams or more are not to be opened, but if they are larger, and they constitute packages, they are routinely now opened.

It is critical that we examine the practicality of this. If a civil liberties organization said that in the case of fentanyl, which we know can be absolutely lethal in tiny grains of an amount, we are going to turn a blind eye and say that no one should be allowed to open letters, that would be an unreasonable position.

What the Civil Liberties Association is saying is that if a letter is identified and there are reasonable and probable grounds to open that letter, then get a warrant. This is not cumbersome. This is why we have the rule of law and protections for privacy and for civil liberties. Once law enforcement agencies have extreme and sweeping powers to open any letter, it does not take much imagination to imagine the ways in which this power can and will be abused.

I want to draw the attention of the House to this amendment. It would suppress just one clause of the bill. It would not have the effect of saying that border services agents and Canada Post could not open letters that they suspected contained fentanyl. That is not the purpose of my amendment. The purpose of my amendment is to underscore that if they are going to open letters, they need to have a warrant. It is very clear that these broad and sweeping powers will be in the future misused. Letters will be opened by people who are suspecting something else and not necessarily because of the fentanyl crisis.

I do not need to use all the speaking time I have available to speak to the amendment. I support Bill C-37. I want to see it passed, but it should not pass with our focus exclusively on the opioid crisis without taking a moment to consider whether we are making a mistake here. Should we not require at least a warrant before border services agents and postal officials have the right to open very small packages?

I dedicate my commitment to Bill C-37 and to working on the opioid crisis to one of my constituents, Leslie McBain, a founder of Moms Stop the Harm, because she lost her son in this crisis.

It is not just downtown Vancouver that is seeing an unreasonable and extraordinary number of deaths from this crisis. Within in my own riding, and on the remote Gulf Islands, we have seen people die from the fentanyl crisis. We need this piece of legislation.

I will agree with my friend, the member for Oshawa, on one thing. We need more. We need these safe consumption sites, but we also need programming for mental health. We need programs for addiction counselling. We need ongoing support so that people who have gone through addiction crisis counselling and are clean of the drug have the support they need so they do not go back to it. This is a very large problem.

It will, I hope, be a focus in the 2017 budget and we will see money for mental health, money for addiction counselling, and money targeted particularly to adolescents. They are very often not in the right place when they have addiction counselling with older people with addictions and a lifestyle that may scare a younger adolescent. We need to think about how we target our mental health and addiction counselling.

We need Bill C-37. I support the bill. This one amendment would ensure that we do the right thing to respond to the fentanyl crisis without doing the wrong thing for civil liberties.

Motions in amendment
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Louis-Hébert
Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her support of Bill C-37 as well as for her tireless efforts and advocacy in responding to the opioid crisis in Canada.

She raises an interesting point. Our goal, of course, is to balance privacy with responding to the crisis we are seeing. I would like to simply highlight that the provision, as stated in Bill C-37, would allow customs agents to open only international mail. The reason for that disposition is that we know that only 2 mg of fentanyl can cause an overdose. This means that a 30-gram package could contain as many as 15,000 fatal doses, which is why we have included this in the bill. The goal is to strike a balance, but we think that a 30-gram package that can cause 15,000 overdoses is out of proportion. That is why the disposition is in the bill.