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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crisis.

Topics

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec

Liberal

Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, the section the member's party is suggesting be separated from the bill is the section that would change the 26 criteria the previous government put in place to five criteria, which would streamline the application for safe consumption sites in communities where they are needed and where they are appropriate.

Under the current criteria of the previous government, three sites were approved in Montreal. Does the member know how long it took for these three sites to be approved? It took 22 months, nearly two years.

Does the member think it is reasonable, when we know that there are people dying in various cities across Canada, in record numbers, to wait such a long period of time before we approve these sites? These are sites that are asked for by local health professionals, by communities, and by provincial governments.

Does he think it is reasonable, when we have people dying in record numbers, to wait such a long period of time? Does he not think instead that we are better off moving to what the Supreme Court of Canada has stated should be the five guiding principles when we approve these safe consumption sites?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, Winston Churchill said that it is not enough to do your best. One has to know what to do and then do one's best.

This is why having a proper review process in place is important. It is not enough to say that we just have to do something, without actually having the proper due diligence in each case to make sure that we are doing the right thing and that it is going to have the greatest impact and save the greatest number of lives.

If we are concerned about scientific evidence, the government should have left the criterion in that required the presentation of scientific evidence as part of the application. If the Liberals are concerned about people getting off drugs, they should have left the criterion in that requires the government to receive information about what is going to exist at a facility in terms of drug treatment.

Of course we have to respond to this crisis, but we have to do it in the right way. If we remove the due diligence that is involved in setting up these facilities, there is no guarantee at all that we will save more lives. In fact, we may well put more lives at risk. This is why we have to get it right. This is why we should expedite the sections on which we can agree, but we need to have full debate. I think we need to reinsert some of these criteria back in to ensure that these things are being done in an appropriate and effective way that maximizes the chances that we can give people the best hope we can.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a little hard to listen to the member in this debate. I am part of a community that has been very hard hit by the opioid overdose crisis. I have observed the operation of the supervised injection site, Insite, in Vancouver, and the Conservatives thwarted every effort to open additional health-based life-saving supervised injection sites for the 10 years that they were in power. It is a little hard to listen to the words of my colleague.

Only an hour after the Conservatives introduced Bill C-2, the Conservatives were fundraising, stating that Liberals and New Democrats wanted addicts to inject heroin in people's backyards. It is no wonder we ended up with communities being concerned about the impact of actually delivering a health care service to people who are addicted and whose lives are now in peril because of the fentanyl crisis that no one has been able to get ahead of.

I would like to hear the member's thoughts on that. Even though he was not in Parliament last time around, I would also like his thoughts about his own party having cut addictions treatment funding by 15% while the Harper Conservatives were in power.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, obviously we have wider philosophical disagreements about whether somebody using dangerous hard drugs really should be considered in the same category as other health care services. We can have a longer discussion about supervised injection sites specifically. Again, my view is, and I do not have a problem saying it, that we should be focusing our efforts and resources on things to get people off of drugs, such as rehab, more investments in chemical detox, and these kinds of things.

I am very supportive of those kinds of investments. Of course, generally speaking, more of that activity happens at the provincial level, but there is a role for the federal government as well. I see the importance of that and I am happy to advocate for it. I do think, though, it does not follow that if we believe action is needed, we need to take power away from local communities in terms of determining the process of that action.

Communities, families, local governments, and provincial governments are compassionate and seized with this problem, so taking authority away from them to be engaged with their communities is not an effective way to address this crisis. We should, in fact, be doing more to mobilize the knowledge and experience of communities and families in terms of building the kinds of strategies that are going to address specific issues in specific areas.

The response that makes sense in one community may not be the same as the response that makes sense in another community. When an external group makes an application, and all it has to do is provide some general information to the government about whether the community was supportive or opposed with no timeline prescribed, I do not think that is an effective way to engage the community to actually respond to the problem.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I would ask my colleague first and foremost to recognize this issue as the national crisis it is. The Minister of Health and the government have taken a very aggressive and proactive approach to try to deal with this in a number of ways. A big part of it is working with others. Whether it is provincial or municipal jurisdictions, first responders, just name it, all of the stakeholders need to come together to try to resolve a very serious problem, a crisis, as the Minister of Health herself indicated.

There has been an immense amount of co-operation from the New Democratic Party on this issue. The issue that the Conservatives seem to be stuck on is the supervised safe injection sites. That was part of the legislation, which many of the stakeholders are very anxious to see.

Does the member not recognize that this is, in good part, a holistic approach? It is not just the legislation, even though the legislation is absolutely critical, and that is the reason we are trying to advance this issue. The member desires further debate, but the issue was well debated in Parliament under Prime Minister Harper. The former questioner pointed out that the Harper regime had a fundraising scheme based on a theory that the Conservative Party is still advocating today. We disagree with that theory.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, there are some specific questions that the parliamentary secretary and the government need to answer about why the government refused to split the bill to actually allow it to move forward if the Liberals are so concerned about this crisis, because we all should be concerned about this crisis. At the end of the day, it does seem to be the case, with the NDP co-operating with the government, that we are the only party in this House that is standing up firmly for the role of local communities to be involved in these decisions. If we are the only party that has to stand up for that principle, so be it, because I am so convinced that we are right and that Canadians are on our side on that point.

Communities are compassionate. Local governments are compassionate. Local families are compassionate. We need to engage them in a conversation, in a meaningful consultation that gives them time to present ideas, looking at local evidence, and looking at the scientific evidence about the impact. What is wrong with engaging communities and looking at that local evidence? If we are the only party that stands up for it, so be it. If people donate to the Conservative Party, as is being criticized by others, because of our commitment to engaging communities in the process, well people donate to political parties for all kinds of different reasons and we are certainly going to stand up for our principles, whatever the consequences of that are.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I have to point out something that is just demonstrably false from the Conservative Party. It is right in the legislation before us, if my hon. colleague cared to read it. The bill would specifically require an applicant to furnish evidence of the local conditions giving rise to the site, the potential health benefits, and more important, expressions of public support or opposition. When the member tells this House and Canadians that the community's wishes are not part of this legislation, he is simply wrong.

I wonder if he could comment on that. Has he read the legislation?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, if the member had listened to my speech, he would know that not only have I read the legislation, but I actually have read into the record the specific section that he refers to.

Here is the point, and the member would know it if he had been listening to my remarks. It is that the previous section requires scientific evidence demonstrating what the impacts would be in the community. It requires engagement with law enforcement. It requires specific engagement and support of local governments. Just asking the applicant to make some statement of expression of community support or opposition is not sufficient. It would not actually mean that the community would have had more time or ability to rule on the decision.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, for any Canadians who are watching, I am glad that they can see that the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, and I am not sure about the Bloc, are willing and ready to move quickly on this legislation and not sit here and debate and slow down legislation when Canadians are dying every day.

It has been well established that Canada is currently in the grips of an unprecedented national public health emergency. I am glad to hear both my Liberal and Conservative colleagues increasingly using that term to describe the opioid crisis. The New Democratic Party started using the term back in November, and that is because this is a national public health emergency and our fellow Canadians are suffering and dying every single day.

Fifty Canadians are dying every week from opioid overdoses in this country. That is a national crisis. It also bears repeating that this crisis has become dramatically worse in recent months.

In 2016, in my home province of British Columbia alone, there were 914 drug overdose deaths. That is an 80% increase from the year before. In December, just a couple of months ago, we recorded the highest number of overdose deaths in B.C.'s history with 142 lives lost. That is more than double the monthly average of overdose deaths since 2015 and a sharp increase over September, October, and November. There were 57 overdose deaths in B.C. in September, 67 in October, 128 in November, and 142 in December. I can only guess that the number will be even higher for January. While the Conservatives want us to debate and consult, New Democrats want to act and save lives.

In December, the B.C. Coroners Service announced that morgues in the city of Vancouver were frequently full as a result of the unprecedented number of overdose deaths, forcing health authorities to store bodies at funeral homes.

This crisis is in large part the legacy of Canada's now defunct anti-drug strategy. Decades of a misguided criminal approach to drug policy has proven to be counterproductive, fuelling Canada's unregulated illegal drug market and leaving a scarcity of evidence-based health services, including harm reduction and treatment programs for people suffering from substance use disorder.

The Conservatives cut 15% from the addiction service budget in their last year in office. International research demonstrates that the criminalization of drugs increases rates of drug production, consumption, availability, and adverse drug-related health effects, but that is the evidence, and for the last 10 years our drug policy in this country was not based on evidence. It was based on ideology.

Because this crisis has been years in the making, it will not be solved by any one action or piece of legislation. I think we all know that. The passage of Bill C-37 must be the beginning of a much deeper examination of how we understand and respond to drug use and addiction in Canada.

For many years, New Democrats have been advocating for an evidence-based and health-focussed approach to drug use and addiction. Our party understands that substance use is not a moral failure. We also understand that criminal approaches that aim to punish or isolate those with addiction issues only serve to compound the suffering of those already experiencing tremendous pain.

As Dr. Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician who specializes in addictions has said:

Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden — but it’s there.

That is why New Democrats have pushed the federal government to reinstate harm reduction as one of the four pillars of Canadian drug policy ever since it was removed by Stephen Harper. That is why New Democrats led the fight against the Conservatives' Bill C-2 from the day it was introduced. That is why we have pressed the Liberal government to repeal or amend Bill C-2 since February 2016, one year ago, when the opioid overdose crisis was in its earliest stage.

Last fall, the NDP successfully moved a motion at the Standing Committee on Health to conduct a study on the opioid overdose crisis. This led to a report with 38 recommendations to the federal government, most of which have not yet been implemented, I would point out.

We were the first to call for a declaration of a national public health emergency. Such a declaration would empower Canada's Chief Public Health Officer to take extraordinary measures to coordinate a national response to the crisis, a measure the Liberal government, still to this day, refuses to take.

Last December, we attempted to fast-track Bill C-37 because of the dire need to deal with this crisis as quickly as possible, but that, again, was blocked by the Conservatives.

Indeed, Bill C-37 continues to be delayed because the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge the crucial importance of harm reduction, and the evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives now.

Today, I am saddened to see that the Conservatives still have not learned from their mistakes, and I am deeply troubled that they continue to liken supervised consumption sites and the approval of same to pipeline approval processes.

After their bizarre offer to trade supervised consumption site approvals for pipelines, at the health committee, the Conservative member for Lethbridge argued that these health facilities should require the same social licence as energy projects before they are permitted to save lives. The member argued that we must maintain Bill C-2's unnecessary barriers because the placement of a site will impact the communities in which they are located.

For once, I agree with the member for Lethbridge. It is absolutely correct that these sites do indeed impact communities: by saving lives, by reducing crime, and by providing opportunities for recovery to people suffering from a disease.

The Conservative Party likes to imagine that supervised consumption sites might be imposed on communities by the federal government. The opposite is true. Supervised consumption sites only exist in Canada due to the tireless efforts of advocates and community members who contribute their time and talent to provide evidence-based, life saving health services. Sometimes, they have even done so at the risk of their own liberty.

Vancouver's Dr. Peter Centre provided supervised consumption services, in violation of federal law, for over a decade, since 2002, before the federal government finally granted it a legal exemption.

Vancouver's Insite had to fight the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to keep its doors open. Even then, instead of complying with the spirit of the ruling, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper passed Bill C-2 as a thinly veiled attempt to prevent any new site from opening in Canada.

Today, as we speak, at least three overdose prevention sites are operating in the open in Vancouver without a legal exemption, against the law, exposing the staff who work there to criminal sanction because they are answering a higher call. They are answering the call of saving lives. That is why they are doing it.

The truth is supervised consumption sites do not harm communities; they help them. The evidence from Insite has been overwhelming and crystal clear.

By the way, the Conservatives talk about the negative impact of supervised consumption sites on communities. They never quote a single piece of evidence, not a shred, from any operating supervised consumption site because there are only two in Canada. Those two in Canada have been studied and written up in periodicals as respected as The Lancet and the evidence is crystal clear. They save lives. They reduce crime around the area. They stop open drug use. They reduce the spread of disease, and they stop the detritus of used needles in consumption sites from being out in the community where they can harm our community members and our children. That is the evidence.

When the Conservatives say that these sites impact communities, darn right they do, and they do so by helping the community. There is not an iota of evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps the Conservatives should listen to Edmonton's Mayor Don Iveson who recently said, “This is not a homeless, addicted issue. This is in pretty much every neighbourhood.”

The opioid crisis is here. It is already affecting our communities. Every day, it is claiming the lives of our friends, our family members, our neighbours.

The Conservative Party's argument that supervised consumption sites will somehow introduce opioid addiction to unaffected communities is baseless fearmongering, and it is deeply stigmatizing to Canadians with substance use disorders.

The truth is communities across Canada have been asking to open supervised consumption sites for years. It was by refusing to grant section 56 exemptions that the federal government was overruling both my home city of Vancouver and my home province's repeated requests. Indeed as Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson has said: “Factors such as the impact of the site on crime rates and expressions of community support or opposition should not be relevant to the federal government's approval process. Those issues are local matters, and as such, are best dealt with by local officials, such as municipalities, health authorities, and local police agencies, who understand the issue.”

I will leave it to the Conservative Party to explain why it does not trust local authorities to make those determinations.

It has been community heroes, not the federal government, who have been on the front lines showing leadership throughout the current crisis. The efforts of these selfless people have undoubtedly saved lives and although there are too many to name individually here, I would like to specifically acknowledge the Herculean efforts of a few people.

The are: Ann Livingston and Sarah Blyth, founders of B.C.'s Overdose Prevention Society; Hugh Lampkin, long-time member of the Vancouver area network of drug users; Daniel Benson of the Portland Hotel Society; Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver; Kerry Jang, city councillor of Vancouver; Maxine Davis, executive director of Vancouver's Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation; Katrina Pacey, executive director of Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society; Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s Chief Medical Officer, the first and only medical officer in the country who has declared a public health emergency in British Columbia because he recognizes the extent of the crisis facing our community; and Dr. Gabor Maté, who is an internationally-renowned expert in addictions.

Having repeated requests for a declaration of a national public health emergency ignored by the current federal Liberal government, these front line organizations and the Government of British Columbia were forced to take the extraordinary measure of disregarding federal law by opening non-exempt pop-up supervised consumption sites which are operating right now as I speak. These sites have operated for months despite the daily risk of prosecution faced by those working at them as staff and volunteers.

Here is what the College of Registered Nurses of B.C. said to its membership last month.

This crisis may be prolonged and continue to worsen; as these overdose prevention services are being established across our province, in any place there is a need, we are being asked by nurses, “Is my licence at risk if I provide nursing care in these sites and conditions that can be less than ideal?”

Our courageous front line health workers should never be forced to ask that question.

That is why the NDP introduced an amendment at the health committee that would have allowed provincial health ministers to request in writing from the federal health minister emergency approval for supervised consumption sites in response to a local crisis.

Such an exemption would bypass the normal application process, and go into effect immediately for up to a year with the possibility of renewal. The federal minister would be required to post a provincial request online and post the response within five days.

This change was aimed at removing the potential for distant political considerations in Ottawa, many of which we hear expressed by members of the House today, to undermine or impede timely evidence-based decision responses to provincial public emergencies.

In the unusual situation where a province has declared a provincial health emergency, instead of forcing it to go through the application process which takes time, and time in a crisis like this costs lives, it gives the federal health minister the ability to grant a temporary approval quickly.

The Liberal government has repeatedly claimed that, with this legislation, it is now doing everything in its power to address this crisis, but that is demonstrably false. The government has failed to take many actions. There are literally dozens of them that are open to the government to take to respond to this crisis which it seems reluctant to do.

Recently, the City of Vancouver sent a list of nine recommendations to the federal government to help address this crisis, including calling for a central command structure, daily meetings with Health Canada, and improved treatment services.

A coroner's jury in British Columbia recently issued a list of 21 recommendations for action and the Standing Committee on Health in December issued a report detailing 38 recommendations for the government alone, again most of which remain unimplemented. The Liberal government is not doing everything it can to address the opioid crisis. It is taking some measures, but not all the measures it needs to.

When the health committee conducted the emergency study last fall into the crisis, the first recommendation made with all-party support was to declare opioid overdoses a national public health emergency. This call was echoed by Dr. David Juurlink, the keynote speaker at the health minister's own opioid summit last fall and now by B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, a Liberal, and stakeholders across the country. In the face of a mounting death toll, a declaration of a national public health emergency would allow us to start saving more lives today.

Furthermore, during our study, the health committee heard that access to treatment for opioid addiction is almost nonexistent in indigenous communities, and where there is access, it is short-term access. That is because nurses employed by Health Canada do not have the scope of practice to support indigenous people in addressing opioid addiction in their own communities beyond 30 days. Yet, the Liberal government has made absolutely no commitment to ensuring full access to long-term, culturally appropriate addictions treatment in indigenous communities.

Finally, the health committee's recent report on the crisis made three separate and specific recommendations, calling for significant new federal funding for public community-based detox and addictions treatment. But the federal government will not commit to making any new funding available for detox and treatment in budget 2017, so far.

The health minister continues to recycle money dedicated to mental health, and claims that money can be used for addictions treatment. We are looking for new, specific, targeted funds for addictions treatment in this country. Mental health is a huge area, and there are many needs in this country. We all know that. We wanted targeted money from the government, and the government has refused to make that commitment so far.

I believe it behooves this House to be honest with itself. Would the federal government be so noncommittal and cautious in its approach if these deaths were caused by any other disease? As we look to the future, we must let go of our prejudices in order to hold on to our loved ones. Donna May, the founding member and facilitator of mumsDU, moms united and mandated to saving drug users, lost her daughter Jac to addiction at the age of 35. She said:

Most people would think that the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face was her death; the death of a child; the death of my only girl. However, that’s not it at all.

The hardest thing I’ve had to face in my life is realizing how my ignorance towards my daughter’s addiction cost me years with her that I will never get back. There are no ‘do-overs’ when your child is dead! Now I can only share my experience and what I’ve learned since, so that other parents can take something from it.

In many respects, substance abuse is one of the last remaining acceptable targets for health care discrimination. With all the evidence available to us, we should know better. If we are to succeed in treating addiction as a disease, which it is, we need to acknowledge that fear, stigma, and ignorance about those who suffer from addiction are widespread and in many respects have framed our approach to this crisis.

That is why, although these legislative changes are long overdue, they do not go far enough, fast enough. We need federal coordination and funding to address the crisis right now and over the long term. Canada's failure to treat addiction and substance use disorders by successive federal governments as a medical condition was explained to the health committee by Dr. Evan Wood from UBC.

He said:

I'll just ask you to imagine a scenario of somebody having an acute medical condition like a heart attack. They would be taken into an acute care environment. They would be seen by a medical team with ex1pertise in cardiology. The cardiovascular team would then look to guidelines and standards to diagnose the condition and to effectively treat it. Unfortunately, in Canada, because we haven't traditionally trained health care providers in addiction medicine, we have health care providers who don't know what to do, and routinely do things that actually put patients at risk.

In addition to the lack of training for health care providers, the overall lack of investments in this area has meant that there aren't standards, guidelines [or beds] for the treatment of addiction.

Dr. Mark Ujjainwalla, medical director of Recovery Ottawa, said:

The problem we face here is that the real issue with addiction is not opiates. The real issue is the inability of the present health care system to treat the disease of addiction. An addiction is a biopsychosocial illness that affects 10% of society, probably more if you include families, and it is the most underfunded medical illness in our society.

The problem is that it's also a highly preventable and very highly treatable illness. It's very unfortunate that people don't see that. When it affects your family or you, you can feel the pain and suffering, and you watch the tragedy unfold in front of you.

I would like to conclude my remarks by imploring this House to take a lesson from Estonia, a country that recently overcame an opioid crisis very similar to Canada's. The head of Estonia's drug abuse prevention department said, “I think the most important thing is you don't waste time. If you really want to learn from us, that's the mistake we made. Don't look for some new solutions, because you have them.”

We could say that history does not look kindly on those who dither in times of crisis. To put it bluntly, it is not the history books that should keep us up at night; it is the lives that we continue to lose every single day to entirely preventable causes.

Canadians are looking to us to provide leadership in a crisis. It is time for us to deliver.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to acknowledge the presentation by the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. Members of his caucus have been raising this issue with great clarity, great intelligence and with great compassion. I would like to acknowledge the efforts they have made to get the House to act faster, not just this year but over the last couple of decades, on this issue, and in particular the MPs who come from Vancouver.

Some of the issues he has raised we have addressed. I have sat with the big city mayors, and in particular Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver, and listened to their calls for action. I immediately approached the Minister of Health. We are moving on those urban issues very quickly in concert with our cities, because cities and towns are on the front lines of this issue.

We have the call for a national disaster and immediate action, which is being taken by the government. What actions in the national disaster designation are not being taken as a result of us not designating it that could not be taken as a result of good advice from the member opposite? In other words, we believe we are doing everything we can. What would the additional designation do that we are not doing now?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to thank the hon. member for Spadina—Fort York not only for his kind and generous words in here, but for approaching this issue in the spirit from which it ought to be approached, which is one of collegiality and working together on all sides of the House. Addiction knows no ideology. Our children, who are exposed to death, illness and overdose, are not interested in politics, so I really appreciate those kinds words.

He asks an excellent question. Under the Emergencies Act, the declaration of what is called a public welfare emergency is open to the government, and it is clearly written in the spirit of some sort of natural disaster or outbreak of disease, if we read the legislation. There is a number of powers it gives the national chief public health officer in a case like that, and two of them in particular I would encourage my hon. colleague to consider.

One is that it would authorize the government to flow emergency funding in an expedited fashion, as opposed to having funding go through the normal processes of this place. Second, and more important, it sanctions the opening of hospitals and clinics on an emergency basis.

If there were a virus spreading around the country and we were losing 50 people a week, we would be opening pop-up clinics, almost like MASH, all over the place where people could go to get vaccinated, to get treatment. Those are the kinds of clinics I believe these supervised overdose prevention facilities could be designated as. Then they would not be operating illegally as they are now. Cities and towns could be opening these supervised consumption sites on an emergency basis and do so legally under the Emergencies Act.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Anyone who was lucky enough to hear his speech will understand the emotional intensity triggered by this problem. This is something my colleague has to deal with every day, which was reflected in his comments.

I think he was right to slam the Conservative Party, because we have been debating this problem, namely, the injection site issue, not the opioid crisis, over the past several Parliaments, with still no resolution.

I appreciate the collegiality among most parties of the House, since most of us want to expedite the passage of this bill. However, the Liberal government is expected to present its upcoming budget perhaps next week, or in two weeks' time at the latest, and my concern is this: what if there are no new investments to address this crisis? Would that not be truly Machiavellian, the perfect example of doublespeak?

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I think all members of the House would probably agree that one of the fundamental solutions to the crisis facing us is its prevention and treatment as a health issue. That means our words are not particularly helpful unless they are backed up by actions. The action I would like to see by the government is significant and substantial new funding for addictions treatment facilities of every kind across the country. There is no one size fits all. We need facilities for young people, women, and indigenous communities. There are differences with respect to alcohol and drug addictions. We need the full panoply of resources for the country to really start making a dent in this.

In generosity to the Conservative colleagues, I will say this. They express in the House the perspective that drugs are a dangerous product, and they are right. I think everyone in the House views drugs as unhealthy, and we wish Canadians would not use or abuse them. Ultimately, we need to get to that next level where we take an evidence-based, health-based approach to drugs. That will start with the Liberal government providing significant funding.

I asked a question today about the fact that 90% of Canadians right now were operating without a new health accord. While the government is negotiating with the provinces, I would ask it to recognize the emergency before us and find money in its budget that can be diverted from other places and put into addictions services. It would be money well spent and it would help save the lives.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for his work on this, and on the health committee. I had a chance to be part of the clause-by-clause on Bill C-37, and I appreciate all his efforts there.

I want to thank him for raising the comparison to pipelines, which has been made all too often here, that somehow there is a contradiction in trying to save lives and reducing the obstacles to saving lives that can be compared to the reasonable regulatory hurdles for building thousands of kilometres of pipeline across first nations lands, which would threaten every stream it crosses, and the oceans and coastlines that will be traversed by tankers carrying bitumen and diluent, which cannot be cleaned up. I found the comparison distasteful, and I appreciate him dealing with it in the House this afternoon.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, in the spirit of generosity, I understand where the Conservatives are coming from. What they are talking about is the need to have appropriate regulatory processes for the approval of varying projects in our country. However, we would all do well in the House if we viewed the issue before us as one of public health. Although it is tempting to draw on analogies from other areas, I do not think we can really do justice to this issue unless we focus on the fact that the decisions we make today and the steps we take as parliamentarians will have not only an economic impact but one of life or death.

Everybody in the House probably has a family member, a relative, a friend, a colleague or a workmate who has suffered from an addiction. None of us are immune to that. Therefore, let us work together in a spirit of collegiality, look at the evidence, move swiftly, and deal with this very serious social issue, which has been ignored for far too long by every level of government in our country.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's support for real action on addressing the opioid overdose.

My own community of Nanaimo—Ladysmith has seen a tremendous effort by first responders and community organizations that have worked very hard to fill the gap in the failure of federal and provincial leadership.

I hope the member can describe the human cost on the first responder side, and what this government action might do to alleviate pressure on firefighters, nurses, and community organizations.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, the front-line workers, the firefighters, police, paramedics, nurses, and volunteers across the country, are nothing short of heroes and heroines for what they have been doing for us. They have been responding to people in the most extreme circumstance, literally when they are dying or dead, and they have been bringing them back to life. They are doing this day after day. These are the people we need to be supporting. Let us do that by moving the bill forward as soon as we can.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, National Defence; the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, Rail Transportation; the hon. member for Vancouver East, Foreign Affairs.

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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton South.

The bill before is an extremely important one. We have a health crisis, and we need to respond quickly. Our government, with the support of many members in the House, is doing just that.

I would like to begin by extending my sympathy to all those who have lost a friend, neighbour, family member, or co-worker through this crisis.

In the past eight years in Nova Scotia alone there have been over 800 overdoses, and half of those have been due to the use of opioids. This is the situation in Nova Scotia, but the situation is much greater in other provinces. For example, in British Columbia, 900 people lost their lives through overdose in the last year, which is 80% more than in 2015. At a national level, overdoses now outnumber the deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. This gives us an interesting comparison, and shows how sad this crisis is.

This crisis has no boundaries. There is no age, gender, or income factor. This is an addiction; it is an illness. All governments need to respond to this crisis. We have to find the root causes and then find solutions through the most current evidenced-based policies to support that. Addictions can take hold of someone trying to cope with physical or emotional pain.

The tragic thing about fentanyl is that the drug is so powerful, a minuscule amount can have dramatic effects and even cause death. As little as 30 grams, enough to fill a regular envelope, can cause as many as 15,000 people to die of an overdose.

That is why our government and all members of the House must pass a bill quickly, because every moment counts.

This legislation would roll back changes made by the previous government, the so-called Respect for Communities Act. That legislation added an unnecessary burden on provinces, local governments, and communities in applying for an exception under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to establish a safe consumption site. Bill C-37 would accomplish this by simplifying and streamlining the previous process and its 26 application criteria. That is why only three sites in the last two years have been established under those criteria.

Our government is applying the wisdom of the Supreme Court of Canada, which indicated five important factors: one, evidence on the impact of such facilities on crime rates; two, local communities indicating that there is a need for those types of sites; three, establishing regulatory structures and making sure they are in place to support the sites; four, having the necessary resources; and, five, having communities express support or opposition. That is what is important and what the bill would provide. In addition, whichever applications are denied or approved, the decisions would be made public. It is important that they be public.

The fact is that supervised consumption sites save lives. That is the important thing here: they save lives. The Vancouver sites help integrate people with addiction problems into the health system in an environment where they are not judged or stigmatized.

Harm reduction is not our government's only strategy. Our government has made it clear that we will invest $5 billion in mental health as part of the health agreement.

Prior to 2006, the Government of Canada had a federal drug strategy that had a balanced approach between public health and public safety that included the four key pillars: prevention, treatment, enforcement, and harm reduction. The previous government removed harm reduction as a pillar in our national drug strategy. This was unfortunate, because evidence has shown time and time again that harm reduction strategies are needed to ensure good public health outcomes.

As part of this government's commitment to evidence-based policy-making, the Minister of Health has reinstated harm reduction as a pillar of our strategy.

Along with harm reduction, our government has also eased access to the life-saving overdose treatment naloxone. Canadians can now access this drug antidote without a prescription and we have ensured emergency supplies are available for all Canadians.

In terms of enforcement, the RCMP has been diligently working to try to stop the flow of fentanyl. An agreement was recently reached with China on this issue. Furthermore, under this legislation, the Canada Border Services Agency would have more flexibility to inspect suspicious mail which it believes may contain prohibited goods. This measure would only apply to incoming international mail from areas of the world where prevalence of illicit drugs is greater.

In closing, I would like to commend the Minister of Health for her hard work in combatting this crisis and working toward a solution, and her leadership in bringing this legislation forward. I also want to thank members in all parties in the House for their contribution to this debate, as well as the NDP, the Bloc, and the Green Party that have directly supported this bill.

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, in my community what I am hearing is that there are a lot of people who are working on the opioid crisis and who are helping people with addictions but there is no coordinated effort. They are looking for federal leadership. They want this crisis to be declared a public emergency so that all of their efforts can come together in a coordinated way so they can use their resources to help more people. There is a desperate cry in my riding of Essex and also in southwestern Ontario for the federal government to show leadership.

Medical experts have also been clear that there is an alarming lack of access to publicly funded detox and addiction treatment centres. This is very true in my area.

I have heard the minister talk about funding for mental health, but could the member tell me if budget 2017 will contain significant new funding for addiction treatment specifically?

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her hard work on this file. I cannot speak for our government with respect to what is going to be in the budget, but I can say that our government has already promised to advance $5 billion over the next 10 years for health issues.

This bill would clear the way for the government to take immediate steps moving forward. Members must remember that our government has been working with provincial governments and local communities as well to move this forward.

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4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook that there are many positive aspects in Bill C-37 but the real problem with the bill is that it would gut the Respect for Communities Act.

Some say that the criteria in the Respect for Communities Act is too onerous and I disagree with them. Nonetheless, we on this side of the House try to work with the government. We put forward some simple amendments that, for example, would require a letter of support from the local municipality and local police force, an amendment that would require that persons within a two-kilometre radius of a supervised injection site be consulted, and an amendment that would require a 45-day consultation period, given that Bill C-37 would gut the minimum 90-day consultation period.

What could possibly justify the government rejecting all three of these common-sense amendments? Is it really just because the government wants to gut—

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4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

There is only five minutes for questions and comments. We cannot be giving speeches during questions and comments. It is very long.

The hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, we have to keep in mind that the Conservative government in the last 10 years did all it could to close these centres and made it so difficult that it was unachievable.

This bill would allow us to move forward quickly and get it done. The debate has been going on for years and it is now time to move forward. This is a first step but there are many steps to take. This is an extremely important first step that will help people on the ground today.

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5 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Madam Speaker, last July, the city of Surrey had more than 60 fentanyl overdoses in a 48-hour stretch. Our office held an emergency summit and we asked all first responders, health care professionals, and members of all parties to come together to come up with a strategy. I am glad that the minister has taken the lead on this.

The hon. member mentioned safe consumption sites. How would safe consumption sites help my riding of Surrey—Newton and the city of Surrey in general? My constituents are asking the government to expedite safe consumption sites.