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 Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey 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?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Cooper 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—

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, research clearly shows that these sites save lives. We plan to do this as quickly as possible.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

February 15th, 2017 / 5 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts.

While I am supporting this positive move, I must say I am still deeply troubled by this crisis that continues to hit communities. On a personal note, I was deeply touched after hearing from those affected. As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I, with my colleagues from all parties, studied this crisis. In fact, we chose to pass a motion to undertake an emergency study of the crisis.

We were all in lockstep with the minister, trying to make a positive difference and to make choices that would save lives. That motivation drove us to work hard, and work together. We worked collectively and openly on this. That is something I am quite proud of and something I have valued in my time as the MP for Brampton South, and as a fellow parliamentarian of all who serve together in this place.

In committee, we heard from wide-ranging front-line perspectives, experts, and from the Minister of Health directly on this. I would like to make particular note of the testimony the committee heard from indigenous peoples on October 25, which I feel was compelling, honest, and a real wake-up call about what we need to do to ensure we address the needs of indigenous communities. For starters, improving access to naloxone treatment, the life-saving medication used in the case of an opioid overdose, was needed for rural and remote first nations in particular. That was a key part of the minister's action plan coming out of the summit, and goes to show what we can do when we consult all communities.

In looking at the bill, I see that Bill C-37 addresses what we heard from the Canada Border Services Agency about practical changes that would help prevent drug-making materials from entering the country. I applaud the minister's work also to check suspicious international mail packages that are 30 grams or less, which could be used to smuggle in any amounts of substances that may cause harm. This is a good precaution to benefit Canadians.

I want to remind colleagues that the bill is the product of hundreds of voices coming together. Our committee members were graciously invited to join in the health minister's summit on this as well. Coming out of the summit, we saw action. In fact, the joint statement of action by 42 organizations to address the opioid crisis was a broad but concrete approach that includes all those involved, from health care providers, to first responders, to educators, to researchers, and to families as well. I want to applaud our Minister of Health, and Ontario's minister of health as well, for leading that conference, which focused on concrete steps and delivering clear results.

Our government has taken action from day one, building on our five-point action plan to address opioid misuse. We have taken concrete steps, such as granting section 56 exemptions for the Dr. Peter Centre and extending the exemption for lnsite for an additional four years. We made the overdose antidote naloxone more widely available in Canada. Our government recently approved three safe consumption sites in Montreal that the community asked for.

Further, at the local level, we have seen action already undertaken. In the city of Toronto, the mayor met with the mayor of Vancouver and other officials in order to plan a proactive not reactive response for Ontario as the crisis drifts eastward. The mayor of Hamilton held a discussion about this as well, and other municipalities have been doing the same. I hope more municipalities will reach out, learn from one another, and take proactive measures in their communities.

The numbers and the experts support this as the right way to public health, and it also delivers cost savings. I see how various aspects of the bill address a lot of the concerns we heard at committee and at the opioids summit. While many members have made note of the urgency of passing the bill, I think the majority of members showed time and time again in recent weeks that they were willing to collaborate to move quickly on this.

I want to reassure members that I believe the bill is an extremely collaborative and well-thought-out bill that responds to experts in the field as well as front-line needs. It gives me comfort to know that this bill would make a difference.

As others have said before, and I agree, we are in a national public health crisis in Canada. In 2016, thousands of Canadians tragically died of accidental opioid overdoses, and more will die this year. Our government and its partners must work together aggressively to save lives.

If people have friends or neighbours who are hearing the Conservatives' argument that facilities like Insite are the wrong approach, I would encourage them to contact me or other members on the health committee who would be happy to provide non-partisan, evidence-based information on why that does not reflect the safe consumption site model we see working already in Canada. All members of this House can agree that our hearts go out to the families and friends affected personally when a loved one has lost his or her life instead of having another chance. Last year in British Columbia alone, more than 900 people died from a drug overdose, an 80% increase from 2015.

This legislation simply proposes to ease the burden on communities that wish to open a supervised consumption site, while putting stronger measures in place to stop the flow of illicit drugs and strengthening the system in place for licensed controlled substances facilities. Experts and stakeholders told the previous government and then told our government that Bill C-2 as it stood was not helping this crisis. That is why we took action to reverse the barriers that were holding back communities that have long been asking for the ability to save their citizens' lives.

We know there is more to be done as we move forward. We know that sadly the situation is getting worse. The deaths from overdoses will now be greater than deaths caused by car accidents. This tragic crisis continues to move eastward in Canada, with increasing drug seizures of fentanyl and carfentanil across the country. We will continue to work with our partners across the country to continue bringing forward evidence-based solutions to save lives and ensure that 2017 is the year that will mark a turn in this national public health crisis.

Many people in Brampton South have asked me about my work on the health committee, and I have mentioned over and over that we all agreed we should turn our focus to this study due to the emergency at hand. They ask me why and they are always engaged when hearing about how we can work together at committee to address real problems and issues that our fellow Canadians face. Again, the way our committee worked together is one of the cherished moments I have of being an MP, and I hope we get more chances to work collaboratively again. This crisis called on us as leaders in our communities and as parliamentarians to take action.

In October 2016, I put forward a motion that the health committee call upon the Minister of Health to move as quickly as possible to conduct a review of the laws and regulations in place with regard to safe injection sites. I suggested that the review have an end goal to improve the health and safety of Canadians, using a strong evidence-based approach. With Bill C-37, I feel the minister and government have responded fully to the motion that the health committee passed in October of last year.

I am proud to be supporting this legislation that would save the lives of Canadians who need our help.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, certainly on this side of the House we have unanimous agreement that we need to work on this challenging problem.

A number of weeks ago in committee, our health critic offered to actually split this bill into two parts to deal with the crisis part and then to work on the issues that we might have some disagreement on. In fact, the parts of the bill that should be implemented could actually be law right now had the Liberal government agreed to do that.

My question has two parts. One, why did the Liberal government not agree to allow us to split the bill into two parts and facilitate the quick movement of this bill? Two, now that the bill is here, why did the Liberals limit debate on this bill for those of us in Parliament who have been elected by our constituents to represent them to be able to give their voice here in Parliament? Why did the Liberals limit debate by closing down debate?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's passion on this issue, but as he heard, 900 lives were lost in Vancouver. This is an urgent matter. We have to take steps. Evidence shows that when properly established and maintained, supervised consumption sites save lives and improve health without negatively impacting the surrounding communities.

Our minister brought forward Bill C-37. I want all members to support this valuable bill so we can save Canadian lives.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech on this important bill.

The government is taking the necessary steps to respond to the fentanyl overdose crisis across the country. I think my colleague would agree that our government bases its decisions on facts, science, and sound evidence. That is why we want to support the establishment of supervised consumption sites in cities that want them, because this reduces harm.

I wonder if my colleague could tell the House about other beneficial effects the bill will have on the health and safety of all Canadians.