Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House and have the final say in debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-307.
The creation of my private member's bill came about from having a wife and a daughter who are registered nurses. Especially, my daughter came to me and said, “Dad, something has to be done.” I live in a small rural riding where we typically do not believe we have the same problems, difficulties, and issues that are faced in cities such as Vancouver, which we heard the member of Parliament talk about this morning, but the issue of prescription and illicit drug abuse has touched every riding in our country.
This is an issue that we all face in the communities we represent as hon. members of Parliament. It is an issue that has ravaged some communities, destroyed families, and has taken far too many lives. Most tragically, it has taken a disproportionate number of lives from young and indigenous Canadians.
I listened as the New Democratic member of Parliament from Vancouver stated that 20,000 people in Canada have died from opioid abuse over the years. There were 156 call-outs in that one community in Vancouver to the fire department or to 911 dealing predominantly with fentanyl and opioid abuse. Canadians expect that we would respond to numbers and issues like that.
Can any member of the House forget the headline on September 17, 2016, in the National Post, which read: “Eight overdoses in 13 minutes and one devastated suburb”? That article stated that they did not have enough responders to get out to the various eight overdoses in that span of 13 or 15 minutes. It was one small-time drug dealer who contaminated a batch of cocaine he made with fentanyl that caused the tragedy. The alleged dealer said that he had no idea what he had done.
Right now—and I do not even have it printed out yet—the CBC is carrying a story. In New Brunswick, an individual's former physician—and they name the individual—is being charged with drug trafficking. It is alleged the 35-year-old doctor wrote prescriptions for 50,000 OxyContin and OxyNEO pills, picked them up herself, and did not give them to the patients.
We have a crisis in the country. Emergency responders know that when there is a fentanyl overdose, they use naloxone to save the lives of victims, but in this case we do not know where those 50,000 pills were going.
Tragically, as we have already heard this morning, far too often when we open the papers in the morning—especially in British Columbia and the west, but more and more across into the east—the papers are reporting the deaths of those who have used a drug without knowing that it had been laced with something like fentanyl. Bill C-307 would help prevent so-called dealers from breaking into medication that is available to Canadians from pharmacies. It would prevent these clandestine drug manufacturers from adding the active ingredients from prescription drugs to another drug and causing them to be deadly. The bill would give the health minister the power to quickly act and remove some of these from their availability to people who would abuse them.
No one should be using drugs, yet we live in a society where peer pressure, life stresses, and many other factors cause people to abuse drugs. These people do not factor in the possibility of dying when they try those drugs.
It is time that Parliament responded.
Let me end by saying this. The Liberal government said in the last budget that it was going to have an innovation budget. These are exactly the things that happen when research and development goes out with innovation money, looking at a problem, and asking whether it can be made abuse-deterrent, whether it can be made in a formulation that cannot be misused by those who get their hands on it. Therefore, I would encourage the governing party to allow the bill to go to committee—not to make it law today, but at least to allow the bill to go to committee, where it can be studied and the benefits of this measure can be seen.
I thank every member of Parliament for their consideration of this bill. I encourage everyone to support it Wednesday evening, allow the committee to do some work on it, and report back.