Madam Speaker, it is my turn to speak to Bill C-37, the second time I am doing so under the pressure of time allocation. I wanted to point that out because, the first time, I had prepared a speech that I wanted to share with my colleagues, but unfortunately, I did not have time, because the government felt it necessary to impose a gag order.
Bill C-37 has moved through all kinds of situations since the government introduced it. The official opposition totally agrees that urgent action is needed to address the opioid crisis. I think we share many of the same opinions and that we agree on most aspects of this bill. However, we raised a few concerns, particularly with regard to consulting the communities involved.
We had suggested splitting the bill so that we could act quickly and unanimously pass the most important parts of the bill in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, the government refused our proposal. I therefore do not think that we can be blamed for any delays or the many gag orders imposed on consideration of this bill.
I think that my take on Bill C-37 will help my colleagues see it in a different light. I believe that the problem we are currently seeing in Canada is an urban one. My riding is in a rural region and in our community we do not have this same need for injection sites. In my speech I will explain why this type of application does not really concern the smaller centres and rural regions as much as the larger centres. This problem must absolutely be addressed in order to improve the lives of Canadians across the country in large centres and rural regions alike.
As I was saying, Bill C-37 has some positive aspects, but also some negative aspects. First, the bill erodes the Respect for Communities Act, which was put in place to ensure that communities are consulted before an exemption is granted to a supervised consumption site. Under Bill C-37, a supervised consumption centre can be approved if it meets five criteria. Previously, 26 criteria needed to be met.
Furthermore, the bill changes the discretionary 90-day public consultation period to a discretionary period not to exceed 90 days. This means that a consultation period may not necessarily be obtained, whereas it was previously required.
These are some of the elements that could have been dealt with in a second bill. That would have given members from all parties the opportunity to comment on this possibility.
However, I must say that Bill C-37 has many positive aspects. The bill gives the Canada Border Services Agency the power to open any international mail, no matter the weight, should there be reasonable grounds to do so. Previously, the Agency had to have permission to open suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams. With the spike in parcel post deliveries, I think that this is a necessary and welcome change.
The bill also gives the Canada Border Services Agency the power to seize any unregistered pill presses at the border. These presses allow criminal organizations to manufacture opioid pills that are subsequently distributed on the black market and that are causing considerable harm everywhere in Canada.
Prohibitions and sanctions will now apply to the possession, production, sale, importation, and transportation of anything intended to be used in the production of any controlled substance, including fentanyl. Once again, this is an absolutely essential component that we must absolutely pass. That is why we are not criticizing this provision. We think this needs to become law as soon as possible.
The bill also authorizes the minister to temporarily add to a schedule to the act substances that the minister has reasonable grounds to believe pose a threat to public health or safety.
Of course, public health is of paramount concern to us.
There was a way to pass these measures very quickly that could have helped a lot of Canadians and communities. We have to find a solution because this is not an easy problem to solve. We will not be able to fix the fentanyl problem overnight, nor any other hard drug problem. At least we were on the right track.
Now what about this citizen consultation part? It is clear to us that we must oppose any measure that would limit the people's right to be consulted prior to a supervised injection site being set up.
Bill C-37 has serious flaws, and the Senate talked about them. First of all, the bill does not make any mention of prevention. Second, there are omissions regarding the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Finally there is also nothing in the bill about making communities aware of the safe injection sites to be approved.
If we open supervised injection sites and make those sorts of changes in communities, it is important that we tell people about it. They need to know why we are doing that and what advantages and disadvantages such a site will have for their community. Not all of the impacts of these sites are positive. The establishment of supervised injection sites will also have negative consequences for some cities in Canada. It is therefore important that the people affected know about all the potential impacts, both positive and negative.
Personally, what I find quite worrisome is that there is no mention whatsoever of the friends and family of hard drug users. They too endure terrible and terrifying experiences. They see their young or not-so-young children who are addicted to these drugs being left to their own devices in big cities. We have seen examples of this in recent years.
In her question, my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith said that these drugs have caused many overdose deaths in her riding. That is terrible. Imagine how the families of these victims must feel. Family members of drug addicts feel so powerless, and they are left completely on their own.
In order to remedy this situation, I do not think it is enough to help people take drugs in a safe way. We also need to help their families because, even though family members try to do whatever they can to help the drug addict, they often feel helpless and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. The people they are trying to help, their loved ones who are addicted to hard drugs, cannot overcome their addiction alone.
There is also nothing on access to legal drugs. In other words, these injection sites are not being required to offer an alternative to the people who go there. I am not saying that these people should be forced to undergo treatment or fill out a 25-page questionnaire before they can use a centre's services. They do not have to write a single word. I just want there to be resources available on the premises to help these people turn things around when they are ready to.
People who are concerned enough about their health to go to a supervised injection site might be the most likely to want to turn their lives around one day. Why insist on not requiring these sites to offer an alternative? It would be on a voluntary basis because, if they are required to jump through all sorts of hoops, people will stop going to the site and the problem will linger.
It would have been a good idea to think about these important issues. The opposition proposed amendments on this, but unfortunately they were rejected.
The Senate also proposed similar amendments, but unfortunately, the government wants to defeat them. We can come back to this later.
Bill C-37 is about supervised injection sites. As I said in my introduction, at first glance, many Canadians think this problem affects only big cities. Many people feel less concerned if they come from an area like Thetford Mines or one of Canada's rural regions, because we do not have these kinds of problems in small communities.
However, where do young people from Thetford Mines go? Where do young people from rural areas go when they are desperate and have no job, and where do they become the most vulnerable? For the most part, they go to the big city.
The transition from a rural area, where everyone knows everyone, to a big city, where you become anonymous, is a huge change and it exposes people to all kinds of different influences and experiences. If the life they find in the big city does not live up to their hopes and dreams, it might be easy for some to turn to all kinds of hard or soft drugs for answers. That is how mortality rates have achieved the levels we are seeing now in large urban centres.
This problem is not exclusive, then, to large urban centres. We must all be concerned and do our part to help, whether we live in a town like Thetford Mines, which I must not call a village, because my constituents would not be happy, or in a small village in the Appalaches RCM.
Bill was necessary and must pass as soon as possible, but we cannot proceed without thinking of the people who will be directly affected by these centres. We also cannot proceed C-37without thinking about the prevention, rehabilitation, and support we are going to provide to the people who use these centres and their loved ones. We must also think about the support we should provide to the communities that will have to live with these supervised injection sites.
The first time that I wanted to speak about the opioid problem and Bill C-37, I did a bit of research because, as I mentioned, in Thetford Mines, in the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, this is not a problem we deal with on a daily basis. We do not find needles on the ground everywhere. This does not seem to be a drug of choice in rural communities, or at least not where I come from.
Last year, I had the opportunity to go to Vancouver for an NDP convention. By mistake, we went through a tough neighbourhood, where we saw people living in misery. I saw them with my own eyes, and I could not understand how this could happen to them and how we could abandon these people without doing anything about it. It hurts when we come face to face with reality for the first time. It was a real wake-up call.
I read up on fentanyl, carfentanyl, and all the opioids we have been talking about for so long to better understand the issues. I found two or three definitions of carfentanyl on greenshield.ca, and I would like to share one of them with the members of the House of Commons because it is important for people to really understand the situation:
Carfentanil is adding to the Canadian opioid crisis. Although carfentanil is a synthetic opioid like oxycodone, fentanyl, and heroin, it is an animal tranquillizer for livestock and elephants with no safe application for humans. It is considered about 100 times more potent than fentanyl, 10,000 times more potent than morphine, and 4,000 times more potent than heroin.
That is what the mafia is putting in the drugs it sells to the most disadvantaged members of our society so that they become even more addicted and ask for more.
They say that the risk of overdose is very high. Experts warn that inhaling an amount of carfentanil that is smaller than a snowflake could trigger a fatal overdose. Officials suspect that carfentanil has probably been in Canada as long as fentanyl, but only recently have there been successful seizures of carfentanil.
Law enforcement officials suspect that fentanyl and carfentanil are mass-manufactured in China, where sellers easily conceal the drugs inside boxes of things like urine testing strips or generic vitamins. In fact, buying fentanyl online on the international market and having it delivered is just as easy as ordering vitamins.
GSC says that, after making the trip from China to the United States, the drugs make their way north to Canada. Recently, several states and a number of provinces experienced a wave of overdoses and deaths. What is worrisome is that, in June 2015, there was a seizure in Vancouver of a one-kilogram package of carfentanil bound for Calgary. That is enough carfentanil for approximately 50 million fatal doses. This is a very real problem.
Once again, I rise today in the House to help my colleagues who do not represent big cities gain a better understanding of the scope of the problem. I think it is important to talk about this. As I have already said, when our young people leave the regions and head to big cities, they can become vulnerable. They hope to find something better. They might be forced to deal with this situation and this reality and do not always have the tools to do so.
According to the website www.greenshield.ca, getting carfentanil and fentanyl onto the street is pretty easy. They are affordable and yet very powerful drugs. Apparently, they are so powerful that first responders now have to wear gloves and masks to avoid accidentally ingesting even the tiniest amount of the drug.
When we hear figures like the ones cited by my colleague, we cannot remain indifferent or pretend that this is not happening. We must take action on this, and Bill C-37 is a good start.
Earlier, I was talking about all the people affected by drug problems: drug users, parents, brothers, sisters, and so on. What resources are out there for them? In my riding, a group called Action toxicomanie serves the RCMs of Arthabaska, l'Érable, and Drummond.
I want to connect this to the marijuana legalization bill. Although not all marijuana users end up using hard drugs, the possibility clearly exists. We know that organized crime will not stop making money just because it will not be making money off marijuana anymore. Organized crime will not go away, and neither will marijuana. How will organized crime make its money? I hope it will not be making money from other drugs, which it has started doing with fentanyl and carfentanil. That is why we have to be so careful.
I want to talk about the work that community groups, such as Action toxicomanie in my riding, are doing in terms of prevention. Even before supervised injection sites become a factor, prevention is super important.
There are many things I would like to talk about, still. However, in closing, I would like to say that I support the amendments proposed by the Senate. I support the work of my colleague, the member for Oshawa, on the carfentanil issue and his efforts to ensure that people can be consulted and that users of supervised injection sites can have access to resources and pharmaceuticals to prevent the use of these drugs. In my opinion, this is crucial and it is the reason why I support the amendment by my colleague from Oshawa.