Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to discuss Bill S-214, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act with regard to cruelty-free cosmetics. I would like to start by commending Senator Stewart Olsen for spearheading this work in the other place, and the member for Sarnia—Lambton for introducing this bill in the House.
I am disappointed with how long it took Bill S-214 to get to where we are today, as it passed third reading in the Senate almost a year ago. However, I am happy to announce our government's support of this important legislation, with amendments to bring it in line with the approach taken by the European Union.
The humane treatment of animals is undoubtedly a matter that preoccupies many Canadians. Our government has heard directly from many Canadians who have expressed their heartfelt concerns through emails, social media and letters. I can honestly say that this legislation has been a top concern from my constituents. The Body Shop alone has collected over 630,000 signatures on its petition.
According to a 2013 poll commissioned by Humane Society International/Canada and the Animal Alliance of Canada, an overwhelming majority of Canadians, 81%, support a nationwide ban on cosmetic animal testing.
The government's view is that the decision to test anything on an animal should not be taken lightly or without due and careful consideration of the potential pain and suffering that may be caused. For years, the Government of Canada has been publicly committed to eliminating animal testing for cosmetics and to the responsible and ethical use of animals for human health research.
This commitment is reflected in the work that has been done to support and carry out the research, development and implementation of alternative, non-animal test methods, both in Canada and abroad. Health Canada officials have worked in close collaboration with domestic and international partners, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Cooperation on Cosmetics Regulation, and the International Cooperation on Alternative Test Methods.
In addition, our government has begun to explore potential opportunities with the newly established Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the University of Windsor. My friend and colleague, the member for Beaches—East York, who is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate on issues of animal welfare, has spoken to me about this centre at the University of Windsor, and I understand it holds great promise.
The Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods and its subsidiary, the Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods, aim to develop, validate and promote methodologies in biomedical research, education and chemical toxicity testing that do not require the use of animals. All of this work is of the utmost importance, because by joining forces, we can more quickly and effectively develop and implement alternative, non-animal test methods for a variety of purposes, not just cosmetic safety.
Thanks to these efforts, I am pleased to say that, in most cases, it is now possible to test for issues such as dermal penetration, skin irritation, harm to genetic material and eye irritation without using animals. The presence of alternative test methods is dramatically decreasing the use of cosmetic animal testing around the globe.
However, it would be irresponsible for me to ignore certain situations where animal testing may still be required in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians. For example, in cases of determining carcinogenic effects of ingredients, reproductive toxicity and the way the body processes toxins, the inability to use animal testing could put Canadians at heightened risks of cancer, fertility issues and acute or chronic effects from repeated exposure.
Such concerns are especially pronounced when considering the rapid development of new, biologically active ingredients, not only in the area of cosmetics, but in many other products used by consumers every day, including drugs, vaccines and food additives. While I know that this may be upsetting for some, I emphasize that animal testing may be the only reliable way to protect the health of Canadians in these circumstances.
I would also point out that in many cases products share ingredients with cosmetics. In such situations, it only makes sense to allow evidence derived from animal testing to be submitted to support the safety of a cosmetic, given that it was not undertaken for the purpose of developing the cosmetic itself. Not permitting this would mean ignoring potentially crucial existing information that might enable us to better protect the health and safety of Canadians.
The European Union recognizes the importance of maintaining access to this evidence. While the EU imposes restrictions on testing on animals specifically for meeting the requirements of its cosmetics regulations, it does allow evidence generated for other, non-cosmetics-related regulatory frameworks to be submitted to demonstrate the safety of cosmetics. As it is currently written, Bill S-214 would not permit the use of such evidence. I highlight this to bring the attention of members to one important element of this well-intentioned bill to which we ought to give careful consideration.
I am pleased to inform the House that our government has identified a number of amendments to this bill that would be moved at committee and that would adequately mitigate the issues I have just mentioned. The bill, as amended, would continue to explicitly prohibit animal testing for cosmetics in Canada and the sale of any cosmetic that was developed or manufactured using cosmetic animal testing. However, the amendments would, among other things, allow government officials to rely on animal testing data for cosmetics when the health of Canadians is at risk and provide companies with the ability to submit animal testing data when required under another regulatory framework, consistent with the EU approach.
These amendments will also designate a four-year coming-into-force period for the entire bill to allow for an orderly transition. With the amendments I have briefly outlined, the bill would allow us to meet the expectations of many Canadians to put in place new measures supporting the goal of eliminating cosmetic animal testing, while ensuring that we continue to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
I look forward to further discussion of this bill, and I am pleased to tell the House that, with these amendments in mind, the government will support its referral to committee.
I want to close by thanking all Canadians who have been advocating for the passage of this bill for their passion and commitment to cruelty-free cosmetics. I applaud their efforts and want them to know that I share their concerns. In particular, I want to commend those in Oakville North—Burlington who contacted me, from students at Garth Webb Secondary School to those who have come to my office. Their voices are important and make a difference.