Right Side Of The Law (Silhouette Intimate Moments, No. 1110)
I think all members of the House and all Canadians would agree that the ongoing opioid crisis is absolutely tragic. I know that the Premier of British Columbia and a few of our colleagues from B. I was fortunate to have been part of the opioid study recently conducted at the health committee. It allowed me, and I think all my colleagues on the committee, to truly learn and empathize with struggling addicts, communities, first nation health professions, and families that have had to endure an opioid-related death.
We had the opportunity to hear many first-hand stories, something that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of. We heard from parents who lost their children. We heard from recovered drug addicts, government officials, and the first responders who are reviving these people hourly. We sometimes seem so focused on those battling drug addictions that we forget about the first responders who are working so hard to ensure that our streets and our citizens are safe.
I would like to personally thank everyone who appeared as a witness. I truly believe that their testimony has played a huge role in encouraging all levels of government and Canadians to work together, and of course, to take action. The bill aims to achieve five main things. First, it would grant increased powers to the Canada Border Services Agency. Second, it would regulate the importation of unregistered devices, such as pill presses. Third, it would increase prohibitions against certain actions related to controlled substances. Fourth, it would give the minister authority to temporarily schedule and control new dangerous substances.
Fifth, it would streamline the application process for approving and opening supervised injection sites. We know that there are many factors that have contributed to the opioid crisis. While one cause of the crisis results from illegal substances and organized crime, many are battling addiction because of the over-prescribing of painkillers. This bill seeks to address one aspect of the crisis: illegal activities and organized crime. I look forward to seeing what measures will be taken to address prescription drugs and over-prescribing, as I think we must acknowledge that it is a key contributor as well.
We know that China has been a primary source of fentanyl, carfentanil, and other dangerous opioids. It has been reported over the last year, and by the CBSA itself, how easy it is to import illicit substances into Canada with the current regulations. My Conservative colleagues have been pushing the government to finally acknowledge the flaws at our borders and grant officers the authority to search and seize suspicious packages weighing less than 30 grams.
While border agents already intercept dozens of these packages, exporters have found a way to hide illegal substances in toys, silica packages, and products that ultimately could not be searched without permission. Another weakness that has been recognized by many of my colleagues, but most passionately by Senator Vern White, is the need to target devices, specifically pill presses. These devices are capable of turning out thousands of deadly pills per hour, and under the current law, anyone can import one legally.
That is not okay. Right now, they are not regulated and the importation of them—there really is very little from an intelligence perspective the police can do To have these machines registered would be at least one step for us We could then have a better sense for ensuring they are for legitimate purposes.
Again, granting the Canada Border Services Agency the authority to detain unregistered pill presses is something that must be done. It is important that all information obtained at the border be available to law enforcement agencies across the country so that they can take the appropriate steps in ensuring the safety of all citizens. Ultimately, that is what we are trying to ensure here: that all Canadians are protected and that access to illicit, dangerous substances is avoided any way possible.
That is what I find quite contradictory.
The government is so quick to encourage the approval of supervised injection sites. Injection sites are known to give access to illicit and dangerous drugs, yet the government appears to want more of them. This is where there are some major inconsistencies in the government's policies. Yet, the bill would severely weaken the Respect for Communities Act, which was put in place to ensure that feedback from Canadians was taken into consideration before a supervised injection site was approved. Under the previous Conservative government, we took steps to ensure there was a robust consultation process which included residents, local law enforcement agencies, and elected officials to be on board with an injection site in their community.
Bill C proposes to significantly change those requirements. While the expression of community support for opposition is a requirement, the specific requirements have been removed to allow the Liberals to easily change them as they see fit. This is a way to completely avoid parliamentary oversight. The minister's attempt to avoid community approval will fail. We heard from numerous witnesses in the health committee that an injection site could not be successful without the support of the entire community. I will use the city of Ottawa as an example.
The mayor, the chief of police, and the former chief of police all have openly stated that they are opposed to an injection site in their community. Yet, under this bill, there is no assurance their views would even be taken into consideration. The minister has given herself the power to approve a site, regardless. What the minister does not realize is that not all communities want injection sites. Usually there are a few advocacy groups that are in support of a site, and no other legitimate stakeholder.
The Liberals are using harm reduction strategies as temporary solutions, band-aid solutions, and are refusing to offer any long-term solutions such as treatment and prevention. This is concerning. I agree with this statement, which is why injection sites should not become the norm. These sites are not helping people become productive. They are not encouraging good physical and mental health; in fact, they are doing the complete opposite. All injection sites are doing is providing a safe place for addicts to get their fix and if they overdose, someone will revive them.
This is not a life. Injection sites do not save lives. They revive people who, from what I have heard from meeting with many recovered addicts over the year, do not want to be alive if drugs, crime, and overdosing is all they have to look forward to. Drugs are dangerous. They are illegal because they ruin lives. The Prime Minister and the Liberal Party are simply building a co-dependent relationship with drug addicts. To elaborate on what I mean, a co-dependent relationship is a dysfunctional relationship in which one party enables and supports another's addiction such as drugs.
That is what the Liberals want society to become: an enabler as opposed to a preventer. Injection sites simply provide a place for drug users to get high, but offer no treatment. I will use Insite as an example. In , 6, people visited the injection site and only were referred to Insite, the site's apparent detox treatment centre. Only seven per cent were referred to or offered detox treatment at Insite.
To elaborate on the statistics, when I went for a visit, I was basically told by an employee that it was not in the business of treating these people. The site was there to provide them with needles and ensure that they would wake up. These sites are not saving lives; they are enabling and giving up on people whose lives have taken a bad turn. The government's desire to quickly approve these sites without community support, especially law enforcement, is absolutely outrageous. Once the minister approves the site, the responsibility to ensure the safety of all residents rests in the hands of local police.
Crime rates do not drop as the government keeps stating. Addicts are still illegally obtaining these drugs through break-ins, robberies, prostitution, etc. I worry about my community of Oshawa. Oshawa is an up-and-coming area with many new businesses and new residential areas for families to settle into. Oshawa and Durham region continue to work to improve the crime rates, and we have seen a drastic decline in assault, robberies, and drug crimes since This is thanks to the community as a whole working together to make it a better and safer place to raise our families. I worry that the approval of an injection site in my riding would lead to people looking for somewhere else to live, which ultimately would negatively affect these thriving businesses.
It would cause alarm if local residents, the mayor, and local police were not consulted prior to an approval. This is something my local community would not be in favour of, and that is why I cannot support this portion of the bill. Another issue we heard quite a bit about throughout the opioid study was the fact that new dangerous and deadly substances were constantly being made. This causes serious concerns. As the current rules stand, new psychoactive substances that are designed to mimic illegal drugs are chemically different enough not to be considered illegal.
I was happy to see that that the bill proposed to grant the Minister of Health the authority to temporarily and quickly schedule and control a new and dangerous substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This will allow the minister to take immediate action for the public good, while launching a thorough review of the new substance. This means action is being taken while a decision on whether to permanently schedule the substance is warranted.
I think all members agree that the opioid crisis must be addressed. I also think that all members are in agreement on the severity of the issue. The right steps are being taken to address security concerns at the border. Acknowledging that an international source is massively contributing to the opioid crisis is the first beneficial step the Liberals have taken to combat the issue. Ensuring that the Canada Border Services Agency can now open any suspicious package under 30 grams will stop the inflow of illegal substances dramatically.
Unregulated devices such as pill presses are another massive contributor to the opioid crisis, and that is acknowledged in the bill. These devices are allowing organized crime to produce mass amounts of deadly drugs. Giving the CBSA authority to share information with law enforcement agencies will allow police forces to do their jobs and shut down these illegal activities.
The bill also acknowledges the notion that new dangerous substances are constantly being manufactured. In order to control the quick turnaround of newly designed psychoactive substances, under new regulations, the minister would be able to temporarily and quickly schedule control of a dangerous substance. These are public safety measures that look out for the best interests of all Canadians. These measures look to negatively affect organized crime and make it harder for organized crime to produce and sell dangerous drugs.
However, severely weakening the consultation process with Canadians before the approval of an injection site is the exact opposite of these other measures. Approving these sites all around the country will normalize substance abuse. Drug addicts will still be committing extreme numbers of crimes to obtain these drugs. They will still be contributing to organized crime, and they are all to use freely in a government-sanctioned facility. I acknowledge that every province has different needs. However, I cannot acknowledge that injection sites save lives.
That is exactly what injection sites do. Streamlining the application process for approving injection sites is irresponsible. It would put communities at risk and it would put individuals with severe drug dependencies at risk. Drug addiction should be seen as a treatable illness.
Until I see the government take appropriate steps to help these people get off these dangerous and deadly drugs, I cannot, and will not, support this harm reduction band-aid solution. The Vancouver Insite injection site has received overwhelmingly positive feedback since its creation. Its creation was based on consultation and had a federal minister working with the provincial entities and different stakeholders, including first responders and the community as a whole.
I recall when the Conservatives brought in legislation to try to expand the area. There was a great deal of concern and scepticism toward the Conservatives back then because they did not support these injection-type sites, even though science and statistics clearly indicated that society benefits from these sites. I take it from the member's statements that we will no doubt have to agree to disagree on the validity of the injection sites, but that we do agree on the crisis of opioids.
This legislation will assist in dealing with that crisis. Given the urgency of the opioid crisis in Canada, at the very least, would the member not agree that we should attempt to get this to committee as soon as possible? Colin Carrie :. We have seen statistics. I remember talking to Vernon White. He said that the average addict committed four to eight illegal crimes every day to get his or her fix. Therefore, by allowing addicts to go into one of these injection sites to inject an illicit substance, which as far as we know could be filled with kerosene, and then giving them a little shake and letting them go back out again saying that we have saved their life, we are enabling them to go out in that community and commit four to eight crimes again.
We'll see what we can do to help you. My colleague from Vancouver was adamant and passionate. This was a band-aid solution. We need to work on long-term detox programs. I find it uncomfortable that the minister just finished renegotiating the health accord and did not get a firm commitment from the provinces and territories to open up these detox centres.
That is what really saves lives. There have been huge increases in deaths from overdose in my city alone. More than 87 organizations that work with the homeless, the HIV-infected, and the addicted came forward to oppose the legislation of the member's government. They said that safe injection sites were proven to decrease overdose, death, injury and risk behaviour, that access to health care for the marginalized increased, that it saved health care costs, and that it decreased open drug use and publicly discarded equipment.
Therefore, given the member supports the fact that there is an opioid epidemic, will he support our call for a national public emergency to be declared so federal resources will be made available immediately, and at least temporary safe injection sites? As the minister said herself, there are no good statistics being collected to determine the proper way of to move forward.
Is it injection sites or needle exchanges? Therefore, before we move forward, it is important that we maintain the rights of communities to provide their input where these injection sites have been proposed. That is the most disturbing thing I find with the bill. It would remove a lot of the safeguards we had put in place as a government. The basic fact is this. We should not be normalizing these injection sites. They should be rare and should not be made the go-to way of treating these addictions. Rather, it should be detoxification treatment.
If health policy is to be based on evidence and not on ideology, then we must look to the best evidence we have. The validity and accomplishments of safe injection sites was exhaustively examined by the Supreme Court of Canada when it ruled on the Insite case back in In that case, mountains of evidence were placed before the court, including from The Lancet , which is one of the world's most respected medical journals. Evidence gathered around Insite itself showed that it results in fewer overdoses, and in fact, no deaths. There has not been a single death at a supervised injection site in this country ever.
As my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona said, it results in there being less open drug use in the streets, less crime, and fewer discarded needles in our communities as well. His own government brought in legislation that did permit safe injection sites to open, albeit it made it extremely difficult to open them. His own government must have acknowledged that there was some value to this, or perhaps it was just forced to do so by the Supreme Court of Canada. Why did his government do nothing about the CBSA's prohibition on opening envelopes under 30 grams, which it took the present government to fix, so that we could stop the flow of fentanyl into this country?
Why did his government not catch that and do something about it? If he looks at the community where Insite is, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, I think he would agree with me that it is an exceptional neighbourhood. Before Insite was put into that neighbourhood, it was a horrible situation. The injection site was put there basically as an experiment. We had to do something. In that particular community, there was a lot of support for it. I think he is very aware of the strong support among all stakeholders.
That is one exceptional neighbourhood. I do not see any neighbourhood in Canada as bad as that one is or was in the past. If we look at the evidence, and he was there in health committee, unless communities are actually supportive and on side with these facilities, they do not have a chance of being successful. There is not a lot of evidence to support taking this template and just moving it across the country. As he said, there has only been one. To duplicate that based on that one experience is not the responsible thing to do.
Some things have been brought up over and over again, such as saving lives. I would suggest that if someone is injecting in front of them, that is to be expected, but to send them back out without proper treatment and moving them into a treatment program, as we would with any other disease in Canada, is that the best we can do? If that was our child or our friend, is that really the best we could do? I look forward to working with my colleague on seeing what we can do to move that agenda forward, because I think that is something all Canadians in all communities can agree on.
This is the greatest drug safety crisis of our time, and it's not hyperbole to say that every one of you knows somebody with an opioid use disorder. Whether you realize it or not, you do, and it's quite possible that you know someone who's lost a loved one to these drugs. The scope of the problem in Canada is completely unknown. We know that in the U. We have no corresponding numbers in Canada. I speculate that somewhere in the order of 20, Canadians have died over the last 20 years from these drugs.
The fact that no federal politician can tell you that number is a national embarrassment. In my home province of British Columbia, illicit drug overdoses claimed the lives of at least people last year, making it the deadliest on record for overdoses. This places it at the same level as Alabama, the worst state in the United States in terms of overdose rates. Last year two Ontarians died every single day from drug overdoses, with one of every eight deaths of young adults due to opioids, and Albertans died last year. Although Canada does not track overdose deaths at the national level, which again is an inexcusable deficiency in national health policy, it is estimated that in alone, 2, Canadians died from overdoses.
That number is certainly much higher for due to the rapid proliferation of extremely potent illicit opioids throughout Canada. It is patently clear that drug overdoses and deaths are increasing in every region of the country and will continue to do so without extraordinary and effective action. The significant increase in overdoses in prompted B. Perry Kendall, to declare a public health emergency last April for the first time in the province's history.
Notwithstanding this extraordinary step, the crisis has deepened. December saw another record spike in deaths in B. This is truly a crisis of epidemic proportions. Fentanyl, an opioid times more potent than heroin, has been called a game-changer for drug overdose deaths in Canada, and now we are seeing overdoses caused by carfentanil, an opioid so powerful that it poses overdose risks to those exposed to it simply through inhalation or contact with their skin. These drugs are so dangerous that a dose the size of a grain of salt can cause overdose or death.
I think we can all acknowledge that there are many aspects to this complex crisis. Fentanyl is strong, cheap, easy to transport, and small amounts can be made into thousands of doses. Many overdoses are being caused by inexperienced young people experimenting with non-opioid recreational drugs, unaware that they are contaminated with fentanyl.
For example, this past fall in Vancouver, there were nine overdoses recorded within 20 minutes in people who were using cocaine that was unknowingly laced with fentanyl. Opioids have been overused and over-prescribed by doctors for pain management, leading to many patients becoming dependent and addicted. Canada has among the highest per capita volume of opioids dispensed in the world, totalling That is about one opioid prescription written for every two Canadians. Even though there are no credible peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that opioids afford more benefit than harm for chronic pain, opioid use has been marketed beyond palliative and cancer patients for regular use for people experiencing back pain and other common ailments.
This misuse of opioids reveals the absence of broad and effective treatment for chronic pain in Canada. Critically, there is an alarming lack of public detox and treatment facilities available across Canada, caused by underinvestment for decades at both provincial and federal levels, and even less resources dedicated to education and prevention. Bluntly, our health care system has an appalling lack of publicly covered treatment options for Canadians suffering from substance use disorder, a pox on both Liberal and Conservative governments over the last number of decades.
In indigenous communities, inconsistent federal support for community governed and culturally based treatment has made addressing the opioid crisis a particular challenge. Nurses employed by Health Canada do not possess the scope of practice to support indigenous people in addressing opioid addiction in their own communities beyond 30 days by federal edict. As Dr.
I tear up every time I think about this, because our workers are putting themselves on the line to hear the stories of incredible trauma. We have little funding to train them. These are community members who, because Health Canada has refused to step up, have stepped up themselves. They do this and they get traumatized daily, and I have little or no means to support them other than being their family doctor.
It's not acceptable. Addiction is a complex psychosocial disease with genetic, environmental, and social determinant influences of every type. Although this crisis has been garnering increased media attention in recent months, make no mistake that it has been allowed to escalate for years, recently under a Conservative government blinded by superficial ideology and now under a Liberal government paralyzed by timid expediency. What both Conservative and Liberal governments have in common, however, is a refusal to act on evidence in a timely fashion, and decades of history of failure to make the investments necessary to provide Canadians with essential health options to treat substance use disorder.
Over the last 10 years, the previous Conservative government slashed Health Canada's addiction treatment budget, removed harm reduction as one of the four pillars of Canadian drug policy, and spent nearly a decade trying to discredit the clear and overwhelming evidence that supervised consumption sites save lives.
Indeed, this crisis has undeniably been exasperated by barriers erected by a Conservative government that prevented supervised consumption sites from opening across Canada. Despite an abundance of research that conclusively established that Vancouver's supervised consumption facility, Insite, significantly reduced overdose deaths, the Conservative government obstinately refused to accept that evidence. In response, in , the Conservative government introduced Bill C-2 , which sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised consumption site applicants must meet before the minister would grant them an exemption.
In practice and by design, these criteria made it effectively impossible for organizations to open new supervised consumption sites in Canada. For example, Montreal has had applications pending Health Canada approval since May , almost two years, for three fixed services in three neighbourhoods and one mobile service.
Indeed, not a single supervised consumption site has opened in Canada since Bill C-2 was passed. Of course, that was exactly the Conservatives' intention. Only an hour after Bill C-2 was initially introduced, in a move so vile it would impress Donald Trump, Conservative campaign director Jenni Byrne issued a fundraising letter stating that the Liberals and NDP wanted addicts to shoot up in the backyards of communities all across the country.
This went beyond a juvenile refusal to accept evidence that ran contrary to their moralizing ideology. It was a clear and utterly disgraceful attempt to campaign on the backs of the most vulnerable Canadians, sick Canadians. For those Conservative MPs who now claim to have found religion on the issue, who have recently echoed the NDP's long-standing call to declare a national public health emergency, I must remind them that it was Conservatives who blocked my attempt to move this bill swiftly through the House in December, to save lives faster.
Though the Liberals claim to support the expansion of supervised consumption sites, their government has not approved a single new facility since coming to office. In fact, the Minister of Health initially and stubbornly argued that legislative changes to Bill C-2 were not even necessary, since she had directed Health Canada officials to facilitate the application process under the existing law. She refused to acknowledge that the problem was the act itself with its 26 separate requirements acting as effective barriers to any new sites, as had been consistently pointed out by stakeholders, the NDP, and even some of her own colleagues.
This tepid response stood in stark contrast to the view espoused by the member for Vancouver Centre , the Liberal member for Vancouver Centre, when she was the Liberal health critic in opposition. When Bill C-2 was introduced, the member for Vancouver Centre publicly stated that the bill was deliberately written in a way that would ensure no supervised consumption sites were approved in Canada. She also questioned the constitutionality of the bill. It has frequently been observed that Liberals campaign from the left and govern from the right, that they talk progressively in opposition, but act conservatively when in power.
I am afraid their conduct on the opioid crisis is yet one more example of this unfortunate truism. Unacceptably, it took a mounting death toll and universal pressure from medical experts, public health officials, provincial governments, municipal leaders, and the federal NDP before the Minister of Health finally relented and outlined legislative changes she was willing to make to Bill C-2 , on December 12, This came on the heels of an announcement from the B.
This was in turn a response to the unsanctioned, makeshift supervised consumption sites that were being established throughout B. While the current government was waiting, while people were dying, people in British Columbia and on the street were acting. Thus, the bill is an overdue acknowledgement that this is, in fact, a crisis and contains some important steps to address it.
The Liberals hosted an opioid summit, where they committed to better informing Canadians about the risks of opioids, supporting better prescribing practices, and improving the evidence base. They made naloxone available in a non-prescription status. They reversed the federal prohibition on the use of pharmaceutical heroin for treatment. They scheduled fentanyl precursors. They reinstated harm reduction as one of the four pillars of drug policy. Now the government has introduced amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and other acts, to streamline supervised consumption site applications.
These changes are all welcome, if overdue, and New Democrats are in agreement with all of them. However, they do not go nearly far enough, fast enough. There is much more that we can and must do. That is why I must take serious exception to comments made by the Minister of Health in a recent interview. The minister said:. I would argue with the fact as to whether or not there's been progress made. I know that the number of deaths are rising, but we have been extremely active on this file I do not know how the minister measures progress, but I do know one thing.
When Canadians are dying at unprecedented rates, when month after month we see increased death tolls from opioid overdoses, there can be no legitimate talk of progress. We in the New Democratic Party will measure progress by one factor and one factor only: when the death toll of Canadians goes down, not up. However by that standard, the crisis is getting dramatically worse, not better. Annually since , the number of fatal overdoses in B. Last month alone, we recorded the highest number of overdose deaths in B. That is more than double the monthly average of overdose deaths since and a sharp increase from the fall.
There were 57 overdose deaths in B. That is not progress. To understand the scale of this epidemic, I would remind the House that during the SARS crisis in , 44 people died in an outbreak of the disease across all of Canada. We are losing that many people every week to opioid overdoses. I would suggest to members of the House that if 40 to 50 Canadians were dying every week from SARS, Ebola, or any other infectious disease, the House would not rest until it saw a response from the federal government that matched the severity of the crisis.
Every life lost to overdose is a heart-wrenching tragedy that leaves devastated loved ones in its wake. The lives cut short by overdose matter just as much as anyone's, and this epidemic deserves the same attention and urgency as any other disease. Moreover, we must remember that the consequences of inaction are felt severely by those on the front lines of this crisis.
As Chris Coleman, a firefighter who works on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, told the health committee:.
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There is mental strain in watching a population repeatedly harming itself and in ultimately witnessing death and deceased persons who have succumbed to this human tragedy I must stress that our brothers and sisters who work in the Downtown Eastside are in trouble I'm told stories of their being in an alley with 20 or 30 drug users. They're unprepared and untrained for that. Part of their hopelessness comes from having to deal with the same particular overdose patient who has a needle in their neck, who's rolling around in urine and feces, more than once on the same shift.
They feel abandoned and they feel hopeless. We must not condemn our courageous first responders to the fate of Sisyphus, rolling an immense boulder up a hill over and over again for eternity. They need the Government of Canada to have their backs. Indeed, the federal government's failure of leadership on the opioid crisis has led to renewed pleas for help from public officials from all across Canada. I know that the Minister of Health has repeatedly stated in public that the federal government is doing everything it can. Of course, that is utter nonsense.
There are literally dozens of measures and recommendations made by health experts and stakeholders across Canada that remain unimplemented by the government. 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, most of which remain unimplemented. To demonstrate this leadership and illustrate the federal government's understanding of the scope of this crisis, the New Democrats have been calling on the federal Minister of Health to declare a national public health emergency for months.
We are now joined in this call by municipal, provincial, and federal politicians of all stripes, including, recently, the Conservatives. A declaration of a national public welfare emergency under the Emergencies Act would empower Canada's top doctor with the authority to take extraordinary measures to coordinate a national response to the crisis.
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This could include an allocation of emergency funding on the scale required to actually address the mounting death toll, as well as sanctioning the operation of temporary supervised consumption sites on an emergency basis. Inexplicably, the minister continues to claim that a national public welfare declaration is unnecessary and untimely. With respect, she is utterly and demonstrably wrong. For example, such a declaration would allow overdose prevention sites across the country to open and operate legally, something they cannot do now.
Not only are such sites needed desperately in every major city in Canada, but they would start saving lives today. New Democrats have worked in good faith with successive federal governments to address the crisis with the urgency it deserves. We led the fight against the Conservatives' Bill C-2 from the day it was introduced, and then pressed the Liberal government to repeal or amend it.
Last fall, we moved a motion at the standing committee to conduct an emergency study on the crisis. We tried to expedite this bill through the House in December; and we were the first to call for a declaration of a national public health emergency to address the crisis. The New Democratic Party will support this bill and work in committee to improve it.
We will continue to press the government to take every action it can to address this national public health crisis. I agree, in good part, with the beginning of the member's comments. Where I take some exception, and where the member needs to get a better appreciation, is on the statement that the national government has not demonstrated leadership. The Minister of Health and the Prime Minister have demonstrated leadership on the opioid crisis here in Canada.
The Minister of Health has been very proactive. The member himself made reference to a series of things the Minister of Health has done. We have to take into consideration an enormous amount of work with the different stakeholders, whether they are provincial administrations, indigenous people, first responders, and so forth.
It has to be a coordinated approach. My question for the member is this. Does he not recognize the importance of working with others, since it will not be just Ottawa that resolves this particular problem? Maybe he could comment further on how the House today can assist in expediting the passage of this legislation.
Don Davies :. My hon. In fact, the member for Vancouver Centre , the senior Liberal in British Columbia and the Liberal critic for health at the time, called the bill unconstitutional. That is why New Democrats, as soon as the Parliament changed back in October of , at first opportunity, called on the government to introduce legislation to amend or repeal Bill C New Democrats started the call in February of last year.
It was because we saw that there was a crisis. People were dying every week. What did the Liberals do? They told the NDP they did not think, while in government, that there was any problem with the legislation, that they just thought it was an administrative problem. Every month, New Democrats stood in the House and told Liberals they had to act to change it because supervised consumption sites save lives and the bill was a barrier. Month after month, Liberals stalled and did nothing while Canadians died.
It took them until December, after over a year in office, before they actually introduced legislation, which will now take months to pass. I am going to give the Liberal government no credit for its inaction and delay on introducing legislation that is so critical to saving lives in this country, and New Democrats will continue to push the government to take the dozens of recommendations that are necessary to continue to do so.
For those of us who view addiction as a health issue, for those of us who view the operation of these clinics as being pivotal to saving lives, I will point out that not a single person has died in a supervised consumption site facility in this country. From a health point of view, when a community wishes to have such a site we should focus on criteria that would help to address the health issues there. It is not a question of finger-pointing; it is a question of establishing facts.
It did nothing about the CBSA's problem in being unable to open gram or under envelopes. The Conservative government fought supervised consumption sites in this country right to the Supreme Court of Canada. I will take no lectures from the Conservative Party about how to save lives in the opioid crisis. Nine hundred and fourteen people died last year in my province of British Columbia.
In my riding of Victoria, dozens of people have died, while we watched the government take no action over the last year on this issue. I am delighted to hear the minister make commitments today. This is very personal. I know people whose family members have died as a consequence of inaction over the last while. I would ask my colleague to elaborate a bit on what this national health emergency means and what the Emergencies Act might allow by way of powers.
My colleague talked about the 38 recommendations from the health committee. He talked about recommendations from the City of Vancouver and in coroners' reports. If we have a crisis, which we do, I would ask the member what powers would be available to the government were it to trigger that? A piece of federal legislation called the Emergencies Act permits the declaration of a public welfare emergency when one of two situations exists. The first is if a province is experiencing a problem that is so serious and severe that it overwhelms its own ability to deal with it.
The second situation is when an issue affects more than one province across the country. It is the latter situation that is clearly the case in Canada right now. All provinces across this country are experiencing problems with the opioid overdose crisis. There are a number of extraordinary powers that would be given to Canada's top doctor under the Emergencies Act were the government to declare a public welfare emergency. There are two in particular. The act would allow the flow of emergency funds commensurate with the emergency without having to go through this process in the House.
Second and most important, the act would allow the government to open emergency hospitals or clinics, for example, if a disease was spreading across this country and we needed mobile units immediately. The overdose prevention sites that are really currently operating against the law right now would be deemed legal were the government to declare a public welfare emergency and cities across this country could open those up today and start saving lives today.
The Liberal government will not do it and I have no idea why it will not. I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C , an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other acts. My private member's bill, Bill C , the good Samaritan drug overdose act, is currently in the other place.
Just like Bill C, it is just one piece in the harm reduction tool kit that would help to save lives. Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key priority for this government. This bill makes several amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Customs Act in support of the government's efforts to respond to the current opioid crisis and problematic substance abuse in general. This comprehensive bill aims to balance the important objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety. It is designed to better equip both health professionals and law enforcement with the tools they need to address the issue.
Over the last decade, the harms associated with problematic substances abuse in Canada have become more complex and have been changing at a rapid pace. The line between licit and illicit substances has blurred with the opioid crisis, prescription drug misuse, and the rise of new designer drugs. The government has committed to helping Canadians affected by these problematic substances and their use.
Legislative and regulatory controls are certainly an important part of this approach. However, as we know, drug use and dependency pose significant risks for individuals, families, and communities. Our approach to addressing problematic substances abuse must include preventing and treating addiction, supporting recovery, and reducing the negative health and social impacts of drug use on individuals and their communities through evidence-based harm reduction measures.
This must also be a part of our approach to addressing problematic substances abuse. Harm reduction is viewed by experts as a cost-effective element of a well-balanced approach to public health and safety. Harm reduction connects people to other services in the health and social systems related to treatment and recovery. It recognizes that individuals and whole communities benefit when people with substance misuse and addiction issues can obtain the support and services they need rather than being marginalized or stigmatized.
The evidence regarding harm reduction is absolutely clear. Harm reduction measures are a critical piece of a comprehensive approach to drug control. That is why the government is determined to take a balanced, evidence-based approach that supports rather than creates obstacles to harm reduction. To that end, on December 12, , in addition to introducing Bill C in the House, the Minister of Health announced that a national anti-drug strategy would be replaced with a new, more balanced, and health-focused approach, called the Canadian drugs and substances strategy.
The new strategy will strengthen Canada's approach to drug policy by providing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to the protection of public health and safety and the reduction of harm from misuse of licit and illicit substances. To reflect the new health-focused approach, the strategy will be led and co-ordinated by the Minister of Health, in close collaboration with her colleagues. Canada has had successive drug strategies in place since that have aimed to balance public health and public safety.
In , the government launched Canada's drug strategy, which was intended to reduce the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families, and communities. In , harm reduction was added as a pillar alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement. However, the balance between public health and public safety in Canada's approach to drug policy shifted in , with the release of the national anti-drug strategy.
This strategy reflected the previous government's priorities of public safety, crime reduction, and safe communities. The national anti-drug strategy focused primarily on youth and illicit substance use and did not retain harm reduction as a pillar. This shift brought Canada out of step with other like-minded countries, most of which include harm reduction in addressing problematic substance abuse. The new strategy will retain and build upon the aspects of the national anti-drug strategy that worked well and, specifically, the new strategy will maintain the existing and well-established areas of prevention, treatment, and enforcement.
These pillars, respectively, aim to prevent problematic drug and substance use, support innovative approaches to treatment and rehabilitation, and address illicit drug production, supply, and distribution. However, perhaps the most important aspect of the new strategy is that it will improve upon the national anti-drug strategy by formally restoring harm reduction as a pillar. This shift to a more health-focused approach has been welcomed by stakeholders, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and our provincial partners. Our government is committed to ensuring that its policies under the new strategy will be informed by a strong foundation of evidence, including data related to harm reduction policies, programs, and interventions.
This will enable the government to better identify trends, target interventions, monitor impacts, and support evidence-based decisions. It will help ensure that Canada has a comprehensive national picture of drug use and drug-related harms and can fully meet our international reporting requirements. Even before the new strategy was announced, our government included harm reduction measures in our efforts to reduce the negative health and social impacts associated with problematic drug use, including the transmission of infectious diseases, overdose deaths, and stigma.
For example, under federal legislation, we have improved access to naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, by making it available without a prescription specifically for emergency use in cases of opioid overdose outside of hospital settings. This important measure broadens access for emergency workers and will help address a growing number of opioid overdoses. We have also demonstrated our support for the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key harm reduction measure.
Peter Centre to operate a supervised consumption site. Not long after, on March 16, , Health Canada granted Insite an unprecedented four-year exemption. If passed, Bill C would go further to support the implementation of evidence-based harm reduction measures. In particular, it would reduce the burden on communities that wish to apply for an exemption to operate a supervised consumption site.
The proposed amendments would streamline and simplify the application criteria, while ensuring that community consultation continues to be an integral part of the process. By streamlining the application and renewal process and adding a new transparency provision, applicants could be assured that the process would not cause unreasonable burden or delay. In conclusion, our government's approach to drug policy strives to balance the important objectives of protecting public health and maintaining public safety.
The Canadian drugs and substances strategy will restore harm reduction as a pillar, alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement, and will formalize our commitment to a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and evidence-based approach to Canada's drug policy. It would mean that harm reduction-focused policies, such as support for properly established and maintained supervised consumption sites and increased access to naloxone, would now officially be part of Canada's drug strategy.
Implementing measures proposed in Bill C would be a key step in realizing the objectives of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy. We know that it is often the young, inexperienced users who end up overdosing. Some do not know that certain drugs contain fentanyl. Why have the Liberals still not reinvested in awareness and prevention? There is a desperate lack of resources for this. Front-line workers are saying that they need more resources to work on prevention. What is the Liberal government doing to save lives and ensure that young people are not the primary victims of its inaction?
Ron McKinnon :. The implications are enormous if nothing much happens. The government has moved very slowly on legislation. It has waited 15 months now. We are coming up to February tomorrow. The Liberals took office and could have moved something in December They have done nothing really to in any way fight to put in place the addiction treatment programs that are needed across the country, and they have refused to call a public health emergency. Why is the government moving so dreadfully slowly in the midst of this crisis? We have taken action all through our time in office, such as improving access to naloxone to controlling the availability and the supply of the precursors to the manufacture of things like fentanyl, all of which are meaningful actions.
However, we are moving forward. It is time we all move forward and solve this problem together in a meaningful way, as we are setting about to do. Bill C confirms once again our government's continued commitment to ensuring that our legislative frameworks for public health and safety are modern and effective. Protecting public health through efforts to prevent disease, prolong life, and promote health is a key priority for the government.
The recently announced Canadian drugs and substances strategy and the proposed legislative changes to streamline the application process for supervised consumption sites are just two ways the Government of Canada is demonstrating this commitment to public health. This new strategy is comprehensive, collaborative and compassionate. It is comprised of four key pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement, which are built upon a strong foundation of evidence.
While the new strategy places an increased emphasis on public health, our government recognizes that effective drug policy must balance both public health and public safety. Therefore, not only does Bill C address harm reduction measures such as supervised injection sites, it also proposes new ways to deal with controlled substances that are obtained through illicit sources.
The CDSA provides a framework to control substances that can alter mental processes and that may produce harm to health and to society when diverted or misused. It has the dual purpose of protecting public health and maintaining public safety. We know that the use of illicit substances can increase the risk of harm to health. The CDSA maintains public safety by restricting the activities such as import, export and trafficking of controlled substances and precursors. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act has been in effect for two decades now and some of its regulations, enacted under previous legislation, have been in place much longer.
While the CDSA serves us well in many areas, there has been a significant evolution in both the legitimate controlled substances and precursors industries as well as the illicit drug market. As we all know, problematic substance use is a serious public health issue. Our government is very concerned about the increasing rates of opioid-related overdose deaths occurring across Canada right now, and the devastating impact this crisis is having on individuals, families and communities at large, including in my own riding of Edmonton Centre.
Opioid-related overdoses in British Columbia and Alberta have reached a crisis point and urgent action is needed to protect public health and safety, and disrupt illegal production and trafficking. It is becoming increasingly critical to ensure that the CDSA is modernized in order to better protect Canadians, their families, and the communities in which they live. The Government of Canada is taking concrete action that will help address the current crisis and keep deadly drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil out of Canadian communities.
If the proposed amendments in Bill C were adopted, they would further strengthen and modernize the tools available to the government to combat the illegal production and distribution of drugs and reduce the risk of controlled substances being diverted to the illegal market.
One such action would prohibit the import of unregistered pill press and encapsulator devices. Pill presses and encapsulators can be used legitimately to manufacture pharmaceuticals, food and consumer products as well. However, they may also be used to make illegal counterfeit drugs that look like legitimate pharmaceuticals. These counterfeit pills can contain dangerous substances such as fentanyl and W Pill presses can produce thousands of illegal pills in a short period of time, which poses significant risks to the public health and safety of Canadians.
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Currently these devices can be legally imported into Canada without specific regulatory requirements. Bill C would require that every pill press and encapsulator imported into Canada be registered with Health Canada. This would serve as a tool to better equip law enforcement to reduce the supply of illicit opioids and other drugs in Canada. Proof of registration would have to be shown upon importation and unregistered devices could be detained by officials at the border.
The devices captured under this provision are aligned with those for the import and sales that must be reported in the United States. A new schedule to the CDSA would be created, allowing additional devices to be controlled in the future to respond to changes in illicit drug production. The proposed legislation would enable better information sharing about imports of pill presses and encapsulators with border officials and police forces during an investigation.
Bill C would also make amendments to expand the offences and punishments for pre-production activities of any controlled substance. Pre-production includes buying and assembling the chemical ingredients and industrial equipment that are intended to be used to make illicit drugs, but are not specifically listed in the CDSA schedules.
These activities are not currently controlled under the CDSA unless the intent is to produce methamphetamine. Members of the House may recall that concerns about the growing popularity of methamphetamine prompted private member's bill, Bill C, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act methamphetamine and ecstasy , in The passage of this bill made it illegal to possess, produce, sell, or import chemicals with the knowledge that they would be used to produce or traffic methamphetamine.
Given the growing opioid crisis and the evidence of illegal production of other drugs in Canada, including fentanyl, we must go further. The government recognizes the complex challenges faced by individuals who are involved in problematic substance use. We remain committed to working with our territorial and provincial partners to address the issues related to illegal drug use. Bill C is one part of our government's response to Canada's growing opioid crisis.
The legislative changes proposed in the bill will make the CDSA a more robust act and increase law enforcement's ability to take early action against suspected drug production operations, and better equip enforcement to respond to the evolution of the illicit drug market. Back in April , British Columbia declared a state of emergency over the fentanyl opioid crisis. Why is it taking until to take action when we have a state of emergency, with people who have died in British Columbia?
It will be almost a year later before the bill is passed. The member should be ashamed. Randy Boissonnault :. The Minister of Health has been very clear in her meetings with territorial and provincial counterparts from coast to coast to coast that this is a crisis. We see it in Alberta as well. We take every life that has been lost due to this crisis seriously. The changes in Bill C are part of a comprehensive strategy. It is a whole-of-government approach.
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We take this issue seriously. We are moving as a government, and that is our commitment, to save the lives of Canadians. Our party has a long-standing call for his minister, who has the powers under the Emergency Act, to declare this a public emergency. The member is aware, as I and my city are, of the crisis we are facing with deaths from opioid addiction. Will the member support our call for a declaration of an emergency so the minister can demand more funds be made available, and to at least have temporary injection sites?
More than 87 organizations in Edmonton are desperately calling for immediate action, not for waiting until the bill finally passes through the House and Senate. Our government clearly understands the crisis that Canadians and marginalized populations are facing when it comes to the use of illicit substances. We are taking all action and all steps to make sure that our work not only in Bill C but with our provincial counterparts is moving apace. We are looking at how to make sure we have controlled use substance sites in place where wraparound supports can be made available.
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