The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendments) from the committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to stand today and speak to Bill .
I have listened to many of the speakers in the last few debates on this, and everyone is pointing fingers, saying that the other government did not do this and we are doing this, but I am coming here as a mom. I am the official critic for families, children, and social development, and I am thinking about what we can do that is best for our families and best for our communities.
Many people are giving information regarding safe injection sites and why they work, but I am looking at the communities. One of the most important things to me is having a safe community and having a good place to raise my children and all Canadian children. When we are talking about this, we have to go back to why we are putting in these laws. It is about the safety of Canadians, whether it is the safety of those people who are unfortunately addicted or the safety of the families that are living beside injection sites or living in areas where there is a huge drug issue.
When this started being discussed in December, I sent an op-ed to The London Free Press, which is one of our local newspapers. Immediately following that, I set up an appointment with Dr. Christopher Mackie, who is the medical officer of health and the CEO of the mental health unit. Many people thought we would be on different sides. He comes at it in a more liberated way, and I come at it in a more conservative way, basically because of being a mom. At the end of the day, we had basically no things that were not in common. Our concerns were the same. It was all about making sure that when our children go to school, they are safe. It was about making sure that when people are dealing drugs, they are not interfering in our communities. We recognize that it happens, and it is extremely unfortunate that it happens.
What is happening is that we are moving forward on things that we are really not comfortable with. As a mom, when l spoke to Dr. Mackie, I told him about my discussions with my own children regarding marijuana and about why it is so important for families to sit down and have these discussions. Things like marijuana, heroin, opioids, and all of these things are coming into our children's paths much more frequently, and they are something we do not understand.
I am a child of the eighties, and my teenage years were great in the eighties. We heard of cocaine and marijuana, but we did not see it in our small communities.
Everyone is looking at the discussions we are having, but we have to look at them through a family filter. We talk about gender-based analysis. I want to ask every member of Parliament to look at this through the filter of a parent. That is what I am asking.
In the city of London, when they were putting in a methadone clinic, there were discussions about where it would go. There were so many people concerned, because it was going directly across the street from a high school on Dundas Street in St. Thomas. To this day, five years later, it is still a huge concern, because in that pocket of the community, there has been a lot of turbulence, whether it is crime, increased drug use, or things of that sort. What is it teaching our children as they exit from the high school and there is a methadone clinic across the road? What signals are we sending to our children? Is it saying no to drugs or that we are there to assist them?
We are failing our children. We are failing the next generation by not teaching them right from wrong and not teaching them that the use of drugs and hard drugs is difficult. They are going to have addiction issues. They are going to have problems with brain development.
We are not starting at step one anymore. We are going to step 10 and saying, as one of the members said, let us legalize all drugs. I do not know if he was serious, because he was looking at drugs as not being a crime. Let us be serious. It may not be a crime to use drugs, but what does it lead to?
I have a lot of personal experience in my community with my own family's drug use. It is not me personally, but I have been touched intimately because of drugs. I have known people who have passed away. A person I grew up playing baseball with died right before Christmas, in our own community, from taking carfentanil. I knew this gentleman, Jeff. He died at the age of 46. He was a father with children. He had a son he loved like members would not believe and tons of friends. The problem was that he got mixed up with drugs when he was very young, and that is the life that led him down the path to his death.
I think what is happening is that we are blurring what is right and wrong, and we are saying that this is how we are going to help. Why do we not start at the front end, which is education and letting people know how to speak to their children and letting people know that the use of heroin is not right? We give so many reasons for saying that we need to have this. Why do we not start at square one and make it right in the first place?
I believe that we have to have places where we can help people rehabilitate. We know that there is a drug crisis, and we need to do better. Where do we start?
I like 90% of this bill. I think it is really important that when packages come into Canada, they are tested, that we do not allow counterfeit companies that come in to manufacture pills, and that we do not allow pill presses or anything like that. I think it is really important to have legislation against that, because it is helping in the war against drugs, and we know that this is happening.
However, when we start talking about the one piece, the safe injection sites and the fact that there would not be consultations in our communities, that is where I have to say stop. As I said, back in the city of London, where, across from H.B. Beal, they have a methadone clinic, there were many parents who came forward to the Thames Valley District School Board to state their opinions.
In a letter I read last year regarding safe injection sites, a woman spoke about her daughter who, at the age of 13, became addicted to cocaine. The daughter, who went into one of these clinics, at the time said that the ability to get drugs was even easier once these clinics were available to her.
We have to understand that it is not a fix. It is a band-aid approach unless we go into it full scale to help Canadians, whether it is Canadian families or Canadian youth at risk. We need to make sure that we are doing better, and we are not doing that. That is what makes me so concerned.
We are talking about fentanyl. We know that in Vancouver, more than 950 people have died because of it. In my own community, we had six overdoses in one weekend right before Christmas, and unfortunately, one person died.
I was speaking to both the police chief of the city of St. Thomas, Darryl Pinnell, who will be retiring shortly, and the police chief of the city of London, John Pare. I wanted to discuss with them some of their concerns in their cities. To be honest, I thought when I went into this conversation with the police chiefs, we would be talking about prostitution, because we know that there has been some sex trafficking going on in our communities. I thought we would be talking about marijuana and the concern about people driving under the influence of marijuana, but the big issue for the two police chiefs was fentanyl. In the city of London, I know that there have been three different seizures of fentanyl that has come into our communities. I applaud them for doing their great work. However, we have to do more.
We sit here and become so open and so allowing of things, whether we are talking about sexual expression or drug use. We have lost our innocence. As a parent, I can tell members that each and every time I have a conversation with my children, it is about talking about right and wrong. However, when we are watching television, when we are watching the news, when we are seeing things on the Internet, when we are having these discussions, do we not think we are also saying, “Drug use, well, you know, it happens”? It happens, but it has to stop happening. Our job is to change that.
Maybe I am coming out here as a Pollyanna. A gentleman, many years ago, said that I was his Pollyanna. I like to see the positive side. When I look at this, we are starting the wrong way. We should be educating people. We should be having a program and educating people about the use of drugs. Instead, we are allowing it. We are even talking about legalizing all drugs. What the heck?
What really concerns me is that we are going in the wrong direction. I am worried about what we are doing to the future of Canadians. What are we saying? What is right and wrong? Those are some of my concerns.
We can do better. I think we are all just kind of saying that opening these clinics will be fine. It is a band-aid approach. Unless we have wraparound services to allow people to rehabilitate and get off drugs, it is not going to help anybody. It is a short-term cure. Although I understand the need, it is just that, a short-term cure. When the municipalities and the communities are not involved in the decision on where these sites are going to go, we are in trouble.
I thank all members for their time and for listening to Karen, the mom, today. That is what I believe, and I wanted to share it with members today.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Conservative Party member for her speech.
I often hear Conservatives on the other side of the House talking as though the communities were never consulted about the bill that we introduced.
I would simply like to remind them that, under paragraph 42(2)(e), some of the information that will be requested by the will be expressions of community support or opposition. That is one of the criteria that must be considered, as set out in the Supreme Court ruling.
With regard to what the member was saying about the importance of education, it is true that people need to stay far away from drugs. I think that everyone agrees on that. At the same time, we cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that there are no Canadians struggling with this problem, which is causing too many deaths.
In British Columbia alone, 1,000 people died of drug-related overdoses in 2016. There has also been a major increase in the number of overdose deaths in Alberta. This is a problem in cities all across Canada.
I believe we are taking a fact-based approach. We are trying to reduce the harm that this can cause while still cracking down on the problem. We are doing that by allowing authorities to open packages weighing less than 30 grams, which could contain as many as 15,000 fatal doses, while adopting an approach that seeks to reduce the devastation caused by drugs.
My question is simple. Can the member see the balance that exists in Bill , and can she comment on that?
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her passion. I think it is really important that we share these stories, because it is what will make Canada a better country.
As indicated, during the voting, the Conservative Party put forward an amendment. We looked at all the clauses, and one clause we were not set with was to do with the injection sites. Everything else was fine, but this is where we have an issue.
I understand where the member is coming from, because I am fortunate to sit with the member for , who is devastated about what is happening in her community. I will do what is best, but at the same time, I think we need to make sure that we have these honest discussions.
What is happening in the member's community is horrific, but it affects everyone, and it goes across the country. We need to make sure that all the communities are on board. We need to make sure that we have safe communities.
As I indicated, walking on Vancouver streets, I did not expect to see people falling out of windows and smoking crack. It is a beautiful city, but that is what I saw. That is not what we want our communities to be about. We want safe communities, so we have to find a balance.
The biggest thing for me is communication with communities to make sure that these injection sites are going in places that are best for their communities to keep them safe.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak in support of Bill . The bill directly addresses the national public health crisis of opioid overdoses and provides measures to prevent increasing harm to Canadians and communities all across the country.
I would like to speak to the importance of two key components of the bill: first, streamlining the process of supervised consumption sites; and second, providing additional enforcement capacities to the Canadian Border Services Agency, which would help prevent illicit opioids from entering Canada through international routes and therefore reduce the risk of controlled substances entering the hands of Canadians.
These components of the bill are critical to Canada's fight against the opioid epidemic currently sweeping across Canada.
As we know, when the previous federal government decided it would not extend the legal exemption for Insite in Vancouver, advocates initiated a legal challenge, which reached the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the health evidence in support of Insite was substantial and opened up the possibility of establishing additional facilities in Canada if there was an appropriate balance between achieving public health and public safety.
This balance was organized into five criteria: first, evidence, if any, on the impact of such a facility on crime rates; second, the local conditions indicating a need for such a supervised injection site; third, the regulatory structure in place to support the facility; fourth, the resources available to support its maintenance; and fifth, expressions of community support or opposition.
Simply put, the legislation removes the burdensome 26 application criteria put forward by the previous government. Instead, it uses the five factors outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2011 ruling on Insite in order to streamline the process.
It has been established that opioid addiction is typically chronic, lifelong, difficult to treat, and associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality. Our ultimate goal is to reduce, and ultimately help eliminate opioid addiction but we first have to stop people from dying. We know that supervised consumption sites work to do just that.
Just a few of the organizations that support supervised consumption sites are: the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Association of Nurses in HIV/AIDS Care, the Public Health Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, and the Urban Public Health Network. Furthermore, international organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, are in favour of harm reduction services.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I had the honour of assisting with the swift passage of Bill through the committee stage. With the current health crisis across Canada, the rapid passage of the bill is imperative. Time is of the essence to help save lives, and as I previously mentioned, a key outcome of the legislation is that the length of time required to process applications for supervised consumption sites would be significantly reduced, while still providing the necessary balance between public health and public safety.
Many witnesses throughout the Standing Committee of Health's study on the opioid crisis stated that there were significant barriers associated with the previous government's Respect for Communities Act and its 26 criteria. The act created an onerous application process for community groups wishing to apply for a supervised consumption site, as evidenced by the lack of applications that have been successful since the legislation was put in place.
For example, three supervised consumption sites were approved last month in Montreal under the previous government's legislation. Although their approval is positive, the time it took to process the application was quite long, as it was submitted in May 2015. That is 17 months the city of Montreal had to wait to assist their vulnerable citizens with opioid addictions. That is too long. I agree the important criteria must be met before supervised consumption sites are established within communities, but the application process must reflect the urgency of the situation. I believe Bill would do just that.
One significant statement made during the Standing Committee on Health's clause-by-clause on Bill was by the hon. member for . He stated, “On the first day that Insite opened, they reversed 15 overdoses”. That is a staggering number of people saved in one day.
By streamlining the application process, Bill would ensure applications would be approved in a timely fashion, paving the way to save more lives. For example, at Insite there have been over 4,922 overdose reversals, and not a single death has occurred at that facility. Supervised consumption sites save lives and help reduce the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases.
I was shocked to hear that in 2016 in B.C. alone, a total of 914 people died from an overdose, an 80% increase from the previous year. This alarming statistic shows that it is our responsibility as federal members of Parliament to act now.
Another key component of the legislation that I wish to speak to is how the bill addresses the illegal supply, production, and distribution of drugs. One of the key findings of the September 2016 report published by the RCMP regarding the current opioid crisis Canada faced was that China continued to be the pivotal source for illicit fentanyl and its analogues, precursors, other novel emerging opioids, and tableting equipment that supplied Canada-based traffickers.
Bill addresses this issue by proposing to give Canada's border services officers greater flexibility to inspect suspicious mail, no matter the size, that may contain goods that are prohibited, controlled, or regulated. The current legislation prohibits the CBSA from opening suspicious mail that weighs 30 grams or less. If the CBSA found such a package, it would have to seek the permission of the addressee, which would prove to be difficult. This gap in enforcement capacity is problematic as just one standard size mail envelope, 30 grams, can contain enough fentanyl to cause 15,000 overdoses.
Given the prevalence of illicit drugs found in international packages is greater than domestic mail, this measure would only be for international incoming mail. Our border agents need to be given the clearance to inspect these packages to help stem the flow of illicit drugs entering into Canada.
According to the same report by the RCMP, in May and June of 2016 the CBSA intercepted for the first time two separate shipments of carfentanil, which is estimated to be 100 times more potent and toxic than fentanyl and 10,000 times greater than morphine.
Therefore, we know there has been an increase in trafficking and it is our responsibility to equip the Canada Border Services Agency with the tools needed to stop it.
Bill would save lives, whether that would be by the seizure of a shipment of an illicit opioid by the CBSA or through the nurses at new supervised consumption sites, whose applications would be approved based on the new set of five criteria. This legislation is the next step in fighting the crisis we see across Canada, and I believe this bill is a step in the right direction to help Canadians today.
Many Canadians are one overdose away from becoming another tragic statistic in the ever-increasing Canadian epidemic of opioid addiction. This evidence-based legislation could not be more timely. With these rising fatalities, it is now more important to act. It is my hope that Bill will be granted the same swift movement through the Senate as it is being granted in the House of Commons. It would enable Canada to tackle this nationwide problem and help to ensure the safety of vulnerable Canadians. The faster it is enacted, the faster it will help save lives.