Thank you very much, Chairperson.
We do have a lot of witnesses today, so thank you for coming.
As we get into this subject more and more, I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. I would certainly agree with Dr. Gerace when he says that it's a complicated issue. It's not necessarily that there's just a black and white answer; there are a number of things that need to be done.
Having now heard from so many witnesses or stakeholders who are involved, whether from a regulatory point of view, a professional point of view, or a practitioner point of view, I'm left wondering where the problem really is. Is it just a leaky vessel that's got so many holes in it that it's sinking? We are hearing from all of you that we have a very serious problem in Canada.
I want to relay an experience that I had a couple of weeks ago at a pharmacy in Vancouver. I went in to get a generic prescription renewed. It wasn't an antidepressant, it wasn't a stimulant, it wasn't an opiate, it was just your run-of-the-mill generic. I was kind of happy when the response was that I couldn't get it renewed, that I had too many days left. They actually counted it out, and I said that I travel a lot and I'm worried about it running out. They said that I had to wait a certain number of days.
The reason I was given did not have anything to do with safety or anything like that—I don't think there were any safety issues—but with insurance coverage. It was the insurance company through our federal plan that wouldn't have reimbursed me unless I met certain timelines. It left me wondering why I got that response when trying to renew a low-level prescription, yet on serious medications where there are serious issues of addiction, you're telling us that there are so many holes—I think that's what you're saying—and that we've got a huge problem.
I'm glad, Ms. Bouchard, that you talked about the monitoring surveillance system and what is going on in the United States. It seems to me that it's something that we have to do in Canada. There has to be some kind of pan-Canadian strategy for a monitoring surveillance system. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more about how you think that would work.
My second question is for Mr. Barnes. Your front-line experience is very good for us to hear in the two cases that you provided. What struck me about what you said is that you talked about both of them with no judgment. That's good, because I think that for people facing addiction issues there's a stigma, whether they're a street user or whether they're the accountant that you talked about, the guy who was afraid to talk to his wife. From your point of view as a front-line health care professional, how do we deal with the stigma?
You obviously developed a really good relationship with that guy. I don't how rare that is; I would imagine it's somewhat rare. How do we reduce the stigma so that when people run into trouble they can get access to the proper interventions? The system has got to work, but when people do run into trouble, either intentionally or not intentionally, how do we remove the stigma so that we can actually then focus on getting them the proper appropriate interventions without criminalizing or stigmatizing people so they just end up going more and more underground?
Sorry, that's kind of long, but I would just like to get responses on those two things from Ms. Bouchard and Mr. Barnes.