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Results: 1 - 15 of 43
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2018-12-10 19:28 [p.24656]
Mr. Chair, the minister repeatedly uses the phrase “public health crisis”, but she studiously avoids calling the opioid epidemic what we in the New Democratic Party call it, which is a public health emergency. On this side of the House, we have repeatedly called, for two years, for the government to declare a public health emergency under the Emergencies Act.
The government and the minister repeatedly say that there are no powers under the Emergencies Act that they are not exercising now. I am going to quote from the Emergencies Act, section 8(1). It says that this gives clear authority to make “orders or regulations” that it believes “are necessary for dealing with an emergency”, including “the establishment of emergency shelters and hospitals”.
In this country, including in Vancouver, we have overdose prevention sites that are operating right now illegally that are saving lives. Eleven Canadians are dying every single day to the opioid overdose crisis, yet if the government declared a public health emergency under the Emergencies Act, it could designate overdose prevention sites as emergency shelters or hospitals under the act, thereby rendering them legal and subject to federal funding. They are operating illegally, with not a nickel of federal funding.
Why is the minister continuing to insist that the Emergencies Act would give her no power to do anything she is not doing? Obviously, the act would allow her to save lives immediately by declaring overdose prevention sites legal and giving them federal funding to save lives.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Chair, the member opposite talks about a public emergency. We have made it very clear, and I have made it very clear to him personally, that if declaring this a public health emergency would provide me with any additional powers to effectively help the situation on the ground, we would be doing so. However, we have consulted on that with my friend and colleague, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and there are no additional resources and additional powers that would be given to me.
We have spoken to our partners on the ground with respect to the provinces and territories, and they have indicated to us that additional financial support could certainly help them to address the situation and provide their clients with the help they need. That is why I am pleased that in budget 2018, we have been able to make significant investments in the emergency treatment fund. We are in the process of finalizing the last negotiations with provinces and territories, as they have made it very clear that they want to ensure that Canadians have access to services on the ground when it comes to treatment. Those are exactly the investments we are making.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2018-12-10 19:57 [p.24660]
Mr. Chair, the number of Canadian lives lost to the opioid crisis is staggering, sobering and growing. This crisis is affecting every community and every demographic across Canada. Over 10,000 Canadians have died from overdoses in the last three years alone and the death toll shows little sign of abating. Last year alone, nearly 4,000 Canadians lost their lives, more than from motor vehicle accidents and homicides combined.
The origins of this crisis can be traced back to the late 1990s, when the number of opioid prescriptions began to increase dramatically in Canada. Experts allege that drug manufacturers promoted this proliferation through a deliberate effort to minimize the risks associated with potent opioids like OxyContin.
According to drug safety expert, Dr. David Juurlink, the message that physicians should use these drugs more liberally was one they were happy to hear because of the limited treatment options available for chronic pain. Canada now ranks as the world's second biggest consumer of pharmaceutical opioids, second only to the United States.
To put that in perspective, 21 million prescriptions for opioids were dispensed in 2017. That is enough to stock every medicine cabinet in the country. In addition to the widespread dependency that was fostered by over-prescribing opioids, the escalating death toll that we are currently witnessing is largely attributable to the fact that the illicit or street drug supply in Canada has become toxic, overwhelmingly laced with poison and tainted with fentanyl.
A recent study by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use found that just 39% of drugs tested at two supervised consumption sites contained what the buyer thought they had been sold and there has been a devastating impact on first responders across our nation.
Given the scale and depth of this crisis, it is easy to succumb to despair and it is tempting to claim that there is nothing more that government can do. While there is no immediate or complete fix to this overdose epidemic, that does not mean we have exhausted all options for action. Indeed, there is much more that can and must be done.
Canada's New Democrats have a number of positive evidence-based proposals to bring this crisis under control. First, we must recognize that this crisis requires an emergency declaration at the national level. British Columbia, the epicentre of the opioid crisis, has been in a declared state of health emergency since April 2016. Canada's New Democrats have been calling for a similar declaration at the federal level for over two years. Unfortunately, the federal Liberal government has refused to use this tool. The Liberals claim that declaring a public health emergency is unnecessary, saying it would provide no additional levers for action. This is absolutely false.
Such a declaration would constitute a formal recognition that we have reached an emergency situation in this country when we are burying 11 Canadians a day. It would affirm to the public the urgency with which the federal government is approaching this crisis. In addition to its symbolic value, however, a declaration of a public health emergency would have the practical effect of empowering the federal government to coordinate a pan-Canadian response to this crisis, something it has not done to date.
Specifically, section 8(1) of the Emergencies Act grants the federal government clear authority to make orders or regulations that it believes are necessary for dealing with an emergency. This includes: the authorization of, or direction to, any person to render essential services; the regulation of the distribution and availability of essential goods, services and resources; the authorization and making of emergency payments; and the establishment of emergency shelters and hospitals.
This means we could cut red tape and allow the federal government to rapidly authorize and support overdose prevention services currently operating illegally and with no federal funding, but saving lives. This means that health professionals currently working at unsanctioned sites throughout Canada would no longer be forced to put their licences and personal liberty on the line to save lives. It would allow for the emergency allocation of resources on the scale needed to adequately address the mounting death toll.
Second, we must begin to treat substance use and addiction for what they are: health issues. Therefore, we need substantial new federal money for evidence-based addiction treatment across all modalities, from abstinence to 12-step to opioid substitution, tailored for every demographic from youth to women to indigenous Canadians. Treatment must be available as a fully insured service provided by our public health care system so that individuals and families can get timely access at quality facilities, regardless of income or ability to pay.
When people are ready to get treatment, they must get it immediately. They cannot wait even a day or they are risking a death sentence, yet on this score our public system fails utterly. For example, the wait-list for publicly funded beds at the Pine River Institute, Ontario's only residential treatment program for kids aged 13 to 19 years old, is a year and a half. Angie Hamilton, executive director of Families for Addiction Recovery, has rightly called the situation “unconscionable”. It is time to recognize that substance use disorder is a disease like any other. It is past time we closed the fatal gap in our health care system that fails to deliver the treatment that Canadians need.
Third, in the U.S., federal authorities have secured criminal pleas and over $600 million in fines, damages and other costs from Purdue Pharma for misbranding OxyContin with the intent to defraud and mislead. This summer, the NDP government of British Columbia also filed a civil lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors to recoup the enormous public costs of addressing this crisis. That lawsuit is open to every province and territory and the federal government to join. If corporate executives minimized or concealed the addictive qualities of prescription opioids in the U.S., it is very possible that they did so in Canada as well. The New Democrats say it is time for the federal government to support B.C.'s lawsuit and launch an investigation itself to determine if criminal sanctions are warranted under federal law.
Fourth, we must be willing to look past the discredited “war on drugs” ideology in favour of an evidence-based approach to drug policy in Canada. Given that overdose mortality rates are overwhelmingly being driven by the tainted illicit drug supply, as every police officer in the country will tell us, it is clearly necessary to explore the decriminalization and medical regulation of substance use. Indeed, it is obvious that we could avoid thousands of unnecessary deaths if, instead of consuming poison, substance users had consistent access to regulated chemicals in a known dosage through our health care system.
The example of Portugal shows that decriminalization works. In 1999, there was a drug crisis in Portugal, related to a cheap toxic heroin supply. Faced with rising harms, the Government of Portugal decided to treat substance use as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The crisis in Portugal soon stabilized and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates. Ninety per cent of public money spent fighting drugs in Portugal is now channelled toward health care goals and just 10% on enforcement. In contrast, in Canada, 70% of funding spent combatting drug use is spent on enforcement. In Portugal, six people per million die from drug overdoses. In Canada, the number is 110. It is time Canada explored this approach.
Finally, I wish to conclude my remarks by speaking directly to every Canadian who has lost a loved one. Their courage to show up, to speak up, to share their experiences and to demand more in the knowledge that we can do better, is inspiring. It is in the service of the greatest legacy we can pay to those we have lost to do everything in our power to prevent the avoidable, unnecessary death of another loved one to addiction. We can put an end to the marginalization and stigmatization of our country's most vulnerable citizens. We can turn the tide on this crisis and we can forge a better future based on courage, compassion, love and science. It is time we did so, and the New Democrats are working hard toward those goals.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2018-12-10 20:10 [p.24662]
Madam Chair, I would like to thank my colleague for all the dedication he shows on the health committee.
One of the things that is really disappointing is to see that the government is in its fourth year of its mandate and there has been a crisis with opioids from the time that the Liberals were first elected. We still do not see the urgent action that is required.
I was interested in the member talking about declaring a national emergency. I wonder if he could comment on how that might increase the urgency of the action to address this crisis.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2018-12-10 20:11 [p.24662]
Madam Chair, I think it is important to state that the number of opioid deaths in Canada has gone up every single year of the Liberal government's term. Either it is not taking effective action or when it says it is doing everything possible, it is clearly not enough. That is why the New Democrats are looking for creative, additional measures and steps. It is not acceptable to us that the death rate from opioids is rising. One of those steps is to declare it a public health emergency.
As I pointed out in my speech, it is important from a symbolic point of view. We cannot call this an emergency and have Canadians take us seriously if we are not actually prepared to use our powers legislatively and declare it so.
I think when the Liberal government refuses to declare this a public health emergency, it is sending a signal to Canadians that 11 Canadians dying every day from opioid overdose is not an emergency in their point of view. However, it is to New Democrats and I hope it is to the Conservative Party as well.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2018-12-10 20:14 [p.24662]
Madam Chair, I want to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway for his work on this critical issue. It is an emergency issue.
I listened to the health minister earlier. She said that the government is doing everything it can across the country as though there were overdose prevention sites and safe injection sites in every community.
In my community of Windsor-Essex, there are none. Our community is having a raging debate right now about whether or not to have one. On the weekend of November 10 and 11 of this year, we had five overdoses in a 24-hour period. Four people died and one person survived. This is an emergency but we cannot even get a site because there is no funding for it.
As the member said, if the government used its powers under the Emergencies Act to declare a national public health emergency, it would help communities like mine in Windsor-Essex that simply have nothing at this point. We are relying on volunteers and medical professionals who are afraid of losing their licences.
I wonder if the member could please comment on how declaring this an emergency would help communities like mine in Windsor-Essex.
View Don Davies Profile
View Don Davies Profile
2018-12-10 20:15 [p.24663]
Madam Chair, under our federal legislation it is possible for a community to apply for a supervised injection site, but that takes a lot of paperwork and a lot of time. The New Democrats urged the government when it was first elected to change the Conservative legislation to make that happen more quickly and it has happened. There are more supervised injection sites in this country than there were before, but that is not enough.
We need overdose prevention sites to pop up in every community across the country because we cannot wait. We cannot wait another two years for a single supervised injection site to maybe open up in a particular community. We need these overdose prevention sites now and we need treatment facilities now.
The overdose prevention site in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver is operating illegally right now with no federal money. Brave people go to work every day and risk their professional licences in order to save lives. All it would take is the stroke of a pen by the Liberal government under the Emergencies Act to render that overdose prevention site legal and allow sites to proliferate across the country, but the government refuses to do it.
Worse still, the government is misleading Canadians by saying it has no powers under the Emergencies Act that would allow it to do anything more than what it is doing now. That is patently false. Any Canadian can read section 8 of the Emergencies Act and see for themselves, and ask the Liberals why they are refusing to exercise that power.
If the Liberals truly believe this is an emergency and they truly want to save lives, they should be doing it now. A New Democrat government would.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-12-10 20:16 [p.24663]
Madam Chair, as the Minister of Health has talked about, this is a national emergency. It is a crisis. It is interesting to be following the New Democrat member, who was speaking about why Ottawa does not declare it a national emergency and invoke legislation to that effect.
During this debate, it is really important to have an appreciation of how important it is that Ottawa work with the provincial and territorial jurisdiction. I used to be a health critic in the province of Manitoba, and it is the provinces which are responsible for the delivery of health care services. When we talk about bed allocations, whether it is in a walk-in clinic, an emergency room in a tertiary hospital or a community hospital, or any other form of health care service, it is the provincial government which leads through the administration of health care. If we talk about nurses and doctors, who do people think is paying their salaries? The administration of health care is done through the provinces.
Canadians and Liberal governments from the past to the present have recognized how important it is that Canada demonstrate national leadership on the health care file. It is why we have a Canada Health Act. It is the reason we transfer hundreds of millions, going into the billions, of dollars every year to support health care. It is why we have a Minister of Health who meets with her provincial and territorial counterparts. It is one of the reasons we have direct relations with indigenous people in relation to health.
Canadians are not going to be fooled on the issue. We recognize it is an emergency, a crisis. The Minister of Health herself stated just minutes ago that every three hours someone dies in Canada as a direct result of this crisis. We have invested not tens of millions, but hundreds of millions of dollars to try to assist in alleviating this crisis situation.
As the opposition tries to point fingers and assign blame, we need to recognize how Ottawa can do more. We are exploring all sorts of ways in which we can deal with this crisis. The most significant ways to help would be to, one, provide financial resources, which we are doing in the sums of hundreds of millions of dollars, and two, to work with the different provinces. It is the provinces which have many of the levers. They too have tax dollars and are at the front lines. We need to work with the stakeholders.
This whole take-note debate was not only agreed to, but was pushed by the government House leader. Not that long ago, the member for Winnipeg Centre stood and talked about the crisis situation with crystal meth in the city of Winnipeg. To try to imply that this government is not doing anything on this crisis situation is bogus and disrespectful, because the Government of Canada is taking action. We are committing resources, negotiating and talking with different provinces and territories. We are working with the stakeholders, meeting with first responders and so forth.
We are making a difference. Whether the opposition wants to recognize it or not, lives have been saved by the actions of this government working with other governments and different stakeholders.
Yes, there is more that needs to be done. It is one of the reasons we want to hear this debate tonight. The opposition seems to be focused on just being critical of the government. Let us see genuine ideas come forward.
The biggest problem in Winnipeg North regarding overdose is crystal meth. It is destroying lives. It is killing people. It is causing all sorts of problems, including safety-related issues, in many communities in Manitoba. In Winnipeg North, it is very serious. In fact, a number of weeks ago, I had a tour with the Bear Clan. I understand the leader of the Conservative Party has been there. Our Governor General has been there. Other members have actually recognized the fine work that the Bear Clan has been doing in my home constituency of Winnipeg North.
As opposed to just taking a tour, if members really tried to understand the issue and the problems with crystal meth, they would have a better appreciation of why the different governments have to work together. It is not only the provincial and federal governments but the municipal government needs to work with them. We need to ensure that our first responders are engaged in this issue as well.
There is not just one issue. Declaring a public emergency under the Emergencies Act is not going to resolve the problem. The NDP members are really off-base on that.
If we want to have the biggest impact, the most significant thing we could do is provide financial resources. The government is doing that. We also need to work with the different stakeholders, the provincial entities, and to a certain degree, even our municipal governments. That is the way we are going to have a more positive impact on resolving the crisis that we are in today.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
2018-12-10 20:30 [p.24665]
Madam Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to stand to talk about a bogus and disrespectful display by the other side of the House with the previous speaker who was accusing this side of using some drama.
For all of the Canadians watching tonight, if they look back at the Hansard, they will see that the terms “bogus” and “disrespectful” were used to describe what this side of the House was doing when we have simply been passionate and asked to have resources leveraged and a public health emergency declared, which would not have to take very long. Now people are acting as if they are so distracted. We heard gruesome details, as if those are the only details. When we go home to our ridings, we see there is a true crisis happening right now. There is a way for all of us to maximize our resources and work together. We can cut this red tape and can have an immediate response.
There are 11 people a day dying from this. In Windsor and Essex Counties, we have government leaders at all levels watching and understanding how a pan-Canadian strategy could expedite the kind of response we need. That is why we are so incredulous to hear in the House someone swagger, raise their voice and say, “We're allowing a take-note debate tonight and are doing our very best. How dare you?”
How dare we say so? We have a real public health crisis that can be dealt with as an emergency if the government would truly take leadership and do that. To do otherwise is bogus and disrespectful to all of the families suffering today.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-12-10 20:32 [p.24665]
Madam Chair, the issue at hand is a very passionate one because people are dying from it and lives are being destroyed. I see animation and yelling on the New Democrat side, and so there is nothing wrong with my also being a little bit passionate about this. What is good for the goose is good for the gander at times. I know sometimes that makes NDP members a little uncomfortable, but the reality is that the NDP is wrong on this issue.
The most significant things the Government of Canada can do is, one, provide financial resources, and two, work with the different stakeholders, in particular our provinces, to ensure that we are maximizing the benefits of the resources going to treatment programs. Our government has already brought in hundreds of millions of dollars and has already signed up, I believe, six provinces. Let us recognize how important our first responders are as a part of the solution.
As much as I raise my voice at times, it is only because, like New Democrats, I also care.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2018-12-10 20:34 [p.24665]
Madam Chair, I cannot take seriously the member's suggestion that the government cannot do any more to save lives. Just for the wannabe minister's records, I will note that in 2009, 428 people died of the H1N1 virus. Today, with the opioid crisis, over 1,400 people are dying a year in this country, yet we do not have a national health emergency. Why is that?
We heard the NDP critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, state very clearly that the government can exercise its right to declare a national health emergency and take immediate action to save lives.
If the Liberals really mean what they say and care deeply about the people whose lives are being lost today, why do they not take action? To suggest there is nothing more the government can do is simply bogus.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-12-10 20:35 [p.24665]
Madam Chair, I think the member opposite is being unfair to the NDP governments of British Columbia and Alberta. At the end of the day, as I have indicated, political parties of all stripes govern our provinces. Once all has been said and done, members will find that the greatest resource to ensure that this crisis is dealt with is to place it with our provincial and territorial governments, with the support of Ottawa demonstrating national leadership, which it has done. The government has been working with the provinces and the territories. It has been providing financial resources. It has been working with first-time responders. It is listening to what the stakeholders have said, whether to the current Minister of Health or the previous minister of health.
Many of the concerns that NDP members might want to raise here could also be applied to their provincial counterparts. I would suggest to them not to be too harsh, because I believe that the NDP governments in Alberta and British Columbia are, in fact, working with Ottawa. Like us, they recognize the situation and know it is not going to be resolved overnight. Both levels of government are doing the best they can to ensure that we get the resources and treatment as quickly as possible to those individuals who truly need it.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2018-12-10 22:27 [p.24682]
Mr. Chair, I thank the member for her comments and for sharing the story of the loved one in her own universe who died of an overdose.
In the government House leader's comments, she stated that overdose prevention sites work. They do work. In my own community of Vancouver East, where they started, they have not lost one life at the overdose prevention sites. If the government House leader acknowledges that they work, why does she not call on her own government to declare a national health emergency and use subsection 8(1) of the Emergencies Act to allow them to become sanctioned sites, not only in Vancouver East but throughout Canada, to save lives.
Every month, the overdose prevention sites in my own community see at least 500 people come through, and they have not lost one life. They have no federal funding. They have zero support. Health care professionals are worried about working or being involved with these sites because they could lose their licences because they are unsanctioned. Will she call on her own government to declare a national health emergency and sanction all these sites?
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2018-12-10 22:29 [p.24682]
Mr. Chair, that member, having served in a provincial parliament, should very well know that when it comes to the administration of health care services, they are within provincial jurisdiction.
I can tell her that the federal government is here to provide billions of dollars in transfers, and we will always be a partner in that. I can tell her also that this House was able to quickly advance Bill C-37, which not only passed in the House of Commons but in the Senate, because we recognize that this is a crisis.
The member may choose to get into semantics. The member might want to have this determined a health emergency. What this government and I are about is lives. I personally have an individual who is impacted in my life. This issue is in my backyard. This issue is not only in my backyard, it is in every person's backyard. For me, it is not about semantics. It is about results. The government is advancing dollars. It is willing to work with provincial governments. That is what it will take. We are also working with municipalities.
All levels of government need to take this issue seriously. I can tell members that there is a federal partner that is more than willing to do so. We need to ensure that not only do these lives matter but that we provide the resources for them. This government is willing to do so.
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2018-12-10 22:50 [p.24685]
Mr. Chair, I too have met with mothers in my office and with some children who they have been able to bring back from the brink but constantly have a watchful eye on. These are mothers who are looking for a way to be part of the solution and are desperately asking for urgent help from the government. Ten thousand people have died of opioid addiction in our country.
I do appreciate the member bringing up the issue of SARS.
I want to raise another emergency situation that we acted on and that was the H1N1 flu virus. In 2009, we had 428 deaths and we called a national public health emergency in our country that triggered mobilized centres working 24 hours a day, seven days a week for weeks. That stopped the deaths and put us back on a pathway to health.
New Democrats are not alone in calling for a national public health emergency in this country and we are doing so because the government is not doing enough. We in the House cannot pat ourselves on the back and say we are doing everything within our power. The government has the ability to call for a national public health emergency today and start to turn this conversation into one where we are saving people.
Could the member speak to what that would look like in her riding of Edmonton Strathcona and to the mothers that she has met with? What would it mean to hear the government respond in that urgent way?
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