Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to add my words of support for Bill C-2, the respect for communities act.
Before I go on, I would like to advise you and the House that I will be sharing my time with the distinguished member for Whitby—Oshawa.
I want to thank all colleagues for their participation in this debate, especially those who are doing it in a measured manner.
Also, I was very pleased that my friends on the committee for public safety and national security were able to conduct a thorough review of this legislation and to return it to this House without amendment.
The opposition’s constant delay tactics—including almost 18 hours of debate at second reading alone—will not stop your government—the government that I support in the House of Commons—from ensuring that Canadian communities get a say before supervised injection sites open in their communities.
Bill C-2 reflects the concern that the government has for Canadian families and communities, and our commitment to their protection. The rigorous criteria set out in the bill and the principles articulated within it are a reasonable and responsible approach.
This approach is based on the premise that any exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site should only be granted after an applicant seeking an exemption has addressed rigorous criteria.
This is as much for the protection of our communities and the respect for residents as it is an assurance that the Minister of Health is provided with the information she needs to carry out her duties in considering the applications to open supervised injection sites.
Bill C-2, the respect for communities act, is an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The provisions would be incorporated into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act known as the CDSA.
What I propose to add to the dialogue today is a glimpse into what would be next for Bill C-2, and to reflect upon how provisions of Bill C-2 would be implemented when they are incorporated into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Anyone wishing to undertake activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site must apply for an exemption from the CDSA. Under this legislation, a new regime will be established for such applications. Under this new regime, the criteria that would need to be addressed before the Minister of Health could consider such an application would be set out.
These changes are in line with a Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in 2011, and codify the court’s ruling that community opinions must be considered by the Minister of Health with regard to supervised injection sites.
Indeed, the court stated that its decision is:
—not a licence for injection drug users to possess drugs wherever and whenever they wish. Nor is it an invitation for anyone who so chooses to open a facility for drug use under the banner of a “safe injection facility”.
The bill's changes would provide any potential applicant seeking an exemption for activities with illicit substances at a supervised consumption site with greater clarity concerning the application process.
In exercising her discretion, the minister would have to balance public health and public safety considerations.
All members of the House can agree that our communities deserve to have a say if someone would like to build a drug injection site, where illegal drugs are used, in their own neighbourhood.
All we have been getting from the opposition are delay tactics every step of the way.
What members of the opposition fail to realize is that this legislation is a necessary follow-up to the ruling made by the Supreme Court as well as a method for the Minister of Health to receive the information she needs to make an informed decision on supervised injection sites.
This is an important point to note for anyone who might argue that the criteria in Bill C-2 are onerous. The Supreme Court was quite clear that the Minister of Health must consider certain criteria when judging applications. It is only reasonable that applicants provide her with that information.
The applicant would compile the letters, reports, studies and other information set out in the legislation.
Health Canada would review the information provided in the application package to verify that all the criteria had been addressed.
Once a complete application package has been received, the Minister of Health would also have an option to post a notice of application. If a notice of application is posted, it would invite comments from the public on the activities being proposed in the application. The consultation period would be 90 days.
This option is another element provided for in Bill C-2 and would put in place a mechanism for the general public to have its say regarding the establishment of a supervised injection site as also mandated by the Supreme Court.
In considering an application, the Minister of Health would be informed by the information provided by the applicant in their application, and by the public during the public consultation period.
The minister also has the authority to request additional relevant information from the applicant if further detail is needed. With the amendments to the inspection authority specified in Bill C-2, Health Canada would also have the authority to conduct a pre-inspection of the proposed site to verify any of the information provided in the application. In making a decision to grant or not grant an exemption, the minister would balance public health and public safety considerations.
These are very dangerous substances that we are talking about here. The dangerous and addictive drugs that are used at supervised injection sites tear families apart, foster addictions and destroy lives.
It is only prudent that the Minister of Health take very seriously her duties when evaluating the individual merits of each application that comes across her desk for such sites.
In the event that an exemption is granted, the exempted party must adhere to the terms and conditions set out in the exemption. If the terms and conditions are not adhered to, or if there is a risk that controlled substances might be trafficked or diverted for illicit purposes, an exemption can be suspended or revoked in order to protect public health and public safety.
Safeguards for preserving public health and safety are also built into the process for seeking a subsequent exemption. Under the new legislation, when seeking a subsequent exemption, the applicant would be required to address all of the criteria in the proposed legislation as well two additional criteria. Specifically, they would have to provide information on changes in crime rates in the vicinity of the site and evidence of the impact of the site activities on individuals or public health during the period of the previous exemption.
As I have previously stated, this comprehensive legislation reflects the government's commitment to protecting Canadian families and communities.
Even more than that, Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children.
My speech is not finished, and I am not a fast talker, but I will respect the restrictions imposed by the Speaker, and look forward to questions.
The electoral district of Whitby--Oshawa (Ontario) has a population of 135,893 with 99,155 registered voters and 247 polling divisions.
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