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THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which were referred Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations); and Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, met this day at 4:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bills.

Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good day. Welcome, colleagues, invited guests and members of the general public who are following today's proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

This is our fourth meeting on Bill C-377, Financial Disclosure for Unions, and our first item of business today is to begin our clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).

Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-377?

Senator Ringuette: Chair, I have a few questions, and since we had three meetings and heard from 23 witnesses, I would like to have a list of the individuals and groups that asked to be heard and were denied that opportunity.

The Chair: All right. I do have, I think, hopefully, that information here. There were a total of 75 requests to appear from organizations, academics, lawyers. Significant duplication. Many of them had also appeared at Banking when the bill was previously dealt with.

We, through steering, sought witnesses who could speak to the constitutionality of the bill. Our goal was not simply to rehear witnesses who had appeared before Banking. We did review all of the requests to appear. We selected witnesses with a view to ensuring that all of the perspectives were covered.

Several of the 23 witnesses who appeared are representatives of numerous other groups that requested to appear, for example, most large unions belonging to the Canadian Labour Congress, which did appear. Lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, who appeared, has represented a number of labour organizations. Banking heard 49 witnesses when studying this same bill. They conducted 14 hours of hearings combined. When you combine that with the 23 witnesses over seven hours, this bill has received far more scrutiny than, I think, most government bills and certainly more than any private member's bills in recent memory.

Senator Ringuette: Chair, I am absolutely appalled that only 10 per cent of the organizations and the individuals were accepted to appear. There are quite a number of individuals. Maybe the clerk could clarify the exact number of individuals who asked to appear?

The Chair: I did see that number. The total number of form letter requests — these are form letters that were signed by individuals — is 249.

Senator Ringuette: Two hundred and forty-nine.

The Chair: Yes.

Senator Ringuette: This is sober second thought? The Senate is the parliamentary house that citizens look to for access to provide their comments and their point of view on legislation. We didn't even hear from 8 percent. I'm sorry chair, but I'm the only person around this table who listened to the witnesses two years ago at Banking. Therefore, all of the members around this table did not have that privilege.

When you say that the people who were invited were to talk about constitutionality, let me say that the gentleman who appeared before us representing the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said: "I confess that I will sidestep the constitutionality issue. . . ." That's his quote from his appearance here on May 7.

May I also add that this committee had a repeat witness from LabourWatch, who also appeared before the Banking Committee two years ago. Unfortunately, you also had a gentleman by the name of Mark Roumy who wanted to express his acceptance of the bill — and that's okay because we live in a free society — and who made accusations against Air Canada and CUPE, but you never gave the right and the privilege to CUPE to come before this committee and give their side of these very unfortunate circumstances.

Furthermore, there was no union organization from Quebec. The FTQ and the CSN are major Quebec organizations that also had some accusations, but were not invited to appear before this committee. They had asked to appear, but were refused. So I guess my next question is: Who refused them?

The Chair: I'll respond to a couple of things you raised and answer that final question, and I want to give other senators an opportunity to participate.

With respect to the witnesses you indicated that we call, I want to say that the original intent of steering was to hold two full meetings on the legislation, and then we were approached, as I understood it, through communication by Senator Cowan, the Leader of the Opposition, with a request that we hear from seven additional witnesses. We agreed to do that, and we added an additional sitting day to hear from those witnesses. We also added a number of other witnesses to balance the testimony that clearly we were going to hear, based on past history, from the witnesses proposed by Senator Cowan.

Senator Ringuette: I have in front of me, chair —

The Chair: Let me finish. You posed these issues. That's the rationale.

With respect to who makes these decisions, the steering committee ultimately makes the decisions on who will appear. We can argue that, if we accepted these 249 witnesses, clearly, we would never be able to hear this year from all of them. This is a private member's bill. We think we've given it unprecedented attention. That's the steering committee’s view. I speak as a member of the steering committee.

I will come back to you, but I want to give a number of other senators an opportunity to speak to your concerns.

Senator Plett: Chair, I have a different issue to raise, which I can do after we've dealt with this one. I want to read something into the record.

The Chair: Perhaps we can wait until we have dealt with this.

Senator Baker: I want to apologize to the witnesses who are waiting to be heard on another matter. We just have to spend some time to deal with the clause-by-clause of this bill. It shouldn't take all that long.

Senator Fraser: Further to the points raised by Senator Ringuette, it had been my understanding, based on various discussions, that there was an undertaking that this committee would conduct a full range of hearings on this bill. With respect, two or even three meetings doesn't necessarily achieve that with a bill that is complex and appears to have many consequences — some of them probably unintended.

I find it strange, to cite two examples, that having allowed a witness to come and express grievances — not in the labour relations sense but in the normal lay sense of the word "grievances" — with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, we did not give CUPE a chance to tell its side of the story.

I find it also strange that we did not hear from people like the representatives of the investment industry, mutual funds, professional associations, who are deeply concerned that they are going to be captured by this bill. I do not believe, from anything I have heard from the bill's initiator, the MP Mr. Hiebert, who first brought this bill forward, that it was his intention to capture the mutual fund industry or the Nova Scotia Medical Association or any of the many other groups that have expressed significant alarm about this bill.

They may not have been raising constitutional issues, but, as Senator Ringuette said, whatever the initial plan was to confine the hearings to constitutional matters, in fact, we allowed our witnesses to cover a wide range of issues. Having opened that door, we then, in my view, have not done as thorough a job as we could have done and arguably should have done.

The Chair: I appreciate your perspective. I guess, in opening that door, we were trying to be fair to all concerned. There was certainly no intent to try to exclude people, but we do have a timeline here. I think we have been, in my own view as a member of the steering committee, eminently fair with respect to the time we've allocated to this legislation.

Senator Batters: I will add a couple of comments to what has been stated. My recollection is that the chair was very clear, on the record, even before our hearings started, that the committee would be concentrating on the constitutionality of the bill, and specified the more limited scope that we would be delving into, given the substantial hearings that the Banking Committee already held. That was reiterated as we started those committee hearings on Bill C-377, again as the record will indicate.

As well, we have the significant record that was put into place because of those numerous Banking Committee hearings and witnesses. Many of the witnesses who requested to appear again have already appeared in front of the Banking Committee. We have a record of their testimony and the significant time they received.

Senator Ringuette indicated that the particular expertise of one witness, though he was a lawyer, was not constitutionality. I wanted to reiterate that we had the very learned testimony of the former Mr. Justice Bastarache, who spent 11 years on the Supreme Court Canada, when 20 per cent of the cases that he heard were constitutional in nature. This committee always has as its priority the study of government bills over private member's bill. We have had some significant government bills, including recently the Victims Bill of Rights. We had to balance the time that we are giving to private member's bills against the important government bills that were again coming before us.

The Chair: As Senator Baker pointed out, we have witnesses waiting, some of whom have travelled some distance to be here to speak to the next issue on our agenda. I hope you will all keep that in mind.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Clearly, I was not on the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Commerce and Trade, because I became the sponsor of the bill a little later. That being said, we received a lot of documents from labour organizations and law firms, and I can assure you that I took the time to read them.

In addition, we received documents from union members. What is clear from the witnesses we have heard is that most of the presidents, the members of the executive and lawyers, who are service providers for the union executives, do not support the bill. We have received fewer grassroots members. When I say "grassroots members", I refer to the true unionized employees, such as the professor we heard from last week, such as Ken Pereira.

I also received many letters from longshoremen at our ports who seemed offended. They did not seem concerned about the transparency of the financial statements. I will not discuss that again, but the fact remains that — once again, I talked about it last week — if the financial statements are so transparent, sometimes union members learn it from the media.

Although we did not hear from all the witnesses — I can’t make the same claim as Senator Ringuette with good reason; she said that she sat on the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Commerce and Trade and heard the witnesses — I took the time to read all the documents, and you know as well as I do that we received a lot. Although we have not heard from those witnesses, we received a lot of documents. So I feel that, at this stage, even if we held two or three days or weeks of extra meetings, we would not know more. We already have a good idea about the issue.

I would like to point out something that Senator Batters also pointed out in fact: Justice Bastarache who sat a long time on the Supreme Court and who gave us objective testimony, said — and I remember it well — that the bill is not unconstitutional, that it does not undermine union activities, but that it has to do with the Canada Revenue Agency. I cannot question what Justice Bastarache said. That’s what I had to say.

[English]

The Chair: I encourage speakers to be brief, if possible.

Senator Jaffer: Chair, I also remember that when we started these hearing that you did say, and I agree with Senator Batters, that Banking had heard witnesses on the other issues and we were going to hear testimony on constitutional issues. My colleague has talked about the testimony of Mr. Bastarache, but he had one point of view. I'm disappointed that we didn't have a person of his stature giving the other point of view.

Senator Batters: We has Mr. Ryder.

Senator Jaffer: We did, but he is not of his stature.

My colleague here talked about Mr. Bastarache, and that's OK. We had Mr. Ryder and he was also very good. What very much concerns me is this is a legal and constitutional committee where there should be a sense of fairness. We did open it and we didn't just hear constitutional matters. We had Mr. Dias and we had others who spoke on other matters that were not constitutional. The stone in my shoe is that we had somebody complain about CUPE and we didn't bring them here to respond, as Senator Fraser has said. That is not the proper way to proceed, and I am a little uncomfortable about that.

Senator McInnis: The role of the committee is to come to understand the bill, the various issues, and to hear to the extent possible from individuals who have some expertise or some practical experience in all aspects of what we are attempting to do here. We all do our research. We've had these hearings and private meetings. We received countless number of emails during this session. Quite apart from that, this bill was exhaustively debated on the floor of the Senate. I don't know where you would get a better hearing. At that point, anyone who wanted to speak to it had the opportunity to do so. I think we've exhausted it.

With respect to the constitutionality of it, all of us here heard what was said by the witnesses and I suspect that there are not too many retired Supreme Court of Canada Justices who are available.

With all due respect, we have done everything that we can do, with respect to this bill. If people are not informed, well then I'm sorry. It should not be a Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park. It should be a place where we have hearings and listen to the various testimonies.

The Chair: Senator Ringuette, I will give you an opportunity to wrap up your perspective on this.

Senator Ringuette: I reiterate that you have not accepted that the two biggest unions in Quebec could appear. They are the biggest unions in this country and they have been somewhat accused in front of this committee.

I also believe that you have not received the witness from the Nova Scotia doctors association. Briefly, you have accepted only eight per cent of the people who asked to come before this committee. Some have already been heard, and I've mentioned them earlier.

Therefore, I move:

That the committee not proceed with clause-by-clause until a decent number of individuals and organizations that have been asked to be heard on this issue by this committee, appear before the committee.

The Chair: While we're waiting for the clerk to write that out, I will point out that the Nova Scotia body that you mentioned were given three opportunities, three dates, to appear and they declined. There was an effort to reach out in that regard.

Senator Ringuette has moved that the committee not proceed with clause-by-clause until — is that sufficient that we move on that basis?

Shaila Anwar, Clerk of the Committee: Until a greater number of witnesses —

The Chair: Do you want that as part of the motion?

Senator Ringuette: Yes. I think that at least 20 per cent of the witnesses should be heard, a greater number.

The Chair: Senator Ringuette has moved:

That the committee not proceed with clause-by-clause until more witnesses have been invited to appear.

All in favour of Senator Ringuette's motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

Senator Ringuette: I want a recorded vote.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman?

Senator Runciman: Against, nay.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker?

Senator Baker: Oui.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Batters?

Senator Batters: Nay, against.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais?

Senator Dagenais: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser?

Senator Fraser: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer?

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Manning?

Senator Manning: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator McInnis?

Senator McInnis: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator McIntyre?

Senator McIntyre: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Plett?

Senator Plett: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Ringuette?

Senator Ringuette: Oui.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wells?

Senator Wells: No.

Ms. Anwar: Yeas, 4; nays, 8.

The Chair: The motion is lost.

Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-377?

Some Hon. Senators: On division.

The Chair: Agreed, on division.

Senator Plett: I would like to, if I could, chair, before we go any further, just read something into the record. I would like to simply state that an issue was brought to my attention after the appearance of Mr. Paul Cavalluzzo: Several teachers of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' association have indeed contacted me conveying their outrage that Mr. Cavalluzzo indicated, when he was asked by Senator Dagenais who he was representing, whether he was representing anybody, and he actually took offence to the question and said he was not representing anyone when he appeared before this committee.

Now, while he has a right to appear as an individual, for the sake of full disclosure, I think it should be known that according to the Ontario Catholic teachers who have contacted me, he is in fact on a retainer as legal counsel for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, and I believe that should be considered in his testimony that he gave.

Senator Ringuette: That is a low blow, a very low blow.

Senator Fraser: Chair, one has the right to read a matter into the record if it seems pertinent, but I take that witness' word when he said he was not appearing here on behalf of anyone but himself. He is a lawyer with many clients. Justice Bastarache told us that, in connection with this very bill, he had actually produced an opinion for a client of his firm.

Senator Ringuette: Paid.

Senator Fraser: A paid opinion.

Senator Plett: That is full disclosure.

Senator Fraser: Yes, he did, but it was about this bill. Yet, he still said, "I am not appearing on behalf of that client; I'm appearing on my own behalf and nobody else's." Mr. Cavalluzzo said the same thing. I take both of them at their word, and I would not want the impression to be left that this committee cast aspersions on witnesses in their absence.

The Chair: I am going to move on at this point.

Shall the title stand?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed.

Shall clause 1 carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division.

Shall clause 2 carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division.

Shall clause 3 carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

An Hon. Senator: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division.

Shall the title carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Ringuette: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division.

Senator Ringuette: Chair, before you move on to complete the circle of this bill, I would like to request that some observations be attached.

The Chair: All right. I haven't got to that section yet.

Senator Ringuette: Okay.

The Chair: Shall the bill carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Ringuette: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division.

Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?

Senator Ringuette: Yes. I would like the following observation to be attached. It reads as follows:

While the committee is reporting Bill C-377 without amendment, it wishes to observe that after hearing from witnesses and receiving numerous submissions from governments, labour unions, academics, professional associations and others — the vast majority of the testimony and submissions raised serious concerns about this legislation.

Principal among these concerns was the constitutional validity of the legislation both with respect to the division of power and the Charter. Other issues raised include the protection of personal information, the cost and need for greater transparency, and the vagueness as to whom this legislation would apply.

The Committee shares these concerns.

The Committee did not offer any amendments because these substantial issues are best debated by the Senate as a whole.

These observations are essentially a mirror image of the observations on Bill C-377 that were made by the Banking Committee in 2013.

The Chair: Does anyone wish to speak to this proposed observation?

Senator Batters: The difference between when the Banking Committee had hearings on this particular bill and now is that we have spent considerable time — seven hours of hearings and 23 witnesses — the vast majority of which dealt with constitutionality. We heard a former Supreme Court of Canada justice who sat on that bench for 11 years. He provided not only a legal opinion particular to this specific bill, but he also came before our committee and gave very compelling testimony, indicating that this particular bill was constitutional, both with respect to division of powers and any Charter of Rights arguments. He answered those questions, I thought, very well, and I see no reason to put forward such an observation.

Senator Fraser: With the greatest possible respect to former Justice Bastarache, his was not the only view expressed before this committee by various learned persons on constitutionality, and there were concerns raised, serious concerns raised. As has been pointed out earlier in these proceedings, the Banking Committee — which heard even more witnesses and devoted more time to this bill than we did — reached the conclusion that these observations were appropriate. I think they still are, and I think it lends weight to our consideration of the bill to echo those concerns.

Senator Ringuette: Is this a wrap-up? Are there any other senators that want to participate?

Senator Plett: Senator Fraser says there were other opinions than Justice Bastarache's, and she is quite correct, but this observation says "the vast majority of testimony and submissions." I'm not sure whether Senator Ringuette was at the same meetings that I was at, but I think there were as many positive witnesses to this legislation as there were on the other side, and of course we have spent a lot of time listening to both sides.

For us to say, "The vast majority of testimony…raised serious concerns…" and that, however, we're ignoring that and we're passing the bill, is not, in my opinion, a good observation at all, and I will certainly be voting against it.

Senator Baker: Senator Ringuette can correct me if I'm wrong but this is exactly the same procedure that was followed in the Banking Committee, as I understand it.

Senator Ringuette: Yes.

Senator Baker: No amendments were put forward in the committee —

Senator Ringuette: Exactly.

Senator Baker: — for the very reasons you state in your statement; and that, in fact, this bill will now move to the Senate, where we can obviously expect that amendments will be put forward, as happened before, and the real challenges of passing the bill will take place in the Senate Chamber. Am I correct in saying all that?

Senator Ringuette: You are correct, sir.

You have all talked about Justice Bastarache, and I, as a New Brunswicker, recognize that he has certainly quite extensive experience.

However, that being said, provincial ministers argued that this legislation interferes with their exclusive jurisdictions. The proof of the pudding is that 90 per cent of the unionized workforce in this country operate under provincial legislation.

If that is not vast enough, I think that somebody has to re-read the testimony and the different submissions that have been put forth, notwithstanding all the different arguments that were put forth at third reading in June 2013.

This committee has only seen 8 per cent of the witnesses who wanted to be heard. I submit in very, very, very good faith — although I'm extremely disappointed at the small number of witnesses who will face consequences in their private lives and their professional lives with this bill —

The Chair: I don't want to re-debate this bill. We spent three days on it.

Senator Ringuette: No, but we are arguing in regard to the observations I want to have attached, and I have submitted them. We have argued them, and they are virtually the same observations that the Banking committee unanimously, may I say, added to the bill when it reported it in June 2013.

The Chair: Understood. In my time on this committee, we have operated on attaching observations on the basis of consensus. It is clear we don't have that.

Senator Dagenais, you wanted to add something very quickly. Again, I don't want to sort of reopen this debate. We are never going to get to our witnesses. That's what I'm concerned about. We have people waiting.

Senator Plett: I agree.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Mr. Chair, as the sponsor of the bill, I would like to share my comments with you. To follow on Senator Ringuette’s observations, I think the important issues will be debated in the Senate. I knew full well that we would not be amending this bill and that we would choose instead to debate it in the Senate. I don’t understand why we are commenting on it today when we are going to debate it in the Senate anyway.

I have a comment about the provincial ministers. I would like to remind you that the Minister of Labour in Winnipeg — unless I’m mistaken — used to be the president of the teachers’ union. I’m not sure whether she testified as the Minister of Labour or as the former president of the union. Incidentally, she was elected because of her union. So the testimony is rather strange.

[English]

The Chair: My appeals are falling on deaf ears here, obviously. I would like to move on with this. I don't think there's anything to be gained by prolonging this debate across the table. If there's no agreement, no consensus, Senator Ringuette, if you want a motion, a vote on this —

Senator Ringuette: Yes, I do.

The Chair: It is moved by Senator Ringuette:

That these observations be appended to the committee's report?

Is it agreed?

Some Hon. Senators: No.

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

Senator Ringuette: Recorded vote, please.

The Chair: Recorded vote.

Ms. Anwar: Honourable Senator Runciman?

Senator Runciman: No.

Ms. Anwar: Honourable Senator Baker?

[Translation]

Senator Baker: Yes.

[English]

Senator Batters: No.

[Translation]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais?

Senator Dagenais: No.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser?

Senator Fraser: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer?

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Manning?

Senator Manning: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator McInnis?

Senator McInnis: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator McIntyre?

Senator McIntyre: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Plett?

Senator Plett: No.

[Translation]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Ringuette?

Senator Ringuette: Yes.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wells?

Senator Wells: No.

Ms. Anwar: Yeas 4; nays, 8.

The Chair: The motion is lost. Is there any other member who wishes to consider appending an observation?

Senator Batters: Briefly, and I think this will meet with consensus, being as it was Senator Joyal who brought up this issue during questioning of one witness, and we also had the letter submitted by the NHLPA dated April 22, 2015, to this committee, wording similar to, and, certainly, the clerk and the steering committee can work on this, if it's deemed to be acceptable:

Given that the National Hockey League players association, NHLPA, unlike other labour organizations in Canada, signs international agreements for hockey competitions, licensing and marketing, we recommend that the NHLPA be exempted from the operation of Bill C-377. We suggest that such an exemption should be enacted in separate legislation as soon as possible.

Senator Fraser: That's not a general observation. Normally, observations tend to be of a rather more general nature. I don't think it is appropriate given the many, many parties that believe they will be very ill-served by this bill, a number of them by the sideswipe unintended consequence phenomenon, like the NHL Players’ Association, I don't think it is appropriate to append that observation.

The matter can be raised in debate at third reading, and the suggestion then could be made either of an amendment or of subsequent legislation. I don't think it is an appropriate observation.

Senator Batters: Just to respond briefly to that, we have had in the recent past, in my recollection, very specific observations brought before this committee, as was the case with respect to Bill C-525, for example. There were, I think, two different observations that were quite specific. I didn't realize that it was required that it be general, and my recollection of a previous experience was that sometimes recommendations can be more specific.

Senator Fraser: If I may chair, just to clarify, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with specifics. In this case, we are singling out one specific party of the many, many parties that believe they, too, will suffer unduly from this bill. We're singling out one of them. That's what I think is inappropriate. We should either address the whole thing or let it go for third reading.

The Chair: Senator Batters, since we don't have consensus, can you consent to moving on without that being appended?

Senator Batters: You have told me it is typically the way of this committee.

The Chair: That is the usual practice; that's right.

Senator Batters: I will adhere to the usual practice.

The Chair: Is it agreed that I report this bill to the Senate?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: That finishes that matter.

The witnesses are ready, and we will ask them to come forward.

Our next item of business is our continuing examination of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Bill C-2 creates a separate exemption regime for the operation of supervised consumption sites in Canada. The bill was originally introduced in response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2011, more commonly referred to as the Insite decision.

As a reminder to those watching, these committee hearings are open to the public and also available via webcast on the sen.parl.gc.ca website. You can find the schedule of witnesses on the website, under "Senate Committees."

For our first panel of very patient witnesses, please welcome, by video conference from Vancouver, British Columbia, Chuck Doucette, who is the President of Drug Prevention Network of Canada; Chris Grinham, Co-Founder of Safer Ottawa; and Russell Maynard, Program Director at Insite, a supervised injection site.

Before we begin, I'd like to remind senators that these witnesses are with us for the first hour and that we have a second panel of witnesses after this. We will begin with a five-minute opening statement from Mr. Doucette, followed by Mr. Grinham and then Mr. Maynard.

Mr. Doucette, the floor is yours.

Chuck Doucette, President, Drug Prevention Network of Canada: Thank you. The Drug Prevention Network of Canada is pleased to support Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, known also as the respect for communities act.

It is our position that any consideration to grant an exemption from the application of any provisions of this act or, for that matter, any other federal act must be taken very seriously. Thus, we feel that the amendments proposed by this bill are both appropriate and necessary in order to protect public safety and public health.

I will summarize some of our concerns addressed by this bill.

Supervised drug consumption sites operate with the reality that the consumer must purchase illicit drugs from street-level drug dealers. This is counter to police efforts to reduce the property crime committed to obtain those illicit drugs and also provides a market for the criminal organizations supplying the illicit drugs to the street-level dealers. These same criminal organizations are involved in many other illegal activities in that community and elsewhere.

An extreme harm-reduction initiative, like a drug injection site, must be put into perspective. The most effective way to reduce the overall harm associated with drug use is to reduce the number of people using drugs. Comprehensive prevention efforts can reduce the number of individuals starting to use drugs, and effective treatment programs can reduce the number of people already using drugs. Harm-reduction efforts are meant to reduce harm to the drug user, without actually trying to stop the user from continuing to use drugs.

Consequently, harm reduction, if done in isolation, contributes to an increase in the number of drug users. As the number of drug users increases in a given community, the costs to try to reduce the harm to those users will also continue to increase.

This creates a cycle of increases in the number of users along with the corresponding costs. This is akin to running up a debt on your credit card and never paying more than the minimum payments. There is no end to that cycle without comprehensive prevention and effective treatment to lessen the number of users or pay down the debt. If harm reduction comes first, the money will never be there to adequately fund prevention and treatment. Therefore, a community should not even give consideration to anything like a supervised consumption site, until they already have a comprehensive drug strategy in place putting prevention and treatment first and foremost.

When considering the potential impacts of the supervised consumption site on a community, it is important to examine carefully what is presented as scientific evidence. One of the most important factors to consider when looking at evaluation reports is whether or not the authors of the research had any conflict of interest. According to information obtained under the Access to Information Act between 2003 and 2011, the same researchers from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, who had previously lobbied for the injection site, have received over $18 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to carry out their research on Insite. Not surprisingly, there are allegations of profound overstatements and evidence of interpretation bias, suggesting their research was carried out for the purposes of supporting the political objective of continuing the operation of Insite regardless of the true facts.

The flaws in the research pointed out by an international team of experts have basically invalidated the findings of those evaluations.

In conclusion, the proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are not only necessary, they are overdue. Only true, unbiased and credible scientific evidence should be considered when making decisions on matters of this importance. The current drug injection site in Vancouver, the only one in North America, has given rise to abuse and exploitation. It is doubtful whether it has served the best interests of drugs users or society. Bill C-2, which places some modifications on the operation of such drug injection sites is, under the circumstances, well-justified and highly responsible legislation, which should be passed into law without delay.

Chris Grinham, Co-Founder, Safer Ottawa: First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me and granting me the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill C-2. My name is Chris Grinham, and I am cofounder of a non-profit group named Safer Ottawa. My wife and I founded Safer Ottawa in 2007 to address the issue of discarded needles in our area, and from 2007 until 2010, we spent spring, summer and fall cleaning up needles, crackpipes and other discarded equipment from the streets, parks, churches, daycares, businesses and residential properties of Lowertown, Sandy Hill and the Byward Market. By the end of 2010, we had collected over 6,000 needles and 27 gallons of harm-reduction equipment. It was at that point that we realized that more needed to be done. To improve the situation and make the streets safer, we focused on three areas: involvement, education and awareness.

For involvement, we worked with the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Police and the Ottawa Needle Hunters to create and implement a rapid needle response program for cleaning up discards when found, as well as to redesign and improve the strategies used for proactive needle hunting.

For education, we worked with Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa shelters and various outreach agencies to ensure that clients were properly educated on safe disposal locations and techniques, as well as informed of the risks and hazards of discarding their equipment where others may come into contact with it.

For awareness, we worked with the residents, community associations and Neighbourhood Watch programs to ensure that residence were aware of the dangers, aware of what to watch out for and aware of what to do should they find discarded needles and other equipment. In short, in order to improve the situation of discarded needles in Ottawa, we had to involve, consult and educate and work with the community, health organizations, municipal government, Ottawa Police and other partner agencies. This strategy has been very successful, and the issue of discards in Ottawa is significantly better than when we began. This very effective form of collaboration and inclusion is the goal of Bill C-2.

It's no secret that Safer Ottawa has been vocal in opposition to the implementation of a supervised consumption or injection site in Ottawa, not from a moralistic "drugs are bad, and drugs are illegal" standpoint. Rather, our stance is the culmination of years of research into the subject, meeting with the experts in Ottawa and abroad and sitting down with agencies and advocates on all sides of the issue.

Why, then, do we support Bill C-2, which is, in essence, a bill that puts in place a framework to implement a site that we oppose? Because we have witnessed firsthand the proliferation of incorrect and inaccurate information, which increases the inherent risks involved when dealing with addiction and disease. Bill C-2 would ensure proper and effective consultations with municipalities, police forces, stakeholders and residents and release the harmful hold of misinformation currently plaguing the system.

Addiction is an extremely complex issue, one that certainly includes health components but also encompasses many more areas, including but not limited to, crime, education, mental health, homelessness, prostitution, disease transmission and, of course, community safety.

It is a problem that affects people from all walks of life: the rich and the poor; the famous and the forgotten. It is a problem with many different components, combinations and intricacies, so interwoven that in order to address one, you must address others in tandem. These issues simply cannot be looked at from one side. They cannot be addressed from a purely medical or criminality response.

As we did with Safer Ottawa, in order to begin tackling these issues, you must first bring everyone together, from all sides, and let all opinions be heard. In doing so, it will ensure that whatever strategy is developed, it will be one that has taken the most into account, with the most accurate information and thus it will be the best fit solution that has the most positive effect. This is what Bill C-2 is designed for and this is why we support it.

Russell Maynard, Program Director, Insite - Supervised Injection Site: Thank you everyone for making time for me. I really would like to invite all your questions, as I'm the only person here with any experience working at a supervised injection site. I've travelled throughout North America on harm reduction work and attended consumption sites, as they are more broadly called in Europe where there is the world's preponderant number. There are 80 or 90 injection sites in the world. There are two English speaking injection sites: Vancouver, Canada and Sydney, Australia. With Sydney, Australia, we have quite a rapport and we work together to better each project.

I would like to begin by trying to share with you information that doesn't get across very often. Insite is so much more than a supervised injection site. It sees about 800 visits a day from probably a core group of about 300 users. It's not a large number of people. In fact, it's quite a small number of people and we're talking about a project that is very local and community based. It is actually in its very mandate trying to address, with everything it has, making safer the communities that are struggling with addiction, which tend to be in every single urban centre in the developed world. They always end up being in the low-income areas.

I work closely — I want to emphasize closely — with the Vancouver Police Department. I meet with them regularly. I go to meetings all the time. I get invited to come and speak to new officers before they are asked to walk the beat in the Downtown Eastside, so that they understand the context of the injection site and of the people who come to it.

It really isn't straightforward to understand who the people are that come to the sites. Yet the people who come to the sites are incredibly homogeneous around the world, whether you are talking about the sites in Spain, Denmark, Vancouver or Sydney, Australia. They tend to be, on average, the folks who go through our foster systems. They are children who come from disadvantaged beginnings and end up going to school and not being able to pay attention because of their life style. Then they just fall through the cracks for the rest of their lives. They end up as low-income people, who are self-medicating or using drugs for all the wrong reasons. All we try to do at Insite is (a) keep them alive, so we can get them to treatment; and (b) address any services that they need — housing, health care, and mental health.

I want to make sure that the Senate committee understands, and again, it's an emphatic number: there are 450 people a year who go straight from the floor at Insite, one project, into recovery. I'm speaking as an addictions expert — there is no other project that I'm aware of in the world that comes close to that number. Four hundred fifty people a year go from the floor of Insite into treatment.

What that translates to, in the most common vernacular is that we don't know of another model that is as successful at connecting people to treatment as the drug consumption route. Imagine, if you can, that you are hiding in doorways and alleys to hide your use. Then, all of a sudden, a project opens up in your community that says, "All right. We acknowledge this is an ugly and chaotic problem. Come inside and let’s see what we can do." All of a sudden, on a daily basis, you are interacting with people like those who are sitting around this table. That's a profound change in your lifestyle. You are going from only interacting with addicts and other people in chaos to being in a room with people who live functional lives and whose job it is to connect you with mental health and clinical services. That's what we do, day in and day out, 365 days a year, 18 hours a day.

On some of the more straightforward issues: Bill C-2 as it's written would require crime statistics going back, in the case of Insite, to the first exemption. For us, that's over 10 years of crime statistics for Insite.

The VPD, Vancouver Police Department, has always told us that in their opinion this type of data is meaningless because it does not consider the wider context — the city. The clause on staff criminal record checks going back 10 years has two important aspects: We won't be able to employ peers. Right now, we employ peers — people who come in to Insite and make those connections that I have been talking about go on to have jobs with us. Those jobs range from three hours, when they are very chaotic and not functional, to full shifts later on when they are, after we have gotten them housing, et cetera. How am I going to do that with this bill?

With that I nod to time; I could go on a lot longer. I thank you for your time and your attention.

The Chair: The committee has questions, and we will begin with Senator Baker.

Senator Baker: Thank you to the witnesses for their excellent presentations to the committee today. My first question I will direct toward Mr. Doucette.

Mr. Doucette, when this bill comes into force, all existing sites in Canada will have to qualify. They will have to go through the procedures outlined in this bill.

From your presentation, am I correct in concluding that you don't think that Insite in Vancouver will be able to qualify under the requirements of this bill?

Mr. Doucette: I don't know for sure whether they can or not, but I do know that they should be made to give the information. Unfortunately, it was built on misinformation and it has been kept alive on misinformation. If it's going to be granted a further exemption, then it has to be on the truth. If in fact the truth warrants that it stays open, then I don't have a problem with it. I have a problem with it staying open on misinformation.

Senator Baker: Mr. Maynard, the minister appeared before this committee with her officials and was very emphatic about this bill meeting the requirements of the Supreme Court of Canada. She was responding to exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada demanded. She had, according to the officials, unfettered discretion, so that when this bill came into force, it would be her decision if Insite were to close.

Did you read the Supreme Court of Canada decision?

Mr. Maynard: Yes.

Senator Baker: Did you notice that the Supreme Court of Canada, in laying down these guidelines, said definitively, that Insite qualified?

Mr. Maynard: What I did notice is that it said definitively that the minister has an obligation to look at both objectives in section 56, which are safety and the Charter obligations of that section. As I just talked about, Insite fully met those objectives based on scientific research, health outcomes, demonstrable outcomes, intake to recovery, et cetera.

Senator Baker: I guess you can't get it any better than that, can you? You have the Supreme Court of Canada laying down the guidelines, the minister responding with the guidelines and saying this is exactly what the Supreme Court of Canada wishes. Now you have the Supreme Court of Canada and their decision saying that you qualify?

Mr. Maynard: I want to win over the perspectives that aren't convinced, and that is why I want to make sure that everyone in the room recognizes: There is no more powerful model in the developed world than the supervised consumption site in Vancouver the way it is designed, which is a Canadian design. Insite is unique in the realm of injection sites in that it has, for instance, a detox centre and a recovery program right above it. It's like having a walk-in clinic and then specialized services above that — like eye surgery, et cetera — where there is a continuum of care.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I would like to thank our three witnesses for their presentations. You presented the activities of the InSite injection site in Vancouver, which I am very familiar with, actually.

How do you evaluate the activities of the InSite injection site? Actually, could you tell me what the benefits are of a supervised injection site? Does it help to reduce the harms associated with drug use in terms of the Government of Canada’s national drug strategy?

[English]

Mr. Maynard: There is a powerful mind experiment we can do. We can look to the south, our closest neighbour, our cousins, essentially, political cousins in the United States. There are few countries in the developed world with as stringent anti-drug laws as America — and America is struggling.

I don't know if you are aware of what is doing on in Indiana right now. I've got guests coming from Indiana in June, specifically coming to Vancouver to see the solutions — not the problems; the solutions in Vancouver around these areas. They want to know: How are you managing to get HIV amongst intravenous drug users down, when every other jurisdiction in the world is looking to stabilize the rates, keep them flat, not increasing?

We are struggling in our own country with HIV rates amongst intravenous drug users. One need only look at Saskatchewan, which has literally a raging fire amongst intravenous drug users and the spread of HIV. People come from around the world, and it's often my job to show people the programming in the Downtown Eastside around preventing that.

Again, a lot of it has to do with housing. I think it's quite common knowledge that Vancouver struggles a lot with homelessness. A lot of people in a homeless situation struggle with two big problems: addictions and mental health. We are working to house people as much as we possibly can — working with the city and with the province, hand in hand. I'm regularly meeting with both those partners on those issues.

Again, the Canadian model that we have at Insite represents analogously a table like this, where you have the provincial housing authority, the provincial health authority and the community groups working to solve problems.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: You have already said that there is a homelessness and housing issue in Vancouver. Since the InSite services are in Vancouver, don’t you think that it attracts people from other provinces? I know full well that there are people who left Quebec to live in Vancouver close to InSite services.

[English]

Mr. Maynard: With all respect, I'm very surprised to hear that you know people who did that. Honestly, I have to struggle with how to get this across, because it's an unfair advantage. I see these people every day. I have been doing this for 15 years, but I remember what it's like not to have that familiarity and to just work with the images and the understanding that we have without that other side of the fence.

"The honey pot effect" is how it's often described. In Paris they are struggling with this right now, the debate around an injection site. Drug users who are living on welfare, $550 a month, of which $375 goes to the rental of housing — so a very small amount — they are not getting on buses and travelling across the city to go to another quarter to get drugs, never mind crossing the country. It's a myth.

I'm not saying that nobody does that, and it's totally possible that you know someone, but the numbers we are talking about don't even warrant our attention today. We are talking about greater numbers, and the gross numbers lend themselves to the picture that I described. It's the children in our communities who are not safe. If we were really paying attention to safety in our communities, we'd be looking at what to do for all those children whom we know, through every university in Canada that talks about the social indicators of health: What are the targets for that? Who are those children?

Senator Jaffer: Thank you to the three of you for your presentations.

My question is to Mr. Maynard. I come from that area, and practically all my working life I have worked in the area where Insite is located. I have a very clear recollection — and I said this in my presentation in the Senate — of when my children were young, picking up the needles from the area. Now my worry is that my grandchildren will pick up the needles if Insite is not in place. Obviously, the needles have almost disappeared since Insite has been in place.

My almost desperation, or my worry, is that if this bill becomes law — and if I'm not mistaken, you have to meet up to 26 exemptions — what will happen? Say this bill is passed in a few months. What happens to Insite?

Mr. Maynard: It's a bit of a grey area. Why do I say it's a grey area? The bill isn't. The bill is laid out clearly, so that's not grey. What brings the opaqueness to the answer to that question is that there have been three Supreme Court hearings on Insite. It's hard to imagine that were Insite to not meet this criteria, it wouldn't go back to court. We'd be going back in time. It's hard to imagine that we would not again see successes in the courts. A total of 13 judges have looked at this, and all 13 have sided with Insite after listening to evidence for days at a time.

Clause 5 of the new bill, the amendments, lays out 26 obligations, lettered (a) through (z). Clause 56.1(5) talks about:

(a) illicit substances may have serious health affects;

(b) adulterated controlled substances may pose health risks;

(c) the risks of overdoses are inherent to the use of certain substances.

These are some of the points in subclause (5). Every single one of these points is ameliorated at a drug consumption site. There are no overdose deaths — zero. At over 80 injection sites around the world, there has never been a death.

Vancouver has a long history with overdose deaths, maybe one of the longest in North America. The first research papers on methadone came out of Vancouver in the late 1950s. This is a long standing problem in Vancouver, long before Insite. Insite is doing something and contributing to the progress on these issues. It's progress.

Senator Jaffer: My colleague Senator Baker — and I hope I'm not putting words in his mouth — is convinced that with the minister having unfettered discretion, she could still have you continue with the site. I'm optimistic that, even when this bill comes in effect, with the minister's unfettered discretion you will still be operating.

I understand that besides the detox, you have also created housing for the homeless?

Mr. Maynard: Yes.

Senator Jaffer: So you are taking a sort of holistic or comprehensive approach beyond the injection site. Can you describe what exactly you have?

Mr. Maynard: Yes. I will try to be concise. It is a worthwhile question.

Think of the care as a continuum of care, so straight from a chaotic, homeless, drug-addicted life on the streets, you can come into Insite, and someone there will try to get you housed. It's not easy to house someone that day, but I can get you into a shelter, categorically, that day.

At the shelter, those people will also work with me. There's a strong line of communication. That's unusual in cities around the world, where the homeless shelter is speaking to another project, which is speaking to another project. What people come from around the world to see in Vancouver is actually this networked model, so street to Insite to homeless shelter into a home, treatment above the site.

I don't want this to come across as flippant. I will talk about our cousins in America again. They wave a flag. Canadians don't really wave a flag; we wave public health. We love our public health, yet there is a significant number of people in every city in Canada who don't get primary care like you and I think of primary care, primary care being defined as —

The Chair: We have to move on; sorry.

Senator McIntyre: Mr. Grinham, I understand that you welcome this legislation because it provides a legal framework for injection sites to operate. I think you are right because currently there is no such legal framework in place.

As you know, the bill provides for three levels of consultation. The first level is the letters of opinion from the provincial health ministers, public health officers and law enforcement officers. The second level of consultation is with professional licensing authorities and community stakeholders, and obviously the third level is for the 90-day public consultation period with community members. Are you satisfied with the consultation process?

Mr. Grinham: I absolutely am satisfied with the consultation process, as long as it's kept as it's laid out within Bill C-2, as it's set up right now.

As I said, it's been our experience that in a lot of these processes there is not a lot of consultation. As you mentioned, there is currently no framework in place for opening up a supervised injection or consumption site within Canada.

The one in Vancouver was originally started as a pilot project, and the honest truth is that it was put in place as a last-ditch effort to save a sunken neighbourhood. It has been there for 10 years, and the Downtown Eastside still struggles.

I can speak a little more intelligently on the situation in Ottawa. We have issues, certainly nowhere near the scope of Vancouver. Not to contradict Mr. Maynard, but rates of HIV and HCV in Ottawa have been going down without a supervised consumption or injection site. We have addressed the issue of discards without a supervised consumption site, and we have a great number of outreach services and outreach workers who can put you in touch with treatment, detox and housing and who work tirelessly with the shelters and other outreach services in Ottawa. All the services we're discussing that are part of Insite are available in the city of Ottawa, and the contact points are also available.

So we disagree with the fact that a supervised injection or consumption site are required in any way, shape or form to make these services work. They're certainly not required for outreach services. As well, we have outreach services in all of our shelters.

What is required is to make sure that if one of these sites is opened, it is done so with the proper consultation, the correct information and accurate scientific data.

Senator McIntyre: Mr. Maynard, as I understand, once the bill receives Royal Assent, the process would apply to any applicant, including Insite. I was wondering how you feel about the rules for renewal.

In terms of renewal, I further understand there are two additional criteria. The first one is evidence, if any, of any variations in crime rates in the vicinity of the site during the period that the site was operating and evidence of any impacts of the activities of the site on individuals or public health during that time frame. Could I have your comments on that, please?

Mr. Maynard: As I said, I work closely with VPD. I know those statistics would be favourable to Insite, but VPD, as I've mentioned already, has told us in reference to those statistics, that you can’t look only at the crime rate around Insite or, say, 10 blocks around Insite, you have to look at Vancouver as a whole? You need to look at the statistics of what's going on in a city, not a local neighbourhood. We don't do that. We don't generally look at a neighbourhood.

I'm not an expert in this area. I'm just telling you what VPD has told me. They said they would rather see the legislation look to the police force for a letter or an opinion rather than statistics, which we think are difficult and expensive to put together.

Senator McIntyre: There are two centres, as I understand, Insite and the Dr. Peter Centre, and both are located in Vancouver and are considered to be providing health services. Is that right?

Mr. Maynard: Yes.

Senator McIntyre: How closely do you work with the Dr. Peter Centre?

Mr. Maynard: Closely. There's an important distinction: Insite is a public consumption project, meaning that anyone can come in off the street. The Dr. Peter Centre is part of a clinic, and you need to be a patient at that clinic.

Senator Fraser: Thank you to the witnesses. I have a couple of questions for Mr. Doucette. You are the President of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada. What is the Drug Prevention Network of Canada?

Mr. Doucette: It is a national, non-profit organization that tries to link those organizations that are involved in prevention and treatment of substance abuse, to give us a stronger voice in the community, in the media and in Parliament.

Senator Fraser: How many members do you have? That's supplementary to question one. That's not question two.

Mr. Doucette: I'm sorry, but I do not know. Our executive director might be able to tell you that. I don't know the number, and I did not prepare to answer those kinds of questions. Sorry.

Senator Fraser: Perhaps you could write to the committee to give us the answer to that question.

Here is my second question, which will also involve writing to the committee: In your presentation, talking about research that has been published that basically tends to support the success story of Insite, you say, "There are allegations of profound overstatements and evidence of interpretation bias in that research and flaws in that research have been pointed out by an international team of experts."

I'm sure you can understand that your allegation that there have been allegations just leaves me wondering what is going on here. So would you please provide for this committee any written evidence, particularly scientific studies, that would bolster what you told us?

Mr. Doucette: Yes, I can provide four independent criticisms of those evaluations, all basically saying that they are not valid, and a special report that was sent in from Gary Christian from Australia specifically identifying those issues.

Senator Fraser: Thank you. You don't have to tell us in detail about them now, but please send them to us. That's all I need.

Mr. Doucette: Okay.

Senator Plett: I will be brief with my preamble.

Mr. Grinham, first of all, I have some stats here that say Vancouver, in fact, has the highest infection rate of HIV of all major cities in Canada. I'm wondering whether you want to comment on that.

The other comment I would like to hear from you is Mr. Maynard claimed there were no overdose deaths at Insite, and you have some information here in your brief, which I have read, that speaks to that issue.

Would you answer those two questions, and then I have a question for Mr. Doucette.

Mr. Grinham: Certainly. In the brief we provided, you will see that we collected information from the various health organizations. The information that you will see regarding Vancouver was collected from the Vancouver Coastal Health Society on HIV infection rates and HIV infection per 100,000. So at the time, the amount of people who have HIV infection per 100,000, and in the major cities of Canada, this information was the most up to date that was available from Vancouver Coastal Health. We have included Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Vancouver was sitting at I believe it was 25-point —

Senator Plett: 19.8 per 100,000.

Mr. Grinham: Exactly. HCV infection rate again is 49.5 per 100,000, whereas Ottawa tends to sit, among the major cities, near the bottom of that scale.

Senator Plett: Could you comment briefly on the overdose issue?

Mr. Grinham: One of the things that we have heard, time and again, is that there have been overdose deaths at Insite. We have found no evidence to the contrary. However, we did submit several Freedom of Information requests to Vancouver Coastal Health and the BC Ambulance Service with the question of: When somebody leaves Insite, after an overdose, have there been deaths? The answer that keeps coming back, and we have provided that information as well, is that they don't track that trend. That information is not available.

Once somebody has left Insite, whether of their own volition, in care of an ambulance, there is no information tracked as to whether or not that person has died of an overdose that originated at Insite. Furthermore, you will see in our brief that the amount of overdose incidents has increased two and a half times at Insite, from in the last, I believe, five years from just under 200 per year to approaching now 500 per year.

Senator Plett: Thank you. Mr. Doucette, in your opinion, do harm reduction initiatives like safe injection sites promote continued drug use? Do you believe that those advocating for and operating these facilities are actually seeking to get drug users to stop using drugs?

Mr. Doucette: It is a complicated question. In my opinion, I have talked to lots of former addicts who are now in recovery and who told me that if there was a thing like Insite when they were using, they would probably still be using drugs. They needed to get into treatment in order to get off drugs. Anything that facilitates using them is counter to that.

I'm very surprised at what I have just heard Mr. Maynard say about people going into treatment. I am pleased, if that is correct. It must be very recent because for the first few years not one ever received anybody from Insite, and I am connected to all of the treatment centres in and around Vancouver. In their reports they talk about referrals. It is easy to give a referral to somebody, but whether that person actually showed up at a treatment centre is a different matter. That's what has to be measured. Are they actually getting people off drugs? No.

I'm not sure whether I caught the essence of the second part of your question.

Senator Plett: The second part of my question was: Do you believe that people at Insite are actually working on getting people off of drugs as opposed to just giving them safe drugs or safe treatment?

Mr. Doucette: I know they now have the place upstairs. We criticized them strongly when they first opened because they didn't have that facility. I know that there is another one in Frankfurt. By the way, I also got to visit supervised injection sites or what they call "consumer rooms" in Frankfurt, Germany, before we opened this one in Vancouver. There was one in Frankfurt that had the same thing, where he was trying to get people upstairs, but the rate is very small.

Like we heard from the gentleman from Ottawa, there are certainly a lot of better ways to get people into treatment than to go to Insite. The Union Gospel chapel in Vancouver, for example, which gives out free meals, houses people, brings them in and gives them what they need to stay alive without helping them shoot up drugs, also gets people into housing and treatment, as does every other treatment centre that I know of.

Senator Plett: Hear, hear, thank you.

Mr. Doucette: There may be a small number that actually get into treatment through Insite, but it is so small compared to the other ones that I don't think it is worth it.

Senator McInnis: Mr. Doucette, I must admit I was taken aback when I read these statistics in the report from Mr. Grinham, with respect to overdoses at Insite running from 197 in 2008 to 616 in 2013. I think you should have an opportunity to explain that.

Let me ask you my quick second question, Mr. Doucette. In light of what we're hearing today, do you believe that Insite should have to apply under this new regime, this new act?

I would like to hear comments from both of you. What do you have to say?

Mr. Maynard: To correct Mr. Doucette: I am saying categorically that there are 400 to 450 people a year who go straight from Insite into treatment. It is not a referral statistic — that's an important point that he makes. He's absolutely right about the referral statistic.

I am not giving you a referral statistic — 400 to 450 people into pajamas and slippers and into a treatment project — full stop.

Senator McInnis: But answer that question. This is a safe injection site?

Mr. Maynard: Correct.

Senator McInnis: Are there 616 overdoses taking place within that facility?

Mr. Maynard: Per year?

Senator McInnis: Well, he's saying here, during 2013 calendar year that there were 616 overdoses.

Mr. Maynard: I will put it in a framework that does not contradict that, but it is just easier to digest. There are approximately 30 overdoses every month, maybe 35, at Insite. That's not a negative — I mean, I have two children. I wouldn't want anybody to undergo an overdose. I wouldn't want anybody to use drugs intravenously, but that's not the reality of the world that we live in. The reality is there is no more powerful model than Insite to connect with these people.

I'm glad Senator Plett is back, because I can feel he doesn't believe or that he's not on side with me. I don't know if Senator Plett has children.

But if you had children, Senator Plett, and they were struggling then we would be bending over backwards working night and day, one, to try to keep them alive from the get go; and, two, get them into treatment, into housing and connected with their family.

If you are from Saskatoon or New Brunswick and you walk into Insite and you tell me that you haven't spoken to your parents in a year or two or something, you can make a long distance call. We will pick up that fee. I want you to have that connection.

Senator Batters: Mr. Doucette, I read an article of yours from a few years ago. It mentioned right at the start that you have had a 35-year career as an RCMP officer involved in drug enforcement, so you obviously have some really significant background in this issue. In that article you talked about your significant concerns about the harm reduction approach. I'm wondering if you could give us a little more information than you had an opportunity to do in your short opening statement.

Mr. Doucette: Yes. I didn't get a chance to answer that last senator's question either: Should they have to reapply? In my opinion yes, they should have to. We should ensure that we are getting the true facts this time about what is happening. For example, there may not have been any overdose deaths within Insite —

The Chair: No, sir. Mr. Doucette. Please respond to that question. We are almost out of time and I want to give you an opportunity to respond to Senator Batter's question and not get into other issues.

Mr. Doucette: Sorry. I was asked a question by the other senator too.

Yes, harm reduction, as I said in my opening statement, has its place, but it is very important that it is put in its place. The City of Vancouver, in my opinion, made a mistake by putting most of the emphasis on harm reduction. Like I said, if you don't have proper prevention and proper treatment, harm reduction uses up all your resources because it does not try to get people off of drugs. It just keeps them alive. I don't have a problem with that, but only if you have enough resources to get them into treatment and treat them properly does it actually work.

All of the emphasis is on harm reduction. Like we say, the four-pillar approach is really one pillar and three matchsticks; that's the joke around Vancouver. Harm reduction was the only thing properly funded. It doesn't work, if that's the case.

The Chair: Thank you. Thank you all for appearing this evening, and your testimony and your patience. Very much appreciated.

For our second panel today, I would like to introduce from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Richard Elliott, Executive Director; from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Bryan Larkin, Member, Drug Abuse Committee, Chief, Waterloo Regional Police Service; and finally from the Criminal Lawyers' Association, Michael Spratt, Member and Criminal Defence Counsel.

The panel is scheduled for one hour. To the witnesses, you each have five minutes for your opening statements. I allow a little latitude on that, but not very much.

We will begin with Mr. Elliott, followed by Chief Larkin and finally Mr. Spratt.

Richard Elliott, Executive Director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network: Thank you Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I represent the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. I'm the executive director of that organization and a lawyer. I have been working on a variety of HIV-related human rights issues for more than 20 years now, including the question of access to health services for people who inject drugs.

I have two basic propositions to put before you today and then to expand upon them a few sub points under each of those, as time and your questions permit.

The first proposition is that the way the Bill C-2 has been presented is misleading. The second proposition is that the provisions of Bill C-2 are misguided.

Let me speak to the first proposition. You heard from Ministers Ambrose and Blaney last week a number of things that I think should be of concern to you as legislators. First, I should say we have concern about the way in which supervised consumption service is described and the way the people who use such a health-saving service are being described. You have heard constant reference from the Minister of Health to so-called drug injection houses, which I can only assume must be an attempt to convey the notion of crack houses and all of the stigma that that invokes, which I think is a profound misrepresentation of supervised drug consumption services.

Unfortunately, we heard the Minister of Public Safety portray drug addicts as threats to our children.

The very title of Bill C-2 is troubling. In our view, it is not a manifestation of respect for communities to deny evidence-based health services to members of our community who are among the most vulnerable and most at risk.

It is particularly troubling when at the same time concern is professed for the health and welfare of people who use drugs. For example, the health minister, the Honourable Rona Ambrose speaking specifically of concerns about overdose, including fatal overdoses, and of wanting to connect people to treatment. Yet, if that is, in fact, an appropriate concern, which, of course, we share, it is a little strange, then, to create a bill that would impede the operation of health services that have been shown over and over again in Canada and in numerous other countries to actually prevent people dying from overdose and to connect people to treatment.

It is also a bit strange to have the public safety minister misrepresenting supervised consumption services as portraying or as creating a threat to public safety. Both before this committee and previously before the committee in the House of Commons, the public safety minister suggested that supervised drug consumption services contribute to a greater degree of crime and criminality in their vicinity.

This is not, in fact, true, certainly, not in the case of Insite, based upon the available evidence that we have, nor is there any reason to think that supervised consumption services operating elsewhere have, in fact, contributed to criminality.

There is also something strange in the suggestion that we're going to judge the efficacy of a health service by its relationship to crime. Can you imagine if we were to say that we would only allow hospitals to operate in a certain place if the would-be operators of that service could show that the hospital service did not, in fact, increase crime, or, even worse, that it had to decrease crime in order to be a legitimate health service?

This is a fundamental misapplication of the wrong standard for judging a health service such as supervised consumption services. To the extent that we keep talking about them in those terms, I think we're really missing the boat.

That's my first point: The way we're talking about this bill and the way it is being presented are, in fact, misleading, including misstating the best available evidence that we have.

The second proposition, as I said at the beginning, is that the provisions themselves of Bill C-2 are misguided, and let me outline a few ways in which this is the case.

At the most basic level, Bill C-2 runs contrary to the entire emphasis of the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in the Insite matter. The gist of that decision from the Supreme Court of Canada was that it was not acceptable, as a matter of constitutional human rights, to extend our criminal prohibitions on drug possession so far as to actually block people from getting access to the health services they need to stay alive and stay healthy and that. therefore, our criminal law had to give way in the interests of health. That's the whole point of having a regime for the Minister of Health to provide exemptions to allow the operation of such services.

The Supreme Court was also very clear to say that, as a general rule, the Minister of Health should grant exemptions for these health services, and yet the entire thrust of Bill C-2 goes in exactly the opposite direction. It is slanted entirely in the direction of impeding the operation of supervised consumption services, of creating opportunities to generate opposition to supervised consumption services, of, in essence, papering the file that will be with the Minister of Health and creating opportunities for the multiple excuses for the minister to ostensibly justify the denial of an application for exemption. In particular, there is an excessive application process, with 26 or potentially more pieces of information that must be on file with the Minister of Health before she or he is even permitted to exercise his or her discretion in considering a particular application for exemption. Among those 26 criteria, there are a number of effective vetoes for any number of parties who, by simply failing to actually provide any sort of letter or expression of views can, in fact, hold the entire process in limbo.

The Chair: Mr. Elliott, I'm going to have to ask you to wrap up; you've exceeded the five minutes.

Mr. Elliott: I'll elaborate later.

Bryan Larkin, Member, Drug Abuse Committee, Chief, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: Thank you, Senator Runciman and members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. By way of introduction, my name is Bryan Larkin, the Chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service. I currently sit as a member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Drug Abuse Committee. On behalf of myself and the Chief Clive Weighill, of the Saskatoon Police Service, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to this committee for allowing us the opportunity to contribute to this important issue of ensuring local community input in decision-making on potential supervised injection sites within our communities.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, through its 20 public safety- and justice-related committees, contributes extensively to the House and Senate committees. For your own background, we represent in excess of 90 per cent of the police community in Canada, including federal, First Nations, provincial, regional and municipal police leaders and services. Our mandate is safety and security for all Canadians, through innovative and collaborative police leadership.

In 2007, we adopted a drug policy that was developed through our drug abuse committee, and it sets out a very clear position from the Canadian chiefs on this very important national issue that has direct impacts on safety and community well-being, on all Canadians on a daily basis. I'd like to provide you with a brief overview of our drug policy.

We strongly believe in a balanced approach to the issue of substance use and abuse in Canada, and it must consist of prevention, education, enforcement, counselling, treatment, rehabilitation and, where appropriate, alternative measures and diversion of offenders in order to counter Canada's drug problems. We can't simply arrest our way out of this issue. We believe in a balanced continuum of practice distributed across each component. In addition, the policy components must be fundamentally lawful and ethical, must consider the interests of all and must strive to achieve a balance between societal and individual interests. We believe that, to the greatest extent possible, initiatives should and shall be evidence-based.

The CACP supports, in principle, the principles being established as part of this bill, in particular, the need to balance public safety with public health. This is the new norm of integrating human services. The only way we can continue to sustain healthy, vibrant communities is through the integration of safety in public health.

The CACP is not making a statement with regard to supervised consumption sites. Our position is that the decision to support or not to support supervised consumption sights is a local community issue. We are pleased to seek a clear process that will provide criteria for community consultation prior to a decision being made by the Minister of Health. What works in one part of Canada may not work in another part of Canada, and it must be community-based, with significant evidence-based research. Bill C-2, from our perspective, establishes 27 criteria that an applicant must meet before a supervised consumption site is granted by the Minister of Health, and one of those criteria requires that the applicant makes contact and obtains the input of the local police, as noted in clause 56(3)(e) of the bill, which requires a letter from the head of the police service that is responsible for providing services to the municipality in which the site would be located that outlines their opinion on the proposed activities of the site, including any concerns with respect to public safety and security.

Again, the CACP maintains a clear and neutral position on the actual merits of supervised consumption sites, but our focus is on public safety and security. This is why we believe that, while law enforcement is a part of the decision making process, greater community response is required. We must recognize that every community is unique.

We thank you for the opportunity and look forward to questions.

Michael Spratt, Member and Criminal Defence Counsel, Criminal Lawyers' Association: I think the best place to start when looking at Bill C-2 is the Supreme Court decision itself. The opening paragraphs of that judgement lay out the bleak existence of addicts. Clearly, the war on drugs, the tough on crime rhetoric, has failed, and it's time to rethink that.

In September 2014, the United Nations Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report that provided a critical analysis of current global drug policy. At its core, the report emphasized that a fundamental shift in policy — health, social and criminal — was required to alleviate the harms associated with drug use. The report was clear. Past approaches to drug policy, premised on punitive law-enforcement paradigms, have failed. They recommend, amongst other things, that health and community safety first requires a reorientation of policies and priorities and of resources. One of the other recommendations is to stop criminalizing people for the use and possession of narcotics.

Now, the government's response to the Supreme Court's decision, and this government's drug policy in general, is outdated, punitive, regressive, out of step with international trends, harmful, built on rhetoric and doomed to failure. It's not working, and the government is either willfully blind to that fact or simply satisfied with it. Insite was a success. Deaths were reduced. Harm was reduced. There was no evidence of increased relapse or crime rates. That's what the trial judge said. That's the finding of the Court of Appeal. That's what the Supreme Court of Canada said. That, indeed, is the evidence of four researchers from France and Switzerland that reviewed 75 relevant articles, and that was evidence that was before the House of Commons committee.

They found that safe injection sites enhanced access to primary health care and reduced overdoses, and they were not found to increase drug trafficking crimes or surrounding crimes in the neighbourhood.

So, legally, what are we talking about? Is this bill really a response to the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court found that the minister's decision was unreasonable and violated section 7 of the Charter. This bill doesn't correct that at all. The court found that, in situations like Insite, the minister should generally grant an exemption. This bill lays out over 25 factors to give ministers opportunities to exercise discretion inappropriately. In fact, this bill says that these sorts of exemptions should be exceptional — very different from the Supreme Court's language that they should be generally granted.

This bill is disingenuous. It's a false answer to the Supreme Court. But perhaps you think I'm being unfair. Perhaps you think I'm engaging in rhetoric. Let's look at how this government has dealt with this issue. Let's look at what they've said. On October 18, 2013, in the house, MP Kellie Leitch called critics of this bill pro heroin. On June 6, 2013, right after this bill was tabled, a Conservative fundraising petition was sent around, asking people whether they wanted to support drug consumption sites in their communities and saying that they were facilities where drug addicts get to shoot up heroin and other illicit drugs and that they didn't want one near their homes.

On November 18, 2013, MP Steven Fletcher said:

"…at the end of day if people are breaking the law, they should face the consequences.

….

If people did not care, they would not send their money to support the government bringing in the legislation to stop these kinds of heroin dens being created."

That is what this bill is. That is what his plain words clearly reveal, that this is a bill to stop what this government sees as heroin dens.

Julian Fantino linked sites like this to terrorism.

We have Minister Blaney, before this committee and other committees, saying that sites like this increase crime in neighbourhoods — clearly not correct and not based on the evidence.

This bill is does not reflect the balance that the Supreme Court speaks of. This bill doesn't comport with what the United Nations and other countries around the world are doing. The statements that I read were made by people whom we trust are going to be reasonable, but this bill gives tools for those people to be unreasonable, for criteria to be effectively denied, and it gives every reason to say no.

As criminal lawyers, we see all sides of addiction, and the harm that narcotics do. I also see that the war on drugs is failing. Harm-reducing injection sites are positive for reducing charges, and they are positive for increasing community health. Addiction shouldn't simply be criminalized. It is good for the addict, but it's also good for the court, it's good for resources, and ultimately it's good for the community. That's what the Supreme Court was saying, and if this bill was truly addressing that, the content would be much different than what we see today.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We will begin the questions with Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you to all three of you for your presentations.

I will ask the two lawyers on this panel: I have read the Supreme Court decision, and of course the bill, and I'm having difficulty reconciling what the Supreme Court of Canada has said and what is in the bill.

My first question is this: I thought the Supreme Court had set out the five criteria. I can't get the five criteria and the 26 exemptions to coincide. Maybe you can explain to me: Is this bill meeting what the Supreme Court had said?

Mr. Elliott: I think the short answer to your question is no, it's not. As I was saying before, the court's decision in the Insite matter was to say that, in general, the Minister of Health should grant exemptions for such health facilities. They looked, of course, to the evidence from Insite to say: We've got ample evidence from Insite, but also from dozens of other such supervised consumption services around the world, that in fact having access to these sites is part of protecting the health and safety of people who use drugs. It's about saving lives. They said that. Insite's benefits have been proven; it saves lives; and therefore, the minister should generally grant exemptions for those sorts of things.

They did set out five factors that the Minister of Health should consider, and the court said very clearly that if there is any evidence about the following five factors, then it should be considered by the minister. The court did not say there must be evidence about all five of these things before the minister can make a determination in order to grant an exemption or not, nor did it say that any one of these things is determinative.

What we now see in Bill C-2 is going far beyond the five factors that the Supreme Court mentioned in the Insite decision. Also, the process that is legislated by this bill would say that the minister must have information about all 26 of the things listed in the bill, plus any other information the minister might deem relevant — because there is an open-ended, additional clause there — before the minister can even actually exercise her discretion in a given application.

That is not what the Supreme Court of Canada said in the Insite decision. It goes far beyond it, and it creates a series of multiple barriers or hurdles that have to be overcome before you can even get to the stage of the minister making a decision. A number of those things that are required to be in front of the minister are worded in ways that are not actually about ensuring the minister has evidence in front of him or her but in fact simply the opinion — not necessarily evidence based — of various parties. That, to me, does not seem to comport with what the Supreme Court of Canada actually said in the Insite matter.

Mr. Spratt: I wholeheartedly adopt that answer and say that the criteria listed in this bill don't guarantee reasonableness; in fact, they give reasons to be unreasonable and give reason to be back before a trial court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court — and all the while, harm is not being reduced.

Senator Jaffer: May I ask another question?

The Chair: We don’t really have time.

Senator Dagenais.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I would like to thank our witnesses. Mr. Spratt, you have been testifying before the Senate committees for 10 years. I hope that you are going to approve one of our government’s bills. That was just a comment.

Mr. Larkin, my question is for you. When I was the president of the Quebec provincial police association, Tom Stamatakis, a police officer who worked on the ground in Vancouver, told us that InSite was attracting criminals from outside, and that the police officers did not like to patrol around InSite. When they were tasked with the mission, they had to go by foot and wear metal gloves to avoid needles during arrests.

Mr. Larkin, what is your opinion? As a police officer, what are your thoughts on supervised injection sites?

[English]

Mr. Larkin: Thank you so much, senator. Of course, much has changed since the start of Insite, and I think there are a lot of myths around how police services — and, in particular, the Vancouver Police Department — handled Insite. We do have a member of the Vancouver Police Department on the Drug Abuse Committee. He was not able to appear today, but there are a number of different pieces, and I want to bring some context that is very important around the criminality.

When we started this process, it was new. It was public transformation. Public policy was changing, and that requires change within the community. It requires acceptance.

We also saw a leadership change at the Vancouver Police Department, and we saw Chief Jim Chu come in with a very different approach to community policing, community mobilization and community development, and moving more toward social development. One of the myths is that there was no police work done in that area.

My understanding, from our member of Vancouver Police and the many different discussions that we've had at the Canadian chiefs, is that is false. In fact, Chief Jim Chu of the Vancouver Police Department augmented the number of police officers in the area around the safe consumption site Insite. That's one of our concerns from a policing perspective, that there are potential implications on police resources in these areas because naturally there is a demand for service. There is an integrated approach to doing business differently.

The criminality thing is an interesting piece, because when you add more police officers, what is the true impact on crime rate? It can actually go up or it can decrease — based on enforcement levels, based on different apprehensions and doing business differently.

I would like to give you a snapshot to October 2014 in Vancouver over a four-day span. To our knowledge, Insite had 31 overdoses. The Vancouver Police Department did a rush analysis to see what was happening, and of course there was a significant fentanyl and caffeine mix. Of the 31 overdoses, nobody at Insite died as a result of those overdoses. But outside of that, the Vancouver Police Department investigated three overdoses. The correlation is that, yes, there were 31 overdoses at Insite, but nobody died. Outside of that, three people died. So what is the cost of a human life?

One of the strategies of the police service was to deploy officers to known intravenous drug users to say, "Listen, there is a bad mix of drugs on the street. You need to go to Insite. If you're going to do this, you need to get into a safe area to do this, because the potential is harmful."

So there has been a significant change. I would agree with you; at the start of this there was a different approach, but over time we have matured as a police industry, our processes have matured, and I think we're doing a much better job of managing — in particular, in Vancouver, which is the only national site. Obviously, there are a number of different factors that we feel would be important if we considered this in different communities across Canada, because they are each unique.

Senator Fraser: Thank you to all the witnesses.

That was a fascinating answer, Mr. Larkin, but I will go back to the lawyers, if I may, along the same lines that Senator Jaffer was pursuing.

In this long list of material that must be provided to the minister, my attention has been caught by subclause (p), which, if you have the bill, is on page 10. The applicant must submit "a report of the consultations held with a broad range of community groups from the municipalities in which the site would be located . . ."

I'd like to ask you about two of those words.

One is "community." Can you give me any legal guidance as to how we should interpret the word "community"? Does it mean neighbourhood, or does it mean interest groups?

The other is "municipality." My concern, perhaps because I come from Montreal, which has a patchwork of borders, is that the municipality may not be the best area in which to judge the impact of any activity, any institution, including a safe injection site, because borders vary. If you are in one corner of a municipality, your impact is more likely to be in the other bordering municipalities than in the whole of the municipality in which you just happen to be situated.

Mr. Spratt: You are right, senator. The word "community" can have a broad range of meanings. In the context of this section, where it is located is what breathes life into the definition of community and municipality. Where it is located, I would take to mean the community being the area around the injection facility, and the municipality where it's located would also provide a definition. So the irony of looking at these conditions is that they are too narrow in some respects, as to capturing enough input, and much too broad in others.

I thought by asking the question you might have asked about the ambiguity of the broad range of community groups. What is the broad range?

Senator Fraser: Yes, what is a broad range? Are we talking about, as somebody said in one of our hearings, real women, or let me be a little more specific, are we talking church groups or Neighbourhood Watch or the Liberal Party of Canada? I don't know.

Mr. Spratt: Is it just another opportunity for the minister to not even consider the exemption because, in his opinion, the broadness of the consultation wasn’t there?

Mr. Elliott: If I might add to that, there is a related provision in the bill that raises a similar concern. Toward the end of bill there is a provision that the minister may post notice of the fact that an application for exemption has been made and invite public comment for up to 90 days. There is nothing in that provision that actually says the comments that the minister shall have regard to have to come from a community that has some nexus with where the proposed site is to be located or has any interest in the matter. So you could envision submissions coming in from people, individuals and groups across the country, who for whatever reason might not have a particularly well-informed view and might oppose supervised consumption services. They can flood the minister with comments that become part of the record, even if they have no bearing on the subject, again, providing an opportunity for an accumulation of material that could be pointed to for a negative decision but does not withstand scrutiny when scrutinized.

Senator McInnis: Mr. Elliott, you may agree that locating one of these community sites is controversial, and I thought I understood you to draw an analogy between locating a hospital and one of the safe injection sites, that it would be similar.

We heard the chief talk about these sites being driven by the communities. Minister Blaney and Minister Ambrose represent all Canadians. Are you suggesting that communities and the public where these sites are going to be located should not have a say?

Mr. Elliott: If I may, I would agree that the Ministers of Health and Public Safety have to be concerned about the health and public safety of all Canadians, and that would include those who are some of the most marginalized and at risk and need these health services.

There are a few other services that have sometimes also provoked similar controversy among communities, for example, group homes for people with psycho-social disabilities. Would we find it acceptable to suggest that such a home should not be located in a community if the decision is based upon ill-informed and often prejudicial opinion, as opposed to the actual science and evidence we have about the health benefits of those services and the absence of harm that they do?

The benefits are not just for the people who use the service, who may not die as a result of an overdose, as we heard from Chief Larkin, or who may not acquire infectious disease because they are using sterile injection equipment. There are also benefits for the communities, which will have reduced drug-related litter from injection because it is no longer happening in public places and less public disorder in the vicinity of the supervised consumption service.

The whole point of these services is to locate them where they're going to respond to an identified need. There is not much point in opening a health service to reach a population if you put it where there isn't a need and the population isn't going to come.

That is partly why a number of organizations across the country that already provide health services of various sorts, including needle exchange and so on, to people with addictions are interested in being able to provide a space where, instead of giving needles to someone and then telling them to go shoot up in the back alley with dirty equipment, using puddle water and no access to health care intervention should they overdose, they can do it safely. If something goes wrong, as we have heard has happened at Insite and other supervised consumption services because people inject substances without knowing what is in them or how strong they are, there are health professionals on staff to intervene and save lives.

There is also the proper, safe disposal of the equipment being used to consume those drugs.

Those are benefits not just for the people who are using the health facility but also for the community in which they are located.

Senator McInnis: I understand. You don't have to educate me on that.

You referred to people who are ill-informed. The purpose of public consultation is to inform them, win the case and win the day, so to suggest, as you are doing, that the public consultation should not be meaningful and they should not have an opportunity to speak and sway the people that sent them to Ottawa or the local authorities; I'm sorry, I absolutely disagree.

Mr. Elliott: There were a number of amendments put forward to this bill before the house committee that would have attempted to make sure that the information gathered at various stages in this process would actually be evidence-based and informed. I'm not sure we want decisions being made by our health minister about where health facilities should be located for an already often stigmatized population based on stigma and prejudice. I would hope the health minister would want to base decisions on the evidence of need and the evidence of benefit we can provide to respond to their need with this kind of health service. Those amendments to try to make sure that was in fact the basis for decision were rejected. It would go a long way if those kinds of amendments were made to this bill to ensure those decisions are really made on a sound, solid and appropriate basis, not based on misinformation.

I absolutely agree that the process of public education and consultation can have that benefit, but at the end of day, there is no guarantee it will. We know the controversy that this bill and these kinds of services have provoked, and yet we see when they finally do open and sometimes operate in the face of opposition, opinions change. People realize the sky has not fallen, people have not died, and people have been kept from getting infected with diseases and so on.

Senator McInnis: It's called democracy.

Senator Plett: Senator McInnis touched on my question, but I do want to at least make a comment, Mr. Elliott, and then get your comment to this document that I have here.

How you can compare a hospital where people are sworn to try to save lives and are sworn to try to get people off drugs, as opposed to giving them access to drugs. Even in treatment centres like that, they may give them drugs to slowly get them off of their addiction? But their main objective is to try to help people get cleaned up, as opposed to a site where their main objective is simply to make sure they have a clean needle and doesn't put any emphasis into helping that person get off a terrible addiction. You somehow try to say that Insite is the same as a hospital. That is just beyond me, and I do want you to comment.

Also, there has been a lot talk made here today on both panels about infections and how Insite helps prevent people from getting HIV and the like.

Yet, as I said to the last panel, Vancouver has the largest number of HIV infections per 100,000 people of any major city in Canada, at 19.8 per 100,000. They have the largest hepatitis C infection rate of 58.9 out of 100,000. Ottawa is at 25.5 for hepatitis C and 6.4 for HIV infections.

How can you say that Insite is somehow helping control HIV and other infectious diseases?

Mr. Elliott: Thank you for both of those questions.

On the first point about the analogy to a hospital, indeed I do think the analogy is correct. First of all, services like Insite and other such services that are being contemplated in fact do exist within a broader continuum of care. One of the things that such services attempt to do is actually connect people to other kinds of health care that is needed, including addiction treatment. You have heard some testimony already and the evidence has been amply put before you that, in fact, Insite and other such services do precisely that.

But let me just say that even if a site did nothing other than provide access to sterile injection equipment and intervene in the event that someone overdosed and thereby a life is saved, that is a good outcome. Obviously we can do more. These services do more, but if that were all they did, they would still be worth having. You cannot connect someone to treatment that will help them eventually get over their addiction, which is an exceedingly difficult thing to do, if they're dead.

That's partly what Insite does. Dead people can't benefit from drug addiction treatment. Insite has prevented deaths. The evidence shows that. The Supreme Court accepted that evidence. The expert advisory committee that the Minister of Health set up to advise him on the subject concluded that as well. All the peer-reviewed studies have shown these benefits, so I think the analogy to a hospital is in fact quite correct.

With respect to HIV and hepatitis C infection rates, we should not make the logical fallacy of suggesting that correlation equals causation. In fact, it's precisely those places where you have high HIV and hepatitis C prevalence amongst people injecting drugs that you would want harm reduction services like needle exchange programs and supervised consumption services because those are the places where it's most urgent to have access to sterile injection equipment. That's why you would want to situate services like that in those places. That was one of the major impetuses for setting up such services in numerous countries around the world.

The fact that you have one site in a place that suffers from as many challenges as Downtown Eastside does in Vancouver cannot be expected to be a panacea to all of the problems. We heard from one of the earlier witnesses on the first panel that a decade later, the Downtown Eastside is still struggling, even though we have Insite. I think it's a bit much to expect one small-scale health facility to solve all of the problems of what is a multi-factorial problem relating to public health in a particular site.

We know it has prevented infections, prevented overdose deaths and connected people to treatment. Those seem like good outcomes to me.

Senator McIntyre: Gentlemen, thank you for your presentations.

My understanding is that the purpose of Bill C-2 is to provide the process or the legislative framework in order for the minister to exercise her exempting powers in keeping with the direction of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Now, in reviewing the court's decision, it strikes me that it has not taken issue with the discretion exercised by the minister but the manner in which that discretion is exercised. We all know that the minister's discretion is unfettered in a way but it is not absolute; it must be exercised within the constraints imposed by the law and the Charter.

So bearing that in mind, under the proposed bill, in exercising her exempting powers, the minister would be provided with information coming from several sources, and armed with that information, she would be in a position to make an assessment of the public health and public safety considerations that arise in the particular case. This, in turn, would assist the minister in balancing these two considerations, public safety and public health, in accordance with section 7 of the Charter and in the manner described by the Supreme Court. Could I have your thoughts on that?

Mr. Spratt: To lead off, I think you're right, senator, in that if you look at some of these conditions in the legislation, they speak to some of the factors that the Supreme Court has outlined, but I think that's misleading to some extent when you look at the larger principle. The Supreme Court said that generally in situations like Insite — and in Insite's situation specifically — exemptions should be granted in those cases. The bill starts from a much different premise than that, saying it should be exceptional.

When you look at the details that are required in those provisions specifically, there are further problems there that were elucidated by Mr. Elliott earlier. At a fundamental level, the bill seems to be set up to get to "no" more than to "yes."

Senator McIntyre: Are you referring to the 27 criteria?

Mr. Spratt: Yes, and also the principle that exceptional circumstances are required before an exemption is granted.

Senator McIntyre: In the case of the 27 criteria, don't you think she needs that kind of information in order to make a proper assessment and in exercising her exempting powers?

Mr. Spratt: Not necessarily all of that information. That's one of the problems, that all of that information needs to be provided. If there is not cooperation by one of the parties responsible for that information, it precludes any discretionary decision from being made in the first place.

It also gives a tremendous amount of power to some organizations that might be ideologically opposed to harm reduction and to treatment of disadvantaged groups such as this. Imagine if you had a police force that wasn't as forward-thinking as Mr. Larkin is; that's an effective veto in some respects. That's very dangerous as well.

Senator McIntyre: Everything circles around her discretion. That's the way I understand the Supreme Court of Canada decision. Once again, they did not take issue with her discretion as such but the manner in which that discretion is exercised. I think the minister wants to make sure that before she renders her final decision, she has all of the answers.

Mr. Spratt: It's also troubling that some of these provisions speak of opinion as opposed to evidence, and opinion is something that is probably not very useful to a decision-maker.

Senator Batters: Chief Larkin, first of all, welcome. I wanted to get on the record a bit of a shout-out to the president of your organization, Chief Clive Weighill of Saskatoon. We were fortunate to have him in my hometown of Regina for many years, and for the last several years Saskatoon has been fortunate to have him as their chief of police, and now he's offering his leadership on a national stage.

You said in your opening statement that you were pleased to see a clear process of community consultation prior to the minister making a decision. From your experience, what are the concerns of the communities you serve?

Mr. Larkin: Thank you, senator. Of course, we are very proud of Chief Clive Weighill and his leadership.

As we alluded to, we are very supportive of community consultation. I think it's at the root of democracy, and in a modern community that we provide policing services to, that's very important for us.

So we view ourselves as one portion of this discussion. It is not necessarily all about law enforcement. In fact, we view it as an integration of many different community groups, many different public services, social services and family and children's services being involved in that discussion.

We're supportive of Bill C-2 in the sense that the 27 criteria of an application do provide much consultation and much feedback, but from a policing perspective, we look at a number of different factors. Obviously, we will look at the demographics of the community, the proposed area. We will look at the current crime rate of the proposed area, and contrary to what previous witnesses have said, we do look at analysis of neighbourhoods and geographical demographics around crime data and public order data. That's how we deploy police resources. We look at where resources need to go.

We also look at things from a planning perspective, working with our municipalities around residential and commercial mix and how they will be impacted. Will homelessness and marginalized individuals be impacted by this? Is there a community concern for those who live in the area that may be marginalized?

Also one of the things we look at is will there be an opportunity for those that prey on our vulnerable?

So when you look at illicit drugs, let us be very clear, the CACP does not support perpetual drug use. Our goal is rehabilitation. We look at it as the four-pronged factor in moving people through that spectrum. Often safe injection sites are referred to as a harm reduction strategy. What methods do we continue to use around prevention, education, rehabilitation? What services are provided in those areas? What are the linkages to the social determinants of health in that neighbourhood and how do we start changing some of these pieces? Hence we believe that the 27 criteria provides and starts and musters that discussion.

I won't get into the minister's exemption, but clearly there is that process in there. We view ourselves as one cog in the wheel and we support that. In principle, we think that's a good direction to go.

Senator Batters: Great, thank you.

The Chair: We will have a quick final question from Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: It's about the matter of ministerial discretion, which pops up repeatedly as we discuss this bill. Again, my question is to the lawyers. I'm ignoring you, Mr. Larkin, and it's not because you're not interesting, but this is the legal committee.

As I read this bill, if the minister is going to grant an exemption she has no discretion at all about requiring all these 27 plus, plus, because some of the 27 also have some subcategories, she has no discretion. She has to have every one of them, including 10-year-old police records from foreign countries, which may or may not be available, and this list of six principles, all of which are negative — no positive principles to be considered there — and exceptional circumstances and, if we're talking about a renewal of an exemption, extra information about crime rates.

As I read this bill, on all of those items she has no discretion at all. She has to have all that stuff, or do all that stuff. Am I missing something? Please tell me I'm missing something.

Mr. Elliott: That is correct.

Mr. Spratt: That's correct. There's nothing in this bill that guarantees reasonableness, even if the minister has all of that. So you're relying on reasonable decisions perhaps in the face of a government that calls these heroin dens —

Senator Fraser: Yes, but forget the ideology of the government. Laws outlast governments. This bill, as I read it, gives no discretion in those areas.

Mr. Spratt: So if a bill like this passes, there should be a mechanism in it to assist a minister in making a reasonable decision, not assist a minister who may wish to make an unreasonable one.

Senator Fraser: Thank you.

The Chair: We've run overtime, and I want to thank all three of you gentlemen for being here. I apologize for the delay in getting you to the table, but you've been able to provide us with your perspectives on the legislation. That's very much appreciated.

Members, we will adjourn and reconvene tomorrow morning to continue our deliberations on Bill C-2.

(The committee adjourned.)