Speech – 2016.12.07 – Fentanyl from China

MP Len Webber in the House of Commons



Fentanyl from China

December 7, 2016

Mr. Len Webber (Calgary Confederation, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate you sticking around for this late show tonight. It is my first late show, and I appreciate the pages and everyone in the room for sticking around when they want to see the Christmas lights being lit up outside here.

    The reason I am here is, back on October 18 of this year, I asked a question in question period regarding the fentanyl crisis and I was not happy with the response from the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, the member for Brampton West. She did not answer my question, basically, and that is why we are here today.

The fentanyl crisis is getting worse in the country. It is certainly a major national emergency in my mind. It is an epidemic. Just in B.C. alone, almost 1,000 people have died this year overdosing on fentanyl. In my province of Alberta, the numbers are not as bad as that, but certainly it is a crisis all over the country. We hear daily about the deaths that are occurring because of this drug.

It is because of the severity of this emergency crisis, that the Standing Committee on Health, of which I am vice-chair, postponed the study on the national pharmacare strategy that we were doing to address this national opioid crisis. We brought in many experts, doctors, nurses, ER staff, first responders, the EMS, the police, and officials from the fire departments around the country. We talked to pharmacists, social workers, and we even brought in recovering fentanyl and opioid addicts into our witness chairs to discuss with us the severity of this issue.

There were two particular presentations we received. One was from the commissioner of the RCMP and the other, the Canada Border Services. They indicated to us that 98% of illicit fentanyl is coming from China into our country. I had attempted in this meeting to have the Chinese ambassador appear before the committee to explain what his government is doing to help Canada tackle this deadly drug epidemic. I put the motion forward, and the Liberal government would not have a representative from the Chinese government come here to address this issue.

The Liberals are ignoring the obvious. China is the primary source of illicit fentanyl here in Canada, and the Liberals would rather deal with the deadly street drugs after they are in the hands of Canadians, instead of targeting the source, which is China.

Why is pleasing the Chinese government more important to the Liberals than saving the lives of Canadians? That was the question I had asked, and I would like a response to that question.

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to address the question by the member for Calgary Confederation on fentanyl in Canada.

Our government is very concerned about the increasing rates of opioid-related overdose deaths across Canada and the devastating impact this crisis is having on individuals, families, and communities at large.

It is clear that problematic opioid use, including fentanyl, is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted and dynamic approach, an approach that is comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, and, above all, evidence-based.

That is why, in June, our government announced an opioid action plan that focuses on better informing Canadians about the risks of opioids; supporting better prescribing practices; reducing easy access to unnecessary opioids; supporting better treatment options for patients; and improving the evidence base upon which our policy decisions will be made.

On November 19, at a national opioid summit co-hosted by the Minister of Health and the hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, 42 partner organizations committed to taking concrete actions by signing a joint statement of action to address the opioid crisis. This government is taking action.

Following the opioid summit, I engaged with my colleagues at Public Safety Canada and Foreign Affairs Canada to address the issue of fentanyl from China. The RCMP now have an agreement with China to cut the flow of opioids from China. Our government will also look at options for expanding the tools available to our border authorities to further address the fentanyl issue.

Our government also recognizes that measures must be taken to address the availability of and serious harms associated with street drugs.

Fentanyl misuse first became prominent with the diversion of pharmaceutical forms of the drug, usually fentanyl patches. However, over the past year the RCMP has reported an increase in domestic production of illicit fentanyl.

This is why our government is moving forward with regulations to control six chemicals that can be used as precursors in the production of fentanyl. By scheduling these precursors, any unauthorized importation and exportation of these chemicals will be illegal. Our government has also indicated that it will look at legislative options for regulating pill presses, which are being used in Canada for illicit drug production.

To help address the devastating impacts the opioid crisis is having in our communities, our government has also moved quickly to improve access to naloxone, a drug that can save lives by temporarily reversing a potentially fatal opioid overdose. Health Canada has made naloxone available without a prescription. Further, after an expedited review, the department has approved an easier to use nasal spray version of the drug. The interim order, signed by the Minister of Health this past summer, to allow emergency import of the nasal spray from the United States will remain in effect while the manufacturer takes the necessary steps to bring the product to the Canadian market. This will ensure that there is no interruption in supply.

In addition, our government is supporting the good Samaritan drug overdose act, a private member’s bill that would help encourage individuals who witness an overdose to call for emergency help without having to fear that drug charges would be laid against them.

We have also demonstrated strong support for properly established and managed supervised consumption sites. For example, based on a thorough and evidence-based review of their applications, Health Canada issued a two-year exemption to the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, and an unprecedented four-year exemption for lnsite to continue its important work in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. In addition—



Mr. Len Webber:

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the information from the parliamentary secretary on what he and his government are doing in this country.

The problem is that 98% of illicit fentanyl is coming from China. Why are we not shutting off the tap from China, where this drug is coming from and killing many Canadians?

I appreciate the fact that the government is working on supervised injection and consumption sites and that an antidote, naloxone, is being distributed throughout Canada to help individuals who are overdosing on these particular drugs.

But again, why are we not focusing on China? Why is the Liberal government not talking to the Chinese government? Our Prime Minister should address this and talk to the Chinese officials. He is over there. He is talking with them. Let us deal with the issue.


Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:

Mr. Speaker, very quickly, I will conclude what I was about to finish off with.

We have also demonstrated strong support for properly established and managed supervised consumption sites. For example, based on a thorough and evidence-based review of their applications, Health Canada issued a two-year exemption for Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver, and an unprecedented four-year exemption for Insite to continue its important work in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

In addition, Health Canada will continue to work with new applicants from Montreal and Vancouver to support them through the completion of their applications.

Suffice it to say, directly to the question the member has put across, I would not make the assumption, because it would not be true, that the government does not take serious consideration of that comprehensive overlook as to how and what role, whether it is the RCMP or China, we can take to best deal with this problem. As I say, we need to take all the stakeholders into consideration to try to improve upon a system which is horrifying many of our communities.