Parliament: Question about action being taken to address the fentanyl crisis

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, this will be the second time only in six years as a parliamentarian that I have voted for time allocation. I voted for it also on Bill C-37.

The question here is urgent. I agree with the minister, although I would say that this may be the classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. When lives are at stake, I do not think we can take the time to argue over improvements that, frankly, I would want to see made too.

We know that on the street, fentanyl is being found in 80% of the street drugs that are otherwise not identifiable as fentanyl. Can the minister give us any update on what is being done on the ground while we get this bill through the House as fast as possible?


Jane Philpott – Markham—Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for supporting time allocation in this case. I agree with her that this is an exceptional piece of legislation because there is a tremendous amount of urgency. I appreciate her upstanding perspective on how to address it, as she said, knowing that there may be ways this could be further improved but that time is of the utmost necessity, because people are dying.

The member has also reiterated, perhaps after reading it in the newspaper in the last couple of days, that there is evidence now in British Columbia that when we look at some of the drugs being sold on the street, over 80% of some drugs are now contaminated with fentanyl and some of its analogues.

We have always had challenges with problematic substance use in society. As I said earlier, it goes with things like poverty, homelessness, unresolved trauma, and the abuse people have experienced. This was made worse, as the member knows, by the unfortunate reality of the over-prescription of opioids based on deceptive pharmaceutical practices. This is an area we are working on as well with a number of medical educators and regulatory bodies.

What has made this crisis unprecedented are these new highly potent products. It affecting not just Canada but North America, and now we are seeing it even further around the world.

I am happy to tell the member about a number of initiatives. As I said, we are working with 42 organizations across the country, regulators and educators of health professionals, to make sure we understand the work that needs to be done to address over-prescription. We are, of course, also working with organizations across the country to expand access to treatment. I alluded in my notes to the fact that we have taken steps to allow products to come into the country. For example, there is the possibility of using pharmaceutical-grade diacetylmorphine as a treatment option, and we are encouraging multiple approaches to treatment.

There is so much being done, and I am happy to update any members who are interested.