Bill C-37: Tackling the opioid epidemic head-on
This new law streamlines the application process for the creation of supervised drug consumption sites.
In December 2016, the Government introduced Bill C-37 in the House of Commons in response to the national public health crisis of opioid addiction and overdoses. The legislation was crafted to give health and law enforcement professionals significant new harm reduction tools. The bill proposed streamlining the application process for the creation of supervised drug consumption sites. Another provision prohibited the unregistered importation of pill presses and encapsulators, which can be used to make counterfeit drugs. The bill also stipulated that border officers could open mail weighing less than 30 grams, in recognition of the fact that a standard-size envelope with that weight can contain enough fentanyl to cause 15,000 overdoses.
The Senate’s Role
When C-37 arrived in the Senate in February 2017, Senators worked quickly to examine, debate and improve the legislation with the urgency the situation required. “The fact is that opioid deaths are tearing apart our society,” independent Senator Larry Campbell, the bill’s Senate sponsor, told his colleagues in the Red Chamber. “This bill will literally save lives. I urge you to pass this as expeditiously as possible.” With Conservative Senator Bob Runciman serving as chair, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs moved to review the legislation quickly — but thoroughly — and proposed a series of amendments for consideration in the House of Commons.
The Government accepted some Senate changes as improvements to the bill. First, the Government accepted the amendment proposed by Conservative Senator Paul McIntyre, specifying that — should the Minister of Health choose to post a notice to seek public input regarding an application for a supervised consumption site — the public should have a minimum of 45 days to provide feedback. Second, the Government accepted an altered version of an amendment proposed by Conservative Senator Vern White, clarifying that staff at supervised consumption sites may lawfully offer a pharmaceutical alternative to drug users before they consume a controlled substance on-site. The bill became law in May 2017.