Highlights from Bill C-368 Second Reading May 22, 2024

On May 22, 2024, the House of Commons reconvened to continue the second reading of Bill C-368, which seeks to amend the Food and Drugs Act concerning natural health products (NHPs). The debate spanned one hour and was marked by passionate speeches from members of the major political parties, reflecting diverse perspectives on the proposed legislation.

Bloc Québécois Support and Concerns

The Bloc Québécois, represented by MP Caroline Desbiens, expressed strong support for the bill. Desbiens emphasized the distinct nature of NHPs compared to conventional drugs, arguing that the current regulatory framework under Vanessa’s Law imposes undue administrative burdens on the NHP industry. She was critical of the lack of consultation and transparency from the federal government, stressing the importance of thorough legislative scrutiny. Desbiens highlighted the need for a balanced approach that ensures consumer safety while maintaining accessibility to NHPs.

NDP’s Endorsement and Historical Context

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, from Cowichan-Malahat-Langford articulated the historical significance of NHPs and their long-standing cultural importance. He underscored the broad public support for accessible NHPs, citing substantial constituent engagement on the issue. His address highlighted the negative impact of Health Canada’s regulatory changes introduced in Bill C-47, which reclassified NHPs as therapeutic products, thereby subjecting them to stricter regulations. The NDP pledged to support Bill C-368, advocating for a regulatory framework that preserves consumer choice and supports small businesses.

Liberal Opposition and Safety Concerns

Liberal MP Naqvi defended the government’s position, arguing that the inclusion of NHPs under Vanessa’s Law is essential for ensuring public safety. He cited numerous instances where inadequate manufacturing practices had led to contamination and health risks, including adverse reactions and misleading claims about product efficacy. The Liberal stance continues to emphasize the necessity of maintaining rigorous post-market surveillance and regulatory oversight to “protect” consumers.

Conservative Advocacy for Health Freedom and Small Business

Conservative MPs Blaine Calkins and Michelle Ferreri both passionately argued in favour of Bill C-368. Calkins, who first tabled Bill C-368 in December 2023, highlighted the economic contributions of the NHP industry, noting that over 80% of Canadians use these products regularly. Ferreri criticized the Liberals’ hypocrisy, pointing out their failure to conduct a gender-based analysis on the regulatory changes impacting the natural health products industry, despite the government’s professed commitment to such evaluations. The Conservatives framed the debate as an issue of consumer health freedom and criticized the government for overreaching regulatory measures that could potentially stifle small businesses and harm the health of Canadians.

Final Remarks and Anticipated Vote

The debate concluded with MP Calkins calling for the bill to be sent to the Standing Committee on Health for further study, emphasizing the need for comprehensive stakeholder consultation.

Bill C-368 is scheduled for a recorded vote on May 29, 2024.

With one week remaining before the vote on Bill C-368, there is still time for you to write to or engage your MP about this critical issue.

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