3 Part Plan | Part 1: Amend the Food and Drugs Act


In 2008, the NHPPA and other groups across Canada worked together to fight the infamous Bill C-51. Bill C-51 would have subjected the natural health community to extremely high fines and sweeping new Health Canada powers. Canadians saw this as a threat to their access to natural products and rebelled. Canadians produced so much pressure on MPs during the Bill C-51 fight that some MPs told us their offices were literally shut down with phone calls and letters. Representatives of the NHPPA were told during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office that there was so much mail to the Minister of Health that it was delivered by wheel barrow. Health Canada learned from this that they could not re-introduce Bill C-51.

To get around the opposition in the natural health community to Bill C-51, Health Canada came out with Bill C-17 in December, 2013. Bill C-17 was specifically designed to trick the natural health community. It was drafted to subject natural health products to most of the provisions of Bill C-51 at a later date without the Food and Drugs Act having to be amended.

Bill C-17 misled and tricked the natural health community by:

–        creating a new category of “therapeutic product”;

–        subjecting “therapeutic products” to the harsh measures in Bill C-51 that were opposed by the natural health community, and

–        defining “therapeutic product” as excluding natural health products as defined in the Natural Health Products Regulations.

This tricked the natural health community as on its face, Bill C-17 did not subject natural health products to the harsh penalties and powers that would apply to “therapeutic products”. At the same time, Bill C-17 was structured so that at a later date, Health Canada could subject natural health products to the provisions that apply to “therapeutic products” without having to pass an Act in Parliament. Rather, all Health Canada had to do was to abolish the Natural Health Products Regulations. Bill C-17 was a clear Trojan Horse designed to fool the natural health community. Indeed, in the NHPPA discussion paper on Bill C-17 we wrote:

“Whether this Bill affects natural health products depends upon the “therapeutic product” definition. The definition does not currently apply to natural health products, but the way it is written leaves a back door, like that in a Trojan Horse, that could come back to haunt us. This back door would be closed if Bill C-17:

  1. added the current definition of natural health product into the Food and Drugs Act, and
  2. defined “therapeutic product” as:

“therapeutic product” means a drug or device or any combination of drugs and devices, but does not include a natural health product”

If the definition of natural health product was put into the Act, the definition could not be changed without an amendment to the Act. In that way, if the Government wanted to change the law to make the strong powers and harsh penalties in Bill C-17 apply to natural health products, they would have to amend the Act. This would require three readings in the House of Commons and three readings in the Senate. There would be ample opportunity for citizens to communicate to the law makers that they do not want these changes. That was the protection that stopped Bill C-51.

If Bill C-17 passes, we do not have the protection of the Government having to change an Act to affect natural health products. Rather, all they have to do is change a regulation.

The definition of “natural health product” referred to in the “therapeutic product” definition, is only a regulation. Regulations can be changed by simply publishing the change twice in the Canada Gazette. There are no votes by either the House of Commons or the Senate to regulation changes. Even an unpopular minority government can change regulations with impunity.

The potential danger of Bill C-17 is that Canadians will not take any notice because the return of the Bill C-51 powers and penalties it represents do not appear to apply to natural health products. The Bill could easily pass because the public does not care. Later even a minority government can apply the Bill C-17 provisions to natural health products by simply changing or abolishing the natural health product definition in the regulations.”

This prediction that Bill C-17 was a Trojan Horse is coming to pass. The exact threat that we predicted, i.e. that the harsh penalties and powers in Bill C-17 would be applied to natural health products by simple regulatory change, will occur in the next two years. Health Canada has now given us a time line that by 2020, the Natural Health Product Regulations will be repealed and natural health products will be regulated under the same regulations as chemical non-prescription drugs.

The first part of our plan is to undo Bill C-17 by seeking to have the Food and Drugs Act amended as set out above.