Consumer Alert: Opposition Grows to Bill C-51Helke Ferrie June 1, 2008
On April 8, 2008, the Harper government introduced Bill C-51 as an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act. If passed into law, Canadians will no longer have the freedom to choose between pharmaceutical drugs and natural health products. The two categories we now have, namely drugs and natural health products, would be merged into one category called “therapeutic products”.
Under Bill C-51, neutraceuticals derived from foods essential to life would no longer be presumed safe, but become subject to drug testing routines and prescription requirements. At the present time, only pharmaceutical drugs are presumed toxic until clinical trials show at what dosage they might have some therapeutic benefit.
Other key points in Bill C-51 include the following:
- This bill changes the definition of “sell”, such that even health-related advice for which one doesn’t get paid would be subject to Health Canada’s approval or else be a crime. (For example, if a writer in Vitality stated that Vitamin C helps to prevent cancer, this would be considered a crime.)
- Upon suspicion that one is in possession of unapproved health products, Health Canada inspectors would have powers of enforcement exceeding those of the police, such as entering a home or business without a warrant and removing anything they wish, making you pay for the cost of removal, freezing your bank account so you can’t take legal action, and fining you up to $5 million for disobeying the orders of Health Canada inspectors. (Better hide those calcium supplements under the mattress and flush your Vitamin D down the toilet if you hear a knock on the door.)
- If, in the Minister’s sole discretion, he decides it would be good for Canada to incorporate a foreign government’s regulatory protocol, such as Codex, it would become part of Canadian law without parliamentary debate, simply by a cabinet decision (Order in Council).
- Any research a university or institution might initiate involving nutrition and disease would have to be approved by the Minister who would decide whether the outcome of such research would be desirable, in terms of risk-benefit considerations normally applied to toxic substances. If the Minister doesn’t like the proposed research project, it would not be approved.
Bill C-51 is likely in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and our criminal code, as well as the rules governing scientific research, and ignores some of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the last 20 years. Those decisions affirmed that disobeying the law is not a crime if such disobedience prevents more harm than would have occurred had the law been obeyed, as in the 2004 Truehope case.
What this bill does do well, however, is to prepare Canada for joining the ongoing international United Nations Codex efforts to regulate foods and drugs world-wide according to the one-size-fits all corporate model enforced by the World Trade Organization. It also serves the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) process which has a central requirement that Canada, the US, and Mexico “harmonize” their health care systems and especially the regulatory institutions governing therapeutic products. Yet the latest polls indicate that 87% of Canadians are opposed to this process, especially with regard to health care and therapeutics.
A HISTORY OF GOVERNMENT HOSTILITY TOWARDS NATURAL HEALTH PRODUCTS
Back in 1998, Chretien’s Liberals tried to amend the Food and Drugs Act so that food-derived therapeutic products (i.e. vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbal medicines, etc.) would be classified as drugs, thereby starting the harmonization process with the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius agenda, which calls for maximum upper limits on nutrient dosages, as well as toxicity tests. Under Codex, natural products would become drastically more expensive as many would require prescriptions from doctors (whose knowledge of nutritional medicine is almost nonexistent).
So, in 1998, under the rallying cry “Don’t treat our foods as drugs!”, Canadians caused what lawyer Shawn Buckley describes as “the most successful petition drive in Canadian history”. Hit by an avalanche of outrage, Health Minister Alan Rock tossed this hot potato to the House Standing Committee on Health which came up with 53 excellent recommendations for amendments to the Food and Drugs Act to “reflect contemporary scientific thought [because] the weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases … through the judicious use of Natural Health Products.”
We are still waiting for those 53 recommendations to be implemented.
In 2003, Conservative MP Dr. James Lunney (Nanaimo-Albertini, BC), a chiropractor and naturopath, sponsored Bill C-420 which would have removed all food-derived neutraceuticals from the drug category (and the reach of Codex). It was supported by more than 120,000 signatures. In his September 2003 Vitality article, Lunney called for action: “It’s time to take the club out of the hand of hostile Health Canada bureaucrats who know nothing about health and care even less.”
His comments came in the wake of Health Canada having shut down the Truehope research project, run by the University of Calgary and a Harvard University psychiatrist, involving some three thousand people being treated with vitamins and minerals for extreme manic depression. It was shut down when preliminary results showed this treatment to be far superior to conventional drug therapy and without side effects (all published in the mainstream medical journals).
Truehope disobeyed Health Canada orders and continued to provide the treatment to the trial participants in accordance with international medical law. Health Canada sued Truehope.
The court found Truehope’s disobedience to be legal, citing previous supportive Supreme Court judgments. Health Canada’s conduct was found to be arbitrary and inhumane. (Bill C-51 would make Health Canada’s treatment of Truehope the norm and allow it to ignore those Supreme Court decisions as well as medical law.)
It is interesting to note that Lunney’s Bill C-420 originally had the full support of Stephen Harper, at that time the leader of the Opposition. On April 27, 2004, he wrote the following statement to many Canadians, including me: “Your comments and concerns regarding unrestricted access to natural health products and [about the dangers of the] Codex Alimentarius are understandable. Please know that the Conservative Party of Canada supports freedom of choice for complementary treatments and natural health products. We believe that Canadians should have access to a wide range of health treatments, as well as an assurance that the products available to them are safe and effective.”
He was endorsing MP James Lunney’s intent “to put the brakes on a bureaucracy out of control”. Harper’s Conservatives proceeded to promise Canadians freedom of choice between toxic drugs and bio-identical and nutritional therapies that science has empirically shown actually work. But C-420 died when the Martin government fell.
WHAT HAPPENED, STEPHEN?
Introduced by the government on April 8, Bill C-51 is quite literally a Big Pharma bill. That’s because Big Pharma is Health Canada’s employer, not only through their user fees for product evaluations done according to their own time-lines, but because our government actually put Big Pharma in charge on January 6, 1996. On that date, the Minister of Health passed an Order in Council and bypassed parliamentary debate. This Order redefined the “client” it serves: all regulatory oversight of foods and drugs henceforth serves the manufacturer, the Act’s “client” – not the Canadian people. That’s why, ever since the Mulroney era, it doesn’t matter whether the Conservatives or the Liberals are elected: both have done exactly what their (commonly shared) corporate clients want them to do. And now they are doing it again.
THE PHARMACEUTICAL AGENDA
Understandably, Big Pharma publications nowadays extol the virtues of “biologicals”, bio-identical compounds that are liver-friendly, or applications that by-pass the liver to reduce toxicity. If pharmaceutical companies hope to survive at all, they absolutely must make the transition into biologically friendly therapy. So, why sell their bio-identical raw materials to much smaller natural products companies (as they are now) when you could make expensive drugs from them yourself? Big Pharma persuaded Australia to pass a law similar to our proposed C-51 some years ago which, as predicted, killed all small and mid-sized natural health product companies. Now Australia has only one large nutraceutical company producing high-priced poor-quality stuff; innovation is also dead. Big Pharma has the whole market there.
Due to the enormous liability problems associated with toxic drugs, pharmaceutical stocks are rapidly becoming as difficult to sell as gas-guzzling SUVs. Health Minister Tony Clement found that out personally: until recently he owned 25% of Prudential Chem Inc., a company that sells chemicals to drug companies. He was compelled to sell those shares after the government’s ethics committee told him this was a conflict of interest. The major investment analysts have classified many pharmaceutical stocks as “don’t buy” or “sell”.
Meanwhile, to help boost its profit margins, the pharmaceutical industry is lobbying hard to get the Canadian government to legalize TV commercials for drugs, a practice known as Direct to Consumer Advertising. In the U.S., drug sales rose by more than 40% in one year when DTCA was legalized there, and New Zealand (the only other country that permits DTCA) almost killed its health care system because of the increased cost of drugs. Now they are reversing this policy. Nevertheless, C-51 has a provision that would remove the current barriers against Direct To Consumer Advertising in Canada.
About 70% of Canadians are taking bio-identical natural medicines free of deadly side effects and, therefore, do not require additional medication. But if you take SSRI antidepressants for a long time, you are likely to get diabetes or cancer – and that’s very good for the drug business. St. John’s Wort and Inositol are natural, cannot be patented, have no side effects, and are likely to cure the depression – and that’s not good for the drug business. Obviously, Big Pharma believed that something had to be done to scare the living daylights out of the natural products industry and to take over this potentially lucrative market. Bill C-51 does just that.
MEDICAL HOMELAND SECURITY
The single best source for understanding C-51 is the legal analysis provided by lawyer Shawn Buckley, the president of the Natural Health Products Protection Association, who won the Truehope case. In addition to the main points listed at the beginning, he also identifies the following issues in this proposed Bill:
- C-51’s licensing provisions for natural health products are so inappropriate to these substances that “over 60% [now on the market] will fail the licensing process and become illegal.”
- Health Canada would only issue market authorizations if satisfied “that the benefits that are associated with the therapeutic product outweigh the risks” – and the “risks” are not defined! Buckley observes that Health Canada might consider it a risk that “people will not seek ‘proper’ (i.e. mainstream) medical treatment if they take a natural health product.”
- The search-and-seizure powers in C-51 dispense with basic principles such as “reasonable grounds”, warrants, court applications – known as checks and balances. When, in the opinion of Health Canada, we need to be protected against a life-enhancing nutrient, they can enter a home or business at their discretion to confiscate the offending item, and our legal rights are irrelevant.
- Since Health Canada inspectors fully expect that obstinate citizen may refuse to give up their vitamins, or some bright scientists might discover a potential nutritient-based cure for some deadly disease, C-51 proposes penalties with real bite, such as $5 million and/or 2 years in jail. Independent thought, bright ideas, and personal autonomy would be quashed. “Why is it necessary,” asks Buckley, “to raise the primary penalty by multiples of 500 and 1,000? This is probably unprecedented in Canadian history.”
It is indeed unprecedented in Canadian history that a bunch of bureaucrats, government lawyers, and undoubtedly their friends from industry created a Bill which is so strategically focused on how to control or extinguish medical research, therapeutic initiative, informed consent, and just plain old free enterprise.
HAS GOVERNMENT ABANDONED THE HEALTH OF CANADIANS?
The idea that Harper’s Conservatives have the public’s best interest in mind is beginning to appear absurd. Consider that a few weeks ago, they defeated Bill C-517 which sought to make the labeling of genetically engineered foods mandatory, as is already the case in 40 countries. The disastrous health effects of those Frankenfoods are fully known now and documented in mainstream medical and agricultural research. Yet not even the loss of international trade entered the minds of those 152 MPs who voted this bill down. Hardly any country buys our canola and beef anymore because of GMO contamination and the use of carcinogenic hormones and antibiotics which are also the cause of deadly superbugs. Quite aside from the health issues involved, bill C-517 was an absolute necessity to regain increased access to international trade.
As for the proposed Bill C-51, it cannot, must not, ever go to second reading because it clearly violates some of the most basic human rights. C-51 is probably criminal and certainly absurd. This Bill suggests a mind-set that no democratic government can be permitted to indulge in on any topic.
Health Canada’s history is one of allowing a never-ending stream of carcinogens, neurotoxins, gender-benders, and ecologically disrupting substances into the Canadian marketplace. Medical practice and agriculture are now replete with drugs carrying deadly warnings and agricultural practices so lethal, most of the rest of the world outlawed them decades ago.
With natural health products under attack from C-51, Canada’s medical system, already close to collapse, could easily become totally overwhelmed as all those hundreds of thousand of Canadians relying on vitamins, herbs, and minerals to keep them healthy will proceed to get sick or sicker when they’re removed from the marketplace.
Faced with evidence of such abysmal stupidity, we cannot afford to leave our health to the mercy of this government. Fortunately, there is massive opposition to Bill C-51 in the making, including the Canadian Health Coalition, the Council of Canadians, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE – 340,000 members), and many doctors working in nutritional and complementary medicine. Nutraceutical producers are becoming noisy and articulate.
The second reading of Bill C-51, scheduled for May 8, mysteriously was cancelled. Google might have the answer for the government’s timely hesitation: on May 7, Google had 60,000 entries for “Bill C-51 + Canada”. By May 11 it was 70,500. Most of them are against it.
A NEW THREAT ON THE HORIZON: Bill C-52 Rears Its Ugly Head
While completing this article in C-51, I was made aware of a new threat – Bill C-52. While C-51 targets the freedom to manufacture natural health products, freedom of research, and the personal right to health care choices, Bill C-52 expands the government’s powers by including all businesses. Download the legal analysis of C-52 from the Natural Health Products Protection Association website (www.nhppa.org).
The government’s and the Prime Minister’s television ads and comments on C-52 want us to believe they protect consumers. This is NOT true. Instead, C-52 removes fundamental safeguards on privacy and property rights, the requirement for warrants, access to the courts etc. in direct violation of Section 8 of the Charter and Criminal Code provisions, the basis of Common Law for about a thousand years.
Having passed second reading on May 1, C-52 could, by way of a cabinet amendment (i.e. without parliamentary debate), add C-51 to its regulatory Schedule I, so the government would give themselves both Bills regardless of what Canadians say. I believe it is our duty to inform ourselves about both Bills and stop our government from committing high treason against fundamental human rights. Come to OISE on June 26th and join the resistance!
TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT YOUR ACCESS TO NATURAL PRODUCTS
Schedule a visit to your local MPs as soon as possible. Do not go alone, always have a witness or two or three. Hand them Buckley’s analysis and demand that C-51 be killed.
Attend the roundtable discussion featuring prominent activists such as Shawn Buckley, Dr. Shiv Chopra, and Mike McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition at OISE on June 26. I am the moderator. Health Canada spies are welcome!
Write to Prime Minister Harper and tell him what you think. Be polite.
- S. Chopra, Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Scientist, Kos, 2008, in press, orders 519-927-1049
- M.McBane, Ill-Health Canada: Putting food and drug company profits ahead of safety, CCPA, 2005
- Regarding Bill C-51 – sample of provisions, not complete:
- Sections 13 & 18.7 restricted availability of natural health products
- Section 15.1 (4) arbitrary powers to grant prescription status
- Sections 31 & 3 (3) historically unprecedentedly high fines and jail terms associated with new definition of “sell” and “person”
- Sections 3 (6) & 18 academic freedom stopped and research dependent on Health Canada’s permission
- Sections 3(6) & 30 (7) importation of international regulations without Canadian input or parliamentary debate (e.g. Codex)
- Section 23 unprecedented powers of search and seizure (including bank accounts); powers exceed those of police
- The debate in Parliament on Bill C-51 following First Reading can be accessed from the parliamentary website by putting “Bill C-51 + Canada” into google. The fastest way to get at the actual parliamentary debates on any current or past bill is by typing LEGISinfo into google and then just going down the list of bills. Or by typing www.parl.gc.ca.
- Groups opposing C-51 (only those I knew about at time of going to press)
- International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (founded by Dr. Abram Hoffer) firstname.lastname@example.org phone 416-733-2117
- National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE); President James Clancy
- Ontario Medical Association’s Section on Complimentary Medicine, Chair Dr. Linda Rapson email@example.com
- Canadian Health Coalition, Director Michael McBane, www.healthcoalition.ca
- Canadian Coalition for Health Freedom firstname.lastname@example.org
- Natural Health Product Protection Association (their lawyer is Shawn Buckley)
- Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd (they won their case in court against Health Canada when the latter shut down a clinical trial using natural substances to treat bi-polar disorder at the University of Calgary
Discussion Paper on Bill C-51 by lawyer Shawn Buckley – may be accessed on the two websites above. It contains all the legal details, section by section, analyzed in ordinary language.
Important documentary material analyzing the issues:
Discussion Paper on Bill C-51 by lawyer Shawn Buckley, President of the Natural Health
Product Protection Agency (NHPPA) – may be accessed on the two websites above. It contains all the legal details, section by section, analyzed in ordinary language.
Dr. James Lunney, PC Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Albertini, BC. He wrote an excellent article for Vitality Magazine’s September 2003 issue available on their website. It presents the reasons why he introduced Bill C-420 then with the support of then PC Leader, Stephen Harper. To understand how outrageous the current Bill C-51 is, it is imperative to read Dr. Luney’s article. He is now on record as being opposed to C-51. He called me after First Reading of C-51 and said : “You have to start a prairie fire to stop this bill!”
Garry Anderson wrote an excellent in-depth analysis of the principles violated by Bill C-51. The important point he makes involve the secrecy of the Governor-in-Council method to by-pass parliamentary and public debate, the abuse of science and the abuse of the international Precautionary Principle evident in the wording of C-51. Must read! Available from him at email@example.com
For the background information on Direct-to-Consumer-Advertising (DTCA) go to Canadian Medical Association Journal January 2, 2007, p.19, which explains the current legal action by CanWest against health Canada to remove prohibitions against DTCA on the grounds of Being a violation of the Charter rights of free speech (Big Tobacco was defeated on that argument by the Supreme Court years ago). Bill C-51 proposes dropping Section 3 of the current Food and Drugs Act which would be dropping that prohibition. The experts on DTCA, its effects on public policy, health and Medicare are Professor Joel Lexchin of York University, Professor Barbara Mintzes of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and Professor Alan Cassels of the same university and co-author (with Patrick Moynihan) of Selling Sickness: How The World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients, Nation Books 2004. The research and published letters to the media are available on the website of the
Canadian Health Coalition www.healthcoalition.ca
What happened in Australia when a similar bill was introduced and how it effectively killed all choice in natural health products came to me via on May 9, 2008, from Croft Woodruff at firstname.lastname@example.org
For details on how Canadians feel about the issues involved in Bill C-51 as well as the recently killed Bill C-517 (which would have made labeling of GMO products mandatory) go to Council of Canadians www.Canadians.org and read the latest document published by them entitled “Not Counting Canadians: The Security and Prosperity Partnership and public opinion”. C-51 harmonizes Health Care with this newly proposed treaty which would eliminate public debate, as the treaty over-rides national rights and citizen involvement in policy. According to independently conducted polls, 87% of Canadians want to retain our ability to set our own standards with regard to environment, health and safety issues – which this treaty would stop.
Helke Ferrie is a medical science writer with a master's degree in physical anthropology. Her specialty lies in investigative research into ethical issues in medicine and the politics of health. She started her investigative journalism career in the mid-1990s, looking at issues of medicine and environment. She has been a regular contributor to Vitality Magazine ever since. Helke has also authored several books on various subjects including: "Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic", "What Part of No! Don't They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse", and "The Earth's Gift to Medicine". Read her article: <a href="https://thebovine.wordpress.com/tag/helkie-ferrie/">When governments abandon the public interest — look out for your own health</a> Find her book -<a href="https://www.riverwashbooks.com/product/17162/What-Part-of-No-Dont-They-Understand-Rescuing-Food-and-Medicine-from-Government-Abuse---a-Manifesto-Ferrie-Helkie">What Part of No! Don't They Understand</a> Helke has also been a regular contributor for the Vitality Magazine. Links to few of her articles: <a href="https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/the-tyranny-of-government-protection/">The Tyranny of Government Protection</a> <a href="https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/success-story-how-i-recovered-from-lyme-disease-and-hypothyroidism/">Success Story - How I Recovered from Lyme Disease</a> <a href="https://vitalitymagazine.com/article/in-the-news-fluoride-dangers-roundup-lawsuits-and-the-lyme-disease-epidemic/">IN THE NEWS: Fluoride Dangers; Roundup Lawsuits; Lyme Disease Epidemic</a> Helke Ferrie now lives a retired life and can be reached at email@example.com