On April 8, 2008, Canada's Health Minister introduced Bill C-51 which proposed sweeping changes to the Food and Drugs Act. The Canadian government has since been forced to make amendments because of intense grassroots pressure. There are fears that this Bill could lead to some vitamins, herbs, minerals, and dietary supplements no longer being available in the country. Through the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), Canada, the U.S., and Mexico are already busy harmonizing food and drug regulations into a North American Union structure. Some have suggested that this Bill would also bring Canadian law into compliance with the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Bill C-51 has the potential to take away the rights of people to freely choose natural medicine as an alternative to expensive drug-based products and treatments.
Bill C-51 will further encroach on civil liberties and increase police state measures. There is reason for concern because of the Bills ambiguous language in regards to raids and seizures. It has been referred to as a police state bill masquerading as a health bill. It will make it easier for Canadian officials to seize natural health products and remove them from store shelves. It grants inspectors the power to raid homes and businesses without a warrant and the power to seize bank accounts and property. Some might recall that in the early 90's, the FDA engaged in paramilitary raids on American health food stores, holistic treatment centers, and other nutritional supplement businesses. This behavior created such a public outcry and backlash, leading Congress to pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) to protect the right of American consumers to purchase and use nutritional supplements.
If the Harper Conservative government thought that they were going to quietly pass Bill C-51, were they ever wrong. When word hit the Internet and blogosphere that up to 60% of natural health products currently sold in Canada could be outlawed, it sparked a swift and strong public reaction. In Bill C-51, the word drug has been replaced with "therapeutic products" and gives the government broad reaching powers to further regulate their sale. Health Minister Tony Clement has vowed to change the parts that lumped natural medicines in with pharmaceutical drugs. This includes a clearer definition of natural health products into the Food and Drugs Act. There have been other amendments made, but there are still many concerns surrounding Bill C-51. It might be safer to do away with it in its entirety and start from scratch.
It is the SPP working groups that are harmonizing regulations and laws, writing out policy initiatives and recommendations. They are the real power, laying the foundation for a North American Union. Part of the SPP calls for the "Identification and appropriate adoption of best practices in maintaining the safety, efficacy and quality of pharmaceutical products." NDP MP Peter Julian said in the House of Commons that, "Bill C-51 would limit access to many health products and allow the fast-tracking of new drugs that have not been proven safe. Bill C-51 blends in with the SPP agenda, which is about harmonizing regulations across the board with the United States, resulting in lower standards." There are fears that Bill C-51 will bring about a more U.S. style approach to food, drugs, and consumer product safety. This includes turning more power over to the drug companies with increased reliance on their testing and research. These same drug manufacturers would themselves be more responsible in fast-tracking the drug approval process and further looking after any safety concerns once the drug has hit the market. Under the Trilateral Cooperation Charter, the FDA is also working with Canada and Mexico in further harmonizing regulations between the three countries.
It is not just through the SPP and the Trilateral Cooperation Charter that the harmonizing of food and drugs is being achieved. The Codex Alimentarius Commission which is part of the United Nations is setting international guidelines for food products including dietary supplements. They are using muscle provided by the World Trade Organization to undermine and bypass domestic laws. Section Six of CAFTA talks about using the Codex codes as the regulatory standard for all signing nations. It is through the Codex guidelines that vitamins, minerals, and other natural supplements could become limited and even banned. Some fear that Bill C-51 is an attempt to place Canada under Codex control.
Many argue that Bill C-51 is unnecessary, and that there are already laws in place to protect consumers from natural health products. It's not about keeping Canadians safe, it's about further harmonizing our health and safety regulations into a North American Union. How can fast-tracking potentially dangerous new drugs and at the same time outlawing some beneficial natural medicines be good for anyone? One must understand that it is also about ensuring huge profits for Big Pharma. Bill C-51 should be rejected on the grounds that it threatens the ability of Canadians to choose alternative health products and treatments.