Locals meet about fighting health product legislation
As much as 75 per cent of your favourite natural health products could be deemed illegal if a controversial bill is passed by Parliament.
Bill C-51 will impose changes to the Food and Drug Act, including tougher standards on pharmaceutical companies.
However, vitamins, minerals, herbal products, homeopathic medicines and other natural health products will also be included in the new legislation.
During her trip through the territory, New Democrat MP Olivia Chow discussed the bill with concerned citizens.
“For thousands of years, many different cultures have used traditional health products and in Canada that hasn’t been a problem,” Chow told the 30 or so people in Whitehorse’s Hellaby Hall on Saturday.
“Bill C-51 moves all the natural health products into the drug category, which means that you will have to prove that the product isn’t harmful.
“But you can’t test traditional medicine like big pharmaceutical companies because that would take 10 to 20 years.”
Government supporters stress the bill’s importance, noting the Food and Drug Act has not been amended for more than 50 years.
In 2005, 74 per cent of Canadians regularly used natural health products, MP Gary Goodyear told the House of Commons last month.
“It is important the (natural health products) be regulated in order to protect Canadians; to make sure that tainted products are found and recalled, that what is on the label is actually in the bottle, and the health claims are supported by evidence.”
But there may be other reasons for this bill, according to Chow.
“Where does it come from?” she said.
“Well, the pharmaceutical companies always like to make more money and control and monopolize the market.”
Similar legislation is being proposed throughout the world, she added.
Chow had just returned from a 12-day trip down the Alsek River with her husband, NDP leader Jack Layton.
“I’m blessed to live in a Chinese family with Olivia’s mother living with us for a number of years,” Layton told the crowd, in a short speech at the beginning of the meeting.
She uses traditional Chinese medicines, which rely on herbs and other non-pharmaceutical remedies, he said.
“I don’t want anything done that could upset my mother in law, so I’m highly motivated to see this legislation defeated.”
Local natural health product suppliers at the meeting expressed frustration with current Health Canada policies.
Current regulations require onerous paperwork to sell natural products and already give government inspectors too much power.
There are fears the new regulations will make the situation worse.
In 1997, the Liberal government brought forward a similar bill, said Chow.
At that time, it was the Conservative opposition who voted the bill down.
In 2000, a parliamentary committee examined the problem of regulating natural health products.
After a huge number of studies the committee recommended the government create three separate categories — food, drug and natural health products.
However, Bill C-51 omits this third category.
Instead, it lumps natural health products under the drug act.
Bill-51 will allow government agents to enter private property without a warrant, according to opponents.
They will also be able to confiscate products indefinitely and charge the owners for shipping and storage.
It also allows for fines of up to $5 million and two years in jail per offence.
Natural health products require their own act, not regulations, said Chow.
“It allows a minister to set up rules and laws without going through Parliament,” she said.
“The regulations can be changed if the minister rolls out of the different side of the bed in the morning.”