Outrageous Claims about Bill C-51
Our site is about more than Bill C-51 – honest, it is – but the StopC51 mob keep making outrageous claims that just cry out to be deflated. On Friday, Jon and I were contacted by Justin Trottier from CFI Ontario to provide some C-51 literature for him, and then today, aDam made a forum post of a StopC51 flyer he got at the front of a supplement shop.
How easy it is for StopC51 to make groundless accusations without having to check facts or worry that their followers are going to bother reading the original source material. Perhaps they feel challenged to sound paranoid enough or to make sure they don’t unintentionally include actual facts. So what is StopC51 trying to achieve with their fear mongering?
“Other things being equal, people under threat tend to become more attached than usual to their own groups, causes, and values.” (Kludge. p 50.)
Scare your followers; consolidate your base.
What follows is a fisking of the claims made in aDam’s Nutrition House flyer followed by the fisking we sent Justin on the StopC51 website claims.
Nutrition House Flyer
Claim: “Bill C-51 is a proposed government bill designed to restrict the use and sale of natural health products.”
Response: Bill C-51 is a government bill, not a proposed government bill. The Summary of the Bill states:
“This enactment amends the Food and Drugs Act to modernize the regulatory system for foods and therapeutic products, to strengthen the oversight of the benefits and risks of therapeutic products throughout their life cycle, to support effective compliance and enforcement actions and to enable a greater transparency and openness of the regulatory system.”
Funny, the line that talks about restricting the use and sale of NHPs seems to be missing from the official version of the Bill on the Parliament of Canada website. The Bill’s authors didn’t get the memo either. They focused on improving compliance and enforcement measures for ensuring therapeutic product, food and cosmetic safety and forgot to add the provisions that would undermine the NHP industry.
Claim: “Bill C-51 would amend key terminology in the Food and Drugs Act drastically restricting the legality and availability of Natural Health Products.”
Response: The key terminology is apparently not key enough to list in their claim, so we are reduced to guessing. Perhaps they mean the term “natural health product.” If we do a search of that term in the current Food and Drugs Act, we come up empty. It’s hard to amend a term that isn’t there. The term was, in fact, introduced in the Natural Health Products Regulations of 2004. Now let’s search for the term in Bill C-51, and lo and behold, it shows up in all the sections that are serving to incorporate the Natural Health Products Regulations into the Food and Drugs Act. So by “drastically restricting the legality and availability” of NHPs, did they really mean “drastically confirming the current legal status and availability” of NHPs?
Claim: “Bill C-51 radically alters the Food and Drugs Act in ways that would allow government to control and restrict natural products, including herbs, vitamins and even foods like blueberries – conditions that may force Canadians to turn to pharmaceuticals instead.”
Response: Blueberries? Wow. Where did they get that one? My search engine couldn’t find blueberries in either the current Food and Drugs Act or in Bill C-51. I don’t know what they are implying here, but I would hope that the government has the authority to implement and enforce regulations for any product that I put in my mouth. As a consumer, I want to know that these products meet standards for safety, quality and effectiveness. Perhaps, the StopC51 mob are comfortable buying a bottle of capsules filled with white powder that they believe was not made in Joe’s basement from chalk dust because the label on the bottle looks pretty and because the manufacturer promises the product is okay. In reality, the legislative framework for drugs, NHPs and food are similar, with the differences specified in regulations. Based on the risk management approach adopted by Health Canada, drugs continue to be scrutinized far more rigorously than NHPs or food, not the other way around as implied by StopC51. Much of Bill C-51 targets the dangers of tainted, unsanitary, counterfeit and dangerous products whether drugs, NHPs or food. I’m not sure why any of that would drive people to pharmaceuticals.
Claim: “The text of Bill C-51 is rife with Orwellian doublespeak. It is worded to confuse and is promoted by the government as legislation to protect Canadians’ health, but they clearly appear to be more concerned about protecting profits for Big Pharma.”
Response: Bill C-51 is written in plain English (and French) that is easy to understand, and it’s accessible on-line, so you don’t even have to take my word for it. Here is a random paragraph:
“No person shall manufacture, process, label, package, sell, import for sale or advertise a therapeutic product in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its benefits, risks, conditions of use, quality, quantity, composition, design, construction, performance, origin or authorization status.”
Did the highfalutin words lose you? Was “erroneous” too much of a mouthful? Seriously, anyone can understand the text, let alone people who read Orwell or are comfortable with such phrases as ”rife with Orwellian doublespeak.” Despite what StopC51 says, the writing is doubleplusgood.
Claim: “Bill C-51 is designed to move Canada towards a European style marketplace where Big Pharma has imposed its will on the government regulation of Natural Health Products. This has resulted in dramatically overpriced supplements, diluted therapeutic concentrations and the reduced availability of supplements readily available in other jurisdictions.”
Response: Again, I don’t find “European style marketplace” or “Big Pharma” in the Bill, so we are back to guessing their meaning here. I suspect that they are talking about Codex Alimentarius, which has its own following of huffing, wild-eyed critics. The Codex group was established in 1963 under the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN “to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the international food trade.” The group discusses food safety and quality standards, guidelines and issues such as labelling, hygiene, contaminants and pesticides. In 2005, the group adopted Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements. So how is this secretive, backroom organization imposing its will on Canadian NHP consumers, presumably facilitated by Bill C-51? Let’s read the answer readily available on the Health Canada website:
“Section 1.3 of the Guidelines stipulates that they are for use only in those countries that regulate vitamin and mineral supplements as food. As Canada regulates vitamin and mineral supplements as natural health products, the Guidelines are not applicable to the Canadian regulatory system. The manufacture, importation and sale of vitamin and mineral supplements and other natural health products in Canada will not be affected by the Commission’s adoption of the Guidelines. Such products will continue to be regulated in Canada by the Natural Health Products Regulations under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act.”
That’s right. This claim goes beyond fear mongering and becomes wilful deception.
Claim: “Eliminates the Ability of our Elected Officials to Protect Us – Bypassing our elected official’s ability to vote out laws that are not the will of, or in the interest of the Canadian people.”
Response: Wrong. The Food and Drugs Act currently permits, and Bill C-51 continues the practice of permitting, the Governor-in-Council to make regulations related to provisions of the Act. This type of regulatory authority is a common practice where there are too many technical and practical details to incorporate in the Act. Such areas as income tax, the environment, occupational health and safety, aviation and telecommunications are all regulated separately from their respective enabling Acts. All of these detailed, technical regulations were not voted on in Parliament. And, by the way, who is the Governor-in-Council, who has the regulatory authority? It is the Cabinet, comprised of elected MPs.
Response: In 2004, Natural Health Products Regulations already came into force through normal regulatory means without being voted on directly by elected officials. Since that time, MPs have always been in a position to legislate against those regulations but have not felt the need to do so. All regulations are subject to scrutiny by House and Senate Standing Committees.
Claim: “Eliminates the Ability of our Elected Officials to Protect Us – Allows government agents, (not elected officials) to create binding laws behind closed doors.”
Response: Wrong. The “behind closed doors” reference implies they are talking about regulations (see the response above on Governor-in-Council). “Laws” are created when an Act is established or amended by the Parliament of Canada. Bill C-51, for example, is amending the Food and Drugs Act in order to create “laws.” To do this, the Bill must be debated and voted on in both the House of Commons and the Senate by elected officials.
Claim: “Eliminates the Ability of our Elected Officials to Protect Us – New powers will allow enforcement of these laws by the searching and seizing of private property and bank accounts without warrants.”
Response: Inspectors can already do this. Section 23(1) of the current Food and Drugs Act reads:
“an inspector may at any reasonable time enter any place where the inspector believes on reasonable grounds any article to which this Act or the regulations apply is manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored, and may … seize and detain for such time as may be necessary any article by means of or in relation to which the inspector believes on reasonable grounds any provision of this Act or the regulations has been contravened”
Response: Under the current Food and Drugs Act and under Bill C-51, inspectors must have a warrant to enter a private home. There is no provision of Bill C-51 that allows for the seizure of bank accounts.
Response: One wonders what restrictions StopC51 will want to impose on health, fire and food safety inspectors next.
Claim: “At the current rate of licensing failure, more than 89% of natural health products will be illegal.”
Response: Wrong. Of the NHP applications submitted for product licensing, some have been rejected for correction, substantiation or more information; some are waiting in the queue or are being worked on; and some have been withdrawn by their applicants. As of March 2008, Health Canada has received over 21,000 product license applications. Of the applications rejected, the products have not been deemed illegal or rejected for all time. By meeting Health Canada’s guidance and requests concerning the rejections, most of the products should be able to obtain product license approval. Should the NHP industry not accept responsibility for submitting incomplete or incorrect licensing applications in the first place? Since Health Canada is a government department, there are also likely resourcing issues holding back licensing progress. StopC51 should not conflate bureaucratic inefficiency with a conspiracy theory to eliminate NHPs in Canada.
Response: Health Canada is fully transparent on NHP licensing status. It publishes quarterly reports on product licensing statistics on-line.
Claim: “Broad definitions will allow government agents to invoke enforcement on people who do as little as share a ‘therapeutic product’ with a friend.”
Response: Wrong. Both the current Food and Drugs Act and Bill C-51 are concerned with the production, marketing, sale and distribution for sale of therapeutic products. The above claim is like saying a person doodling another person’s name is guilty of forgery or a person finding a coin on the street is guilty of theft.
Claim: “With Bill C-51 Health Canada will remove access to up 89% of safe, effective alternatives.”
Response: Wrong. Since 2004, NHPs can only be sold in Canada if they have a product license – that is, if they have a Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN) or a Drug Identification Number – Homeopathic Medicine (DIN-HM). The Transitional Provisions of Bill C-51 state that any therapeutic product with a DIN, NPN or DIN-HM will retain their authorization to market that product after the Bill comes into force.
Our Turn – Here’s Our Strawman of StopC51
Why does StopC51 support:
- Tainted products
- Uncertain ingredients
- Inaccurate labelling
- Unsupported health claims
- Fraudulent advertizing
- Unscrupulous producers, marketers and distributors
There, that was easy. Now I see the allure of just spouting claims.