Is Bill C-6 the New Bill C-51?
Panic!! Big Pharma is coming! Big Pharma is coming! Or so I was led to believe from my Google Alerts this week:
- “BILL C6 – The Canadian Governments Plan To Outlaw YOUR GOOD HEALTH”
- “Bill C-51 Not In Your Reality? Get Ready For Bill C-6!”
- “Stop Bill C-51 Campaign Revived”
- “Bill C-51 Update! Important Public Meeting. Protect Your Natural Health Products. Urgent Wake-up Call.”
“C-6 is outlawing herbs, supplements and vitamins”, I am warned by Doug Schapira, the editor of the Owen Sound Free Press. In fact, the legitimate sounding newspaper, which is in reality a crank blog, makes the Godwinian declaration that “C-6 is the Canadian government’s ‘final solution’ for the health products industry.” A nationwide vitacide, apparently.
But why would the government and the pharmaceutical industry conspire to be so evil? It’s all too clear to Schapira:
“It’s a desperate effort to destroy this industry that’s threatening the profits and viability of conventional medicine. Natural medicine works so well — and is becoming so widely used — that both the Canadian and American governments have decided to ‘nuke’ the industries by passing new laws that effectively criminalize anyone selling such products. They simply cannot tolerate allowing consumers to have continued access to natural products. To do so will ultimately spell the destruction of Big Pharma and the outdated, corrupt and criminally-operated pharmaceutical industry that these criminally-operated governments are trying to protect.”
Of course! It’s all so absurdly obvious. Although, it is a bit difficult to understand why big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson would be keen to eliminate the high volume, low risk, highly profitable supplement market of their natural health product (NHP) divisions. It’s also hard to see why both Liberal and Conservative governments would have spent the last 10 years consulting with the NHP community, implementing an NHP regulatory framework, establishing an NHP Directorate in Health Canada, being advised by alternative medicine professionals, and licensing thousands of NHPs only to conduct an act of political suicide by banning a product that is consumed by a significant majority of the voting public. Nevertheless, Bill C-6 is evidence of Big Pharma conspiring with the government to deny Canadians’ freedom of choice in healthcare, isn’t it?
Well, there’s just one problem. … Bill C-6 has nothing to do with NHPs.
Paragraph 4.(1) of the bill excludes the products listed in Schedule 1, which includes “Drugs within the meaning of section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act” – a definition that includes NHPs. Despite StopC51’s claim that Bill C-51 was attempting to make NHPs into drugs, the Food and Drugs Act has classified NHPs as drugs for decades. In 2004, NHPs were distinguished at the regulatory level when the NHP Regulations came into force, separating NHPs from pharmaceuticals, which continue to come under the Food and Drug Regulations.
Of course, the fact that Bill C-6 has nothing to do with NHPs might be a bit obscure. Perhaps, Mr. Schapira can be excused for not figuring it out. It’s too bad that there is no ready reference available for Bill C-6 … except, that is, for the Health Canada press release, backgrounder and FAQ page on the bill. Apparently, Mr. Schapira has yet to read the following FAQ:
“8. Can Natural Health Products be regulated under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act?”
“No, Natural Health Products are regulated under their own regulatory framework (the Natural Health Product Regulations) under the Food and Drugs Act. They cannot be separately regulated by the proposed Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. In fact, Natural Health Products are exempt from the proposed CCPSA, as they fall under the Food and Drugs Act. Schedule I of the proposed CCPSA outlines the products that have been exempted, for example: drugs, cosmetics, explosives, pest control products, etc — products that are captured by other legislative and regulatory frameworks.”
Or perhaps, as Mr. Schapira states, “The government is putting out misleading information that this Bill is OK, that it has none of the nasties that the opponents are claiming.” I keep forgetting that any evidence that disproves a conspiracy becomes part of the conspiracy.
Sadly for our avid conspiracty theorists, there is nothing dark or sinister about C-6. It is just a re-introduction of last session’s Bill C-52, also named the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. The purpose of Bill C-6 and its predecessor is to protect the health and safety of Canadians by prohibiting “the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety.” More specifically, as summarized by FAQ #3:
“The key provisions proposed include:
- A General Prohibition against the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety
- Expanding the scope of legislation to cover the manufacture of consumer products
- Mandatory Reporting of Incidents: requires industry to report when they have knowledge of a serious incident, or death, to provide an early warning to the government
- Ministerial Orders for Test/Study Results: requires manufacturers or importers to provide information on products when so ordered
- Packaging and Labelling: prohibitions on packaging, labelling or advertising that is false, misleading or deceptive, as it relates to health or safety
- Document Retention by Industry: facilitates product tracing throughout the supply chain, in particular in situations where a consumer product has been recalled
- Inspectors’ Orders for Corrective Measures, including Recall: allows for rapid response to address an emerging problem, particularly in situations where industry fails to take appropriate steps
- Increased Fines and Penalties: provides stronger deterrents
- Administrative Monetary Penalties: allows for incremental penalties to deal with non-compliance; an effective tool in the enforcement continuum that includes criminal prosecutions”
Bill C-6, just like Bill C-52 before it, is just implementing part of the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan, which was announced last April. Amongst the many common safety enhancements called for in the plan are the strengthening of enforcement measures through the increase of fines to $5M for selling unsafe products and the authority to order product recalls. These two provisions, as examples, were discussed in our coverage of Bill C-51 last year.
C-6’s part in the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan is its coverage of consumer products not already regulated for safety. As a result, the bill excludes such products as explosives, pest control products, fertilizers, motor vehicles, maritime vessels, aircraft, weapons, ammunition, controlled products, seeds, animals, food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and of course NHPs. The updating of the safety provisions for these excluded products will be done, as needed, by amending the acts that currently legislate them. For NHPs, this means amending the Food and Drugs Act, which will require the eventual re-introduction of Bill C-51. However, unfortunately for our StopC51 premature advocators, Bill C-6 is not that reincarnation.