Bill C-393, which would reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, is now before the Commons industry committee. I spoke to the bill’s new shepherd (following the resignation of its original author, Judy Wasylycia-Leis), NDP MP Brian Masse, about what is going on there.
Q: On Thursday it seemed like a rerun of the Senate committee from the same officials. You resume again this Thursday?
A: We’ll have witnesses come in. The government’s gone to the unusual measure in terms of having a briefing later today on a Private Members’ Bill that’s not their own, and that’s the first time I’ve ever experienced this tactic. Hopefully it’ll be useful, and not the normal process by any means, but I was a little bit surprised by the department – not willing to show any kind of resolve to say hey, this legislation is not working right, and I can understand they could have objections to certain parts of it, but they really came with the purpose of not even showing some encouragement of how we could make some modifications, which is rather shocking because the evidence is just that Rwanda case was the only one that worked, and Apotex who did that, has said they would never do that again given the problems they had, but they would be willing to do more if the legislation were altered a bit.
Q: It also seemed to me that they didn’t have a lot of answers for anything.
A: They also made some claims that were erroneous – suggesting that we wanted to make it easier for drugs to be mismanaged. It was clearly a slander to all the Canadian industries, because they couldn’t come up with any potential witnesses or any potential companies that would do this kind of behaviour. Same with decoding the generics – this was shocking evidence, because what we’ve been saying is we can have even greater accountability, but we need a system that works. And that’s the truth.
Q: This Thursday you’re supposed to hear from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network?
A: I haven’t seen the list yet, but there’ll be some good witnesses. When we get to our witnesses, there’ll be some better experts that will explain that with the TRIPS agreement, there are a lot of technical aspects to the bill. What we did is we created a bill that really painted ourselves into a corner, and if you believe in that, and if you believe that Canada should not be participating, then somebody should just come out and say it, or just junk the bill altogether. But it’s clearly not working, and you can fall on one of two sides now – either making changes so we can get some better results, or keeping the status quo, which is a broken process. So I think you’re going to hear some testimony from witnesses who will not only explain the process, but will show the human face of this. We’re letting people, including children, suffer and die because we don’t have the political will to act on this. And the scare tactics of trade disagreements and stepping beyond and losing investment – all of those elements are just gutter attempts to slander the bill and distract Canadians from the realities that we’re letting people die and suffer with no conscience.