5 min

Parliament Hill marks World AIDS Day (or not)

There was a dearth of red ribbons on the Hill today, though the three opposition leaders did wear them. Of the Conservative cabinet, only John Baird, Lawrence Cannon and Josée Verner were sporting them.

During members’ statements, the following MPs marked World AIDS Day, sometimes in their own partisan manner:

Liberal Ruby Dhalla:

Mr Speaker, today, worldwide celebrations are being held to commemorate World AIDS Day.

This morning, I had the pleasure to join the co-chairs of the HIV-AIDS and TB caucus to host the first annual parliamentary World AIDS Day breakfast. It was an inspiring morning, with parliamentarians, organizations, advocates and survivors who had gathered to hear many heartfelt speeches.

This year's theme for World AIDS Day is universal access and human rights, a theme that all Canadians can support to ensure that human rights are protected and global targets are met for the prevention, the treatment and the care of HIV and AIDS.

I join all of the HAT caucus members to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives, to the 33 million men, women and children who are currently living with HIV and AIDS, and also pay great admiration and respect for the thousands of volunteers, organizations and advocates who are giving people hope for a better future and a brighter tomorrow.

Conservative Lois Brown:

Mr Speaker, today is World AIDS Day, a time to remember those who are living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, and to reflect upon those who have lost their lives to this devastating disease.

Our government has committed to a comprehensive, long-term approach to HIV and AIDS in Canada and around the world. This year alone, we are investing over $72 million domestically in HIV and AIDS. As well, our government has provided more than $640 million over the past four years to help prevent the spread of the virus and provide support to those living with HIV-AIDS in developing countries.

In addition, the Canadian HIV vaccine initiative, led by our government along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlights Canada's world-class HIV and vaccine research expertise.

I ask that members join me today in wearing a red ribbon to raise awareness and to show our support for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

New Democrat Chris Charlton:

Mr Speaker, today is World AIDS Day, and in communities like Hamilton, grandmothers are gathering in support of Bill C-393. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that life-saving medicines reach those who need them most. By simplifying the export of cheap, generic, antiretroviral drugs to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, this bill literally could turn the tide of HIV/AIDS.

Sadly, a few weeks ago, the Liberal opposition teamed up with the Conservative government to gut Bill C-393. In committee, the Liberal-Tory coalition stripped the most critical element, the one-licence provision, from the bill.

While I try to avoid excessive partisanship, this is a profoundly partisan matter. There is no sugaring the pill: across Africa, people are dying from preventable diseases. Children are dying from treatable illness. They desperately need the medicines we have and they need them now.

I urge my Liberal and Conservative colleagues to do the right thing. There is no down side. By restoring the one-licence solution and passing the bill immediately, millions of lives can be saved. Brand-name companies will receive royalties for their intellectual property, and generic drug companies increase their capacity and employment, all without costing Canadian taxpayers a dime.

Rarely do we as MPs have such personal power to save millions of lives.

Bloc MP Luc Malo: (I don’t have an English translation yet, so I’ll put it up in the morning when it’s available).

As well, some of the parties put out press releases as well.

From the Liberals:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff made the following statement on World AIDS Day:

“On World AIDS Day, we renew the global effort to raise awareness, fight prejudice and improve education of this deadly disease that afflicts 33 million men, women and children worldwide – including 65,000 Canadians who live with HIV/AIDS.

“Stephen Harper must answer for his government’s deplorable record on combating HIV/AIDS, starting with his refusal to attend Canada’s World AIDS Conference in 2006.  His government left HIV/AIDS off the G8/G20 agenda, treated longstanding non-governmental partners with proven track records of battling HIV and AIDS with contempt, and slashed funding for research to find a vaccine.

“The Conservatives must explain why they cut $36 million in federal funding for initiatives to address HIV and AIDS in Canada, at a time when HIV infections are increasing. Instead, they prefer to mount an ideological legal assault costing millions against Insite, a proven HIV/AIDS harm-reduction program in Vancouver.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I call on all Canadians to reflect upon World AIDS Day and to take action through fundraising, awareness campaigns and advocacy to combat this deadly disease.”

Liberal health critic Ujjal Dosanjh added:

“Liberals believe that Canada has both a domestic and international responsibility to combat HIV/ AIDS.  More needs to be done to prevent new infections amongst Canadians, slow the progression of the disease, safeguard the human rights and improve the quality of life of Canadians living with HIV and AIDS. 

“Canada must restore its leadership role in working with developing countries and non-governmental organizations on sustainable initiatives to reduce the burden of this disease – especially in Africa, where an estimated 1.4 million of the two million worldwide AIDS deaths occur.”

From New Democrat leader Jack Layton:

On this World AIDS Day, there are things to be thankful for. Thankful for continuing advances in modern treatments. Thankful that this diagnosis no longer means certain death. Thankful that many Canadians with this infection can expect to live long and productive lives. Thankful that the worldwide infection rate appears to be stabilizing.

But as we count these blessings, let’s not allow one moment of complacency about the tremendous challenges we still face.

There is still no cure for HIV/AIDS. A staggering 33 million people are infected worldwide — that’s one in 200 people on this planet. The vast majority live in developing nations. In too many cases, they lack basic care and modern anti-viral treatments.

If trends hold in Canada, some 3,000 new infections could be diagnosed this year — disproportionately among new immigrants, First Nations people and lower-income Canadians. A growing percentage are young people. Yet our Conservative government is eroding support for proven prevention solutions like harm reduction.

Canadians have every right to expect positive national leadership from their government. This is about rights. This is about people’s right to live in good health. And a vital first step is to restore federal support for hard-working organizations involved in HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care in Canada.

Two additional commitments will make all the difference in world. Canada must start contributing our full fair share to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. At the same time, Parliament has an opportunity to help people in developing countries access the life-saving medicines we now take for granted.

After six years of unconscionable delays, passing Bill C-393 will ensure that low-cost generic anti-viral drugs will finally begin to flow. Let’s pass this bill — without 11th-hour poison-pill amendments that stop life-saving pills from flowing.

It’s the right thing to do.

And from the Governor General:

HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. Although the majority of cases are found in developing countries, men, women and children of every race and class are being affected by this pandemic, the biggest the world has ever seen.

Thanks to research and the organizations that support it by providing essential resources, there are now treatments to alleviate the suffering of those living with the disease, as well as the concerns of their families. Recent breakthroughs have brought new hope that a permanent cure will soon be found to eradicate HIV/AIDS once and for all.

Unfortunately, our fight against the virus and syndrome is not limited to medicine — it also includes the prejudices and discrimination faced by millions of people all around the world. Until a cure is found for these evils, education and awareness will continue to be our best allies.

On this World AIDS Day, I would like to extend my very best wishes to all those who battle this disease with patience and determination.

Nothing from the Green Party or the prime minister.
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