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  Dying Children Deserve an Answer from Parliament
  28 มกราคม 2554

Date: 28 January 2011


When Parliament resumes on Monday, an important piece of legislation will be centre stage in the effort to reform Canada`s (broken) Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) -- and the urgent fight to keep people from dying of treatable diseases in developing countries? The debate on Bill C-393 will touch on a number of issues that reach beyond the modest and sensible proposals contained in the legislation. These include restoring Canada`s international reputation and our commitment to eradicating diseases such as AIDS.

But the debate is also expected to highlight a weakness in Canada`s democratic process.

Bill C-393 will make it easier to send affordable, life-saving generic medicines to developing countries. CAMR, which passed with unanimous consent in 2004, is currently all tied up in red tape. High hopes were raised when CAMR was passed, but the legislation in practice is an abysmal failure. Only a single licence was issued to supply a single medicine to a single country (Rwanda). Neither generic drug manufacturers in Canada nor countries in desperate need of medicines are able to use it effectively. Thus people continue to suffer and die.

Bill C-393 will cut this red tape and make it easier for generic pharmaceutical companies to get a licence to produce and sell to developing countries a generic version of a brand-name drug. They will also pay a royalty to the brand-name pharmaceutical company. Everyone wins.

But the fate of the bill may not rest on logical arguments. Bill C-393, incredibly, may die on a procedural technicality and the unwillingness of a few MPs to respect the spirit of parliamentary democracy.

Herein lies the rub: Because the MP who originally introduced Bill C-393 is no longer in the House, the bill will need a new sponsor in order to be brought to a final vote. Incredibly, making this minor procedural change requires unanimous support in the House. The NDP, Liberals and Bloc Qu?b?cois have all committed to consent to a new sponsor. But the Conservatives have not. This procedure has been done on numerous occasions before -- and Prime Minister Harper was once extended this very same courtesy. Given statements by some Conservative MPs, there are real concerns that the government will block a motion to accept a new sponsor for Bill C-393.

Eighty percent of Canadians support fixing CAMR, as do dozens of civil society groups and an ever-growing list of prominent Canadians. Parliamentarians deserve a vote on this important bill and Canadians deserve to see this issue resolved democratically. MPs must do the honourable thing and give unanimous consent. Lives are hanging in the balance.


Keywords: Children / AIDS / Canada