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CMA Letter to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs regarding Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9110
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-02-19
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-02-19
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs concerning its study of Bill C-2 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). We will confine our comments to the portion of the proposed legislation that relates to impaired driving. Canada's physicians support measures aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-impaired driving. We believe impaired driving, whether by alcohol or another drug, to be an important public health issue for Canadians that requires action by all governments and other concerned groups. Published reports indicate that the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis is on the rise in Canada. We note that: * Results from the Canadian Addictions Survey suggest that 4% of the population have driven under the influence of cannabis in the past year, an increase from the 1.5% in 2003 and that rates are higher among young people.1 * It was estimated that in 2003, 27.45% of traffic fatalities involved alcohol, 9.15% involved alcohol and drugs, and 3.66% involved drugs alone while 13.71% of crash injuries involved only alcohol, 4.57% involved alcohol and drugs, and 1.83% involved drugs alone.2 * In a 2002 survey, 17.7% of drivers reported driving within 2 hours of using a prescribed medication, over-the-counter remedy, marijuana, or other illicit drug during the past 12 months. * These results suggest that an estimated 3.7 million Canadians drove after taking some medication or drug that could potentially affect their ability to drive safely. * The most common drugs used were over-the-counter medications (15.9%), prescription drugs (2.3%), marijuana (1.5%), and other illegal drugs (0.9%). * Young males were most likely to report using marijuana and other illegal drugs. * While 86% of the drivers were aware that a conviction for impaired driving results in a criminal record, 66% erroneously believed that the penalties for drug-impaired driving were less severe than those for alcohol-impaired driving. In fact, the penalties are identical. * Over 80% of drivers agreed that drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs should be required to participate in physical coordination testing for drug impairment. However, only about 70% of drivers agreed that all drivers involved in a serious collision or suspected of drug impairment should be required to provide a blood sample.3 The CMA has, on several occasions, provided detailed recommendations on legislative changes concerning impaired driving. In 1999, the CMA presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its review of the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code. While our 1999 brief focused primarily on driving under the influence of alcohol, many of the recommendations are also relevant to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. In June 2007, the CMA provided comments to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons during their study of Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts) which was later incorporated in the omnibus Bill now before your Committee. Last year, the CMA published the 7th edition of its guide, Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles. It includes chapters on the importance of screening for alcohol or drug dependency and states that the abuse of such substances is incompatible with the safe operation of a vehicle. This publication is widely viewed by clinical and medical-legal practitioners as the authoritative Canadian source on the topic of driver competence. While changing the Criminal Code is an important step, the CMA believes further actions are also warranted. In our 2002 presentation to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the CMA put forth our long standing position regarding the need for a comprehensive long-term effort that incorporates both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns. We believe such an approach, together with comprehensive treatment and cessation programs, constitutes the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. Drug-impaired drivers may be occasional users of drugs or they may also suffer from substance dependence, a well-recognized form of disease. Physicians should be assisted to screen for drug dependency, when indicated, using validated instruments. Government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions. Physicians can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to simply viewing it as criminal behaviour. While supporting the intent of the proposed legislation, the CMA urges caution on several significant issues, with regard to Clause 20 that amends the act as follows: 254.1 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations (a) respecting the qualifications and training of evaluating officers; (b) prescribing the physical coordination tests to be conducted under paragraph 254(2)(a); and (c) prescribing the tests to be conducted and procedures to be followed during an evaluation under subsection 254(3.1). CMA contends that it is important that medical professionals and addiction medicine specialists in particular, should be consulted regarding the training offered to officers to conduct roadside assessment and sample collection. Provisions in the Act conferring upon police the power to compel roadside examination raises the important issue of security of the person and the privacy of health information. As well, information obtained at the roadside is personal medical information and regulations must ensure that it be treated with the same degree of confidentiality as any other element of an individual's medical record. Thus, the CMA would respectfully submit that Clause 25 of Bill-C2 on the issue of unauthorized use or disclosure of the results needs to be strengthened because the wording is too broad, unduly infringes privacy and shows insufficient respect for the health information privacy interests at stake. For instance, clause 25(2) would permit the use, or allow the disclosure of the results "for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the law of a province". This latter phrase needs to be narrowed in its scope so that it would not, on its face, encompass such a broad category of laws. Moreover, clause 25(4) would allow the disclosure of the results "to any other person, if the results are made anonymous and the disclosure is made for statistical or other research purposes" CMA would expect the federal government to exercise great caution in this instance, particularly since the results could concern individuals who are not actually convicted of an offence. One should query whether the Clause 25(4) should even exist in a Criminal Code as it would not appear to be a matter required to be addressed. If it is, then CMA would ask the government to conduct a rigorous privacy impact assessment on these components of the Bill, studying in particular, such matters as sample size, degree of anonymity, and other privacy related issues, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the material. CMA would ask whether clause 25(5) should specify that the offence for improper use or disclosure should be more serious than a summary conviction. Finally, it is important to base any roadside testing methods and threshold decisions on robust biological and clinical research. CMA also notes with interest Clause 21, specifically the creation of a new offence of being "over 80" (referring to 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or a .08 blood alcohol concentration level or BAC) and causing an accident that results in bodily harm which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and life imprisonment for causing an accident resulting in death. (Clause 21) We would also urge the Committee to take the opportunity that the review of this proposed legislation provides to recommend to Parliament a lower BAC level. Since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canada.4 A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BAC.5 In our 1999 response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' issue paper on impaired driving6 and again in 2002 when we joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), CMA has consistently called for the federal government to reduce Canada's legal BAC to .05. Canada continues to lag behind countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany, which have set a lower legal limit. 7 CMA expressed the opinion that injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving must be recognized as a major public health concern. Therefore we once again recommend lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%. or .05%. We also wanted to note our support for Clause 23 which addresses the issue of liability by extending the existing umbrella of immunity for qualified medical practitioners to the new provision under 254(3.4) 23. Subsection 257(2) of the Act is replaced by the following: (2) No qualified medical practitioner by whom or under whose direction a sample of blood is taken from a person under subsection 254(3) or (3.4) or section 256, and no qualified technician acting under the direction of a qualified medical practitioner, incurs any criminal or civil liability for anything necessarily done with reasonable care and skill when taking the sample. Finally, CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate deterrent legislation, such as Bill C-2, must be accompanied by a public awareness and education strategy. This constitutes the most effective long-term approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports this multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle regardless of whether impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs. Again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the legislative proposal on drug-impaired driving. We stress that these legislative changes alone would not adequately address the issue of reducing injuries and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving, but support their intent as a partial, but important measure. Yours sincerely, Brian Day, MD President 1 Bedard, M, Dubois S, Weaver, B. The impact of cannabis on driving, Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol 98, 6-11, 2006 2 G. Mercer, Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2003 (Vancouver: Applied Research and Evaluation Services, 2005). 3 D. Beirness, H. Simpson and K. Desmond, The Road Safety Monitor 2002: Drugs and Driving (Ottawa: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2003). Online: www.trafficinjuryResearch.com/whatNew/newsItemPDFs/RSM_02_Drugs_and_ Driving.pdf 4 Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E. 5 Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13 6 Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (Impaired Driving): Response to Issue Paper of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. March 5, 1999 7 Mann et al
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Statement to the House of Commons Committee on Health addressing the opioid crisis in Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13936
Date
2016-10-18
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2016-10-18
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
Text
Thank you Mr. Chair. I am Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the Vice-President of Medical Professionalism for the Canadian Medical Association. On behalf of the CMA, let me first commend the committee for initiating an emergency study on this public health crisis in Canada. As the national organization representing over 83,000 Canadian physicians, the CMA has an instrumental role in collaborating with other health stakeholders, governments and patient organizations in addressing the opioid crisis in Canada. On behalf of Canada’s doctors, the CMA is deeply concerned with the escalating public health crisis related to problematic opioid and fentanyl use. Physicians are on the front lines in many respects. Doctors are responsible for supporting patients with the management of acute and chronic pain. Policy makers must recognize that prescription opioids are an essential tool in the alleviation of pain and suffering, particularly in palliative and cancer care. The CMA has long been concerned with the harms associated with opioid use. In fact, we appeared before this committee as part of its 2013 study on the government’s role in addressing prescription drug abuse. At that time, we made a number of recommendations on the government’s role – some of which I will reiterate today. Since then, the CMA has taken numerous actions to contribute to Canada’s response to the opioid crisis. These actions have included advancing the physician perspective in all active government consultations. In addition to the 2013 study by the health committee, we have also participated in the 2014 ministerial roundtable and recent regulatory consultations led by Health Canada — specifically, on tamper resistant technology for drugs and delisting of naloxone for the prevention of overdose deaths in the community. 3 Our other actions have included: · Undertaking physician polling to better understand physician experiences with prescribing opioids; · Developing and disseminating new policy on addressing the harms associated with opioids; · Supporting the development of continuing medical education resources and tools for physicians; · Supporting the national prescription drug drop off days; and, · Hosting a physician education session as part of our annual meeting in 2015. Further, I’m pleased to report that the CMA has recently joined the Executive Council of the First Do No Harm strategy, coordinated by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. In addition, we have joined 7 leading stakeholders as part of a consortium formed this year to collaborate on addressing the issue from a medical standpoint. I will now turn to the CMA’s recommendations for the committee’s consideration. These are grouped in four major theme areas. 1) Harm Reduction The first of them is harm reduction. Addiction should be recognized and treated as a serious, chronic and relapsing medical condition for which there are effective treatments. Despite the fact that there is broad recognition that we are in a public health crisis, the focus of the federal National Anti-Drug Strategy is heavily skewed towards a criminal justice approach rather than a public health approach. In its current form, this strategy does not significantly address the determinants of drug use, treat addictions, or reduce the harms associated with drug use. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government review the National Anti-Drug Strategy to reinstate harm reduction as a core pillar. Supervised consumption sites are an important part of a harm reduction program that must be considered in an overall strategy to address harms from opioids. The availability of supervised consumption sites is still highly limited in Canada. The CMA maintains its concerns that the new criteria established by the Respect for Communities Act are overly burdensome and deter the establishment of new sites. 4 As such, the CMA continues to recommend that the act be repealed or at the least, significantly amended. 2) Expanding Pain Management and Addiction Treatment The second theme area I will raise is the need to expand treatment options and services. Treatment options and services for both addiction as well as pain management are woefully under-resourced in Canada. This includes substitution treatments such as buprenorphine-naloxone as well as services that help patients taper off opioids or counsel them with cognitive behavioural therapy. Availability and access of these critical resources varies by jurisdiction and region. The federal government should prioritize the expansion of these services. The CMA recommends that the federal government deliver additional funding on an emergency basis to significantly expand the availability and access to addiction treatment and pain management services. 3) Investing in Prescriber and Patient Education The third theme I will raise for the committee’s consideration is the need for greater investment in both prescriber as well as patient education resources. For prescribers, this includes continuing education modules as well as training curricula. We need to ensure the availability of unbiased and evidenced-based educational programs in opioid prescribing, pain management and in the management of addictions. Further, support for the development of educational tools and resources based on the new clinical guidelines to be released in early 2017 will have an important role. Finally, patient and public education on the harms associated with opioid usage is critical. As such, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver new funding to support the availability and provision of education and training resources for prescribers, patients and the public. 4) Establishing a Real-time Prescription Monitoring Program Finally, to support optimal prescribing, it is critical that prescribers be provided with access to a real-time prescription monitoring program. 5 Such a program would allow physicians to review a patient’s prescription history from multiple health services prior to prescribing. Real-time prescription monitoring is currently only available in two jurisdictions in Canada. Before closing, I must emphasize that the negative impacts associated with prescription opioids represent a complex issue that will require a multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder response. A key challenge for public policy makers and prescribers is to mitigate the harms associated with prescription opioid use, without negatively affecting patient access to the appropriate treatment for their clinical conditions. To quote a past CMA president: “the unfortunate reality is that there is no silver bullet solution and no one group or government can address this issue alone”. The CMA is committed to being part of the solution. Thank you.
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