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SPECIAL UPDATE: Canadian Bill STILL Poses a Threat to Natural Health Consumers

C-51, C-52, Canada, Tony Clements, law, vitamins, supplements, natural health products, NHP, safetyBill C-51 was debated during second reading, the week ending June 13, 2008, at which time the Canadian government introduced amendments to the bill.

According to the draft discussion paper on the amendments to C-51, written by Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley for the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA), the amendments presented by Tony Clement on June 9, 2008 are far from satisfactory, and do little, if nothing, to protect the natural health community and users of natural health products.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I previously commented on an article from the Vancouver Sun on July 19, stating that natural health advocates had defeated a government power-grab, forcing Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement to amend his proposed bill, C-51, which amends and updates the Canadian Food and Drugs Act.  

This bill was fraught with language that could pose serious threats to the natural health industry, not just in Canada, but potentially in the U.S. as well due to Codex and the potential future implementation of the North American Union (NAU). (For more on Codex and the NAU, please read my first article on C-51.)

Fortunately, I have many well-informed readers who are not shy to tell me when I’ve missed something, which was exactly the case here, and it appears I was overly optimistic in my last comment.

After further review of information gleaned from readers well-versed on the topic, both bill C-51 and bill C-52 are still poised to wreak havoc with the natural health industry.

As Wendell Phillips said:

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity. 

Wendell Phillips, speech in Boston, Massachusetts, January 28, 1852

Not much has changed in the past 150 years, and eternal vigilance against government corruption still needs to be at the top of everyone’s list today.

Why Amended Version of C-51 Still Poses Threat to Natural Health Industry

Bill C-51 was debated during second reading, the week ending June 13, 2008, at which time the Canadian government introduced amendments to the bill. I initially reported that Mr. Clement had listened to the natural health community’s concerns and that these amendments would solve the problems created by the bill. However, I stand corrected, as that is NOT the case.

According to the draft discussion paper on the amendments to C-51, written by Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley for the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA), the amendments presented by Tony Clement on June 9, 2008 are far from satisfactory, and do nothing to protect the natural health community and users of natural health products.

Concerned Canadians and Americans want the bill (and its successor, bill C-52) scrapped completely, as either bill accomplish nothing in terms of protecting consumers, but increases government power to remove products, and destroy natural health businesses more or less at will.

One key amendment was to give Natural Health Products (NHPs) its own category.  However, this change actually amounts to nothing at all in practice, as merely changing their definition does not by itself change how they’re regulated.

 In fact, rather than creating a third category that is distinct from the drug category, the amendments actually entrenches NHPs further, as a subset under the drug category, which does nothing to protect or increase access to NHPs.

Unfortunately, mainstream media have erroneously conveyed this “third category” as being distinctly separate from drugs – which is what natural health advocates wanted – but that is definitely not the case.

Whether it’s a mistake based on ignorance or more malicious misdirection is up for debate, but it played a hand in my previous, faulty conclusion that the natural health industry had accomplished at least a partial victory.

In essence, if bill C-51 were to pass in its amended form, nothing will have changed to offer NHPs any more protection than before. However, OTHER provisions of C-51 will allow for things like:

  • Making it an offence for a Natural Health Practitioner to continue treating patients with a treatment if an Inspector tells them not to, as Inspectors are permitted to make health decisions
  • Inspectors are given unprecedented powers of search and seizure without court supervision
  • Penalties originally designed for large pharmaceutical companies can now be imposed on Natural Health Practitioners and NHP manufacturers, distributors and retailers, few of which would likely survive the financial ramifications of prosecution
  • Treaties and laws of other countries or international bodies can be adopted as Canadian law by simple regulation, without approval from the Parliament

None of the amendments put forth address, nor incorporate, any of the concerns initially raised by the natural health industry.

Regardless of what the government pronounces to be the INTENT of the law, if it’s not spelled out clearly, the law is guaranteed to mean exactly what it states, which means that C-51, even in its amended form, does nothing to protect NHPs from overzealous regulation.

In fact, C-51 in its amended form may actually be WORSE for the natural health community than the original!

Another item causing alarm in the natural health community is the new definition of what a natural health product actually is.

Proposed in Clause 3, Page 6 of the amendment is the new definition of a natural health product, now defined as any plant or plant product and any non-human animal product that affects your health and function. This means food can be regulated as a “natural health product” as well, which STILL falls under the category of DRUGS in the amended bill.

The Natural Health Product industry is adamant that the only workable and agreeable regulations are those that protect NHPs from drug governing legislation.

As of July 19, Parliament Members Steven Fletcher, Mark Inky and Vic Toews are pro C-51. Judy Wasylycia- Leis is against. This link shows where the Canadian MPs stand on this issue as of July 19, and also includes phone numbers to all members. 

Renewed and Increased Concerns About Codex Harmonization

The Canadian government has been an active party to Codex, supporting the direction of the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s nutrition committee, which develops the international guidelines and standards on ‘safe’ nutrient levels, based on the misapplication of scientific risk assessment to nutrients.

Both the original and the amended bill have renewed concerns about how C-51 may help usher in the dreaded Codex regulations, as it appears the bill will make a “confidential” agreement of dubious legality for cross-Atlantic regulations legal.

Mr. Clement attempted to calm these concerns by introducing some accountability into the amended C-51, changing the word “may” to “shall” in C-51’s section 20.4, turning the sentence into “the Minister shall establish, committees for seeking advice on complex issues of science in medicine.

However, unless those committees are independently picked, and open to public scrutiny, and unless the results are debated in the Canadian Parliament, this proposed amendment does not at all protect against cherry-picking of suitable industry yes-men. In fact, in the provisions in C-51, industry is included among those the Minister may pick from for advisory committees. Since that is the very industry being regulated, the provisions leave the door wide open for yet another age-old fox-guarding-the-hen-house-kind of scenario.

Additionally, since Canada, the United States and Mexico are set to 'unite' under the NAFTA trade treaty, the 'codes and regulations' will likely be standardized between the three countries, effectively shuffling any decisions made on C-51 (and C-52) in Canada over the border into the U.S., sooner or later.

Why are Some “Natural Health Advocates” Endorsing C-51?

It’s an unfortunate truth that many of your so-called Natural Health “Advocates” are in fact working for Big Pharma’s benefit… not for yours.

Just as the Natural Products Association and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) have been instrumental in forcing drug-like rules on dietary supplements in the United States, most of the vitamin trade associations, including the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), are heavily controlled by industry. In essence being the voice of government within the industry, rather than the voice of industry to the government.

These large companies actually benefit from increased regulatory hurdles because it helps them squelch smaller competitors (who, by the way, often offer you better quality goods and services).

As an example, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) in the U.S. has been taken over by multinational drug and food companies. Key players include the nutritional divisions of:

  • Bayer
  • BASF
  • Cargill
  • Monsanto
  • Wyeth
  • Archer Daniels Midland

Not exactly the most nutritionally responsible group imaginable…

Nutritional companies that participate in the CRN are in most cases owned by pharmaceutical companies, or are heavily invested in pharmaceutical companies. These include well-known names like:

  • Mannatech
  • Shaklee
  • Herbalife
  • GNLD International
  • The Vitamin Shoppe
  • GNC

These large nutritional companies, who have pharmaceutical industry ties, are more than happy to promote legislation that helps eliminate competition from small companies and start up ventures.

Likewise, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) represents a federal mandate.

As Nutri-Net Canada, the CHFA is the legal agent and overseer of joint activities for the development of a national vision, strategy, and the development of operational plans for the entire Functional Foods and Natural Health Products Industry. Part of that strategy is to define the scope of the industry.

The CHFA has been involved in the development, and the subsequent amendments, of Bill C-51 all along, and is charged with the responsibility to encourage and facilitate regulatory compliance. It’s difficult to ignore the breadcrumbs leading right back to Big Pharma, no matter which way you look at it.

The Natural Health Practitioners of Canada similarly issued a somewhat flimsy NHPC member advisory on C-51, indicating that C-51 would likely not affect its members negatively.

What’s the Current Status of C-51?

Despite some reports to the contrary – including an article from the British Alliance for Natural Health, who erroneously reported that C-51 was killed and the matter closed as of June 20 – bill C-51is still alive and kicking. 

The Canadian Parliament is now in recess until October. When they return, they will likely push C-51 through additional readings unless the public opposition is heard loud and crystal clear.

This may pose a dilemma, as October is two months away, and even adults these days have the attention span of gnats. In the end it is up to you to continue expressing your opposition to C-51. If you believe that C-51 is a law that is not in your and your family’s best interest, you can make your voice heard by signing the StopC51 petition.

Watch Out! C-52 May Be Even Worse, and Could Usher in C-51 by Proxy if Passed

It appears C-51 is so valuable to its intended benefactors that another current bill may have a built-in rescue hatch, just in case C-51 can’t make it into law on its own merit.

Enter big brother: bill C-52, which amends and updates the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

In his Draft Discussion Paper on Bill C-52 and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley warns that bill C-52 – although it does not specifically target natural health products – could set a precedent where Canadians will learn to accept removal of their rights in the name of product safety.

C-52 removes a number of civil rights, including abolishing the law of trespass. C-52 also grants the state the right to seize property without court order or without even reporting the seizure to a court for an indefinite period, and gives the state the right to assume control over movement of private property without court order and without concern for safety, just to name a few of the heinous inclusions in this bill.

According to Mr. Buckley, the bill goes so far as to permitting the state to take control of business and private property for trivial violations of the Act or Regulations, even if those violations do not in any way pose a safety problem.

Additionally, if bill C-51 is defeated but bill C-52 passes, bill C-52 could be made applicable to Natural Health Products by way of a regulatory amendment to Schedule I of bill C-52! Put simply, C-52 could then be used to take away Natural Health Products in the name of safety.

Bill C-52 has already been through second reading and only needs one more reading to go through the House of Commons and be sent to the Senate.

+ Sources and References