Clement calls natural-health claim "absurd"

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      Minister defends a bill proposing tough regulations and policing for the industry.

      Health Minister Tony Clement has struck back at claims by lawyer Shawn Buckley in last week’s Georgia Straight that his proposed regulations in Bill C-51 would result in a Canada-wide death toll of “tens of thousands” or more.

      “It’s absurd, it really is,” Clement told the Straight by phone on June 9. “We can disagree on public policy, but to use that kind of language is really over the top and regrettable.”

      Buckley, a Kamloops-based constitutional lawyer, spoke at a June 2 downtown event organized by the Health Action Network Society in opposition to Clement’s health bill before the House of Commons.

      During his speech, Buckley—also president of a group called the Natural Health Products Protection Association—claimed that Clement’s bill would result in more natural health products (or NHPs) being regulated off the market due to strict licensing and labelling laws as well as more stringent policing of the industry and greater Health Canada enforcement powers.

      And if people relying on an NHP cannot acquire it, Buckley said, they could become suicidal or move on to pharmaceutical drugs, which carry a potentially lethal risk. For that reason, Buckley and the Health Action Network Society are asking that Bill C-51 be abolished.

      Clement rejected the notion of multiple deaths. “I am not going to delve into the gutter with that kind of language,” he said of Buckley’s projections. “The last refuge of scoundrels is to accuse your opponents of genocide or of murdering people, right? That’s what you do when you are losing an argument based on facts. So I am not really concerned about it. In politics I long ago learned that sticks and stones are a lot worse than some of the rhetoric that is used by the other side.”

      Speaking by phone June 10, Buckley said he stood by his original estimate, noting: “The real question is, was I being too conservative? I think it could be in the hundreds of thousands. Think about it. If we eliminate this [NHP] industry and force people on to chemical pharmaceutical drugs, we are forcing them into treatment with a risk profile that is just off the charts by comparison.”

      Added Buckley: “It has dawned into our consciousness that the second-leading cause of death in Canada is taking pharmaceutical drugs as directed.”¦We are in a position where we are forcing a large amount of people to take chemical pharmaceutical drugs. Why is it so hard to believe that the deaths will be in the tens of thousands or higher?”

      Victoria-based Skeptic magazine staff writer Daniel Loxton responded to this question. “On the face of it, tens of thousands of deaths is an extraordinary claim,” he told the Straight. “More than that, I find the source of the quote suspicious. Stopc51.com [an anti-C-51 Web site] is at its root this Alberta company called Truehope [Nutritional Support Ltd.], who makes EMPowerPlus. Shawn Buckley used to represent them. I ultimately look at that as Truehope again. And as for the Natural Health Products Protection Association, I am still uncertain as to who those guys are. Their Web site just sprung up in February, brand new, and I have written to them to ask who their directors are and have not heard back.”

      People identifying themselves as being from Truehope attended the June 2 meeting. When asked if he was in a conflict of interest, Buckley answered, “What do you mean?”

      “Conflict of interest is a strong word,” he said. “Bias would be more appropriate, don’t you think? They [Truehope representatives] were there because they have a very strong interest. Their concern is that they are in the same boat they were in last time. If Health Canada moves to shut them down, they are in a situation where people that they are supporting are going to commit suicide. That hasn’t changed. So, EMPowerPlus does not cure bipolar, but it treats bipolar. So if you take the EMPowerPlus away, your bipolar comes back.”

      On Thursday, June 12, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Health Canada has scheduled a “stakeholders” meeting at the Executive Hotel and Conference Centre Burnaby (4201 Lougheed Highway).

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      2 Comments

      westvandude

      Jun 13, 2008 at 9:45am

      Oh....isn't that great.... this article is put online June 12th and at the bottom it says "On Thursday, June 12, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Health Canada has scheduled a “stakeholders” meeting...."

      Every single time Health Canada has a stakeholder meeting they give less than 24hrs notice and none of the stakeholders I know knew about this.

      How convenient. It speaks loads to how Mr. Clement is taking ZERO input from the NHP industry.

      To me it looks like Mr. Clement is absurd.

      Even the NHPD guidelines are breaking the backs of NHP manufacturers. Adding finished product contamination testing for every batch, piles of red-tape paperwork..... on 25% markup products. A HUGE price increase is coming from most manufacturers to deal with this stifling beaurocracy.

      Bill C-51 should be abolished. The sooner the better. Why don't we get rid of the Health Minister while we're at it as he obviously doesn't have a clue.

      It seems rather obvious that Mr. Clement hasn't even read the Bill. If he had he wouldn't be making the comments he has. All of the legal briefs on this Bill point out VERY serious flaws that take away our freedom and go against the charter of rights and freedoms in this country. If it does go into law I can't wait for a Federal Court judge to strike it down.

      RationalThought

      Nov 25, 2010 at 12:06pm

      Do you even know what you're talking about westvandude? Have *YOU* read the bill? If you want to make claims about stripping away of freedoms then would you care to point out exactly which parts of the bill reduce any freedoms?

      In this country we have some of the most qualified professionals who make recommendations about testing. You live in a country where the water you drink goes through strict testing. That is luxury that many places do not have. We should be so happy that a regulatory body investigates the claims of all things we put into our bodies.

      If natural health products were about providing safe and cheap products to people those companies would do those things on their own, but they don't. Instead they mark up the price ridiculously, increasing the costs and then claim it is because of the guidelines. The manufacturers of those products are doing so to punish you, the consumer, for not fighting so they can have less regulation!

      These "Natural Health" companies could care less about people. No more than tobacco companies or most companies for that matter. They are multi-billion dollar enterprises that are concerned only with money. Putting the world "natural" on something doesn't make it wholesome. These regulations would protect us, as consumers, from being taken advantage of by them. I would no less want these regulations applied to any other companies that may also harm us.

      This isn't about freedom. This is about regulation to save lives. People should have the choice to take what they want, even if it means the product is inert or doesn't work. That doesn't mean that people don't deserve the FACTS behind those products.

      People are much smarter than these Natural Health companies give them credit for and it's time that people fought back.