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).