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Letter: Further regulating natural health products unnecessary

Letter writer urges readers to back Blaine Caulkins’ Bill C-368

Do you take vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines and probiotics? Maybe you take traditional Chinese medicines or Indigenous medicines. If so, you are one of the approximately 70 per cent of Canadians who take natural health products.

In 1997, citizens of Canada supported a lawsuit to stop natural health products (NHPs) being regulated the same as chemical drugs. Then Health Minister Allan Rock issued a statement saying, “As a government, we must respect and allow room for Canadians’ freedom of choice when it comes to natural health products. Canadians should have the broadest range of options available to them.”

Mr. Rock asked the Standing Committee on Health to conduct a thorough review. They were tasked with finding the right balance between freedom of choice and the safety of consumers.

The committee looked at submissions from over 1,000 experts and concerned citizens. The government, in the end, accepted all 53 recommendations made by the committee. These recommendations were the basis of what established the Natural Health Product Regulations.

It is very important to note that there was agreement by the government, the Standing Committee on Health, the natural health products industry and consumers, that NHPs should not be regulated like chemical drugs nor should the standards of evidence used for chemical drugs be used for NHPs.

It is also important to note that there was a majority Chretien (Liberal) government at this time so the committee would have been made up of, primarily, Liberals.

Natural health products have now been targeted by the federal government’s Budget Implementation Act, formerly Bill C-47, sections 500 to 504, for reassignment into the therapeutic products category, alongside chemical drugs. This poses significant risk to the availability and cost of NHPs.

This is the same government which allowed B.C. to decriminalize hard drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

Health Canada’s 2019 summary report shows that only 3.8 per cent of the 96,000-plus adverse reactions, were related to the natural health sector.

The NHP industry is a $3 billion business, employs 54,000 Canadians and generates $150 million in GST revenue, annually. It is an important industry in, and of, itself.

The endeavour to house natural health products in the therapeutics category would be a devastating blow, both for the people who choose to use NHPs and the practitioners who supply them. It would lead to fewer natural health products being available, increase prices significantly, and could, eventually, lead to a complete disintegration of the industry, with small, independent businesses being forced to close their doors due to the federal government’s assault on this industry.

Fortunately, Red Deer - Lacombe Member of Parliament Blaine Caulkins introduced Bill C-368, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (natural health products). This bill aims to have sections 500-504 removed from the Budget Implementation Act. At it’s second reading, it had secured the support of the Progressive Conservatives, the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois.

Peter Julian, NDP MP New Westminster-Burnaby, B.C. said, “the reality is that we have a very robust natural health product sector that is carefully regulated in a way that ensure that the products are of good quality.”

Luc Theriault, Bloc Quebecois MP Montcalm, QC stated, “The government is being sneaky about (Bill C-47); that is the worst part. . . The government introduced this provision under the radar, in an annex to budget 2023, in Bill C-47.”

And Blaine Caulkins, himself, pointed out that, “(In 2021), the Auditor General’s (AG) report came out. The AG was very critical of Health Canada’s ability to properly manage certain aspects of the natural health product regime, particularly when it came to looking at post-market monitoring, testing samples of the products that were on the shelves and so on.

Most importantly, in that report, the AG took the strange step of actually taking 75 products. These were not random products off the shelf in Canada; these were 75 products that were deemed problematic from the beginning. The AG used that for a false narrative that somehow natural health products in Canada are unsafe. I can assure everyone that this is simply not true, but Health Canada, nonetheless, is using this information to claim that it needs the powers under Vanessa’s Law.”

Vanessa’s Law was legislated after Vanessa Young, 15, died from a heart attack caused by taking the prescription drug, Prepulsid. That legislation set standards for prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vaccines, gene therapies, cells, tissues and organs, and medical devices. NHPs were not a part of this legislation.

If you are one of the 70-plus per cent of Canadians who use NHPs every day, please consider sending your support for Blaine Caulkins’ Bill C-368, to have sections 500 to 504 of the Budget Implementation Acts repealed.

A good resource to read more about this is the Natural Health Product Protection Agency website –

Deanne Trewin,


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