|Lindane and Inuit Circumpolar
37th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
Standing Committee on Health
Monday, May 6, 2002
Mr. Terry Fenge (Inuit Circumpolar Conference)
In 1997 the Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report
concluded that about 15% to 20% of Inuit women living in southern Baffin
Island exceeded the tolerable daily intake of Lindane, a pesticide with unknown
but worrying health implications. Lindane was first registered in this country
for use in 1938. At the time it was being used in Canada, it was similarly being
addressed in the international negotiations I've briefly mentioned.
Both Stephanie and I attended those negotiations, at the back of the
room observing the work done by the Canadian delegation at the front of the
room. Both the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the Department of Indian
Affairs and Northern Development were members--sister agencies, if you will--of
the Government of Canada's negotiating team in Geneva when these negotiations
were taking place. DIAND asked PMRA for the public health assessment of Lindane--key
information Canada needed to justify its initial position in the international
negotiations that Lindane not be included in the international convention. The
request was refused.
Now, please, appreciate this. You have two federal agencies, if I may
use the term broadly, on the same Government of Canada negotiating team unable
to exchange information when the substances that were being addressed were
actually being negotiated on the floor. It was I think an absurd situation.
The ICC approached Mr. Rock, the Minister of Health at the time, and he
subsequently refused access for us to this information. That of course was the
correspondence I was seeking to provide you. At this time, 1998, the Minister of
Health was in an invidious position. He refused to give Inuit basic information
about risks to their health, commenting that this information was proprietary,
owned by industry. This is still where the matter stands today. We continue to
be unable to get the public health assessment of this substance. In essence,
that's why we're appearing before you today.
We Inuit have no interest whatsoever in obtaining trade secrets or
commercially important information. We wouldn't know what to do with it if we
got it. But we see absolutely no reason why information about health risks to
Inuit and to all Canadians should be withheld.
We would like to pose a few questions, or perhaps seek to have you
answer some of these questions. Will Bill C-53 prevent a repetition of the
Lindane incident? Does clause 4 in conjunction with subclauses 42(1) and 42(2)
ensure that ICC Canada's experience on Lindane is a thing of the past?
We of course have been through the bill--it's a lengthy and complex
statute--and we're unsure of the answer to the question we pose to you. The
answer to this seems to revolve in part around the definition of
"confidential business information" that's included in the bill, and
the ability of applicants to determine what information is confidential for
business purposes and whether and how the public gains access to information on
the proposed register.
Sales data and applications rates, for example, may very well be deemed
confidential by an applicant and supported by PMRA, but that's important
information for us, because it would give an indication of long-range deposition
rates in the Arctic.
How can we get around this in light of the commendable principles in
the preamble to the bill that talk about public health and environmental
security? We suggest in essence adding another preamble or clause that would
enshrine a basic principle: that the minister shall ensure that the public
enjoys easy and timely access to pesticide-related public health information
provided to the government by an applicant.
I don't think we want to rely solely and only on in essence the
bureaucratic procedures and processes that are defined and outlined in the bill.
We'd like those procedures and processes to be backed up by a basic principle,
the principle I just enunciated.