Did you know that it is possible to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa at absolutely no cost to the Canadian government or taxpayers?
This can be done. All that stands in the way is political will.
I would like to urge readers to support Bill C-398, which will come up for discussion in the House of Commons on Nov. 21.
This bill would cut through the governmental red tape that is obstructing the export of inexpensive generic drugs for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis to developing countries.
This is an urgent humanitarian and non-partisan issue.
In developing countries, only 40 per cent of persons needing HIV/AIDS drugs are receiving them. Half of children infected with AIDS die before their second birthday, and yet they would probably never have been infected had their mothers received the necessary medicines!
Unfortunately, the current system which promised to allow the export of life-saving drugs, called Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime or CAMR, is deeply flawed. In eight years, it has only been used once to export one shipment of drugs to Rwanda.
A bill to reform CAMR, similar to Bill C-398, was introduced last year by Paul Dewar. It passed in the House of Commons with support from members of every party, but was stalled in the Senate until the election was called, at which point it died on the table — a great disappointment to its supporters!
Now, we have a new bill, introduced by Helene Laverdiere of the NDP. Ms. Laverdiere promises to work hard to get agreement from all parties for this bill. But she needs our support.
In polls, 80 per cent of Canadians believe that inexpensive drugs should be available to the poor in developing countries. But we need to make our opinion heard.
Here are three ways to do that:
1. Come to the Our Hilltop to Parliament Hill event at the corner of Fifth Street and Duncan (by the Zen Zero parking lot) this Thursday at 1 p.m. We will rally there, hear from speakers, and listen to some great songs led by choirmaster Tina Filippino.
2. Support Bill C-398 by going online to www.medicinesforall.ca and send a message to members of the House of Commons. Your message will reach representatives of every party.
3. Write a letter to Prime Minister Harper and our MP, John Duncan, and let them know that it is high time to get behind Canadians in this effort and help pass Bill C-398.
Editor’s note: Barbara Baird is a member of GRAN (Grandmothers Advocacy Network).