November 11, 2003
Unfinished parliamentary business:
(October 31, 2003 – Ottawa) – Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSC) today called for the government to give parliamentary priority to making the necessary changes to Canadian law to allow Canada to ratify and implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
“Rumours that the House may prorogue for a number of weeks add to our concerns that an important piece of parliamentary business has not only been left unfinished, but has not yet even begun,” said Dr. Atul Kapur, president of PSC.
Eight months have passed since the end of treaty negotiations with no apparent action by government to bring Canada into conformity with FCTC provisions and allow Canada to ratify the treaty,” he pointed out. “Because 40 nations must ratify this treaty before it can come into effect, any delay on Canada’s part could risk holding back the other nations in achieving better global protection against tobacco industry practice.”
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was negotiated through the World Health Organization between October 2000 and February 2003. It was approved by the WHO’s governing body in May this year. Seventy-seven countries (including Canada) have signed the treaty, and three (Norway, Sri Lanka and Fiji) have ratified it.
The FCTC calls for new national and international measures to curb tobacco use in areas such as smuggling, taxation, tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, health warnings on tobacco packaging, product regulation and prevention and cessation programs. The Canadian government was widely acknowledged as a leader in the development of the treaty.
“Early hopes that Parliament would be given the opportunity this fall to ratify the FCTC have now faded,” said Dr. Kapur, an emergency physician at the Ottawa Hospital. “The government has not tabled the changes it considers necessary for ratification, nor even circulated draft legislation to expedite legislative development.”
“We hope the government will move quickly to ratify the FCTC, and hope it will then ensure it goes further than meeting the minimal standards for ratification,” said Dr. Kapur. “The government could help improve global public health and the health of Canadians by working for a higher standard of implementation than the minimal requirements that it may currently be envisioning for ratification.”
To illustrate this higher standard, Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada today released its own proposals for legislative amendments in the form of a draft bill, An Act to Implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“The draft bill includes all of the key elements of the tobacco treaty,” outlined Dr. Kapur. “Passage of this bill would accelerate Canada’s implementation of the new treaty by improving Canada’s ban on tobacco promotions, requiring all tobacco products to display health warning messages and supporting international tobacco control initiatives.”
If the government fails to introduce its own legislation in the near future, PSC will seek the support of one or more Members of Parliament to have this bill introduced as a private member’s bill.
Press release with Backgrounder (in pdf)
More information on FCTC