Project Complete

This project is completed but we will keep this page up as a record of our work on this bill.

Update 2

The Standing Committee on Health has sent Vanessa’s Law to third reading with the exemption for natural health products left untouched. Happily, though, amendments were added to require disclosure of clinical trials and open opportunities for greater transparency!

Despite bringing a lot of attention to NHPs in the hearings, of which there were only two for the public, ultimately the ministers failed to find the courage to do what is best for Canadians and opted to avoid opposition to the bill by giving in to the NHP lobby.

Bill C-17 can’t be amended further at this stage, but there is still work to be done once the bill passes and public consultations begin on the details of its implementation.

Update 1

As of June 9, 2014, it is obvious that our efforts are starting to have an impact.  The bill went to committee on June 5th, and after strong statements from the Liberal and NDP members on the committee, it was clear that our message of concern over the exclusion of Natural Health Products from the bill as well as the need to disclose clinical trials has been met with strong support from some.

Details of that first committee day that saw the faltering of Minister of Health Rona Ambrose and her witnesses can be found in our email update from June 6th 2014.

Brief to the Standing Committee on Health on Bill C-17

Our brief is available to download in both English and French versions:

Brief to HOC HESA on Bill C-17

Présentation d’un Document au CDC HESA sur Projet de Loi C-17


At the end of 2013, the Harper Government introduced Bill C-17, “An Act To Amend the Food and Drug Act” dubbing it the “Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act”. The bill was also called “Vanessa’s Law” after the daughter of Oakville, Ontario M.P., Terence Young. Mr. Young lost his daughter due to a fatal drug reaction in 2000, and this bill is meant to bring the Canadian Food and Drug act up to international standards in order to improve patient safety. Among others, the bill introduces the following amendments to the Food and Drug Act:

  • Mandatory recall powers
  • Increasing maximum fines from to $5,000,000 from the current $5,000
  • Powers to compel companies to do post-market research
  • Make adverse events reporting mandatory for health care facilities like hospitals

All of these powers are a welcome update to the Act, however there is one very worrisome caveat: natural health products are specifically excluded from this update. According to the bill, in section (3) paragraph 1, a therapeutic product is defined as:

“a drug or device or any combination of drugs and devices, but does not include a natural health product within the meaning of the Natural Health Products Regulations;”

If C-17 is passed with this definition, the Minister has the power to recall a tainted drug, but not, for example, a heavy-metal laden herbal preparation. It will be mandatory to report adverse reactions from “medical devices” like band-aids, but not for pseudoephedrine decongestants like 12-hour Sudafed, which is an NHP. We think this is a serious oversight. As the same time, this is an excellent opportunity to have language introduced into the Food and Drug Act that would establish a comprehensive “all trials” database that would force pharmaceutical companies to disclose all clinical trial data for an approved drug. Bad Science Watch is a signatory to the All Trials campaign petition in support of the establishment of registries like this across the globe.

Project Goals

  1. To have Bill C-17’s patient safety measures apply equally to all health care products.
  2. To have language included that would establish an “all trials” registry in Canada for clinical trial data.

Project Committee

Jamie Williams (Project Leader)

Jamie is a Software Developer in Vancouver, BC. Since he moved to Canada in 2007 he has been heavily involved in a number of science advocacy organizations and is an experienced organizer and volunteer manager. Jamie’s work for Bad Science Watch is motivated by a desire to improve the lives of his family, friends, and community through better policy and regulation in the areas of health and the environment. He aims to see Bad Science Watch set new standards of professionalism and effectiveness for activism countering bad science.

Anne Paling B.Sc. (Assistant Project Leader)

Anne is an environmental technologist based out of Vancouver. She holds a Bachelor of Science with a specialization in Environmental Science from University of Ottawa. She came to Bad Science Watch because of her dedication to evidence based decision making and love of helping the general public better understand science.

Kristen Simkus, B.Sc. MPH

Kristen is an epidemiologist and independent public health researcher based out of Ottawa, Ontario with a passion for evidence-based policy and sound science advocacy. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science with Specialization in Immunology and Infection from the University of Alberta, a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Manchester, and brings to Bad Science Watch 6 years of work experience in government, public health, health promotion, epidemiology, and surveillance. Although she specializes in literature reviews, immunization research and infectious disease, Kristen finds nothing more fulfilling than collaborating with experts to explore creative and effective ways to improve and protect health.

Michael Vesker M.Sc.

Michael studied biochemistry and biology for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both at York University in Toronto, Canada. His graduate specialization in vision research led him to his current pursuit of a doctorate in developmental child psychology at the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany.

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