Does Health Canada Have a Sense of Humour?
I've been wanting to read up on Bill C-51 for some time. It's probably the only Harperite legislation I've liked. Basically it regulates the "Natural Health Product" (NHP) field; which is so described because chewing willow bark is presumably much more natural than taking an Aspirin made from the same willow bark, I guess.
There's been some reaction, including street protests in Hometown--which is ridiculous. Except that as a semi-hippie-ish community we have plenty of practicioners of woo* here. Rumours are rife that C-51 will require you to get a permit to give your kids vitamin tablets, ban chiropractors, and cause a variety of other unpleasantnesses. Including, critically, the idea that such treatments will fall from the "approved" list on our single-payer health care system, and from various private plans.
I tend to sneer at alternative and complimentary medicine. But I also don't deny that what makes us feel good makes us feel good. I visit a chiropractor myself, when my back hurts, and I feel there's some benefit. So if they're going to force me to pay full freight for my own bonecracker appointments, I figured I'd like to find out what the Bill is actually proposing.
First, I should point out that the stated reason for the new regs seems specious to me. The site waffles on about the poisonous toothpaste business (where South African tubes labelled "Colgate" and "Made in China" made it onto shelves). But really I think the two central points were to enable the responsible ministry actually to enforce consumer product recalls instead of just issuing warnings, and to regulate the increasing flood of NHPs
Basically, it comes down to two things. C-51 would:
1) Make sure NHPs had a list of ingredients on the label, and conversely, enforce a rule that what's on the label is in fact what's in the bottle.
2) Make sure that claims of efficacy were scientifically backed.
In other word, it would essentially hold NHPs to a standard of proof roughly comparable to that required to sell anything else to the public, from furniture to forks. Which only makes sense. After all, would you go for laetrile therapy, knowing that's it's not just garbage but actually harmful? Yet there are places where it's still touted as a cancer cure, in the face of the actual science on the issue.
Nothing about the bone benders, either. So it's pretty much all good.
However, the humourous note comes on the FAQ page here. Scroll down and read the last FAQ.
(*Woo is a term borrowed from Orac over at Respectful Insolence. It refers to bunco cures and other fraudulent "health" paraphenalia)