rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

A reform to save lives left to Canadian Senate

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The Canadian government has been given the opportunity to prevent thousands of deaths attributed to treatable diseases. Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), formerly known as Jean Chretien's Pledge to Africa, is legislation established in 2004 by the Canadian government that allows Canadian pharmaceutical companies to produce and export patent-protected pharmaceutical products for humanitarian purposes. Unfortunately, under its current shape and form, CAMR has not been able to live up to its reputation of progressive and effective legislation. It has only been utilized once by Apotex Pharmaceuticals, a Canadian generic pharmaceutical company, whom has promised to never use the legislation again unless reform is seen.

Bill C-393 is the solution to flawed CAMR. Bill C-393 calls for a focus on objectives of making affordable life-saving drugs accessible to people in developing countries. Polls have shown that the bill is supported by over 80 per cent of the Canadian population, which has been instrumental to its passing in the House of Commons. The fate of Bill C-393 now lies in the hands of the Canadian Senate, which is being urged by civil society groups to act fast in passing Bill C-393 due to fears of a possible upcoming federal election that would forfeit the bill. CAMR has the potential to make the difference between life and death for millions of people, and as such should be treated as a democratic issue calling for quick action.

CAMR's reform will promote progressive movement and call for action from both generic drug providers and developing countries to engage in utilizing CAMR. Apotex, Canada's largest generic pharmaceutical company and a top contributor to pharmaceutical research, has committed to "work alongside NGOs and Health Canada to develop and deliver a generic fixed-dose anti-retroviral medication for treating children with HIV." Apotex produced the first and only shipment of medicines licensed under CAMR in 2008 and 2009, supplying Rwanda with a combination AIDS drug. This occurred only after an initial agreement with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was abandoned. The process was simply too time consuming and costly for Apotex.

The lack of delivery of generic medicines through the use of CAMR supports the obvious necessity of reform through Bill C-393. Proposed fixes to CAMR include the introduction of a "one-license solution" clause. Currently, generic drug companies like Apotex, can only apply for one license per country, which means utilizing CAMR can be a burdensome process. CAMR's reform would create flexibility in the roles of all parties involved. This therefore facilitates the end goal of providing life saving medicines to those in need.

The urgency exists not only in the Canadian government but in the developing nations where millions of people continue to live without access to medicines needed to survive. While the passing of the bill in the House of Commons is a step forward, the act of reform is essential to achieving CAMR's goals and requires senate cooperation. Lack of Conservative Party support for the bill in the House of Commons could echo in Senate, where Conservative Senators hold a majority of the seats. With concerns growing over the efficiency of foreign aid dollars, CAMR would allow the purchase of expensive patent protected medicines at a fraction of the cost, meaning better bang for Canadian tax payer buck.

Heather Palis and Andreas Pilarinos are students at Simon Fraser University involved with Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, an international non-profit student organization that focuses on access to essential medicines. Heather is completing a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Sociology, and Andreas is completing a B.Sc. in Infectious Diseases.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.