A chance for Canada to make good (for a change).

Here’s an interesting press release regarding Canada’s reputation as a do-gooder. It seems that it’s taken a hit over the last few years, but that there’s still opportunities to improve our image: a big one being our possible actions on the Access to Medicine front.

Anyway, here’s the just released press release. And don’t forget: If you’re a reader from Canada, don’t forget to check out aidsaction.ca. Here, you can look up your candidates and send off an email to support the Call to Action to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime and help save lives!

For immediate release

NEW POLL SHOWS CANADIANS CONCERNED ABOUT GLOBAL REPUTATION, BUT CONFIDENT IT CAN BE IMPROVED BY MAKING AFFORDABLE MEDICINES AVAILABLE TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Grassroots campaign begins to build support for quick passage of bill after election

Toronto, April 26, 2011 – A new public opinion poll shows twice as many Canadians (35%) believe the country’s international reputation has declined in the last few years rather than improved (17%), with a third (37%) believing it has just remained the same. But according to the same poll, seven in 10 Canadians (71%) feel that it would improve the country’s reputation if Canada were to pass a bill making it easier to supply less expensive, generic medicines to people in developing countries for diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Canada was on the verge of passing such a law – Bill C-393 to reform Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) – before it was delayed in the Senate and thus died on the order paper when the election was called.

“This poll confirms the tremendous opportunity presented to Members of Parliament and Senators willing to fix Canada’s broken Access to Medicines Regime,” said Richard Elliott, Executive Director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. “Not only will such a bill help get desperately needed medicines to people dying of treatable diseases, it will also improve Canada’s reputation as a good global citizen.”

With Canada’s foreign aid now frozen and the loss of a seat at the UN Security Council seen by some as a setback for the country’s international reputation, humanitarian initiatives such as legislation to fix CAMR – which will cost taxpayers nothing – presents a compelling rallying point.

In fact, a grassroots movement made up of grandmothers groups, student organizations, and health and human rights activists have launched www.AIDSaction.ca. It asks every candidate from the major federal parties in every riding to indicate whether they support fixing CAMR to help those most in need. The website will track candidates’ responses online in an interactive chart so voters across the country can see which candidates in their riding have already stated their support for fixing CAMR. It also makes it easy for voters to e-mail the candidates in their ridings to ask them where they stand if they haven’t yet replied.

“Canadians were strongly behind a bill that would have saved lives,” said Andrea Beal, co-chair of the National Advocacy Committee of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. “We’re asking candidates to listen to the will of the people and support making affordable medicines accessible to developing countries. This new poll is just further evidence of why they should act.”

Created unanimously by Parliament in 2004, CAMR has been rendered practically useless because of red tape. Only one order of one medicine was ever filled, and to just a single country. The one generic drug company that did use CAMR has said it will not attempt to use the cumbersome process again, nor will any developing countries try. Critical to the goal of cutting through this red tape is the “one-license solution”, a key part of any CAMR-reform legislation.

Before Bill C-393 died in the Senate last month, public momentum was behind efforts to make affordable medicines available to people who need them. The legislation – which included the “one-license solution” – had the support of many prominent Canadians including international aid workers, human rights leaders, physicians and faith leaders. It was also supported by more than 70 000 Canadians who signed a petition or sent letters calling on Parliament to pass the bill into law. When the House voted on March 9, Bill C-393 passed by a strong majority – 172 to 111 – with support from MPs representing all parties.

“Canadians have shown over and over that they get it when it comes to the rights of all people to have access to medicines that will save their lives,” said Aria Ahmad, coordinator of the University of Toronto chapter of the international student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM). “We urge candidates for Parliament to listen to them.”

More background information on efforts to fix Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime including detailed arguments by international legal and health experts in favour of previous legislative attempts to do just that can be reviewed at www.aidslaw.ca/camr.

ABOUT THE POLL

The poll was conducted by Vision Critical for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. From April 15 to 16, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among a randomly selected, representative sample of 1011 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panel members. The full dataset has been statistically weighted according to the most current gender, age, region, education (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. The margin of error is ±3.0%, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

– – –

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Janet Butler-McPhee
Director of Communications, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Telephone: +1 416 268-2549, jbutler@aidslaw.ca

Christopher Holcroft
Principal, Empower Consulting for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Telephone: +1 416 996-0767, chris_holcroft@yahoo.com

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