Bill C-47: Weaponizing Vanessa’s Law

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” (The Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms)

On June 1, 2009 I sat across from Terance H. Young, MP from Oakville, ON in his Ottawa constituency office. I was there lobbying for improved access to natural health products—apparently, some things never change. Mr. Young established Drug Safety Canada, holding prescription drug manufacturers responsible for their pharmaceutical drugs. We exchanged our signed books: mine was written on tribal masks titled Masks From Around the World, Mr. Young’s was titled Death By Prescription: A Father Takes On His Daughter’s Killer – The Multi-Billion-Dollar Pharmaceutical Industry.

The death of one’s child may be the most soul-racking trauma human beings can experience. “The grief multiplies. Like an evil blooming thing,” writes Terrence Young of 15-year-old daughter Vanessa’s death. Vanessa was taking cisapride for a diagnosis of “mild bulimia” when she collapsed in front of her father in the family home. Vanessa was transported from Oakville, Ontario to Hamilton by paramedics and went through frantic but unsuccessful resuscitation by doctors in the emergency department. Young learned quickly that “cisapride was contraindicated for Vanessa, and that it had been associated with at least 80 suspicious deaths in Canada and the United States. He discovered that Health Canada delayed alerting doctors that cisapride was potentially dangerous.”[1]

On December 6, 2013, Young introduced Bill C-17, also known as Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa’s Law)[2] in honor of his late daughter, to the Canadian Parliament. Vanessa’s Bill was passed into law.

Mr. Young did what most parents would do if their child were to die needlessly because of side effects and lack of accountability of unsafe prescription drugs that are being given without educating on the deadly side effects of contraindications. Vanessa’s Law made sure that “natural health products as defined by Health Canada were excluded, Vanessa’s Law was to apply to almost all other therapeutic products including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vaccines, gene therapies, cells, tissues and organs, and medical devices.”[3]

What Health Canada did within Bill C-47 was weaponize Vanessa’s Law; Mr. Young never intended the Bill to capture natural health products within its net, it was done in the dark to control the natural health industry, hidden within the Federal Budget and Federal Budgets always get approved. The Bill was never debated in the House of Commons, it was introduced just before the House went on vacation, it was fast tracked and approved in the Senate and the same day received Royal Assent. This Bill was a covert operation to control and restrict access to natural health products with the emphasis placed on therapeutic products. Part of the Bill “would amend the definition of therapeutic product in the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) to remove the existing exemption for natural health products within the meaning of the Natural Health Products Regulations. The result would be that the existing provisions of the FDA dealing with therapeutic products would now equally apply to natural health products.”[4]

This is not the first time Health Canada has wanted to control natural dietary health supplements the same as prescription drugs. Health Minister Allan Rock tried it in 1997 and when the Canadian people learned of the government’s plan, a massive protest erupted, since over 70% of the population take natural health products. The protest was the biggest on record under the framework, labeled “Our Foods Are Not Drugs”. In the end, the government backed down and Canadians continued having the freedom to choose natural health products without being grouped with synthetic chemical drugs for they are not the same at all. Another attempt happened again in 2007 under Bill C-51; once again, the protest was one of the biggest ones ever. Then they tried it again in 2017 under “Self-Care Framework”. Again, citizens and the natural health industry created a massive protest, Health Canada backed down, and natural health products were spared. But for how long?

If everything goes according to their plan, Health Canada will regulate everything thanks to Bill C-47: they will be able to recall products, require labelling and packaging modifications, disclose confidential business information, increase fines and penalties and do so much more in the name of “safeguarding public health”. Why do they want more regulations? We already have most these matters under control with licensed NHP but we do not have the fees and cost recovery. Natural health products are not patented like drugs, once a NHP is licensed any supplier can copy their formulation, there is no time to recover one’s investment like the drug industry does.

Now Health Canada wants to introduce cost recovery fees for Natural Health Product (NHP) regulatory activities in Canada from 2025. Their proposal will introduce fees to the NHP industry, which will be similar to those in place for the human drug, veterinary drug, and medical device industries, with fee categories including pre-market evaluation, NHP site licences and NHP right to sell. Today there is no cost but under Bill C-47 the cost will be $60K for a Novel Class 111 license with no patent protection! Also, charging a company for the right to sell a product they make, is a real crowd pleaser. What other Canadian industry pays the government for the right to sell what they make for the Canadian market?

Under Bill C-47 drug like penalties are being introduced for natural health products; again, this is weaponizing Venessa’s Law. They will take the 3rd leading cause of death, properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, and group them together with ultra-safe natural health products. You have a greater risk of dying by being struck by lightning than dying from a natural health product. Now hospitals will be put on notice to report any side effects from taking vitamins, even though they may be from something else. Under the current plan, the penalty for a product violation is $5,000 per incident, under Venessa’s Law the penalty is 5 million per day and per company director.

Bill C-47 tightly controls and limits the sales of licensed Canadian natural health products while exposing the Canadian public to online ordering from the likes of Amazon selling unregulated and unlicensed natural health products from the USA with no quality control, no added fees and absolutely no safety measures in place. These are the products that people may have side effects from and yet the products that will take the full weight of the penalties will be the safe and effective licensed natural health being sold in Canada.

These major regulatory changes to NHPs are not only making it hard for the industry to continue growing and producing novel products but places a huge financial burden on the manufacturing companies, many of the small to medium companies will either consider leaving Canada or they will remove many of their products from the market. This way employment will suffer and many people will lose their jobs. On the other hand, people taking natural health products will also suffer when losing their right to prevent illnesses, suffering, or in promoting wellness and health. We need a call to action; a public uprising like it was done in the past attempts. Meet with your member of parliament and voice your concerns, fill out the Endangered Species card and discuss the matter with family and friends, and repeal Bill C-47 from item 500 to 504.

Additional Reading:



[1] Perry, Thomas L. 2009.

[2] Find out more about Bill C-17 here:

[3] Saleh, Yazan. 2016.

[4] N.a. 2023.