Tag Archives: Canada

Vermont Becomes First State To Approve Imported Canadian Prescription Drugs

Vermont is the first state in the country to approve a program commissioning the importation of prescription drugs from Canada with the passage of a bill approved by the House and Senate and signed into law May 16 by Republican Governor Phil Scott.

As several other US states have been working on similar bills, Vermont was the first state to sign such legislation into law. The bill was reportedly based upon legislation previously drafted by National Academy for State Health Policy; the organization estimated that the cost of prescription drugs in Canada are about 30 percent lower.

The bipartisan bill, which had unanimous support in the Senate and a 141-2 vote in the House, calls for the development of a “wholesale prescription drug importation program” that meets the following conditions:

(1) designate a State agency that shall either become a licensed drug wholesaler or contract with a licensed drug wholesaler in order to seek federal certification and approval to import safe prescription drugs and provide significant prescription drug cost savings to Vermont consumers;

(2) use Canadian prescription drug suppliers regulated under the laws of Canada or of one or more Canadian provinces, or both;

(3) ensure that only prescription drugs meeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s safety, effectiveness, and other standards shall be imported by or on behalf of the State;

(4) import only those prescription drugs expected to generate substantial savings for Vermont consumers;

(5) ensure that the program complies with the tracking and tracing requirements of 21 U.S.C. §§ 360eee and 360eee-1 to the extent feasible and practical prior to imported drugs coming into the possession of the State
wholesaler and that it complies fully after imported drugs are in the possession of the State wholesaler;

(6) prohibit the distribution, dispensing, or sale of imported products outside Vermont’s borders;

(7) recommend a charge per prescription or another method of support to ensure that the program is funded adequately in a manner that does not jeopardize significant consumer savings; and

(8) include a robust audit function.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump advocated for the ability for Americans to purchase prescription drugs from other countries including Canada; he has appeared to abandon this idea, illustrated by a recent address given by Trump on May 11 discussing his “American Patients First” plan to seek lower drug prices. The speech did not make any mention of allowing the purchase of imported drugs and focused instead on giving “private entities more tools to negotiate better deals on behalf of consumers, insurers and employers,” according to a report from the New York Times.

While the Trump administration has not publicly commented specifically on the bill’s enactment, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar described importing drugs from other countries as a “gimmick” on Monday.

“The United States has the safest regulatory system in the world. The last thing we need is open borders for unsafe drugs in search of savings that cannot be safely achieved,” Azar said according to Politico. “You can’t improve competition and choice in our drug markets with gimmicks like these — you have to boost competition and price transparency.”

Azar also argued that “Canada simply doesn’t have enough drugs to sell them to us for less money, and drug companies won’t sell Canada or Europe more just to have them imported here.” He claimed that the FDA also has concerns that there is no “effective way to ensure drugs coming from Canada really are coming from Canada, rather than being routed from a counterfeit factory in China.”

Azar was the president of the U.S. division of global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. from 2012 to 2017.

The law was met with opposition from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, (PhRMA) as spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll called promotion of the Vermont legislation “highly irresponsible” and warned of an increase in counterfeit drugs.

An amendment put forth by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) last January sought to allow for the purchase of drugs from Canada, but failed in a 46-52 vote. In February 2017, Sanders and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act “to help lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada and other advanced countries.”

Vermont’s new law is subject to federal approval, as it specifies that Vermont’s importation program must be developed by the Secretary of Human Services, and submitted to the House Committees on Health Care and on Ways and Means and the Senate Committees on Health and Welfare and on Finance, by January 1, 2019. A subsequent formal request would need to be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services by July 1, 2019 for certification.

‘None of the Above’ to Appear on Canadian Ballot After Candidate Changes Legal Name

A 46-year-old Thornhill, Ontario man formerly known as Sheldon Bergson has changed his legal name to Above Znoneofthe in a bid to give dissatisfied voters an option in an upcoming Feb. 11 by-election to replace resigning Ontario MPP Christine Elliott.

Canadian ballots list the surnames of candidates first, meaning Znoneofthe’s name will appear as “Znoneofthe Above” in the upcoming election.

I’m aiming for all of the people who don’t normally vote,” Znoneofthe told CBC News. “I thought, one of these days we should get ‘none of the above’ on a ballot.

[RELATED: TransCanada Files $15 Billion Suit Against U.S. Government Over Keystone Rejection]

The race will reportedly include 10 candidates, with Znoneofthe’s surname including a “Z” at the beginning by design so that it would appear last on the alphabetically-ordered ballot. He said that he wants his candidacy to serve as an option for voters who are frustrated with Canada’s major political parties.

Additionally, None of The Above Party candidate Greg Vezina is set to appear directly above Znoneofthe on the ballot. CBC News identified some of the other noteworthy candidates in the race as Elizabeth Roy of the Liberal Party, Lorne Coe of the Progressive Conservative Party, and the New Democratic Party’s Niki Lundquist.

[RELATED: Afghan Army Officers, Who Went AWOL on US Soil, Caught Sneaking into Canada]

The name change cost Znoneofthe $137, and he was able to obtain ballot access by collecting signatures on a petition under that name from 25 fellow citizens. Though his friends and family still refer to him as Sheldon, he has promised to keep his new name if he wins the election.

Znoneofthe works as a customer service representative at a bank and is married with two children. According to Fox News, he has previously run for office under the National Party’s banner and as an independent.

Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria More Than Doubled in 16 Months

by Jason Ditz

Roughly spanning the period since the US launched its war against ISIS, the number of foreign Islamist fighters who’ve flocked to Iraq and Syria has far more than doubled from June 2014, providing a huge influx of new fighters for ISIS and other groups.

In June 2014, the estimate was about 12,000 foreign fighters, a huge figure in its own right. The new report now believes the figure is from 27,000 to 31,000, meaning the “more than doubled” assessment of the report is putting it mildly.

The report estimates 6,000 fighters from Tunisia, 2,500 Saudis, 2,400 Russians, 2,100 from Turkey, and 2,000 from Jordan. The European Union member nations in general come to about 5,000, with France the largest at 1,800.

While across the Eastern Hemisphere the recruitment for foreign fighters is soaring, particularly in Europe and Northern Africa, the report says the North American figures are mostly flat, with 150 from the US and 130 from Canada.

The big concern is that an estimated 20% or 30% of these fighters are returning to their western countries of origin, meaning these countries will all be coping with significant influxes of now-seasoned fighters with international contacts.

TransCanada Seeks to Suspend Keystone XL Pipeline Proposal

The Canadian corporation responsible for the Keystone XL pipeline has asked the U.S. government to temporarily suspend the review process for the controversial project.

The Keystone XL pipeline was dealt a blow earlier this year when President Obama vetoed legislation that had been approved by Congress. The Senate later failed to override the veto in March. The pipeline would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to pipelines in refineries in Houston and other locations on the Gulf of Mexico.

[RELATED: Sioux Tribal Leader Calls Keystone XL Pipeline an Act of War]

On Monday, TransCanada Corp sent the US. Department of State a letter asking for a delayed review. TransCanada may have sought a delay rather than an outright rejection from the Obama administration. The State Department told Reuters it had received the letter from TransCanada but the review would continue for now.

Mark Cooper, a TransCanada spokesman, said that TransCanada was not interested in speculating on what decision might be made. If the Obama administration halts the review process, the next U.S. president would be responsible for the future of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline has been resisted by landowners in Nebraska, as well as indigenous communities in Alberta, Canada. Critics also say the pipeline’s purported increasing of jobs is false. There have also been disputes over official documents related to the permitting of the pipeline.

In early July, Truth In Media reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was issued a subpoena seeking the release of all “reports, recommendations, letters and comments received by the State Department from the advising agencies pursuant to Executive Order 13337 regarding the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.”

[Read more: Secretary of State John Kerry Subpoenaed Over Keystone Pipeline Documents]

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent letters February 24th and June 15th attempting to get the same documents, but the State Department has refused to release the reports.

In a statement accompanying the subpoena, Commitee Chairman Jason Chaffetz stated that the State Department has been “uncooperative” and “shown an unwillingness to recognize the Committee’s legitimate interest in obtaining information.”

Stay tuned to Truth In Media for updates on this developing situation.

Justin Trudeau Vows to End Canadian Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria

Canada’s prime minister-elect Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that he plans to end Canadian airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by withdrawing the nation’s fighter jets from the U.S.-led mission.

A day after winning Canada’s federal election, the liberal candidate and son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau said he spoke to President Obama on the phone regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, climate change, the Keystone XL pipeline, and removing Canadian fighter jets from the fight against ISIS.

“About an hour ago I spoke with President Obama, and we talked about Canada’s continued engagement as a strong member of the coalition against ISIL,” Trudeau said. “I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how important Canada’s role is to play in the fight against ISIL, but he understands the commitments I’ve made about ending the combat mission.”

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Origin of ISIS]

While ending airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has been a part of Trudeau’s campaign, he has also pledged to keep the current Canadian military trainers in place.

The Guardian reported that Canada “currently has six CF-18 fighter jets taking part in the US-led bombing campaign,” that were due to remain in the region until March 2016, as well as “70 special forces troops to train Kurds in northern Iraq.”

[RELATED: Obama Administration Ends $500 Million Syrian Rebel Training Program]

When asked about the timeline he has planned for removing the fighter jets, Trudeau did not give an exact date. “We will be moving forward with our campaign commitments in a responsible fashion,” he replied. “We want to ensure that the tradition is done in an orderly fashion.”

CBC News noted that Trudeau’s plan for removing fighter jets caters to Canada’s Liberal party’s desire to “provide more humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria” and to have Canada’s military “involved in training missions, not bombing missions.

Canadian Government May Pursue Exit Controls To Track Potential Terrorists

Ottawa- According to CTV News, an estimated 130 people who have connections to Canada are suspected to be fighting alongside the Islamic State in Syria. Canada’s fight against terrorism may soon include tools such as revoking passports and citizenship of identified extremists and utilizing “exit controls” that track people who leave the country.

“We are committed at increasing the level of tools we are providing our law enforcement so that they are able to track those individuals not only here, but abroad,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told CTV. “It is important to make sure that we keep track of those, to just to know who, when they leave, where they are going.”

The United States and Canada have been sharing information through the “Beyond The Border” Initiative since 2012 regarding the movement of third party nationals and permanent residents who cross the US/Canada border, with the exception of American and Canadian citizens.

Blaney implied that exit controls may extend to documenting travel of Americans and Canadians that cross the border; an additional phase of the Beyond The Border plan was supposed to expand to include information exchange of all travelers crossing the border by the end of June 2014.

Anil Kapoor, a barrister from Toronto, said that exit controls were popular in authoritarian regimes seeking to restrict citizens’ travel and “foreign influence on domestic populations.” Kapoor said that exit controls would require all Canadian citizens to obtain exit visas.

Kapoor suggested that exit controls are currently too broad to effectively track known terrorism suspects.”It seems to me though, that isn’t really what the government should be doing,” said Kapoor. “It seems that the government should be targeting those individuals against whom they have intelligence to control or determine where they’re moving,” rather than enforce exit visas on all Canadians.


Snowden Leaks More: NSA Working Directly with Canada’s Spy Agency, the “Five Eyes”

Article submitted by guest contributor Ezra Van Auken.

NSA Spying

Among the piles of information National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has released to media outlets and the public, is revelations that are not only NSA officials, but also the NSA’s counterparts in other countries like Australia and Britain, scanning the phones, computers and cameras of millions. Coming into the fold of worldwide surveillance is north of the border in Canada.

Seemingly never ending, Snowden published more information Monday, revealing that the Canadian spy agency ‘Communications Security Establishment Canada’ (CSEC) has been working hand-in-hand with the NSA. CBC News broke the story, but decided to release limited information on the matter. However, what has been released is enough to make even the smallest privacy rights advocates cringe.

In all, the NSA and CSEC managed to set up “spying posts”, which allowed the agencies to oversee, without consent, 20 high-priority foreign countries. American intelligence officials decided to make the move with Canada’s CSEC due to the “unique geographic access” where US presence is restricted. The two surveillance communities have shared nationwide, worldwide and transnational targets, and only plan to increase their activity.

Interestingly, accounting for all of Snowden’s released material, the CSEC/NSA documents are, so far, the most recent. Dated in April 2013 and stamped “Top Secret”, the released documents show a quickly growing relationship. Focusing on more recent conditions in which the NSA/CSEC operate, the information describes Canada’s compliance to the NSA’s request of “covert sites” used for joint spying missions.

One of the released documents reads, “CSEC offers resources for advanced collection, processing and analysis, and has opened covert sites at the request of NSA,” executing most of its surveillance activities out of the Ottawa branch. According to CBC, Ottawa’s branch is equipped with high-level computing equipment to intercept phone calls, to Internet communications, around the globe.

Known as the “Five Eyes”, the documents show US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand agencies as a partnership of countries, while holding Canada’s relationship as a unique one. Snowden’s Monday leak explains how CSEC and NSA officials shared information, but in addition, office space. “Co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and intégrée,” or in other words, working in and out of NSA/CSEC offices.

Other perks the CSEC receives from the NSA’s community is computer equipment and encryption software. NSA-donated hardware and software is all used for “collection, processing and analytic efforts.” Exchanged for the tools, the CSEC provides the NSA’s community with “cryptographic products, cryptanalysis, technology and software”: a beneficial relationship for the spy industry, sure, but for privacy advocates? Not so much.

Before creating an anti-NSA offense on Facebook or Twitter about Snowden’s newly released information, the CBC reported that with CSEC’s annual budget sitting at $450 million, it’s only about to get worse for taxpayers. The agency is in the midst of opening a brand new, shiny headquarters in Ottawa worth $1.2 billion – double the annual budget itself. Fortunately for Canadians, they still have about $38 billion to catch up with the NSA’s pace.
Of course, just two weeks ago, Snowden released information citing the Canadian government’s consent to allow NSA surveillance at the G8 and G20 summits in 2010.

In a time of true, Orwellian prediction, expecting anything as being possible by government surveillance agencies is probably the most reasonable path to take, and if it wasn’t for whistleblower Snowden, the age of information would cease to exist.