Canada’s natural health industry under siege

Canadian access to vital nutrients theatened by trade deals


by Dee Nicholson, co-executive director, Natural Health Federation Canada (NHF)

Canadians who prefer healthcare the natural way need to take a stand, and fast, before their freedom to choose their own medicine (and a whole lot more) evaporates under their very noses.

The natural health product (NHP) industry across Canada is caught in a squeeze play that threatens its very existence: it has already cost Canadians their access to about two-thirds of the products that used to be on the shelves and shows no sign of letting up. Meanwhile, many of us are completely unaware of the multifarious tentacles poised to crush what remains and have not connected the dots to see them choking off our rights.

Producers and retailers of NHPs have been fighting for years against Health Canada’s infamous “Health Protection Branch,” which has “protected” us all with SWAT-style, guns-drawn raids on vitamin sellers and their families, using the RCMP as enforcers. There have been over 20 such raids in recent times. And with a slew of newly-hired “inspectors” eager to bring home a few scalps, we can soon all look forward to being really, really “safe.”

Interestingly, under the Constitution Act, healthcare is the responsibility of the provinces, not the federal government, which means that Health Canada has absolutely no legitimate mandate to regulate anything at all. Health Canada is therefore practising medicine without a license, but somehow continues to operate with seeming impunity. What’s up with that?

It doesn’t take much of a nose to sniff out the rotting fish in this scenario, but here’s the bad news: it gets worse.

Lurking in the language of Bill C-36, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, was a clause stating the Minister of Health may take direction from unnamed foreign authorities. That threw open the door to control of our health legislation and regulation by a committee of foreigners, with Canada having only one vote at whichever table it happened to be. Take our membership in the WTO, for example: there, we have one vote against nearly 200 others. And Prime Minister Harper gave up our prized bank regulations (the same ones he said saved us from the “recession”) to the G20 last year, and quipped that, while it was a loss of sovereignty, it was “a simple fact of life,” too bad, so sad.

And now comes CETA, the “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement” with the European Union. The perceptive among us have spotted the snake that can easily slither through that gaping doorway in Bill C-36, accepting direction from these particular “foreign authorities” whose publicly announced task is to “level the playing field with our trading partners.” And why might our government need to place that portal in C-36, when trade agreements are enforceable contracts anyway? One answer might be that we could hardly refuse what we have already legislated, could we?

Now, another interesting link in this chain: our North American preoccupation with Codex Alimentarius, the “food code” being promoted by the World Health Organization, eventually to be enforced worldwide by the WTO through cross-sector trade sanctions. Health freedom advocates have been screaming loudly for years about how it endangers our free choices, and rightly so. But while most focused on Codex Alimentarius, a nearly identical threat was looming in Europe, unnoticed, because there seemed to be no mechanism by which these standards could ever be forced on Canada.

CETA is the glue to this plot: the European Union Food Safety Directives, effective as of 2005, dubbed “Codex Alimentarius’ Evil Twin,” will most certainly become the trade standard, the “level playing field,” for the industry in Canada under the terms of CETA. And Health Canada’s recent tyrannies over perfectly safe products have just been the slow boiling of the frog, to ease the transition into global standards that funnel all profits into the pockets of the particular corporations who stand to benefit: Big Pharma.

CETA allows multinational corporations to bid freely on things we need to control for ourselves, from our municipal water utilities, to provincial energy policies, Canada Post, and, as amply noted, our healthcare choices. And once they’ve got them, just try to get them back. At every level, CETA intrudes, and in its aftermath is a ravaging of our natural health industry, as well as all other major economic sectors. Via CETA and similar agreements, Canada is being subsumed into a sea of other people’s rules.

Shockingly, across the country, neither city councillors nor provincial or federal representatives have the first clue what is going on.

Meanwhile, from October 17 to 21, CETA negotiators in Ottawa will be accepting final submissions “from the provinces,” which translates to “from the Premier’s secret committee that has prepared these submissions, without the oversight even of his own caucus.” This despite the fact more than half of the provinces are going to the polls.

This cluster bomb of an agreement is hurtling towards completion so one is naturally led to wonder why the CHFA (Canadian Health Food Association), supposedly the voice of the natural health industry, is conspicuously silent on the matter and why its membership remains largely in the dark. Since they claim a good relationship with Health Canada, why are they not active in slamming the door on CETA and stopping the SWAT raids ordered up by the ministry as “drug busts?”

In the absence of real representation, the natural health industry needs to fend for itself, organize and take action on its own behalf. Suppliers, retailers and consumers alike stand to lose far too much to knuckle under now.

If ever there was a time to stand up and be counted, this is it. This is the moment. No matter who you are, write, phone, fax or email your representatives at all levels of government – local, provincial and federal – and tell them you want full disclosure on CETA, you want your democratic rights and sovereign laws upheld and you want free access to the NHPs you choose, period. Support those groups that are speaking out and speak out with them.

Do it now. There is no time for polite discourse. They serve you, don’t they?

Natural health product regulations have gone too far


by Lorenda Stefan, product educator and national sales manager, Enerex Botanicals Ltd.

Most people are not even aware that some of the most effective, safe and natural ingredients found in their nutritional supplements are under attack. In fact, the entire industry is under attack along with our Rights as Canadian Citizens. Even ingredients like enzymes, yes enzymes, are being scrutinized for their “long-term” safety. How can this be when more than 3,000 enzymes operate in our bodies? Enzymes are found in every raw food we eat and are essential for all metabolic processes; without the enzymes in our food, life does not exist.

But that’s in food. So how safe are supplemental enzymes? The use of enzymes in dietary supplements dates back to the early 1900s. Dr. Edward Howell, a pioneer in enzyme research, did an extensive study in the 1920s on the health benefits of enzyme supplements and reported no adverse side effects. Since then, thousands of healthcare professionals around the world have prescribed plant enzymes as a treatment for digestive disorders and inflammation. That’s right; we have been supplementing with enzymes for 100 years, but now they are in danger of being lost. Our SAD (Standard American Diet) is typically devoid of naturally occurring enzymes because most are destroyed when food is cooked or processed. Therefore, many Canadians require supplemental enzymes and other essential nutrients to ensure the body is provided with the building blocks to good health. At Enerex, we know, as do our customers, the importance of enzymes in daily life and in times of crisis. We have been supplying products with enzymes for over 15 years with nothing but positive outcomes.

Supplementation with nutritional products is safe. So safe in fact that not a single person in Canada has ever died from using a natural health product. So why is our government trying to deny us access to products and ingredients that have a proven safety record? That is a serious question that each and every one of us must ask of our local Member of Parliament (MP) before it is too late. Health industry manufacturers and suppliers offer products that improve people’s quality of health and yet these products are being targeted for the “risks” they pose. The statistical risk of dying from taking an NHP is only slightly higher than that of being hit by a meteorite. In other words, there is no risk.

On the supply side, these unfair, unsubstantiated regulations hurt companies, but more importantly, they hurt people. People who choose to take herbal supplements and NHPs to help reduce their risk of degenerative disease and to maintain or improve their health are being penalized. Why is it okay to sell cigarettes, alcohol and prescription medications, all of which are known to kill people, when products like parsley capsules may be targeted by Health Canada because there isn’t “sufficient evidence” available that they are safe? Think about this when considering the fact that Health Canada originally believed that highly addictive chemical-laden beverages like “energy drinks” were safe and actually made them some of the first products to receive Natural Product Numbers for licence to sell as health products. This is from the very government agency that is supposed to protect the health of Canadians. 

What is this country coming to and when are we going to stand up for our right to choose our own path to optimal health? Enough is enough. It is time to contact your local MP to demand action on your behalf.
References: Save our Supplements Canada: Analysis of Relative Risks and Levels of Risk in Canada by Ron Law.

STAR WISE: October 2011


STAR WISE: October 2011 – by Mac McLaughlin

The lunar cycle governs all activities on the planet. The new moon signifies a fresh start while a full moon indicates a culmination or completion of sorts. The new moon on September 27 holds the keys to whatever type of cosmic/karmic energy that is destined to unfold for humankind throughout October. The new moon takes place in early Libra with Mercury and Venus close by. Libra is the sign of balance, harmony and beauty. Libra is a cardinal air sign and is best known as the sign of relationships, agreements or war. We wake up to the reality that we have a tremendous amount of healing to do in all areas of life.

I imagine there are more than a few bruised egos out there following the fallout from the riot. [Vancouver Stanley Cup riot, June 15, 2011] Plus, we have serious work to do and not a whole lot of time to bicker either pro or con. Justice needs to be done and the slow hand of our present- day legal system has many people peeved to no end – murderers in law school, other schools in need of serious repair, bigwigs patting each other on the back and handing out awards as they go, even if their actions cost us billions of dollars. The point is we need a healing and we will have to dig deep into our hearts and work towards forgiveness, tolerance, balance and harmony. It will not be a cakewalk and, if anything, fierce battles will rage as the month begins and heads will roll among the high and mighty. Blame really won’t do any longer. It is time to face the harsh realities and digest what we have dined on over the last several months.

The full moon on October 11 will bring it all home reality-wise, as dear old Saturn is aligned with the full moon indicating the fall of a king or a brutal political battle with significant fallout all the way around. Fortunately, Saturn is exalted while in Libra, a harbinger of our being in the mood to get it right and to move forward with wisdom, hopefully not hardened, but willing to take our licks and get on with the business of running our beautiful gem of a city and the most wonderful country on the planet. Saturn and the Sun are not good buddies and when they meet up we will experience the results in the markets and all places that need correction and discipline. “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.”.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)
You are a diamond in the rough, with great potential but needing polish. Multi-faceted, highly talented, you just need some inner direction. Now the stars have you in their focus and will demand your highest performance in the times to come.


TAURUS (April 20 – May 21)
Make hay while the Sun shines. October starts off rocky and others will possibly rub you the wrong way. The gig is within, getting others onside and not on opposite sides. The end of the month will bring significant revelations and opportunities for cooperative ventures.


GEMINI (May 22 – June 20)
As one astrologer said, “You may not be the true cowboy, but you can play the part real well.” It’s all about your creativity and your ability to win people over. Courage, truth and honour work wonders throughout the month. Pay attention to health concerns.


CANCER (June 21 – July 22)
Fight or flight, what will it be? A special configuration called a cardinal T-square forms at new moon time on September 27 and will affect your sign in a very dynamic way throughout the month. Home, career and relationship activities intensify.


LEO (July 23 – August 22)
Mars and Jupiter square off as the month begins. Hopefully, Mars provides courage, strength and enthusiasm, versus dominance, frustration or impatience. Sparks are flying – ideally figuratively, not literally. A very busy time ensues and all kinds of new people are entering your life.


VIRGO (August 23 – September 22)
Your solar second house of personal earnings is lit up like a Christmas tree, as is your ninth house of travel. A very busy month unfolds and no doubt you will be busy. It is also very important to take time to smell the roses.


LIBRA (September 23 – October 22)
It’s your time to shine. If not, then it is your time to repair and renew all that you do. The full moon on October 11 will bring important revelations. All aspects of life are changing and you must accommodate the changes.


SCORPIO (October 23 – November 21)
It is time to go deep into the essence of all things. Happiness does not come from without, but from within. You can play now and pay later, or pay now and play later. The next few years tell the tale.


SAGITTARIUS (November 22 – December 21)
Lord Jupiter retrogrades in your solar sixth house prompting you to review many aspects of your life, such as health matters, working conditions and how you work with other people. Speaking of others, this is a time of solidifying long-term connections.


CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 19)
Your solar career sector is on fire. As a matter of fact, all aspects of life are fully engaged. Intense and dynamic days unfold. Power plays abound, as do opportunities for personal growth. Walk, don’t run. Keep a keen eye on your own motives.


AQUARIUS (January 20 – February 19)
October will be what you make of it. You can come out swinging and do righteous battle and right the wrongs. Another approach is to utilize your wit, wisdom and love while turning the lemons into lemonade. Travel and romance come into play.


PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
All things metaphysical may become of interest as you seek answers to life’s riddles. Some aspect of your life is ending and a dawning new reality is taking shape. Soon, you can get in touch with it. A deep wisdom etches into your soul.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years.
Email or call 604-731-1109.

A child’s soul journey

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself… You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts… You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. – Khalil Gibran

What Gibran writes here is a good expression of what I call soul-based parenting. How does that differ from ego-based parenting? In ego-based parenting, the child is seen as an amorphous lump of clay, which, over time is shaped into the image of what the parents think their child should be. In soul-based parenting, the child is seen more like a seed with all of its potential already inside. The role of the parent is to create optimal growing conditions so the seed can grow into a strong and healthy plant, which ultimately blossoms in its own unique way.

Ego-based parenting creates problems for both the parent and child. If the parent sees the child as a reflection of her/himself, when the child conforms, he receives love and affection. When the child does not conform, he receives negative feedback and feels judged and unloved. The child with a strong spirit may continually frustrate parents and, therefore, constantly receive negative messages, ultimately suffering from low-self esteem. If the child’s spirit is not so strong, the child learns to negate his own being, ultimately becoming a pleaser. I do not know any adults who, when they were young, said they wanted to be just like one of their parents.

Decades ago, many parents felt all children should be right-handed. If a child favoured the left hand, the parents consistently forced him to use his right hand; parents even did this with babies. We now recognize that handedness has to do with hemispheric dominance in the brain and we are wired to be one way or the other. In the same way, the child’s soul exists within him and the natural progression as he grows is to live life in alignment with that soul.

If we continually try to change what exists naturally in the child, not only do we create tension and conflict, but we also dishonour the uniqueness of his being. When we try to make the child align with what we think he should be, we stifle the evolution and blossoming that is his birthright. And when the child reaches adolescence, the real trouble starts. Adolescence is a time when young people need to individuate. They may pull away from parents because they need to define themselves as an individual. They relate well with their peers because peers are accepting of individual differences. It can also be a time of insecurity and a perceived rejection by one’s parents really hurts even when it is covered up with attitude, anger or false bravado.

It should also be noted that adults often give teens a bad rap. They roll their eyes when the child enters adolescence, anticipating difficulty. The difficulty is often in proportion to the degree of ego-parenting that is going on. In truth, it is a beautiful thing and a blessing to watch a child transform into an adult. It is here that the blossoming really begins, if we have created a safe and loving environment for that to happen. (See my YouTube video Growing Up Whole).

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit See display ad this issue.



Celebrity tycoon Donald Trump lives up to his billing as a crass megalomaniac in You’ve Been Trumped. The documentary illustrates his bullyboy antics, as he bulldozes a sensitive coastal ecosystem in northeast Scotland to create a mega golf resort. The controversial project on Menie Estate, eight miles from Aberdeen, saw the Scottish government effectively write off a protected environmental gem to reap highly questionable economic benefits. In this sometimes heart-warming and amusing David and Goliath story, it is astounding how much the government, local police force and authorities appear to collude with Trump in his campaign to force out long-time residents. Director Anthony Baxter’s award-winning film appears to have already caused delays in the project. Sadly, much of the damage to the dunes appears to be complete. (Screens at VIFF October 4, 6, 9.)

Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up (5, 7, 11) asks how the US can justify draconian jail sentences for five Cubans arrested for spying in Miami 13-years-ago when they were trying to prevent terrorist acts occurring in Cuba. Ever since CIA-trained Cuban exiles failed to topple Castro’s revolutionary government in the Bay of Pigs 50 years ago, they have bombed soft targets in the US such as journalists and political leaders. In 1976, they bombed a Cubana plane killing all 78 people on board.

Through candid interviews with aged, but still unrepentant, key exiles, Saul Landau highlights the double-standards at the heart of US relations with Cuba that allowed this violent brand of US-sponsored terrorism to go unchecked.

Ten years ago, it was widely publicized that minerals such as coltan and cassiterite – used in electronics, particularly cell phones –were funding violent militias in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The industry agreed it should address the issue, however, as Danish director Frank Piasecki Poulsen discovers in Blood in the Mobile (1, 8, 13), action has not been forthcoming. Poulsen discovers this the hard way, hiking into the lawless and remote Bisie Mine in the Walikale region of the DR Congo to capture vivid footage of teenage boys hacking away down ramshackle shafts. There’s a strong sense of desperation and a fear of sudden violence in this part of the world, contrasted with the apparent insouciance of the phone company Nokia whose reps seem more concerned with tarnishing the corporation’s shiny image than discussing the issue. Blood in the Mobile is sponsored by Common Ground.

Finally, People of a Feather (3, 5, 9) provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the people in the remote Hudson Bay community of Sanikiluaq and their relationship with the eider ducks that have traditionally provided them with warm feathers. Joel Heath’s initial contact was as an ecologist investigating the death of the ducks en masse. Some seven years later, he has combined some stunning underwater footage of eider ducks diving to the seabed for food with time-lapse photography showing shifting patterns in the ice ecology, the harsh consequence (for the ducks) of a regional hydro development. A non-profit doc, made with the local community, this goes beyond natural history, with its hip-hop interlude and historical recreations.

VIFF continues until October 14.

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike He writes at

Caribou at the crossroads




As a nation and a global community, Canada has a history of ignoring environmental crises until it’s all but too late. Many of us remember the 1990s when tens of thousands of Canadians in the Maritimes lost their livelihoods after overfishing wiped out fish stocks.

The boom-and-bust history reflected in the collapse of the East Coast cod fishery, and in logging communities and mining towns, should teach us that when an opportunity to get something right on the environment comes along, we must take immediate action or suffer the inevitable ecological and social consequences of our own short-sightedness.

Such a window of opportunity, to protect one of Canada’s most threatened wildlife species, has opened with the long-awaited release of the federal government’s draft recovery strategy for boreal woodland caribou. The boreal caribou is an iconic species threatened with extinction from the Yukon right across the country to Labrador. (The draft strategy is open to public comment until October 25 at

A major prey species for wolves and other animals, including humans, woodland caribou are critical to sustaining the health of complex food webs that have evolved over millennia and to the well-being of hundreds of Aboriginal communities in the North that depend on the animal for sustenance and survival.

Although woodland caribou were once abundant throughout much of Canada and the northern US, they have since lost around half of their historical range because of logging, mining, seismic lines, roads, hydroelectric projects and other developments that have disturbed and fragmented their forest habitat.

One endangered herd in Alberta’s tar sands region west of Fort McMurray is at great risk of disappearing. Clear-cutting and no-holds-barred oil and gas exploration and development have affected more than 60 percent of the habitat of the Red Earth caribou herd, leaving little undisturbed forest where it can feed, breed and roam.

If there is good news, it is that the science is clear about what must be done to save this species from extinction. A recent analysis by experts with the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel concludes that governments need to ensure that large stretches of woodland caribou habitat are protected from industrial disturbance. Specifically, herds will need at least two thirds of their ranges to be maintained in an undisturbed condition or restored to such… The government must also set population objectives and identify threats to species survival and how these threats can be reduced through better management.

The federal government has incorporated some of the important ideas advanced by scientists. Under the recovery strategy, core habitat will be protected for about half the herds left in Canada. However, the strategy suffers from serious shortcomings. Many herds, deemed not to be self-sustaining, appear to have been written off to remove barriers to further industrial activities in their habitat, such as tar sands development in Alberta. Instead of protecting and restoring the remaining habitat of these herds, the government is proposing controversial band-aid measures.

Canada’s official recovery strategy and supporting science show that if caribou are to survive, huge areas of the boreal will need to be protected, and we will have to embark on a more ecological approach to industrial development in those places that we exploit for timber and drill, frack and strip-mine for fossil fuels. Environmentalists and forestry companies are already attempting that by working together under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement.

The federal government’s plans will help those herds that have been deemed self-sustaining, but they fall far short of what is necessary to ensure that dozens of herds won’t perish. As such, it is a compromise that is too costly for caribou, and ultimately our own country, to bear.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Terrestrial Conservation and Science Program director Faisal Moola and biologist Jeff Wells. Learn more at

Kindness Concert a heart opener


by Toni O’Keeffe

Can small acts of kindness change the world? According to the organizers of the 2011 World Kindness Concert they can.

When Brock Tully envisioned the World Kindness Concert more than a decade ago, he imagined people coming together, with open hearts and a passion to change the way we live and celebrate the human journey. Eleven years later, the annual World Kindness Concert continues to grow and has become the catalyst for thousands of people seeking to create a kinder, more compassionate planet.

After a cycling expedition across North America, which Tully refers to as “the journey back to his heart,” Tully was inspired to commit himself to kindness. “I was concerned with how disconnected and violent society had become,” he says. “The vision for the World Kindness Concert was to raise awareness and to inspire the active practice of kindness.” According to Tully, society at large underestimates the power of a kind act.

“Single acts of kindness, a smile, a compliment or offering a helping hand to a neighbour all have the potential to grow roots and blossom into something spectacular. It is so easy and simple to be kind,” Tully says. “You don’t need money; you only need an open heart or a desire to open your heart. Both the musicians and the audience tell us they feel their energy rise to a joyful and peaceful state during this event. It is wonderful.”

Research has proven acts of kindness have a positive effect on the immune system, the mind and on the production of serotonin, which is known to regulate our mood, appetite and sleep, and which also supports cognitive functions. From this perspective, being kind is a healthy choice.

Jonas Falle, concert producer and CEO of Vancouver-based Moon Coin Productions, describes Brock Tully as “incredibly inspirational,” adding, “the World Kindness Concert is one of the most important events that our company supports. The opportunity to be involved with an event that will bring light into the world and create positive vibrations around the planet is very gratifying. This is more than a concert. It is a global movement towards finding solutions that will eliminate violence and create a kinder, safer world.”

According to Falle, “people want to make a difference; they just don’t know where to start… during the concert, we will provide suggestions and put out calls-to-action to help people start to become the change they seek.”

An important objective of the concert is to make it affordable for people to attend; ticket prices are remarkably low, starting at just $37. Any surplus from ticket sales is re-invested into initiatives that help foster kindness, awareness and compassion, including the anti-bullying and youth empowerment program Kindness ROCKS. (

In addition to being inspired to create a kinder world, concertgoers will be treated to an extraordinary line-up of talent, including Juno award winner and BC Entertainment Hall of Fame inductee Shari Ulrich, pop-music sensation Dirty Radio, Canadian singer and TV host Michael Vincent, the world renowned ABBA stage show ABRA Cadabra and many more.

“There is a shift taking place in the world and within all of us,” Tully says.

“We are waking up to the possibilities of what we can be as individuals and as citizens of the planet. The time to unite people and inspire human connectivity in positive ways is now. We hope that this year’s World Kindness Concert in Vancouver does just that.”

November 4, 2011

World Kindness Concert, Centre for Performing Arts, 
Vancouver. Tickets at
The concert will also be streamed live on-line. 
More info at



Dr. Marja Verhoef celebrated

Rogers Prize winner a driving force

Gordon Rogers presents Dr. Marja Verhoef with the Dr. Rogers 2011 Prize.

The Dr. Roger’s Prize ( highlights the important contributions of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to healthcare by rewarding the pioneers who have made significant contributions to the field. This year’s $250,000 prize was awarded to University of Calgary’s Dr. Marja Verhoef, Canada’s only Research Chair in Complementary Medicine.

Dr. Verhoef and her husband, Peter Dankers, emigrated to Ottawa from Holland in 1978 to take advantage of a career opportunity for Peter. “I grew up receiving treatment and care from a physician-homeopath and realized much later this was uncommon and unacceptable in many parts of the world.”

Another academic opportunity brought them to the University of Calgary where they settled and had their two sons. Dr. Verhoef’s interest in CAM was sparked when Dr. Sutherland, a gastroenterologist, asked her to study his patients’ use of complementary and alternative therapies. The results showed much more use than had been suspected. Dr. Verhoef played around the edges of the field with studies on the uses of CAM for various diseases, but jumped in with both feet with a survey of MDs attitudes towards CAM use. During these formative years, she gathered other scientists and graduate students and encouraged them to study the area. Her degrees in sociology, psychology and epidemiology enabled her to collaborate across many disciplines.

“Collaborating is crucial to the CAM field. It is not useful and not much fun to all go our own direction. We need to collaborate to develop and promote the field of CAM research and education to enhance the quality and impact of our work. Networks are a great avenue to collaborate, share information, establish research teams and be responsive to practitioners, the public and patients’ needs,” Verhoef says.

Dr. Verhoef has been a driving force behind the establishment of several Canadian networks promoting and enabling partnerships among those interested in complementary, alternative and integrative medicine (IM). The most well known of these is the IN-CAM network, a virtual organization sparking collaboration among researchers and practitioners in Canada, North America and internationally.

The awarding of the 2011 Dr. Roger’s Prize to Dr. Verhoef was the culmination of an afternoon Colloquium that explored the practice of integrative medicine in Canada. More than 250 people in the field, including practitioners and researchers from across Canada, shared their thoughts and ideas on how to move integrative medicine to the next stage of acceptance in Canada.

Fifty-four percent of Canadians used some form of CAM in the last year and 74 percent have used it at some point in their lifetime. Last year, Canadians spent $5.6 billion in alternative therapies and another $2.2 million in books, classes, equipment and other CAM-related activities. However, according to Steven Carter from the Canadian Society for Orthomolecular Medicine, despite the widening use of CAM by Canadians and by healthcare practitioners themselves, for CAM to truly achieve widespread acceptance, greater inroads need to be made with researchers, educators, medical associations, government and business.

Are the best interests of Canadians being served or severed?

by Bruce Dales, president, Dales Product Development and Regulatory Specialists

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see more innovative health food and natural health products (NHPs) emerging on the Canadian market? I have 18 years’ experience in product development and the Canadian food and drug regulatory compliance area involving new and innovative health foods and natural health products (NHPs). I have also qualified and testified within the Canadian judicial system as an expert in the area of Canadian food and drug regulations. The following perspectives are based on what I have witnessed and experienced:

1. One of the main problems I’ve experienced within the present Canadian Health Food and NHP regulatory model is the frequent lack of adequate feedback from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) regarding the status of new and innovative health food and NHP applications. Often, it’s not given in a timely way, not given at all or doesn’t adequately answer the questions asked. Consequently, companies wanting to produce innovative products in this regulatory area are being asked to comply with regulations that are often confusing and they have difficulty determining what the compliance standards actually are. In my experience, this has been very damaging.


2. Based on my and the understanding of other members of industry I have spoken to in December of 2010, the NHPD was supposed to provide updated standards of evidence, but it never did. For the most part, with regard to the most innovative new natural product number (NPN) products, there’s no proper guidance from the NHPD and no consistent standards of evidence. Nor does a standard exist as to when submissions will actually be reviewed. Companies are expected to submit their applications without any idea as to if, or when, their applications will be reviewed or any knowledge of what the standards are under which they’ll be reviewed. Many experienced people within the industry, with whom I’ve spoken, claim it’s simply “the luck of the draw.” It appears the level of evidence required by a company, with regard to any NHPD application, is dependent upon which NHPD reviewer is assigned to it. Furthermore, it appears that, if a unique and innovative product does get regulatory approval, the NHPD doesn’t allow competing companies’ access to information regarding the level of evidence that was required for that approval.

3. On the basis of my experience, over the last few years, I’ve consistently found it very difficult to get clear and reliable feedback from the CFIA regarding whether or not a new innovative product can be put on the market as a food. I have also found the present Minister’s office for the CFIA ineffective in making the CFIA provide the appropriate information in a reasonable time frame, if at all.

4. Over the years, I have seen that when companies are challenged by Health Canada for not complying with these confusing standards, no scientific standard is required by the Minister of Health from the Health Canada officials who challenge the particular company’s product. With regard to such challenges, I have frequently seen Health Canada officials reference science documents that aren’t consistent with the subject of the challenge. They also seem to consistently refuse to provide a level playing field for all companies in this industry.

5. Furthermore, even when such actions have brought about disturbing consequences for a company and incompetence on the government’s part has been pointed out, neither the Minister of Health’s office nor the CFIA Minister holds anyone accountable for the damage done to the company. They seem unwilling, or unable, to clearly articulate and uniformly enforce the regulations.

6. Companies that want to put new and innovative health products on the market need transparent and clear guidelines to feel the confidence to invest. Lack of such guidelines diminishes innovation and competition and, for the consumer, diminishes product choice while increasing the costs of products already on the market.

7. I’m frustrated with the present regulatory system for the above-mentioned reasons and I believe the availability of food and NHP’s for Canadians is being significantly negatively impacted. Given everything I have outlined, Health Canada’s motto seems ironic to me: “All decisions will be based on good science.” Just as ironic is the fact our government spends money on departments whose job is to encourage companies to be innovative (like the NRC IRAP program), while at the same time maintaining a regulatory system that obstructs innovation.

8. If, like me, you want this situation to change, I believe the power to do so is in your hands. Contact the Ministers responsible for the CFIA and Health Canada as well as your local MPs and tell them you’re not satisfied with the way things are and you want to have the issues dealt with fairly. Feel free to send them a copy of this article as well.

9. Also bear in mind the senior-level people are the people we need to be dealing with and contacting; phoning your local Health Canada or CFIA offices and complaining to the receptionist or field inspector isn’t likely to be effective.

10. Finally, I want to confirm that I empathize with many of the Health Canada and CFIA employees working under the current regulatory system. I think many of them are intelligent and well meaning, but they’re unfortunately caught up in a discordant regulatory system. In my view, we need such people working with us for any constructive and effective changes to occur.

Healthy dining

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

We all love tasty food, enticing flavours and relaxing at restaurants with friends and family. We feel good about looking after our health, having compassion for animals and caring for the planet. What about doing all these things at the same time? Or is that combination virtually impossible?

Vegetarian restaurants are an excellent option and many of us regularly refer to the ‘app’ on our cell phone to locate the closest veg-friendly restaurant. We might also visit and for Earthsave’s helpful listings.

Even so, there are times when we want to go to a mainstream chain, either because of its handy location or because we are heading there with a group of business associates, friends or family members with diverse dietary preferences. At many of these restaurants, however, we are challenged to find a single protein-rich item on the menu. It’s perplexing because we know there are vegan options for many foods; for instance, the BC-based company Gardein offers vegan versions of chicken breasts, barbecued beef, buffalo wings and burgers.

We also know how easy it would be to replace the poultry in a chicken salad with a deliciously seasoned veggie “meat” or to use veggie “meatballs” in a pasta dish. When these dishes are made with real meat, the animal flesh is processed and shaped into convenient forms; plant ingredients can be molded and seasoned in similar ways. Pizzerias could top their vegetable pizzas with tasty and easily melted Daiya cheese and veggie pepperoni. Italian restaurants could simply add white beans to their salads, as they do in Tuscany. Restaurants could make their vegetable soup with chickpeas and vegetable stock instead of with chicken stock.

Instead, most local chains’ menus are completely lacking in protein-rich alternatives for vegans and for vegetarians who are sensitive to eggs or dairy. For those of us on plant-based diets, our choices are limited to lettuce – “I’ll order the Chicken Caesar Salad without the chicken and cheese” – or a fruit salad. Ultimately, we avoid these kinds of restaurants entirely and encourage our groups to head for more veg-friendly venues.

Over half the population in North America occasionally orders a vegetarian meal. And many people order a vegetarian meal even though they do not label themselves as a vegetarian. One in three vegetarians are vegan and, according to the national restaurant association, more than one in four families choose a restaurant based on the availability of a vegetarian option. Many people who wish to reverse a chronic disease or lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or colon, breast or prostate cancer welcome the opportunity to dine at an attractive location with friends and family, without cholesterol laden, fatty protein options. These people need an entrée with substance, not just a plate of greens or a bowl of fruit. It’s time for a consumer-driven campaign to get mainstream restaurants adding veggie alternatives to their menus.

If you’d like to see more plant-based options at some popular chains, contact the corporate customer service representatives below (or email other favourites):

Cactus Club ( 604-714-2025)
Earls ( 604-984-4606)
ABC ( 604-583-2919)
White Spot ( 604-321-6631).

October 2
Sample delicious, protein-rich and cholesterol-free foods at Earthsave’s Taste of Health event. Presenters include Vesanto Melina (“Putting Together a Nutritious Plant-based Diet”) RoundHouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Yaletown, Vancouver.

Visit Vesanto Melina’s website at or call 604-882-6782. See the very new Cooking Vegetarian by Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina, Wiley Canada, 2011.