A report released by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, in March 2016 found there is an obesity crisis in Canada. Sun Peaks resident and Canadian Senator Nancy Green Raine was involved in the study and is now using her platform as a Senator to promote a healthier life for Canadian kids through changing legislation.
On Sept. 27, after two years of work, Raine’s Bill S-228, to prohibit the marketing of food and beverages to children, was read in parliament for the first time.
She said she believes current marketing regulations in Canada, which allow food and beverage companies to directly target children, are not strict enough and must be changed to protect children and benefit society as a whole.
“Why are we letting these companies target kids?” Raine said. “It’s not right.”
Raine’s proposed bill would amend the current Food and Drugs Act to completely prohibit any marketing of any food or beverages to children younger than 13.
The changes would apply to any food and drink whether considered healthy or not because Raine said she believes the line separating the two can be vague and disputed.
She said she hopes the ban will mean children won’t pressure their parents for products they see, giving parents a chance to make better decisions.
Under the proposed bill, marketing includes traditional forms such as print, radio and television but also licensing characters from movies to increase sales or sponsoring sports teams and schools.
“There is more marketing now, more proliferation,” said Raine. “This leads to inactive lifestyles.”
During her research she learned unhealthy eating habits in children are a cause of poor nutrition, inactive lifestyles, and more health issues and decreased productivity later in life.
Raine also described the toll obesity takes on the Canadian health care system.
“Our tax-payer funded system pays for ill health. Unhealthy weights have a direct health cost and lost productivity of $4.6 to $7.1 billion annually in Canada.”
Raine said she understands there are a number of factors that affect the problem but thinks this is a good place to start tackling the issue.
“There are lot of things contributing, it’s not just advertising to a kid,” said Raine. “But the time has come, 85 per cent of Canadians want legislation. It just makes sense to do this.”
Similar bills have been created over the years with little success, but with support from Canadians, other political parties and global organizations, a young Prime Minister with a young family and new research, Raine said she believes the bill stands a good chance of becoming law.
This bill also differs from past bills because it suggests serious consequences from large fines to jail time.
The next step for Raine’s bill is a speech by a critic of the bill with a discussion from other senators. It will be before a committee by late December where witnesses from industry, and social science and technology committees will give their opinions.