House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was artists.

Topics

The House resumed from October 9 consideration of the motion.

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10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, last night the debate began on Bill C-38. It is a controversial bill. Yesterday the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford spoke on behalf of my party about this bill and outlined conditions which we on our side would consider for the decriminalization of marijuana, conditions that have not been fulfilled, that are some very serious issues which need to be addressed, and conditions by which many members of our party feel they could support the bill.

I want to address several issues that I feel are very important concerns that come out of this bill. There are five issues or reasons that come out of this bill and show that this bill is poorly thought out, poorly timed and a high risk for Canadians and for our society.

The first of the five issues I wish to address in the brief time allotted to me involves health. As members of the House, we should, I believe, be concerned about the health of Canadians. I think there are some very serious health issues related to the bill and to the use of marijuana.

The second issue is the effect that this bill would have on our young people and on children.

The third is safety. I am concerned about safety. There are some very serious safety issues. This bill would expose Canadians to significant risks.

The fourth is organized crime. There are some very serious concerns in this area.

Finally, the fifth is trade and the effect that this bill if implemented will have on our trade with our largest trading partner.

First, on the subject of health, the government is spending about $500 million taxpayer dollars on a health issue: trying to convince Canadians not to smoke cigarettes. That is a lot of money. We know that tobacco smoking is a very serious, undermining factor in regard to the health of Canadians, and it continues in spite of the warnings and the labels. Now, due to this bill, the Minister of Health is proposing to spend another $250 million trying to convince Canadians not to smoke marijuana at a time when we are making it easier for them to do so and lowering the consequences. I wonder if this is a good investment in our health care dollars.

If I had time to refer to it, I could quote the committee report, “Working Together to Redefine Canada's Drug Strategy”, from the committee chaired by the hon. member for Burlington. In the report, the committee correctly identified that marijuana contains tars and benzopyrenes far in excess of what cigarettes do. It is widely known or accepted that smoking two or three marijuana joints is the equivalent to smoking about 20 tobacco cigarettes.

I wonder if Canadians have had an open and thorough discussion about the liabilities we are exposing ourselves to if we increase and encourage this habit of smoking a product that is almost certain to undermine the health of long term users. These studies are not in place. I think Canadians deserve the right to discuss this more thoroughly before we take on liability for future health care costs and for future taxpayers.

I am concerned about the effect on children. The bill proposes a lower fine for young people aged 14 to 18 in regard to possession of marijuana. What kind of program is this? What kind of message does it send to our young people? We have heard about passing the buck, and that happens a lot, even in a place like this. There is a lot of passing the buck, but now we are passing the pot. I can see this encouraging older users to make sure there is a young person along with them so that if the police show up it would all belong to the young person. That is passing the pot. I think this is a very serious thing.

I am concerned about the effect that using these products has on our youth. There was a major article in the Vancouver Sun that talked about another drug, but I think it is related. It is called crystal methamphetamine. It is cheap. It is everywhere. It lasts for hours and does serious damage to the brain. It seems to be replacing marijuana for young people on the coast, and a lot of them, in fact, because it is cheap, readily available and is produced in many homes, in a dangerous fashion. However, for young people taking crystal meth, there is no place to deal with them. They are often paranoid when they come off this very nice high they get; they go through periods of paranoia and violence and have extraordinary strength because of the drug. Hospitals do not want them and care facilities do not want them.

I am concerned that the attitude the House would be projecting if we approve the bill would be to encourage young people, to say that drugs are okay, it is not a big problem, to use marijuana, but if it does not give them the high or costs a little too much or is a little hard to get, to try crystal meth. Once people cross that barrier of indulging in mood altering substances, it is a slippery slope with very nasty consequences.

On the safety concerns, we are closing our eyes to the fact that organized crime is very heavily involved in this issue, with billions of dollars. We estimate that in Canada, at least on the west coast, there are some 15,000 to 20,000 homes with illegal grow ops in them. They pirate hydro in a dangerous fashion. It is dangerous for the hydro workers and dangerous for the communities and neighbourhoods these houses are found in. It is dangerous to the children. It is estimated that one in four of these homes is rigged with illegal electricity, which creates fire hazards for our police and firemen going to these homes. Many of them are booby trapped, but there are children living in these homes. That is a very serious concern.

The fact is that there are billions of dollars going into this illegal drug trade. Do we think that by decriminalizing this we are going to undermine criminals' ability to earn profits from this? Or are we in fact increasing the market for their product?

An article from the Vancouver Sun of May 9 reports:

In every neighbourhood: Marijuana has transformed B.C. from crime backwater into the centre of a multi-billion-dollar industry that has crept into communities across the province.

The article states that the cultivation of marijuana is estimated to be worth $4 billion a year in sales. By increasing the market for these products, are we trying to encourage organized crime?

I know the justice minister will say that he is toughening up penalties, as if that would be a deterrent, and he says maximum penalties, by the way. If we really wanted to send a message, we would toughen up by increasing minimum penalties, because the same article goes on to say that jail terms were imposed in only 18% of the cases and the average length of the jail terms was just under five months. The consequences are too low for this type of crime.

This same article goes on to state:

High profitability, low risk, and relatively lenient sentences continue to entice growers and traffickers, making it difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement agencies to make a truly lasting impact on the marijuana cultivation industry in Canada.

Do we really think that by making it more available we are going to help the police in this cause and will the judges impose anything other than minimum sentences and minimum fines?

Thus, there are very serious concerns related to organized crime.

Returning to the safety issue, the police have an opportunity to take a breathalyzer test for someone who is under the influence of alcohol, but we currently have no test to determine impairment from drugs or from marijuana. I know there are experiments with a blood test. It is one thing to take a breathalyzer test from someone at the side of the road. However, when someone is under the influence, it might be a high risk activity for both parties involved for a police officer to take a blood sample.

Blood is a high risk factor. I can imagine a police officer who is trying to take a blood sample getting a spurt in the eye. There could be serious health risks associated with that in this day of viral diseases, AIDS, hepatitis C and so on. What kind of risk are we exposing our officers to?

I am also concerned about trade issues. Our neighbour and largest trading partner, the United States, is clearly not going this way. We have huge trade, about $2 billion, going across the border every day and our country is very dependent on that. My riding is hurting right now because of hold-ups with the softwood lumber tariffs and we have other border issues that we are trying to resolve with the Americans.

What are we doing to our borders for the citizens who like to travel to the U.S.? The United States is certainly not going our way on increasing marijuana possession. We are creating another barrier for citizens who want to travel to the United States to visit their families, to holiday, to do business and for other reasons. We are putting ourselves at risk.

There are serious health concerns associated with the bill. Smoking anything is not good for us. I can well imagine the risk that the health minister is exposing us to with medical marijuana. Her department is sending out packets of marijuana seeds to medical doctors to dispense to their patients to grow their own.

I can see well-heeled liability lawyers who like to sue governments taking a class action suit when we find that down the road some of these people have been taking so-called medical marijuana with no proof that it will help anyone. What kind of liability are we exposing future taxpayers to?

We had a serious issue with hepatitis C and compensation related to that. What kind of liability are we exposing taxpayers to when people using this product develop cancer or some other serious debilitating element because of this?

These are serious issues that need to be discussed. I hope these issues will be thoroughly aired before a decision is made by the House.

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10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak at this stage in the debate on Bill C-38 which, as you and I both know, is getting a lot of media coverage and is the topic of much conversation in the homes of Quebec and Canada, because this is an issue that really grabs people. Often the debate is based on preconceived ideas. I would therefore encourage my colleagues in this House to ignore any preconceived ideas and to address the problem in the most objective way possible, and not to be blinded by ideology.

There are two statements that need to be made at the outset. First, smoking, regardless of what substance is smoked, is not good for people's health. This is, in my opinion, a very obvious statement, unless one is blinded by some ideology, just as one can say that drinking alcohol is not exactly the healthiest thing to do either.

Second, the repressive approach used by governments, particularly those in North America, is not working. Despite the millions of dollars, the amount of effort and the law enforcement resources invested in the battle against drugs, there is no disputing that government repression has not worked. Just about everyone agrees on these two statements, I believe.

Having made those two statements, let us now look at what direction we can take to deal with the problems referred to. It must be pointed out that Bill C-38 is supported in principle by the Bloc Quebecois. We do, however, believe that any measures to soften the approach to cannabis possession must go hand in hand with preventive and educational measures aimed at the population in general, but young people in particular.

The provinces must be the ones involved in prevention, because—being education—it falls under their jurisdiction, and not the federal government as part of a so-called national drug strategy.

I must point out in this connection that the Bloc Quebecois agrees that possession of marijuana will always be illegal and that there will always be sanctions, though not under the Criminal Code. This is an approach the Bloc Quebecois agrees with.

We do have one problem, however, since we do not know the breakdown of the $245 million allocated to the national drug strategy. In order to be logical, within this federal system we are living in but want out of, this money ought to go to the provinces, and to agencies reporting to the provinces with expertise in drug education, prevention and the campaign against drug abuse.

There is one other thing that disturbs us about Bill C-38 and that is the latitude given to police officers. Members will recall that one of the reasons for suggesting that the penalty for simple possession of marijuana be changed—so instead of having a criminal record, it would be a question of fines—was that the law was being enforced differently all over Canada. Often, in large urban centres, the police, overloaded with other cases, ignored simple possession, while the same person in a smaller city would be charged with a crime. That introduces issues of geographic inequality into the enforcement of the Criminal Code.

Contrary to the committee's recommendations, the first version of Bill C-38 left some discretion to police in deciding whether to lay criminal charges for possession of 15 to 30 grams of cannabis.

We recently heard that the Minister of Justice wants to lower that quantity from 15 to 10 grams. I want to remind everyone that this is one third of the amount envisaged by the committee established by the House. I am eager to hear the explanation for lowering it from 30 to 10 grams, which leaves even more discretionary power to the police. I really want to hear what the Minister of Justice has to say to this. I hope he will have some very serious figures to back him up, studies that will demonstrate and explain the reasoning behind this decision he seems to have already made.

It is all very well to say he is open to amendments, but I do not think the minister is saying this out of the goodness of his heart; I think he was unable to resist the pressure from some of his backbench MPs and pressure from his American counterpart. Therefore, I hope he will have good answers to give us regarding the lowering of the quantity on which criminal charges can be based.

Furthermore, I am quite eager to ask the Minister of Justice questions about an inconsistency when it comes to small-scale growers. Individuals possessing small quantities could be fined instead of charged, but individuals cultivating small quantities would be charged and could face harsh penalties.

My question for the minister—and I am prepared to consider any number of solutions—is that in doing this, we are forcing infrequent users to buy their supplies on the black market, which is controlled by organized crime rings.

Do we want to help these criminals earn more, even if only indirectly? I am asking because this bill lacks consistency, and I am very interested to hear how the Minister of Justice will respond to what I see as this obvious inconsistency in the bill before the House.

Furthermore, if we consider Bill C-38 in a broader context, the decriminalization of simple possession is a measure that will have a limited impact on changing the foundations of the war on drugs. Decriminalization, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is not the same as legalization. One would want to control the distribution, quality and price of products, and ensure adequate supply. That is the avenue suggested by a senator in a Senate report.

The Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of Bill C-38. However, we feel that there are various inconsistencies that must be remedied and corrected. Our overall approach to this bill is to leave ideology at home and hold an open discussion in the belief that a solution can be found. We hope that the Minister of Justice is doing likewise, and we are looking forward to working in committee to ensure that Canadian law is more responsive to the problems I raised at the beginning of my speech.

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10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-38, the marijuana bill.

As we look at the title of the bill, the marijuana bill, one wonders why on the eve of the Prime Minister's departure from politics we are debating a marijuana bill as if it were one of the biggest priorities we have in the country. It seems to me that if the Prime Minister and the government have brought in this bill because they have run out of ideas, then maybe the Prime Minister should just pack up and go home? Canada could then get on with the business of governing and moving forward.

When we look at the marijuana bill, the optics look good. It would decriminalize the small use of marijuana but still control it through summary fines which would not be appear on one's record.

However, as we look deeper into the bill, we realize there are serious flaws. I will point out those flaws today and give the reasons the Canadian Alliance is opposed to the bill.

In election 2000 one of the candidates running against me was a young fellow from the Marijuana Party. I actually thought he was a very intelligent gentleman. His purpose for running against me was to bring out the issue of medicinal use of marijuana.

As well, about two weeks ago a gentleman from my constituency came to my office and we discussed at length the medicinal use of marijuana. He suffers from MS and said that marijuana gives him some relief.

I want to go back to the gentleman from the Marijuana Party because he did get his point out. However it obviously was not a priority with Canadians because he hardly got any votes. This makes one wonder why the government would bring forward Bill C-38. Bill C-38 does not address the issue of medicinal use of marijuana. It just talks about removing criminal conviction for a certain amount of this thing.

When I was a student we used to ask for student discounts when we bought something because we were always short of money. It seems that kind of thinking has crept into the bureaucracy and out from bureaucracy into the bill.

A youth between the ages of 14 and 18 would actually get a discount on the fine. Can anyone believe that? An adult would have to pay $150 but a youth would only have to pay $100. The youth actually gets a student discount on fines. Something is flawed with the bill.

The government says that it will put in $10,000 for the drug strategy. The drug strategy has its own issues out here.

What is the point of the bill? It is not a priority for Canadians. There are other issues. The medicinal use of marijuana is a bigger priority than this issue. I even heard the Prime Minister talk about this bill on national television saying that we should not judge people who use small amounts of marijuana.

Now we do agree on the optics. Even the Canadian Alliance agrees but we have come up with an amount that is not quite as big as the amount in the bill. We think that having five grams should not require a criminal investigation. We understand that, however, if one is in possession of 30 grams, which is more joints, who are we pleasing?

The bigger concern we have, with the discount that I talked about, is what kind of message are we sending to our youth?

On one level we are fighting tobacco by asking people not to smoke. On another level, we are opening up other issues that go along with that, for example, after how many joints will someone become intoxicated? Will the person be driving a car and will the police have the resources to test for marijuana substance in the blood?

When we have so many other issues it becomes very difficult for someone like me, who even had, as I said, an individual run against me in my election and understood its point of view, to support the bill as it is presented.

The Alliance would like the bill to go back to the committee where we can think about it. The bureaucrats have mistakenly brought forward this bill and the Prime Minister is in a rush to push it through before he departs. Why? Only he knows the rationale for that. What is the rush? This is not a priority on the radar screen. There are many other issues that have a higher priority for Canadians, such as health care and all the other issues, than a marijuana bill.

The Canadian Alliance has called for amendments to the bill and has asked that it be sent back to the committee where we can rethink it and, when we have nothing else to do, discuss the bill again.

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10:35 a.m.

Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey
Ontario

Liberal

Murray Calder Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice recently introduced Bill C-38, the proposed cannabis reform legislation, and I am pleased to debate the bill.

As the House is undoubtedly aware, countries treat cannabis possession in different ways. Some countries tolerate certain forms of possession and consumption, certain countries apply administrative sanctions or fines, and others apply penal sanctions.

However, despite the different legal approaches toward cannabis, a common trend can be seen, particularly in Europe, in the development of alternate measures to criminal prosecution for cases of the use and possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use. Fines, cautions, probation, exemption from punishment and counselling are favoured by many European justice systems.

Some Australian states and territories have also adopted cannabis decriminalization measures. Some of these measures are similar to what is being contemplated in Bill C-38. I would like to take a few moments to describe the situation in South Australia, the first Australian jurisdiction to adopt cannabis decriminalization measures.

Reform of the cannabis laws in South Australia came with the introduction of the controlled substances act amendment act, 1986. This amendment proposed a number of changes to the controlled substances act of 1984, including the insertion of provisions dealing with the expiation of simple cannabis offences. This represented the adoption of a new scheme for the expiation of simple cannabis offences, such as possessing or cultivating small amounts of cannabis for personal use, or possessing implements for using cannabis.

The cannabis expiation notice, CEN, scheme came into effect in South Australia in 1987. Under this scheme, adults committing simple cannabis offences could be issued with an expiation notice. Offenders were able to avoid prosecution by paying the specified fine or fees ranging from $50 Australian to $150 Australian within 60 days of the issue of the notice. Failure to pay the specified fees within 60 days could lead to prosecution in court and the possibility of a conviction being recorded.

Underlying this scheme was the rationale that a clear distinction should be made between private users of cannabis and those who are involved in dealing, producing or trafficking in cannabis. This distinction was emphasized at the introduction of the CEN scheme by the simultaneous introduction of more severe penalties for offences relating to the manufacture, production, sale or supply of all drugs of dependence and prohibited substances, including offences relating to larger quantities of cannabis.

The CEN scheme was modified by the introduction of the expiation of offences act, 1996, that now provides those served with an expiation notice the option of choosing to be prosecuted in order to contest being given the notice. Previously those served with a notice had to let the payment of expiation fees lapse in order to secure a court appearance to contest the notice. In choosing to be prosecuted, however, people issued a notice have their alleged offence converted from one which can be expiated to one which still carries the possibility of a criminal conviction.

The expiation system for minor cannabis offences in South Australia has been the subject of a number of evaluation studies. The impact of the implementation of such a system is therefore best seen there. As I mentioned, the South Australian cannabis expiation notice, CEN, system began in 1987. The main arguments for an expiation system were the reduction of negative social impacts upon convicted minor cannabis offenders and the potential cost savings. Implicit in the former view was the belief that the potential harms of using cannabis were outweighed by the harms arising from criminal conviction.

None of the studies upon levels and patterns of cannabis use in South Australia found an increase in cannabis use that was attributable to the introduction of the CEN scheme. Cannabis use did increase in South Australia over the period from 1985 to 1995, but increases in cannabis use were detected throughout Australia, including in jurisdictions that possessed a large prohibition approach to cannabis.

In fact, the largest increase in the rate of weekly cannabis use across all Australian jurisdictions occurred in Tasmania, a strict prohibitionist state, between 1991 and 1995. A comparative study of minor cannabis offenders in South Australia and Western Australia concluded that both the CEN scheme and the more punitive prohibition approach had little deterrent effect upon cannabis users.

Offenders from both jurisdictions reported that the expiation notice or conviction had little or no impact upon subsequent cannabis and other drug use. However, adverse social consequences of a cannabis conviction far outweighed those receiving an expiation notice. A significantly higher portion of those apprehended for cannabis use in Western Australia reported problems with employment, further involvement with the criminal system, as well as accommodation and relationship problems.

In the law enforcement and criminal justice areas, the number of offences for which cannabis expiation notices were issued in South Australia increased from 6,000 in 1987-88 to approximately 17,000 in 1993-94 and subsequent years. This appears to reflect the greater ease with which police can process minor cannabis offences and a shift away from the use of police discretion in giving offenders informal cautions to a process of formally recording all minor offences.

Substantial numbers of offenders still received convictions due to their failure to pay the expiation fees on time. This was due in large part to a poor understanding by cannabis users of the legal implications of not paying the expiation fees to avoid a court appearance and due to financial difficulties. Most CENs are issued for less than 25 grams of cannabis. Half of all CENs issued were received by people in the 18 to 24 age group.

There has been strong support by law enforcement and criminal justice personnel for the CEN scheme. The scheme has proven to be relatively cost effective and more cost effective than the prohibition would have been. The total costs associated with the CEN scheme in 1995-96 were estimated to be around $1.24 million Australian, while total revenue from fees and fines was estimated to be around $1.68 million Australian. Had a prohibition approach been in place, it is estimated that the total cost would have been around $2.01 million Australian, with revenues from fines being around $1 million Australian.

A report on the CEN scheme noted that it appeared to have numerous benefits for the community, not the least of which were the cost savings for the community as a whole, the reduced negative social impacts for the offenders, greater efficiency and ease in dealing with minor cannabis offences and less negative views of the police held by offenders.

The Australian Capital Territory in 1992 and the Northern Territory in 1996 introduced similar expiation schemes. Victoria implemented a system of cautions for minor cannabis offenders in 1998 and Western Australia has followed with a similar scheme.

The changes made in the cannabis laws in Australia are not technically decriminalization measures as cannabis possession still remains a criminal offence in all Australian provinces.

What has been changed is the reduction in the penalty for possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use to something less than imprisonment, which is what is being proposed in Bill C-38.

I would like to thank the House for giving me the opportunity to say a few words. I will conclude my brief remarks by indicating that this piece of legislation goes a long way in the right direction.

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10:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not as high on the legislation as is the hon. member who just finished speaking.

I listened to the member's description of what happened in Australia. If this legislation is approved, I am not sure whether the result will be positive or negative. I am completely confused by some of the results of the study that was done in Australia. I do not think a very close analysis was made of that study, but in any case, the information is certainly not clear.

I will not be supporting the legislation as presented. That is not to say that by the time it comes back to the House we will see the same legislation simply because we have heard there is pressure within the Liberal Party to make changes to it. Every piece of legislation before us these days has been changed because one-half of the party supports it and the other half of the party which supports the other leader does not support it. This results in a stalemate and numerous amendments. It seems we are seeing that again.

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10:40 a.m.

An hon. member

How do you unite the right?

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10:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Let me deal with that. We talk about unification. There are all kinds of precedents for unifying two entirely different entities. What is really confusing is trying to unify one party. How can one party be unified? Unifying usually means bringing together two or more entities into one. But when there is one entity, and they are trying to bring it together into one entity, that is extremely confusing.

That is what the government is doing to the country. That is what it is doing to this legislation and other legislation. This is another carryover of what is going on within the great Liberal Party these days.

I will not make a blanket statement and say police generally do not support the legislation, but every police officer to whom I have spoken is against it. We have to ask ourselves what we are doing to society. When are we going to stop opening up the door, getting the thin edge of the wedge in, to destroying the type of society we have in Canada? Bill C-38 is an example.

Some people have said there will be less work for police officers. They have other things to do besides chasing after people who have a joint in their pockets, but the police are already chasing them to see if they have three or four joints in their pockets. There is absolutely no difference whatsoever. People will still want to use marijuana. People will still want to sell marijuana. The door is now open for those who want to get involved in the illegal drug trade much more so than before because they have a ready market and there are all kinds of ways to cover up illegal activities. The work for our police forces will not be decreased. The door will now be open, the thin edge of the wedge will now be inserted, and our young people will have the opportunity to participate in activities from which they would be much better removed.

The government is creating a society which is not for the betterment of Canada. If we start allowing illegal activities, what will be next? Will we overlook a break and enter because only $50 was stolen or because only one window was broken? Is that not going to be considered a criminal offence any more?

Right is right and wrong is wrong. Laws are made for the protection of society, but in particular for the protection of our young people until they understand what society is all about. Legislation like this is certainly not going to help.

I will not go any further than that, except to say that I am entirely against the legislation. I do not think it is good for society. It is the thin edge of the wedge. It is just a cop-out by the government to get away from the type of work that it should be doing. It should fund our police forces properly. In Newfoundland for instance, there is talk that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is so underfunded that quite often in order to go to the scene of a crime, they have to hire a taxi. This is terrible.

The RCMP will tell us that they are not funded properly. They do not have the staffing levels to do what has to be done. They are saddled with bureaucracy. It is almost as bad as HRDC, and we will talk about that a little later.

If the government properly funded our police forces, we would not have to worry about saying “They do not have the bodies, they cannot do the work, so let us give them less work and the criminals will have a field day”. It is time the government put things in proper perspective and this is certainly not the way to start.

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10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague who just spoke because he had words of wisdom, words that need to be heard across the land. Let us not get all excited about doing something new.

For example, when I first came to the House we were spending millions of taxpayers' dollars against the use of tobacco but at the same time we were taxing tobacco. Let me make a forecast that within a very few years we will be spending millions of dollars and advertising against the use of a drug which cannot and will not be controlled. We will not have any income from it either.

This is a dangerous move. Like my colleague who just spoke, I have 12 RCMP detachments in my constituency. Three or four of them have highway patrols. Members should ask any one of the highway patrols about the use of marijuana. They should ask them upfront, in private, and they will say that marijuana is more dangerous on the highway right now than alcohol.

A car can be completely out of control and a driver can be pulled over, but the test given will show a blood alcohol content of only about .02. Yet the driver could be worse off and have less control over the vehicle than had he or she blown more than .08.

Members of every single detachment tell me the same story. I do not want to hear these crapped up figures that people have come up with from some supportive scientists who want to see this situation continue. If we were to go to the Province of B.C., we would find unquestionably that the largest cash crop in the province comes from the illegal sale of marijuana. That is a fine statement for a province that is growing, and that will continue.

What else will continue is the actual uncontrolled amount of the acidity in the marijuana grown. It can be doubled or tripled. So one joint next week or a year from now will do three times as much damage as what we have at present.

I served as a justice of the peace for 25 years and I had these young people come before me. I was situated right in the centre of an area with four detachments. It was very convenient, 24 hours a day, to act very quickly. I felt sorry for these young people. They would come in and the fine was $100 plus $4 in costs. I never saw them ever take the money out of their wallets. They always had the money in their pockets. I felt badly for them but it was the in thing to do.

Instead of pushing this bill, the government should be taking money to advertise the growing danger of this drug to society. That is what we should be doing. We should be getting concrete scientific evidence as to what it could do. The government is so in favour of trying to reach out to get young votes at the cost of destroying their lives.

When I go home at night from here, I often stop at Tim Hortons and have--

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10:50 a.m.

An hon. member

A donut.

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10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

No, a cup of cappuccino and a bagel. I too often see, not so much when it is a little chillier, youth out there. I know quite a bit about youth and I can pretty well judge their age, 14, 15 and 16 year olds. It is not a pretty sight.

I know what I did, and others did no doubt, out there sucking on the obnoxious weeds of tobacco. All this bill will do will increase the use of another obnoxious weed.

People cannot tell me that their lungs are not harmed when they inhale smoke. That is absolute nonsense. Why do we have masks for spraying? Why do we have masks for firefighters? Why do we have masks for any number of things? It is to protect the lungs.

I had the privilege to sit in an operating theatre and watch a lung removed from someone who had been smoking. It was the most grotesque thing I had ever witnessed in my life. There was even an odour to it.

Yesterday I went to watch the new film that will go out to every Royal Canadian Legion in the country entitled A Pittance of Time . It was a beautiful production. However, on the way back I took a shortcut because I was going to be late for a committee meeting. I watched some 15 year old youth or they may have been a little older. I could smell the marijuana. I can smell it just like I can smell sweet grass burning.

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10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

What did you do, pull up a chair?

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10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Do not make a joke out of this, sir. This is serious business. It is nothing to be laughed at.

What I saw was what I have seen many times in my life. It was to watch people who were not in control of themselves.

Let us go back to the drawing board and let us have more scientific proof. Let us have it come from this country and not from the imagination of some country abroad.

Child Abuse Prevention Month
Statements By Members

October 10th, 2003 / 10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remind all members of the House that October is child abuse prevention month.

Unfortunately, some parents struggle with mental health issues, substance abuse, family violence or other serious issues. This impacts their ability to care for their children, and often abuse and neglect are the result.

Family and Children's Services Niagara, which has a branch in my riding of Niagara Centre, will be participating in the 11th annual purple ribbon campaign to help raise public awareness about the issue of child neglect and abuse. In the past year FACS responded to nearly 5,200 child protection concerns.

Agencies such as FACS need our support so they can raise awareness of this problem. Let us do what we can to protect our children.

Cattle Industry
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, much has been said about the BSE and the crisis that it has caused in our beef industry, but unless one is really connected to the agricultural industry, it is difficult to fully appreciate the magnitude of the disaster and the human toll that it is taking on our farm families. Unable to sell their cattle, they have no income. Their bills are going unpaid.

It is Thanksgiving this weekend when Canadian families all across this great country will come together to celebrate the gift of plenty which Canadians have come to enjoy. Turkeys will be in the oven and children will be playing. There will be much delight and much to be thankful for, but one animal testing positive for BSE has ruined the farm families of this country.

There will be no turkey this weekend for them. It may even be hard to get winter clothes for the children this fall. Christmas is not far off when farm families will be doing without and other children will have gifts galore.

I ask all parliamentarians and, indeed, all Canadians to remember the farm families this weekend.