House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was going.

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The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

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10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. When the bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona had the floor and there were 18 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call on the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

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10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue my speech on the bill. I spoke for just two minutes yesterday, so I will continue on today with the bill.

We had very knowledgeable speakers yesterday on this topic. They provided some very convincing arguments, I thought, why the bill is not a particularly good idea. I would like to cite more reasons for that being the case.

I think the bill came up through the Conservative Party process, the election process, the polling process. It probably polled the public and asked Canadians if they agreed with minimum sentences. Of course, the numbers went right off the radar and the Conservatives said we will have to bring in legislation along these lines.

Perhaps if the Conservatives had polled a focus group asking a different question, they might have received a different response. Had they looked at the reality of how mandatory minimum sentences have actually worked for 30 years in the United States and if they had looked at other aspects to this type of legislation, they might have received a different response in their polling.

For example, would they have asked people if they would support mandatory minimum sentences, if it was known that the United States was repealing its mandatory minimum sentences. California, New York, Michigan, Delaware, Massachusetts are all repealing their mandatory minimum sentences with other states considering the same.

We have a former counsel to the United States House of Representatives committee on the judiciary, Eric Sterling, who stated emphatically his decision to promote mandatory minimum sentences in the United States was probably “the greatest mistake of my entire career over 30 years in the practice of law”. What the Americans found was that the goal of the legislation to reduce drug use failed. The goal of safety in the communities failed. The goal of raising the prices of drugs and lowering the purity failed. The goal of reducing organized crime failed.

I know that we in Canada like to follow the United States, but clearly this is another example where we are totally out of step, where the Americans have tried the experiment and it has failed. Now the government for purely political and polling reasons wants to move in this area.

Let us look at what has happened under the mandatory minimum sentences in New York. We saw a dollar for dollar trade-off in increased expenditures for prisons versus higher education. That is really smart is it not, to spend money on prisons by taking away money from higher education. That is not a very smart use of taxpayers' money.

In addition, while drug use is pervasive among every social or economic group, 95% of all people incarcerated for drugs in New York were poor African Americans or Latinos.

In 1986, when the legislation was enacted, the Federal Bureau of Prisons expenditure was $862 million. Two years later, it was $1.2 billion. In 1991 it was $2.1 billion. Now the President's request for fiscal 2010 is over $6 billion.

That gives us an idea of how the expansion in prisons has developed in the United States. That is a mirror of what will happen here in Canada. At the end of the day we are going to be building a huge number of prisons. We are going to start privatizing them because that is part of the corporate ideology of the Conservative Party. It is to turn over public assets to the private sector so that it can get in the business and try to make a profit keeping people in jail. Clearly, that is a failed strategy.

Yesterday, it certainly brought out the lawyers in Parliament. We have five lawyers out of 38 members in our caucus. I heard from many lawyers yesterday and I must admit that it was a beautiful experience. They knew what they were talking about. They presented arguments and there are times when we should be listening to lawyers.

If there were ever a time, this would be one because they know the system. They understand the system and they were not all just from the NDP and the Bloc. There were members from the Liberal Party as well who spoke eloquently about this legislation. So maybe there are some lawyers over on the government side who just close their ears, close their eyes to this situation, because they are being told by their management that this is something they have to do for political purposes.

It was also pointed out yesterday that if we bring in the mandatory minimum legislation, it will bring an end to guilty pleas. Part of our system and the reason it works reasonably well at times is that people will plead guilty. When they are caught, they decide it is better just to plead guilty and be done with the charge. When we bring in legislation like this, guilty pleas will come to an end and is that something that we really want in our system? I am all in favour of tougher legislation. I am not easy on crime, but I want to see things that work and the government has brought in some pieces of crime legislation that will work. But this one in particular is one that will not work.

I want to give an example of something in Manitoba that has worked really well and that is the key here. We should be looking at dealing with issues where we can find evidence that it actually works. Winnipeg had the highest auto theft rate in Canada for a number of years. About four years ago the government auto insurer, because we have public auto insurance as they do in B.C. and Quebec, brought in a program to install immobilizers in cars. People were offered a $40 discount on their insurance if they installed immobilizers.

People did not buy in. Nothing happened. Did we conclude from that to scrap the program because it did not work? No, we took another look at it and said that offering the $40 discount was obviously not enough, but we had to solve the problem. We decided to pay for immobilizers in people's cars and we sent notices for people who drove high risk cars, and that by a certain date they had to have a free immobilizer installed. They then received the insurance reduction and guess what happened? In only two years we now, a couple of months ago, had one day where we had zero car thefts in Winnipeg.

One would think with an experience like that, other jurisdictions would come running and would want to know how we did it and would want to copy it. I would like to know why the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which is the national body dealing with insurance issues across the country, and other insurance companies would not be showing interest in that. Ontario, for example, is a very large private insurance market. Why would it not be encouraging that sort of a program? Maybe it will. Maybe we should be putting some pressure, and talking and encouraging the members to look at what happened in Manitoba, and perhaps encourage the big private insurance companies in Ontario to come out with a program like that.

Our calculations are that we took an original hit by installing the immobilizers, but we were paying out such large amounts of money for stolen vehicles, damaged vehicles, not to mention the fact that people were being killed by people who stole cars and were involved in accidents, that we were able to cut this back in a substantial way. Clearly, there is a role here for the Insurance Bureau of Canada to learn by these examples and encourage their member insurance companies to do something to encourage private insurance companies in the rest of Canada to bring in a similar type of program.

That is what the bottom line here is. Members of the Liberal Party, for whatever reasons, have decided to support this legislation and I think I know why that is, but given their druthers they would rather not.

The fact of the matter is that the members of the NDP, the members of the Bloc, and the members of the Liberal Party, in general, would prefer to support legislation where there is proof that we are going to get some results. That is the bottom line. Why would we be bringing in legislation that we know from the very beginning is not going to work?

I want to deal with some of the details of the bill. I would like to also point out, as my colleague the member for Churchill yesterday pointed out, how recreation centres are very important for getting people away from crime. We had in my constituency a community club called Kelvin community club. It had survived the Depression, so that will give us an idea of how resilient this little club was. As a matter of fact, Clara Hughes, an Olympic medallist in two sports, trained in that club and her mother lives just a few blocks from the club.

The mayor of Winnipeg, after promising not to close any community clubs, changed his mind and forced this little club to close. What they are now doing in Winnipeg, as they are in other areas, is they are developing these super centres where we have to get into our cars and drive two or three miles to get some exercise. When we grew up, there were little community clubs in our neighbourhoods. The kids could walk over to those clubs and exercise or play hockey or soccer, or whatever. They did not have to be super nice places; they were just very close to where people lived and people enjoyed them.

It is our destruction of these centres that is leading to more of the problems we see in society. We in the NDP have always said we have to deal with crime before it happens, not after it happens. Part of the program is to put money into community centres, like the Kelvin community club, to keep it going, to put money into programs to keep children active, to put money into the educational system, and to develop all sorts of programs to keep people away from activities that are going to lead them into trouble. That is a very important element in the whole area of prevention of crime rather than dealing with it afterward.

A member of the Bloc indicated yesterday that, in fact, treatment in prisons is not up to the level that it should be. If we have people in prison who were given a 36-month sentence, for example, then they should be kept there for the full 36 months, so they can finish their programs. It does not make sense to encourage people in prison to participate in programs when they end up getting out of prison halfway through the program. It is self-defeating.

So, I think we want to be tough on crime, but we want to be smart about it. We want to ensure that if we have programs and people are taking the programs then at least let them finish the programs before letting them out of prison.

Bill C-15 is an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Its enactment would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to provide for minimum penalties for serious drug offences, to increase the maximum penalty for cannabis marijuana production, to reschedule certain substances from schedule 3 to that act to schedule 1, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Bill C-15 is the reincarnation of Bill C-26 from the 39th Parliament, with minor changes that would clean up the language of the bill. This is a good example why we should not be having elections every year, year and a half, because some of these bills that we are dealing with right now are going through their third Parliament. At the rate we are going, we are never going to see some of these bills finally put into law. In this particular case, I guess we do not mind. However, in some other cases, we would like to see them pass.

The bill was passed at that time, and it was referred to committee at the time of the election call.

In terms of the summary of Bill C-15, schedules 1, 2 and 3 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are the schedules that this bill deals with. They list illegal drugs in Canada that have progressively lighter punishments for possession, trafficking, obtaining, importing and exporting all illegal drugs. There are eight schedules in total.

Schedule 1 lists 18 substances and all their derivatives, which includes methamphetamines, opium and cocaine. An indictable offence for possession is punishable by a sentence not exceeding seven years. For trafficking, a person is liable to imprisonment for life.

Schedule 2 lists only cannabis, its preparations, derivatives and other similar synthetic preparations. An indictable offence for possession is punishable by a sentence not exceeding five years. For trafficking, a person is liable to imprisonment for life.

Schedule 3 lists 32 substances and includes amphetamines and drugs known as the date rape drugs. The NDP supports this particular element of the bill, as indicated by members yesterday.

The bill proposes minimum penalties for the production, possession, trafficking, importing and exporting of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and other drugs. The bill also moves the amphetamines, its 19 by-products and the date rape drugs from schedule 3 to schedule 1. Tougher penalties will be introduced for trafficking in the date rape drugs. As I said, we in the NDP certainly agree with that.

The maximum penalty for cannabis production would increase from 7 to 14 years imprisonment. Mandatory sentences are introduced for the production of even one marijuana plant: a minimum sentence of six months. I do not know how sensible that is. The legislation imposes six months imprisonment for any act of cultivation of cannabis irrespective of issues of violence and gang involvement.

In terms of marijuana, it is six months for the production of 1 to 201 marijuana plants for the purpose of trafficking, and a one- to two-year mandatory prison sentence for the production and possession for the purposes of trafficking and importing and exporting.

I want to deal with what I see as an interesting aspect to this bill.

A member of the House was quoted, I believe in committee. He stated:

I suppose I will accept the representation made from the John Howard Society and the Civil Liberties Association that this bill is targeted to the so-called low-level distributor or low-level dealer. You may be correct that it may not be as effective as we would like in going after the kingpins.

That is what we should be doing.

I may accept that.

Who said that? None other than the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, the member of the Conservative Party who is proposing this bill.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it will probably be obvious that I am not a lawyer, so my question will have to be taken in that vein.

The member made a point of linking this legislation and the minimum requirements under it to a reduction in guilty pleas. He has characterized that as not being in the interest of the general public and the criminal justice system. However, an issue has come up in my experience recently, which is of concern, and that is with respect to the number of occurrences of plea bargaining, most graphically illustrated with the Homolka case, as well as others. People are very concerned about that.

Because the member is concerned with the reduction of guilty pleas, would it not be an argument in favour of the legislation if there were also a reduction in the plea bargaining system associated with guilty pleas? People are very concerned about that. I wonder if he would comment.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are concerned that if we pass this legislation and it follows the American model, which in fact it does, we are going to see new prisons popping up like mushrooms all over the place and the inevitability that these prisons will be turned over to private sector for profits. We will be developing a system where we are warehousing huge numbers of people at a huge cost.

The Conservatives talk about reducing taxes, but we are going to see huge tax increases to keep these huge populations of people in these private prisons. That is where I see it going at the end of the day. That is what happened in the United States. After 30 years, they are trying to dismantle this. They are trying to roll this back because it did not work.

Part of the arguments that I heard yesterday in this House were that if we were to have mandatory minimums the legal counsels would be advising people to plead not guilty. The courts will be overloaded and we are going to have to hire more judges. There will be more work for lawyers.

We are going to tie up the whole system because people are not going to be pleading guilty, as I am told a lot of them do right now. When they are caught with drugs, the lawyer may say, “Look, it is an open-and-shut case so it is better that you just plead guilty and get it over with”.

However, if they are looking at mandatory minimum sentences, they will be inclined, according to what I heard yesterday, to fight that and to put up as tough a fight as they can. When they do that, the system is going to be clogged up. More judges will have be hired and the court system will have to be expanded.

Not only are we going to be expanding the prison system in the country, we are going to be expanding the court system as well. To me, that does not make sense, especially from a government that wants to lower people's taxes.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record here.

I believe the members of the NDP are misleading the House when they recite the words of the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert. I am going to read the entire passage for the record. Unlike the NDP members, I am going to read the entire passage.

I suppose I will accept the representation made from the John Howard Society and the Civil Liberties Association that this bill is targeted to the so-called low-level distributor or low-level dealer. You may be correct that it may not be as effective as we would like in going after the kingpins. I may accept that. But even if that is true, how can you tell me and tell the grieving parents of the 14-year-old girl that the low-level dealers are not a problem and that the elimination of the criminal enterprise--which is what the kingpins you refer to feed on--by taking those guys out, is not a solution to this epidemic problem in cities such as Edmonton and Vancouver?

It should be obvious to anyone that the member for Edmonton—St. Albert is not agreeing with the views of the NDP witnesses. He was simply doing his duty as a member of Parliament from the Edmonton area in raising the concerns that his constituents rightfully have over the drug problem.

Will the NDP now apologize for blatantly taking my colleague's words out of context?

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe that 13 out of 16 witnesses said this legislation would not work and it will not work, and nobody could provide evidence. They were asked over and over again at committee to provide evidence that this legislation works anywhere. They could not do it.

We have no studies that show it works, which is a heck of a way to bring in legislation, and of the witnesses who did appear, 13 out of 16 of them said this is not a good idea, there is no evidence it works.

The members want to talk about dealing with the kingpins of crime. We know they have not been successful in doing that, and that is exactly what has to happen. We should be attacking the hardened criminal element, the kingpins of drugs, who own businesses on the side, they own restaurants, live in fancy houses and basically masquerade as businessmen in our society.

These organized crime figures have been around forever and ever. It is always the little guys who we end up putting in jail. The big guys do not go to jail. In United States, even when they do put the big mafia kingpins in jail, they end up being in club fed conditions. They have their own chefs, and it is like a country club. They continue to run their criminal organizations from behind bars.

The government should be looking at that. Let us see some effort on the part of the government to go after real organized crime and put some of these big guys behind bars, and I will be right with the government to do that. That is what it should be doing. Instead, the government runs around, chasing small-time people who are being supplied by these big guys who never get touched in the process.

Let us wake up and let us start chasing the real causes of crime, the big guys who are the ones who should be put in jail for long periods of time.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member two short questions.

Perhaps some of us around here are watching too many movies about criminal organizations. In the context of this debate, as many members criticize mandatory minimums, the warehousing, the life-wasting, blind mandatory minimum sentences, we should not lose sight of the fact that the custodial sentence is a fundamental component of our justice system, and it is a necessary one to ensure public safety. We should put this in that context, in my view. Would he not agree with that?

Second, the government measure to impose mandatory minimums of one year foists the burden upon provincial governments and provincial correctional institutions, not federal institutions, of keeping these individuals in prison. Apparently it is not going to cost the federal government a nickel, so it is a rather cynical move.

Would he not agree that we would get better bang for our buck if we resourced our police better? Even though most of our police are not federal police, we get much more bang for our buck and much more effective public safety when we properly resource our police to do their investigations. When the police turn up the heat, crime goes down and public safety goes up.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is an absolutely excellent question and certainly well put.

Like him, we agree with proper sentences. They are a positive thing. I refer to the Bloc member who mentioned the other day that if we are letting people out of prison too early, they are not able to finish their treatment programs.

It is up to judges to decide the length of the sentence on a case-by-case basis. Whatever it is, offenders should be kept in for the length of the sentence and they should be taking treatment programs they will finish, as opposed to the system we have now where the programs are either not available or inmates are getting out of prison before they finish the programs.

In terms of offloading to provinces, he is absolutely correct. We are talking about sentences of two years that fall under provincial legislation, so the federal government is neatly transferring the problem over to the provinces. That is hardly a fair situation. The provinces are overloaded. Their systems are overloaded as we speak, to the point where we even had a huge riot in one of our provincial corrections facilities in Manitoba a couple of years ago.

In terms of resourcing police, we certainly are in favour of that. That is something that the Manitoba government, certainly provincially--

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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am afraid the hon. member's time has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, why is the Conservative government doing a 180° turn on justice policy?

We learned from a youth and adult justice system that was broken. Canada had an extremely high rate of youth incarceration at one point, a higher rate than the United States. We learned that a system that emphasized sentencing missed the focus needed to be placed on prevention.

We finally began moving down a better path, and now the government wants us to make a U-turn and go back down the wrong path in order for it to look like it is doing something. However, doing something and having the courage and the foresight to do the right thing are two very different things.

I have never understood why the Prime Minister, who has been called a policy wonk, would choose newspaper headlines over what is best for the country.

All Canadian commissions since 1952 have recommended abolishing mandatory minimums. One need only look to the United States to understand that mandatory minimum sentencing has failed. Mandatory minimum penalties simply do not work. They result in an increased prison population. We have to keep in mind that it costs approximately $62,000 per year to house a federal inmate. If that inmate is given a bit of counselling and support, the cost is over $100,000 per year.

It may be tempting to subscribe to a knee-jerk reaction, or a quick fix. It may even be tempting for some to place politics ahead of truth. The truth is mandatory minimums have been proven to fail. The truth is a multi-dimensional problem like this one requires a multi-dimensional solution. The truth is it takes prolonged investment and time to remedy the cause of crime.

That is why New Democrats have always said we need an overall coordinated strategy, focused on gangs, organized crime and drugs. We need an improved witness protection program. We need more resources for prosecution and enforcement, like hiring more cops on the beat, which the Conservative government has failed to do. The government has sent money to the provinces, but the provinces have not hired the police officers promised by the Conservatives in the last election.

We have also said that we need to toughen the proceeds of crime legislation. We need more prevention programs to divert youth at risk. We also have said that we need more drug treatment programs because right now there are very few in Canada. In fact, there are almost no community-based drug treatment programs that last longer than six months. If families have money, they send their young people to the United States for drug treatment. If they do not have money, then those young people have to wait years to get into treatment programs.

Young people need access to realistic and useful information and resources. Safe sex campaigns seemed to have worked somewhat. We need to tell young people how to seek support if they have an addiction, instead of showing a lot of commercials about the horrors of drugs.

The Conservative government cut the national crime prevention program by $14 million. That program delivered community-based and realistic youth education programs. It is clear the Conservative government is not focusing on prevention and education. Rather it is focusing on an enforcement approach, which has proven to fail.

Canadians deserve more than a government that plays politics and seeks the headlines. Canadians deserve a government that understands that behind the headlines there are real lives and real needs. Canadians need a government that understands community safety is the highest of civic priorities and that long-term solutions require sustained investments. This is the time for real leadership. Instead, Canadians have been given recycled ideas that have proven to fail.

A tremendous amount of research has said that it has failed. For example, the Canadian Sentencing Commission, which I talked about earlier, did research in 1987. Another one, a royal commission on revision of the Criminal Code, was done in 1952. In 1987, the commission said:

—mandatory minimum sentences, with the exception of those prescribed for murder and high treason, serve no purpose that can compensate for the disadvantages resulting from their continued existence.

Another study done in 1992 said that it simply did not work. That was by Michael Tonry. Another report in 1994 from the Department of Justice concluded that charges with minimums were often plea bargained. It said that the public was not aware of which offences were covered by minimums, that minimums resulted in lower conviction rates and that minimums increased trial rates and judges got around the minimums.

Other studies demonstrated that countries that use minimums the most were not associated with a bigger crime decline than the countries that used minimums the least. In Australia studies have demonstrated that minimums have no deterring effect. It is a fact that has been accepted by that government. There is a study by N. Morgan entitled “Mandatory Sentences in Australia: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”, which states it does not work.

Study after study has said that this kind of strategy has failed.

The government is selling the bill as being tough on organized crime and big-time traffickers. The reality is mandatory minimums divert law enforcement resources toward drug dealers, leaving the door open for organized crime. They divert from small dealers and the guys on the street, leaving the big folks and real criminals to organize. They are then more open for organized crime.

Why would the government not accept what experts have told us for years? Anti-social behaviour is more significantly reduced by diverting young people from the criminal justice system before they get wrapped up in a life of crime. Why is the government not listening to what police chiefs across the country have been telling it? Effective law enforcement is critical to community safety, but it has never been designed to eliminate the causes of crime.

The Prime Minister should know that good policy is premised on evidence, not popularity. Canadians deserve much more than a government that looks to score popularity points when the real issues demand attention. The government seems to be interested in popularity and not policy-making. That is not a good way to govern for Canadians.

There are fundamental problems with the legislative approach to criminal justice. We see there are three or four more bills coming, and it is the same approach. To adopt only a “Lock 'em up and throw away the key” attitude, turning our backs on young people and our future, is nonsensical. It is a bad policy that does a disservice to the very Canadians for whom the government should be working.

We know aboriginals and people of colour are overrepresented in Canadian jails. The United States started a war on drugs in 1972. Research has told us that there was a 500% increase in the prison population. This is the same period when the population in the U.S. grew by only 28%. It disproportionately affected minorities.

In 1998, 90% of people in prison for drugs in New York were serving minimums and blacks and Latinos, who only comprise 25% of the population, constituted 83% of the prison population. How sad is that.

In the U.S. federal system, blacks make up 12% to 13% of the population, and 38% of those were arrested for drugs offences, 59% of those were convicted and 74% of those imprisoned for drug offences were black Americans. The overpopulation of blacks in prisons is also a Canadian problem.

We have seen studies by Wortley and Tanovich. We have seen the 1995 report on the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System, which talks about the overrepresentation of blacks in Canadian prisons.

The bill would disproportionately impact on aboriginal offenders. We see that in another 2001 study by Jamie Cameron, entitled “Aboriginal Peoples and Mandatory Sentencing”. The data has shown that aboriginal and people of colour are overrepresented in Canadian jails.

The bill would affect people who are visible street level users and small scale sellers. It sends a message to our young people, particularly young people of colour, that the government prefers to invest in their incarceration rather than their education. No doubt, with all these bill, there is a likelihood of more jails being built across the country.

Incarceration has been linked to an increase in the likelihood of future offending. Not only are we putting more people in jail, which by itself is not a huge problem, we are causing them to offend more and therefore more of them will go back to jail. It repeats that cycle of violence and drug offences.

Studies have concluded that individuals sentenced to jail have higher recidivism rates and were more likely to re-offend than individuals who were not in prison but were punished for their crime. It looks like more prisons are exactly what the government plans to build.

We need meaningful consequences for offenders held accountable for their crimes, but if we run away from the solutions that address the cause of crime and therefore reduce crime, we leave Canada in a worse off situation. Offenders can and should be held accountable and the government can help prevent crime in the first place, but unfortunately Bill C-15 shows the government is not doing that.

One of the major problems with these kinds of laws is that instead of using the law to provide protection to those people to whom life has dealt an unfair hand, we are using it to punish them more and to have them become scapegoats for our desire to pretend we are being tough on drugs.

In the United States the war on drugs has not worked. While the Liberals talk about the importance of supporting and investing in young people, they are following the lead of the Conservative Prime Minister and turning their backs on the young people of Canada, which is sad.

Young people deserve a lot more. We are coming into the summer season. Instead of debating a bill like this one, we should be massively investing in youth employment programs. During economic downturns, young people are the first to get laid off.

Their unemployment rate goes up fairly dramatically when there is an economic downturn. That is why the Canada summer youth program should be increased dramatically. The funding should not be kept the same year after year. There should be an increase. The $100 million that is being spent on the program right now requires more investment, and it should not be only in the summer; it should be year-round.

Why should it be year-round? The reason is that after the summer, these young people are well trained by non-profit organizations, and they are laid off. Yes, some of them go back to school, but others do not. The ones who go back to school still need to find part-time work.

However, there is no federal government program that hires young people after school. If they are in school, there is no program to hire them after school so that they could work for a non-profit organization, so they could work in a neighbourhood community centre or neighbourhood recreation centre, so they can become role models in their communities, so they can stand up to the drug pushers and say, “There is a better way. Instead of joining a gang, let us join the swim team or the basketball team. Let us come together and learn about how to dance or do graphic arts on a computer”. There is so much young people can teach their younger brothers and sisters. They need that kind of support in the community. They need to have mentors, especially in at-risk neighbourhoods, and they have to have the kind of membership that these high-achieving young people can provide.

Some of them have to work because they come from families that require it. Instead of having them just work in Wal-Marts and McDonald's, we should provide them with opportunities to be hired in after-school programs so that they can teach younger brothers and sisters skills and become role models.

Instead, in Canada we do not have such a program. The only youth employment program is really directed to those who are out of school or out of work, whereas the people who are leaders in the community do not have a stable program that is long-term. The Boys and Girls Club of Canada, for example, has been asking the government to please fund it for the administrative costs and the core program. It wants stable funding year after year. Whether it is the Kiwanis Club, the Boys and Girls Club, the John Howard Society, or the Rotary Club, they have been saying that we need to hire young people part time throughout the school year, not just in the summer, so that these young people can lead others out of being trapped in a cycle of violence and trapped in neighbourhoods where some of them have serious drug problems.

We know that young people want to follow a leader. We know that the best allies to fight drug crimes are the young people themselves, their peers, so we need to go to the young people to tell them that they are our solution and that they are our allies in the fight against crime. Instead we are sending more and more young people to jail. We are building more jails and spending more money on jails, and at the end of the day we will just increase the number of young people committing crimes.

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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great attention to the hon. member. I cannot disagree with her remarks about rehabilitation and the need for resources, but this is not a budget debate. It is a debate on a specific bill.

The Conservatives finally seem to be learning something from three and a half years of opposition members' railing in committee about the efficacy of bills. I think she would at least concede that one of the novel parts is the reporting back to Parliament on the efficacy of this bill.

The second part is the aspect of diversion to the drug treatment court system, although sparsely situated in the country and under-resourced. It goes with her theme and it is a good thing.

Finally, will she admit that attorneys general across the country have been asking for such legislation for dealing with trafficking offences?

Our visit as a committee to British Columbia brought it home, and Dave Chomiak, the Attorney General for Manitoba, brings it home as follows:

Canada has become a source country for marijuana exports and, to a lesser extent, methamphetamine exports. Commercial level drug trafficking and grow operations are closely linked to criminal gangs and violence associated with competition over illegal drug markets and other drug related disputes.

He calls on the government to do something. He is not alone. Almost every attorney general in Canada is asking for this.

They steer the justice system at the provincial court level and the corrections facilities for provincial offences in their own provinces and territories. How can we ignore their pleas totally?

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the drug treatment courts try to divert people to treatment programs, but they are desperately inadequate and underfunded. There is a huge waiting list. Waiting for a drug treatment court means that dangerously long wait times for drug treatment would be further lengthened. It makes it worse. Most users need immediate access to service when they have to undergo treatment. Depending upon where one lives, current wait times range from months up to a year in this country.

I spoke to a young woman and her father face to face. The father was quite active in the Rotary Club. He described to me how tough it was to enrol his daughter in a drug treatment program. At a point when she was ready to change her life and conquer her addiction, there were no facilities available in Toronto or in Ontario.

What did he have to do? Thank goodness, he had some money. He had to send his daughter to the United States to a drug treatment program, and it was successful. She came back and started a small campaign with the Rotary Club of Toronto to say to both the provincial and federal governments that they must establish more drug treatment programs, especially those that are community-based and long-term, so that other families do not have to send their kids to the United States for treatment.

Members may talk about the drug treatment court and diverting people into treatment, but if there is no treatment or if people have to wait a long time, how would it work? It just will not work.

This element in the bill reveals that the real intention of this bill is to target low-level users, not organized crime. A drug lord, for example, or a big shot would not be taken to the drug treatment court. This shows that even though it seems like a good idea, unless we invest in drug treatment programs, the treatment court is going to have limited success.

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10:55 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for the member for Trinity—Spadina.

The government has come forward with this legislation and is talking about its agenda on crime. We have asked time and time again of the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Justice for any piece of documented evidence that shows that minimum mandatory sentences, the main mechanism in the bill, are effective mechanisms in treating drug crimes, which is something of interest to all members of the House. There is a lot of evidence on the other side that says this mechanism and tool do not work for these types of crimes.

In this Parliament in which we try to construct laws that are based on reason and fact and effort of study, we have asked for those studies from the government. It has come forward with nothing and has said that it is just Conservative logic.

The chair of the committee yesterday yelled at me and said it was just logical, according to him. He did not need evidence. He did not need any research. He did not need any study. He just needed his own logic to craft laws. The logic of his perspective was enough. His ideology was enough to carry the day.

What is a Parliament? What are members of Parliament, if ideology is all we are relying upon in writing the laws for this country for future generations?

As we construct laws, as we look at the sensitive and often passionate and inspiring issues of drug law in Canada, what should members of Parliament be relying upon? Should it be their own personal ideology, or the best evidence that we can pull together to write the best laws that we can for Canadians?

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10:55 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the mayors of the big cities are actually meeting right now. They met yesterday, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is meeting today in Alberta. They have called for a four-pillar approach: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. This has been proven successful in the United States, the U.K. and Europe.

In 2002 the report of the special House committee on the non-medical use of drugs, the office of the Auditor General and the Senate committee called for strengthened leadership, coordination and accountability, with dedicated resources. It talked about enhancing data collection to set measurable objectives, evaluate programs and report on progress. It talked about a balance of supply and demand in activities across government, and it talked very specifically about increased emphasis on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

That has been recommended since 2002, but that is not what the government is doing. The government is driven by ideology, supported by Liberal MPs on the other side. Basically at the end of the day, when the bill passes, more young people will be put in jail. That is ideology instead of evidence, because the evidence says that Bill C-15--