An Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Martin Cauchon  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 6, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 6:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, two clear messages are being sent by Bill C-38. One is to our youth that it is okay to smoke marijuana because they will just get slapped with a parking ticket fine. The other one is to the criminal world. There will be a demand for marijuana because the youth will smoke even more marijuana.

The irony is, we spend a billion dollars annually on our drug control program. Supposedly the program's target is to suppress drug supply. Why are we doing all this when on the one hand we are promoting its use and on the other hand we are throwing away a billion dollars and tying up the resources of the police departments across the country?

The police associations across the country do not support the bill. They know it does not work. It is not about drug free; it is about promoting drug use. The government is headed down the wrong path when it comes to the decriminalization of marijuana.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 6:40 p.m.
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Beauséjour—Petitcodiac New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has expressed concern, and I have heard that in committee as well, about the alleged mixed messages being given to young people by the so-called decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Naturally, when the government made its cannabis reforms public in Bill C-38, decriminalization was used by the media to describe the effect of the bill, but in fact the bill maintains possession as a criminal offence.

As members know, Bill C-38 substitutes an alternative measure, ticketing under the Contraventions Act, as the procedure for enforcing the ban on possession in all cases where the amount involved is not more than 15 grams and as an alternative to a criminal charge when the amount involved is between 15 and 30 grams.

As the legislative summary of Bill C-38 points out, “depenalization” is probably the term that best describes what Bill C-38 proposes since it removes a custodial sentence as a means of enforcing the law.

Bill C-38 provides for a fine of $100 for youth where the amount involved is 15 grams or less and where there are aggravating circumstances, including possession in or near a school, a young person will get a fine of $250. The fine is $200 when the amount is between 15 and 30 grams but a police officer also has the discretion to lay a criminal charge in that case.

Witness after witness at the special committee's original hearings, and I was a member of that committee, and at the hearings into Bill C-38 agreed that the present regime was not working.

Marijuana use, particularly by young people, has been increasing steadily. Very often the police do not even bother laying a charge. The cost and the time involved in laying a charge and bringing the matter to court are all out of proportion to a penalty that is likely to be imposed by the court. We believe the new ticketing scheme will lead to more enforcement of the law.

We recognize the communications challenges to make young people understand that there are serious consequences to using marijuana; serious health consequences and serious legal consequences. However, the government has provided $245 million for the renewal of the national drug strategy. A key component of the strategy will be tailoring a message to young people on the dangers of substance abuse, including the use of marijuana.

The member has asked whether the intent of Bill C-38 is to help criminal organizations increase their market share. The special committee was concerned that the potential $5,000 fine and even imprisonment for cultivation of one to three plants could lead to small producers deciding not to take the risk and instead buying on the black market.

That concern was addressed in the amendments made to the bill by the committee last night. It is now proposed that the cultivation of up to three plants would be a ticketed offence with a fine of $500 for adults and $250 for youth. Again, we are maintaining the core message that cultivation of marijuana is illegal while allowing an alternative to the criminal process when the amount involved is relatively minor.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 6:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, last week I asked the Minister of Justice a question regarding the decriminalization of marijuana bill, Bill C-38. Why the rush in putting the bill through and also who was to be the winner in this marijuana decriminalization matter?

Health Canada says that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that in order to protect our young people they should not be using marijuana.

The whole decriminalization process has been poorly thought out. It is inconsistent in terms of the intent of the bill. I do not know if the intent of the bill is to let the recreational users of marijuana, or pot, get away from being tagged with a criminal record so that they can go across the border and maybe go shopping in the United States. Is the intent to prevent our youth from smoking more pot, or to help the criminal element raise more pot? In other words, it is very unclear.

All the witnesses who came before the committee said there was no advantage to the bill, that it was poorly crafted, and that it was sending mixed messages to our youth.

If the bill were to come into being, it would change the enforcement from a criminal act to one of a parking ticket infraction. That is how the government of the day and the police will be treating people caught with X amount of marijuana. People would no longer be tagged as criminals. They would be fined and written up, like a parking ticket.

Regarding parking tickets, one of the questions that was raised was, how are youth going to pay for these parking tickets? We know the problems municipal governments have relative to the whole issue of collecting parking ticket fines. These fines are not like parking ticket fines in that most parking tickets are $5 and $10. These marijuana tickets will be more.

Youth will get a break. I cannot understand why the government would discriminate against adults and side with youth. For example, in the schedule attached in the act, an adult would pay a fine of $300 whereas a youth would pay a fine of $200.

The whole thing does not make any sense because we do not know who is going to gain or win from the decriminalization of marijuana bill. Even though the government calls it decriminalization, the use or possession of marijuana would still be an illegal act under the Criminal Code.

Let me conclude by saying that the bill sends the wrong message and the government should forget about the bill totally.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

November 6th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer all these questions.

This afternoon, the House will proceed to the report stage of Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal legislation. If this is completed in time, we will call Bill S-13, the census bill.

Tomorrow morning the business will be Bill C-51, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act. In the afternoon, pursuant to the offer made by the hon. member and others, we will proceed with Bill C-57, for our aboriginal community of Westbank, and hopefully will do all stages.

There have been discussions among House leaders. I understand that we could also, pursuant to the outcome of further negotiations, deal with Bill C-56.

We would then return to Bill C-52, the radiocommunication bill.

On our return from the remembrance week break, we will return to the unfinished business from this week. We will also commence report stage of such anticipated legislation as Bill C-38, the marijuana bill.

May I in conclusion thank all House leaders for the excellent cooperation they have given me throughout the last several years. Of course I will get to say that when we come back in November. I thank the right hon. Prime Minister as well.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the very great honour this morning to present, in both official languages, the first and second reports of the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs.

Specifically, this committee was given Bill C-38, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. That in fact is our second report.

Our first report is also a recommendation to the government, a unanimous recommendation from all committee members, that focused on two main issues: We encourage the government to focus on the renewed national drug strategy and that the government further its work on the recommendations made by the predecessor committee and that this strategy work to resolve the issue of drug impaired driving, as this issue was raised by witnesses and by all members of the committee. We really encourage the government to move rapidly.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will thank all my colleagues on all sides of the House for their incredible dedication and hard work in a very short order. We were blessed with great researchers and a great set of clerks. Everyone really pulled together, and we know that there was a big team working very hard last night. To all of them I say thank you very much.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2003 / 6:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in private member's business, Bill C-452.

Let me begin by congratulating the member for Lakeland for his bill. As we all know in the House, any time we can personally make a contribution to the country and to the safety of Canadians, it is certainly laudable. I know the intent of the member for Lakeland is to save lives. That is also the intent of his legislation, which would help to keep drunk drivers off our roads.

I also agree with the former speaker, the member from the Bloc, that the least we can do with the legislation is pass it, send it to committee, so the committee can do its work, do some research and debate it.

It is really unfair to private members' business. We have good ideas come into the House. The problem we had before we changed the rules for private members' business was we would have one hour of debate on a non-votable bill, then it would be squashed and that would be the end of it. All good ideas should have a clear hearing before the committee. That is my personal opinion. I will certainly say that it is supportable on the part of the Progressive Conservative Party.

I also want to congratulate MADD. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has led the charge in terms of keeping drunk drivers off our streets and highways. However, in spite of all the work Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done, very little change has occurred in terms of the rules and laws in dealing with drunk drivers.

We still lag far behind the world leaders in traffic safety in terms of the high percentage of alcohol related crash deaths and injuries, even though most of the leading countries have far higher per capita rates of alcohol consumption. These nations have succeeded to a far greater extent in inducing their populations to refrain from drinking and driving. Their laws are deterring impaired driving and protecting the public.

In contrast, our laws in this country are shielding impaired drivers from criminal sanctions and discouraging police and prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges. I believe that is the intent of Bill C-452. In fact the preface in the summary says:

This enactment strengthens the laws surrounding the investigation and prosecution of impaired driving and related offences by

I would like to read the summary for the viewing audience. It states:

(a) extending from two to three hours the time allowed for the taking of breath or blood samples from an accused in the investigation of an alleged offence;

(b) allowing a court to use the results of the analyses of the samples, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, as proof that the concentration of alcohol in the accused’s blood at the time of the alleged offence was not less than the concentration shown in the results;

(c) where the accused challenges those results, placing the evidential burden on the accused to establish, on a balance of probabilities, factors that affect their reliability; and

(d) requiring a court to consider other evidence in deciding whether the accused has discharged the burden of proof.

In other words, it tightens up the enforcement powers of the police, and that is where we need to go.

Other ideas for the government, in terms of keeping drunk drivers off the road, is to lower the current Criminal Code blood alcohol concentration to 0.05. That would contribute to reducing impaired driving and its tragic consequences. Moreover, MADD Canada believes that these traffic safety benefits could be greatly increased if Canadian police were given the powers they need to efficiently apprehend impaired drivers and gather the evidence necessary for laying criminal charges.

Although alcohol related traffic deaths have fallen from the record levels of the 1980s, impaired driving remains, by far, Canada's largest single criminal cause of death. Canada lags far behind the world leaders, as I indicated earlier, in traffic safety in terms of the high percentage of alcohol related deaths, even though most of the leading countries have much higher rates of per capita alcohol consumption, but their laws and their enforcement appear to be deterring drinking and driving.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in Canada. Millions of Canadians continue to drive after drinking, many on a routine basis at levels of impairment that pose substantial risk. Although the estimates vary from year to year, it would appear that there are tens of thousands of drinking drivers on Canadian roads each night.

Relatively few of these drivers ever come to police attention and an even smaller fraction are detained and investigated. Even if the police conclude that a driver is legally impaired, criminal charges may not be laid. The federal impaired driving law has become so technical, time consuming and unrewarding to enforce that many officers are deterred from pursuing criminal charges.

In a recent national survey, 42% of Canadian police officers admitted that they sometimes or frequently released impaired driving suspects with a short term provincial suspension rather than proceed with criminal charges. One-third of the officers indicated that they sometimes or frequently released suspects without any sanction and merely arrange for safe transportation home.

This police reaction is not surprising. The officers who were surveyed indicated that it took an average of 2.6 hours to process a simple impaired driving case to the point of laying the charge. Moreover, the task of gathering evidence against impaired driving suspects had become exceedingly exacting and frustrating. Indeed, three-quarters of the officers stated that they were discouraged because impaired drivers routinely escaped convictions on legal technicalities.

This problem of under-enforcement appears to be getting worse. A government study published in 2000 found that almost half of the police in British Columbia simply refused to lay criminal charges, even if they concluded that the driver was legally impaired. Forty per cent of those who did not lay charges indicated that their reasons included concern that the driver was unlikely to be convicted.

Despite their rhetoric about the toughness of the federal impaired driving laws, the reality is police officers are increasingly reluctant to lay criminal charges. In effect, these barriers to enforcement are resulting in the ad hoc decriminalization of impaired driving. The police must be given the power they need to stop vehicles, detect drinking drivers, gather evidence of alcohol and drug impairment and streamline the process of impaired driving cases.

Just imagine what will happen if we decriminalize marijuana. The House has been busy talking about Bill C-38 this last week. We do not even know how to deal with alcohol. We are still having a problem with drunk drivers on highways. If it gets to the point where we do not deal with drunk drivers on the highways, imagine what the country will be like if we have people high on drugs driving on our highways.

The police should be authorized to stop any vehicle to determine if there is evidence of a violation of the Criminal Code's impaired driving provisions. The police should be authorized to use passive alcohol sensors. If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver has alcohol or drugs in his or her body, the officer should be authorized to demand a standardized field sobriety test and to videotape it. It should be an offence to refuse to comply with the officer's demands.

If a police officer reasonably suspects that a driver is impaired by drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, the officer should be authorized to demand that the driver participate in a test under the drug evaluation and classification program and videotape it. It should be an offence to refuse to comply with the officer's demands.

If a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a driver is impaired by a drug, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, the officer should be authorized to demand a saliva, blood or urine sample from the driver. It should be an offence to refuse to provide such a sample.

In closing, let me again praise the member for Lakeland for bringing forth this private member's bill. I know that if it makes it through the House, it will certainly keep drunk drivers off the highways.

JusticeOral Question Period

October 31st, 2003 / 11:20 a.m.
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Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, this is a very complex matter. The reality is that it has a very solid basis in harm to the individual.

Bill C-38 is intended to deal with that harm responsibly and respectfully, and to ensure that we do everything to diminish the use of marijuana.

For those that produce marijuana through grow ops, we are substantially increasing the penalties. We want to get tough on those who would harm our youth.

JusticeOral Question Period

October 31st, 2003 / 11:20 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP and other federal agencies spend over a half a billion dollars every year trying to reduce the supply. Has Canada given up on drug control?

Just exactly what is the intent of Bill C-38? Is it to help criminal organizations increase their market share? We know that will happen. Is it to help the Prime Minister after he retires so that he can toke up a bit?

Exactly who are we helping, the criminals or the recreational users, or both?

JusticeOral Question Period

October 31st, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
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Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, clearly, there has been a message that has been sent to youth. It has been a very uncertain message because it has not been absolutely equal across this country.

We have found that in rural Canada there has been treatment that has been different from urban Canada.

Bill C-38 attempts to bring forward a penalty that is appropriate for the crime and that will be enforced. I urge the support of Bill C-38.

JusticeOral Question Period

October 31st, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians and police agencies across the country are worried about the Liberal's marijuana legislation, Bill C-38.

The bill sends not only the wrong message but mixed messages to our youth about the use of drugs. Health Canada has already labelled marijuana as a dangerous substance. How can this help our youth?

My question is, how will decriminalization of marijuana prevent our youth from using pot?

MarijuanaStatements By Members

October 31st, 2003 / 11 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, bad news about marijuana, violence and gang warfare is far too common. This week a gang-style double murder in Toronto was linked by police to the growing problem of marijuana and gang warfare in that city. This week a new poll shows that marijuana use is higher than tobacco use among teenagers.

The Liberal government discourages youth from using tobacco, but its proposed changes to marijuana legislation sends the opposite message. Canada's frontline police officers remain distressed over the Liberals' soft on pot, premature and seriously flawed Bill C-38.

The Liberals must first set up a national drug strategy that works at the street level. They must establish a progressive schedule of penalties. Minimum sentences are required to reinforce the seriousness of the crime of marijuana grow operations. Drug driving laws and roadside assessment must also be in place. The police need legislation to enhance enforcement powers in situations where drug impairment is suspected.

It is not clear what constituency the Liberal government is trying to attract with this new approach to drug legislation, but it certainly is not the law-abiding citizens in my constituency--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2003 / 4:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc for his question, and I will say that there is no doubt the changes put in place by the bill are there to assist in the safety of our firefighters, law enforcement officers and those in emergency services so that they are not injured in the course of their work.

However, the irony of this legislation, as we find in some of the other legislation in the House, is that it is contradictory. On the one hand we are concerned about the criminal element. Most of it, as we have heard in the debate today, is associated with marijuana grow operations. The demand for marijuana is putting at risk our firefighters, our police officers, our farmers and people who live in rural Canada, yet at the same time we are talking about Bill C-38, which really applies to the non-medical use of marijuana. We are talking about turning that infraction, which is a Criminal Code infraction, into a parking ticket offence. I think we are sending the wrong message to Canadians.

Those who support the decriminalization of marijuana say we can prevent its use through education. How do we do it through education? We are concerned about youth. Who do we put first, the youth or the recreational users of marijuana? That is my question.

Is it possible to have that balance if we are encouraging youth through a parking ticket approach if they are caught? In fact, the suggestion now is that it decrease from 30 grams to 15 grams. I am told that 15 grams is like half a package of cigarettes. I also heard this morning on the radio that there are more young people using marijuana than smoking tobacco.

I think the government has to get it straight. It has to decide that what it is doing is consistent and that its legislation is consistent. We cannot do one thing in one piece of legislation, that is, protect the firefighters and the police of Quebec and the rest of the country, while at the same time in another piece of legislation we promote the use of the same drug.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2003 / 4:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure this afternoon to take part, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, in the debate at the third reading stage of Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

The bill would establish a more serious offence for placing or knowingly permitting to remain in place a trap, a device or other thing that are likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person. It would also permit the use of as much force as is necessary aboard an aircraft to prevent the commission of an offence that would seriously harm those onboard or the aircraft. It would also make a number of other amendments to the code.

The Progressive Conservative Party supports Bill C-32, legislation that is long overdue. However, like all legislation, there are shortcomings to this bill as well.

I would like to begin by commending the International Association of Fire Fighters for the work it has done in pushing the Liberal government to implement much needed changes in the Criminal Code regarding this matter. In Canada they are over 17,000 members strong, and we cannot say about the work they do.

Those on the frontline need the support of government, and positive changes to the Criminal Code would send a strong message to those who would willingly or unwittingly endanger the lives of these brave men and women.

In fact I would like to take time to applaud the firefighters and the emergency service workers in my own riding of Dauphin—Swan River. I know the majority of these individuals, probably 95%, are all volunteers. If it were not for the volunteer firefighters, there is no doubt that communities across the country would certainly be at risk.

Let me preface my remarks by saying there is no property in good ideas and strong legislation that can act as a deterrent in crimes of this nature is long overdue.

I am reminded of a private member's bill introduced last October by the member for Nepean—Carleton. His bill seeks to give greater protection to firefighters by creating two new offences of aggravated assault and first degree murder when the victim is a firefighter acting in the course of his or her duties. It fits nicely with what the current Minister of Justice is trying to achieve with this legislation.

On a daily basis, Canadian firefighters put their lives at risk to save our lives. It is important that we recognize the sacrifice they are willing to make on our behalf. I am sure that statement is supported by all Canadians across this great land.

Let me make some comments on the trap and criminal offences provision of this bill. Currently, section 247 of the Criminal Code provides that:

Every one who, with intent to cause death or bodily harm to persons, whether ascertained or not, sets or places or causes to be set or placed a trap, device or other thing whatever that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to persons is guilty of an indictable offence...

Persons convicted of placing traps are liable to a maximum prison term of five years.

Now this offence applies also to people who occupy or own a place and knowingly permit the placement of such a device.

Although clause 6 of the bill retains this provision, it creates two new criminal offences to curb this dangerous practice. The government wants harsher sentences for those setting traps, causing bodily harm or death.

Accordingly, everyone who commits an offence under the existing section 247 and causes bodily harm to a firefighter or a police officer is liable to up to 10 years in prison. Should this offence cause death, a first degree murder penalty of life could apply.

To ensure better protection for firefighters or police required to enter premises used in the production of cannabis, or marijuana for example, Bill C-32 provides that everyone who commits an offence, as provided in section 247, in a place kept for the purpose of committing another indictable offence is liable to imprisonment of 10 years. If the device causes bodily harm or death, the sentence is 14 years in prison, in the case of the former or life, in the case of the later.

I should also mention that subclause 7(2) of Bill C-38, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, establishes a series of factors that the court is to take into consideration when sentencing in a matter involving the product of cannabis plants.

Courts will have to consider the fact that a person accused of such an offence had placed--in or near the place the offence occurred-- traps likely to cause bodily harm or death. When this fact is proven, the court is to choose the prison term provided by the law. Should it decide otherwise, reasons must be provided.

This point is very important. The House is currently undertaking the study of Bill C-38 which is the decriminalization of marijuana. I have previously said in the House that the government is sending the wrong message in terms of the use of marijuana in this country.

There is no doubt that if Bill C-38 were to pass, and I do not think Bill C-38 will see the light of day, it would increase the demand for the product. As a result, we will have increased grow operations across the country which will put extra pressure on the police forces the dollars that they spend.

Currently, we spend over half a billion dollars a year on the supply reduction side by federal police forces and agencies. We sometimes wonder if this is money well spent if on the other hand we are going to pass a bill which will promote the use of marijuana and increase its market demands.

I will now return to Bill C-32. The main portion of the bill, as I indicated, would amend the Criminal Code by creating a new offence targeting those who would set traps in a place used for a criminal purpose. Currently, under section 247 of the Criminal Code, the offence of setting a trap in any place carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

The new offence raises the bar providing for significantly more stringent penalties. Proposed subsection 247(2) states:

Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes bodily harm to any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

If someone should commit an offence under proposed section 247 that causes injury, the penalty would increase to a maximum of 14 years and if that offence causes death, the offender could receive a sentence of life imprisonment.

This legislation is aimed directly at illegal drug operations which pose a myriad of dangers to firefighters. Many of these illegal drug operations are rigged with hidden devices, such as crossbows and explosives, designed to kill or maim anyone who interferes with the operation. Other dangers include: illegal electrical wiring which poses the additional risk of fire, electrical doorknobs and cutaway floorboards.

It should also be recognized that all too often these illegal residential grow operations put at risk the lives of those in a community when the fire spreads from one house to another. Innocent families can lose their homes, their valuables, and even their lives when criminals rig the wiring in their homes. Anything we can do as legislators to put a stop to this criminal behaviour is a step in the right direction.

These types of incidents are not new to those on the front line. They have occurred in the past. For example, there are multiple cases of Canadian firefighters who have been injured and nearly killed while responding to illegal drug operations. A British Columbia firefighter received a severe electrical shock while responding to a blaze. In Brampton, Ontario, a firefighter's life was at risk when he fell through the floorboards that had been cut away.

The International Association of Fire Fighters has pushed for this legislation. I am encouraged to see the government finally recognizing the contribution members of the IAFF play in the daily lives of Canadians.

It is important that we recognize the dangers Canada's firefighters face as a result of illegal drug operations. As I noted earlier, this legislation would amend the Criminal Code by adding provisions to the existing section of the Criminal Code that deal with setting a trap. The legislation would add provisions for setting a trap used in a place kept for a criminal purpose, that is likely to cause bodily harm, with a 10 year maximum prison sentence.

If a trap used in a criminal enterprise such as a drug operation causes bodily harm, the legislation would call for a 14 year maximum sentence and life imprisonment if a trap causes death.

Front line firefighters must be protected from this growing danger. The nature of these criminal activities creates a risk of fire with volatile chemicals used in drug labs and electrical power stolen through unsafe meter bypasses. If firefighters and police officers are put at risk, injured or killed by traps set to defend these criminal enterprises from law enforcement or rival gangs, those who set the traps must feel the full weight of the law.

In another case earlier this year, Oshawa firefighters had to back away from a residential fire when they discovered that it was an illegal drug lab loaded with dangerous chemicals. The home was allowed to burn.

While the problem has been most serious in British Columbia and Ontario, illegal drug operations are found in all parts of Canada and pose a growing threat to firefighters in every province. As we heard from our last speaker, the member from the Bloc talked about the illegal grow operations in Quebec and the danger they present to citizens in that province.

We should be cognizant of the fact that a large portion of firefighters in Canada are volunteer firefighters who give up their spare time on weekday evenings and weekends to volunteer in their communities and to take courses which ultimately help them protect our property and lives. They are the ones who are spread throughout Canada in all the little towns, hamlets, small communities and small cities that cannot afford to have a full time professional firefighting staff.

Amendments to the Criminal Code of this sort are long overdue. I would encourage the government to take a closer look at other initiatives brought forth by the International Association of Fire Fighters.

A $500,000 annual investment, a fraction of the cost of the Prime Minister's luxury jets, would give firefighters access to hazardous materials training. Currently, military reaction is hours, if not days, away. Firefighters are on the scene in minutes. Training is necessary for their protection and ours.

Liberal cuts to ports policing, the Coast Guard and the military put at risk the safety and security of Canadians. The real threat of bioterrorism, delays in response time and inability to board planes could cost lives. On these and other important issues the government pays lip service. What firefighters need to do their job is action and resources. The lives of our firefighters, and those who they so selflessly serve and protect, deserve no less.

The government also needs to listen to the IAFF when it talks of support in the area of pensions and compensation for those who have been injured in the line of duty.

The minister said he was happy to see that his government was finally addressing the important issue of setting deadly traps. He told us the number of deaths and injuries sustained by firefighters continues to rise in Canada. That is a true tragedy when these events occur.

Using statistics, he noted there were 13,724 arson fires in Canada last year and 30% of the fires in his own riding were a result of arson. He acknowledged that firefighting is four times as hazardous as any other occupation. It is a job that commands the highest public trust and respect, more than any other profession.

In fact, a poll released by the Canadian Press and Léger Marketing in February of this year showed that 96% of Canadians trust firefighters, the highest level of trust among 20 occupations included in the survey. Need I say what the numbers were for politicians? I think we already know the answer.

It is time that the minister and the government truly recognized the sacrifice made by those on the front lines in substantial ways. Firefighters, professionals and volunteers need the support of the federal government in the area of pensions, and compensation for spouses and children.

The Liberals should act today and begin a process of establishing a national public safety officer compensation fund. I hope they do not follow the lead they have already started with the way they are dealing with widows of veterans in this country.

The argument that the majority of firefighters are employed municipally and therefore are not the responsibility of the federal government is hollow, and one I do not believe sits well with Canadians. Canadians know how valuable all firefighters, including volunteers, are to their safety.

As the IAFF has stated on a number of occasions, the Canadian government continues to avoid addressing the need for the establishment of a national compensation fund. Families of the nation's firefighters stand to endure financial hardship in addition to the grief of losing a loved one.

I have been in the House since 1997. We continue to receive lobbies from firefighters annually for compensation for the loss of loved ones. In fact, I asked the parliamentary secretary this past week about doing the right thing for the firefighter community, which means establishing a national public safety officer compensation fund. The government could certainly lead the way by doing exactly that.

It is time for the federal government to stop using jurisdictional arguments and implement a national public safety officer compensation fund to benefit the families of Canadian firefighters killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

In my remaining time I would like to make a couple of comments about weapons and firearms searches as the bill has an impact and does make some changes.

Under section 117.04 of the Criminal Code, a justice may issue a warrant authorizing the seizure of weapons or explosives if there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is unsafe for a person to possess such items.

In Regina v. Hurrell on July 19, 2002, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the procedure unconstitutional since it required neither a police officer to have reasonable grounds to believe it likely that weapons would be found on a person or in a premises to be searched, nor the justice issuing a warrant to accept the reasons of the peace officer making the request.

Justice Moldaver wrote:

These gaps, in my view, are serious because in its present form, s. 117.04(1) allows for sweeping searches of persons and private premises in circumstances where the police may have no reason to suspect, let alone believe, that the person of concern has any weapons or other dangerous items in his or her possession.

This provision contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects Canadians from unreasonable search or seizure.

To not impede the work of the police and to ensure society's protection against the risks involved in the use of weapons and explosives, the court suspended the application of the decision for six months to enable Parliament to bring the provision into conformity with the principles of the charter.

Clause 3 of Bill C-32 aims to correct the significant shortcomings identified by the Ontario Court of Appeal. A justice wishing to issue a search warrant will now have to be satisfied by information given under oath by a peace officer that there are reasonable grounds to believe a person possesses a weapon or explosives in a house, building or other location identified by the forces of order.

In closing, the PC Party will support the bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2003 / 1 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, we realize that there is no legislative agenda left. There are only a few bills under consideration.

More bills may die on the Order Paper, like Bill C-38, decriminalizing marijuana, or Bill C-13, respecting assisted reproductive technologies. These bills may not be passed before the House adjourns.

It is clear that the hon. member for LaSalle-Émard is behind the scenes blocking various bills. This week, a caucus was held to discuss all these questions. Obviously, this does not allow the House to go about its business as usual. The whole parliamentary process is grinding to a halt.

With this, I would like my Conservative colleague to tell me whether he agrees that decisions are now being made outside the House, something which prevents the House from doing its work. I would also like him to tell me whether he thinks the motion moved by the Bloc is appropriate.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to refer Bill C-38 to a committee before second reading.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)