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

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.


Irwin Cotler  Liberal


Not active, as of Feb. 24, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)


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.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 13th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the true miracle is the number of bills we have been able to pass, notwithstanding their opposition to them.

This afternoon, the House will continue with the opposition day motion. Tomorrow, we will return to Bill C-34, the migratory birds legislation. This will be followed by a motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-36, respecting communicable diseases. We will then return to Bill C-33, the Fisheries Act amendments, Bill C-10, respecting marijuana, and Bill C-23, respecting the first nations.

When the House returns on May 25, it will resume this list and take up bills that are introduced or reported from committee in the interim.

Thursday, May 27, shall be an allotted day, something that may not interest them.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 6th, 2004 / 3 p.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we shall continue with the opposition day motion.

Tomorrow we shall debate the motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-34, the bill introduced earlier today respecting dumping of toxic waste by ships. We shall then return to third reading of Bill C-23, the first nations fiscal legislation, Bill C-12, the child protection, and Bill C-10, the cannabis legislation.

Next week, we will continue this business where it has been left on Friday. We will add to the list a motion to refer to committee before second reading a bill to be introduced tomorrow concerning the DNA data bank.

Tuesday and Thursday shall be allotted days.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will begin to have some of the legislation now in committee reported back, so that we can get a good start on finishing the work we have to do before the summer adjournment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:35 p.m.
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Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is pleased to indicate to the House that we, like the other parties, are quite interested in having this bill referred to committee. We recognize that it has a significant role to play in dealing with drivers and conductors of other vehicles who are in an impaired condition, both in terms of identifying them and dealing with the results of them breaching the law.

There are clearly some positives in this bill, but there also are some negatives. This bill has become a pressing issue in the form of its necessity because of all the debate that we have had around Bill C-10, which would have the effect of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

I must say that from my period of time when I was practising criminal law, I am not sure we are going to see any increase in the number of people driving while impaired due to the consumption of marijuana. That conduct is going on now. In many respects, because it is completely illegal now, I would suggest it is worse than it will be once it is legalized and have the result at that point of people knowing when and how much they can consume, and generate more appropriate conduct in terms of the safety of the general public.

I think because the maximum consumption allowed, in terms of possession, is 15 grams, people will know that is the limit. They will also know that because they are limiting themselves in that regard, they have to limit the consumption in terms of its impact if they are driving or, what would be obviously preferable, that they do not drive at all, or conduct any other types of mechanical devices on public roadways, waterways, or airways, if they have consumed any marijuana whatsoever.

I am actually looking for an improvement in the number of people who would be conducting themselves in more appropriate and safety conscious fashion.

The other point that I would like to make with regard to the legislation itself--and it is one concern that we have and I am not sure we are going to be able to overcome this as we go through the legislative process, it is one that will have to be overcome by changes in practice of law enforcement--is the fear we have that this type of legislation could in fact be used in a discriminating fashion against visible minorities, against the aboriginal Métis population, much as we are seeing some of that occurring now in other areas of law enforcement.

This one is much more open to that type of abuse because it would allow a police officer unreasonable grounds to stop someone, conduct the investigation, and then carry on to insist that they provide urine or blood samples, saliva samples, et cetera. So it is more open to abuse.

The use of the breathalyzer and the use of the assessment whether somebody is impaired due to alcohol is more clear-cut. The evidence that was heard at both Bill C-10 and other investigations into the legalization of marijuana made that quite clear. It is easier for a police officer to identify people who are under the influence of alcohol than if they are under the influence of marijuana or some other drug. However, because of that difficulty, it is then easier for police officers who are being abusive of their authority to camouflage the fact that they are in some way or another discriminating.

I do not want to suggest in any way that this is rampant in our society and certainly within our police forces, but we do have exceptions and we have seen that across the country, in a number of ways, over the last good number of years as we have followed those types of abuses. This legislation, therefore, will have to be closely analyzed to see if there are any ways that we can reduce that type of abuse flowing out of these amendments.

The other point I would like to make is with regard to how some of the tests actually would be conducted. This is one of our concerns with the legislation. The legislation as drafted provides that a blood sample would have to be taken by a qualified medical practitioner. Obviously of concern are the rules we are going to have to put in place under this legislation to guide how that blood sample is taken. They must be very clear cut and very directive and, as much as possible, limiting in terms of invasion of privacy and invasion of the body's well-being.

That wording is in the legislation. I applaud that. It specifically says that the medical practitioner has to do an analysis as to whether the sample taking will in any way cause further injury to the individual. That is important, but I think we have to go even further.

With regard to the taking of other samples, we run into all sorts of practical problems. The committee reviewing this will have to look at some of these issues. For instance, in taking urine samples, there is the whole issue of how one monitors the person. There is the whole issue of the invasion of privacy. Is there a full search of the individual, including body cavities, in case the person is carrying around a urine sample? These are all issues we have had to deal with in enforcement of drug laws in other areas and we are going to be confronting them again under this legislation.

We as parliamentarians will need to be conscious of those problems when drafting the legislation. As much as possible, we will need to be prepared to provide direction to the enforcing officers so that abuse does not occur but samples can still be obtained in a fair and just way.

The additional point I would like to raise, which is one that we heard earlier from the member from the Bloc Québécois, is the issue of funding. There is no provision in the legislation for cost sharing on the expenses that are inevitably going to come out of this, first with regard to training our police officers right across the country on what they are required to do and what they are entitled to do and in effect teaching them how to do it.

Based on my own experience when I was practising law, at the time when the breathalyzer was coming into effect we had a lot of difficulties with it, including a lot of litigation as to what was required for the person to be properly trained and for the equipment to be properly used.

It is an expensive process to prepare our police forces right across the country for what is being proposed under this legislation. It is being mandated by the federal government. While we might pass these amendments to the code, while doing that we are not providing any financial resources. That burden, then, as so often has happened with this government, is going to fall onto provincial and municipal governments. Neither one of those levels of government, with the exception of one or two of the provinces, is in any kind of shape to take on additional costs for their policing.

One of the results may very well be that municipal police forces simply may not even attempt to use the bill because they cannot afford to train their officers and may not be able to afford some of the necessary equipment. For example, there will be a need for specific storage facilities for keeping both blood and urine samples and that is going to be expensive. Other types of equipment may very well be necessary on site in the police stations across the country. If that is not provided for by at least some significant amount of funding from the federal government, we may see police forces across the country simply refusing to use this legislation because they cannot afford to.

We have these concerns. However, because of what we are doing with Bill C-10 and the need generally to bring under control the consumption of drugs of various sources and the conducting of vehicles, it is very important to proceed with this legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
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Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course, it is a great pleasure to speak to Bill C-32. It is somewhat the child of Bill C-10 and of Bill C-38, which was later called Bill C-10.

The House will remember that several witnesses who appeared before the committee pointed out the problem of driving while impaired by drugs. They raised this point to encourage us to oppose Bill C-10.

Following these presentations, I moved in committee an amendment aimed at doing almost what Bill C-32 does now. At the time, the committee chair rejected my amendment, because it was irrelevant to Bill C-10.

However, and I succeeded in getting the unanimous support of the committee on this, we tabled two reports on Bill C-10 in the House. The first report suggested some amendments to Bill C-10 and the other called on the government to move quickly to pass legislation to resolve the problem of driving while impaired by drugs.

So, Bill C-32, which is now before us, is in response to a request by the committee that reviewed Bill C-10.

As regards the bill per se, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that we support Bill C-32 at this stage and believe that it should be reviewed in committee as quickly as possible.

Now, let us turn to the bad news. The introduction of the bill at this stage of our proceedings, with an election campaign looming on the horizon, is a cheap election ploy on the part of the Liberals. They are trying to counter the attacks that they are anticipating from the Conservative Party of Canada and its right wing forces, which want a return to a more prohibitionist approach regarding the possession of marijuana.

When a measure as important as Bill C-32 is introduced in the House, an announcement is usually made regarding moneys that will be made available to implement the legislation. In this case, no money was earmarked, announced or set aside to implement Bill C-32. What is the point of tabling, and even voting on a measure such as Bill C-32 if the means to implement it are not there?

As we know, there are some 52,000 police officers in Canada. If my memory serves me correctly, we need to train about 40% of them so that they can conduct the standardized breath test announced in Bill C-32.

How does the government expect to train these 20,000 to 25,000 police officers if it does have the means to do so? How will these men and women, these police officers, be able to conduct standardized sobriety tests on people who are inebriated or under the influence of drugs, if they are not trained to do so?

I will conclude by saying that although we support Bill C-32, I think this is a cheap election ploy. I think the government is not sincere in its commitment to passing Bill C-32. If it were, it would have provided the means to implement it.

Unfortunately, nothing surprises me anymore with this government. I am beyond cynical about it. This government has no direction and does not know what it wants except to be re-elected. It thinks that by tabling Bill C-32 on the eve of an election, it is arming itself against possible attacks that might occur during an election campaign. For the public, it is very disappointing to see the government treat such an important issue this way.

I repeat, and I will conclude on this, I demand that the government table a concrete plan in the few days remaining before the federal election is called. The government has to tell us exactly how much money it will provide and put aside in order to train police officers to conduct standardized sobriety tests; otherwise this is all a sham.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion to send the bill to committee for further review and study.

Bill C-32, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to drugs and impaired driving, seeks to extend the testing provisions that currently exist for alcohol to also be used for other drugs. Alcohol testing can be done by police officers when an individual is pulled over to the side of the road with ease because of the fact that alcohol can be traced through breath and therefore a very non-intrusive breathalyzer test is possible.

This is not possible for other substances. Really law enforcement authorities frankly in Canada and elsewhere have been very lucky that alcohol is so easily tested through a breathalyzer device.

Therefore, what the proposed law does is allow police officers to require an individual to submit to a blood test and impose penalties for refusing to take that blood test to establish whether or not some degree of substance has been ingested that causes the individual to act in an impaired manner.

Significantly, this has nothing to do with whether is it an illegal substance. It has to do with whether the amount in the person's blood stream is sufficient to cause the person to act in a manner that essentially is negligent and endangers the general public through driving. On the whole that is a very good thing.

Right now the situation is there is no method legally available to police officers to allow them to require an individual to provide a blood sample in order for that sample to be tested to confirm whether the individual's driving is impaired.

The drug recognition expert test, to which my hon. colleague referred, is available and used in three provinces currently: Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba. However, it is only where the driver voluntarily participates. As we can anticipate, those who themselves feel that they might be in violation of the impaired driving laws are the most likely to refuse compliance with the request of an officer. Therefore, in practice, we can prosecute for the use of a legal drug, alcohol, but not for the use of illegal drugs in a way that causes the individual to be impaired.

Police officers are typically put in a position where it is necessary for them to rely on external evidence; that is behaviour of the individual with erratic driving patterns prior to the automobile being pulled over or by witness testimony, if they can find where the individual came from and are able to have someone report that the individual was using some form of substance in a substantial enough quantity that an individual's driving behaviour was likely to be impaired. In other words, it makes it very difficult to actually carry out prosecutions of those who endanger the public.

This is significant. All of this is taking place to some degree in the context of a debate over another bill, Bill C-10, which would decriminalize the possession and therefore in practice the use of at least limited quantities marijuana. Therefore, as this discussion goes on, we are also talking about a semi-legal drug, its status and how we respond to that.

Sometimes there are individuals, myself included, who refer to the consumption and use of marijuana as a victimless crime; that is, someone uses marijuana but they do not create a victim out there. However, that stops when individuals use marijuana or some other substance, including a prescription drug, and proceed to put themselves essentially at the control of a large and dangerous machine and take actions which could endanger the safety of others. At that point, the public interest becomes involved and potentially there are victims of what essentially boils down to being at the very least a kind of gross negligence. In some cases we see impaired drivers going out when there is almost a certainty they will wind up having an accident. We can argue that when someone is harmed, it is a form of manslaughter.

When I have written on the subject of decriminalization of drugs in the past, I always have stressed the importance of ensuring that we have laws in place that guarantee that negative externalities, the imposition of pain or suffering upon others, are carefully prevented and any form of reduction in the penalties for the use of any mood or mind-altering substance ought to be accompanied by protections for the public.

In October 2001 I wrote an article on the subject of marijuana decriminalization and drugs in general. I wrote the following with reference to the public good and public interest. I said:

--most of us would recognize the need for sanctions against violent behaviour and against the grossest forms of negligence towards others, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect some form of legislated limitation on what economists would describe as the “negative externalities” (harmful or annoying side effects to others) of all personal behaviours, including drug use. Which is, of course, precisely what the state does in the case of legal recreational drugs. Driving or boating while under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offence, as it ought to be.

The same would be true for driving or boating while under the influence of marijuana, a prescription drug, an illegal drug or some mix of those substances. The bill as it stands now would allow for this kind of rule to be enforced in a meaningful way, and that is a positive step.

There are some things, however, that deserve to be mentioned as caveats. One is the fact that it is not as easy to find a consensus on what represents a dangerous level of other substances in the bloodstream. Whereas we have a pretty clear consensus on what represents a dangerous level of alcohol in the bloodstream. That is work that I think we can achieve.

I have great hope that in committee hearings we will hear witnesses who can draw our attention to some of the science on this so we may begin to develop the necessary knowledge to allow ourselves to carry out this kind of law effectively and ensure that those who are not impaired are not facing prosecution and those who are genuinely impaired do not get away from facing prosecution. That is a balancing act and I have hope that we will be successful in finding the solution through this.

I also want to mention that we should not regard this law as being a panacea with regard to the problems raised by Bill C-10, the marijuana decriminalization law.

Bill C-10 has problems that are not addressed by this legislation. Most notable, it seems to me, Bill C-10 simultaneously reduces the penalties for the consumption of marijuana. That means inevitably the consumer demand would increase while at the same time it would increase the penalties for the possession of marijuana for production purposes as measured, for example, by the number of plants one has in one's possession. This could have the consequence of causing simultaneously demand to rise while the penalties also rise and the temptations of risking those penalties also rise, which may result in more prosecutions and more people being tempted into a position where they can be prosecuted than would otherwise be the case. I do not think that is a positive thing and it remains a real concern with Bill C-10. There are other concerns, as well.

However, this proposed and the measures it recommends are very positive. I would encourage members to send the bill forward to the committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
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Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion to send Bill C-32 to the committee for review.

Bill C-32 fully responds to various parliamentary committees that have urged consideration of ways to improve legislation for the investigation of drug impaired driving.

In 2003 the special committee of the House that examined Bill C-38, that is cannabis reforms, now Bill C-10, recommended that the government consider amendments relating to drug recognition evaluation in order to aid in drug impaired driving investigations.

Earlier in the fall of 2003, the government had released a consultation paper on drug impaired driving to stakeholders and provinces that reflected discussions among federal and provincial officials. Those discussions had been recommended by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights following its 1999 review of the impaired driving provisions in the Criminal Code.

Also in 2002, the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs had recommended that consideration be given to amendments for drug recognition expert legislation.

Currently section 253(a) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to drive while one's ability to operate is impaired by alcohol or a drug. This includes driving while impaired by a combination of alcohol and a drug. For alcohol there is a separate offence in section 253(b) for driving while over the legal limit, but there are no similar drug legal limits.

The drugs and driving committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science has indicated that for the vast majority of drugs there is no scientific agreement on the concentration threshold at which there is impairment that significantly increases collision risk.

The Criminal Code currently authorizes the police to make demands for alcohol breath tests. These readings are necessary to prove the alcohol legal limit offence in section 253(b) and refusal of the alcohol breath tests is an offence.

These provisions are very helpful in the investigation process that leads to dealing with the alcohol legal limit offence. For section 253(a), drug impaired driving investigations, the police and the public are often less familiar with the physiological effects of drugs than those associated with alcohol. Bill C-32 would give the police the tools to better investigate section 253(a), drug impaired driving incidents.

Bill C-32 would authorize a peace officer, who reasonably suspects that a person has alcohol or a drug in the body, to demand that the person perform physical sobriety tests at the roadside. These involve a heel to toe walk and turn, following with the eyes the officer's hand movement, and standing on one leg. If the tests give the officer reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an alcohol involved driving offence, the officer can demand that the person provide a breath sample on the approved instrument. Typically an officer who has taken the necessary training does this testing at the police station.

If, after the roadside physical sobriety tests, the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a drug impaired driving offence has occurred, the officer may demand that the person perform tests in a drug recognition expert evaluation back at the police station. The trained officer who conducts the evaluation will conduct the steps in the evaluation and classify the family of drugs, if any, that is causing impairment.

If no test has been done at the roadside for alcohol and no test was done at the police station for alcohol and the officer conducting the evaluation has reasonable suspicion of alcohol in the body, the officer may demand a sample of breath on an approved screening device in order to confirm whether alcohol is present. If the officer conducting the evaluation forms the opinion that a drug is causing impairment, the officer can then demand a sample of urine, saliva or blood. The sample will be tested. Where the result shows that the drug which the officer identified as causing impairment is present, a charge would proceed.

Once again, as with alcohol, refusal of any of the demands without reasonable excuse would be a Criminal Code offence carrying the same penalties that now exist for driving while impaired, driving while over the alcohol legal limit or refusing to provide a breath sample.

If the prosecution proceeds by summary conviction, which is of course the less serious type of charge that can be laid, the existing maximum is six months imprisonment. If the prosecution proceeds by indictment, the maximum is five years imprisonment. Where there is impaired driving that causes death, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Where there is impaired driving that causes bodily harm, the maximum penalty is 10 years of imprisonment.

On the first offence, the minimum penalty is a fine of $600. On a second offence, the minimum is 14 days of imprisonment. On a subsequent offence, the minimum penalty is 90 days of imprisonment. In addition, upon a conviction, the court must also impose a period of prohibition from driving anywhere in Canada. The minimum driving prohibition increases with repeat offences.

The courts have already found that under section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the short detention at roadside for a breath test on an approved screening device, without the right to legal counsel is justifiable. Bill C-32 in its demand for physical sobriety tests at the roadside provides the police with a similar tool that, in my view, is equally justifiable.

Police currently give the right to counsel at the police station before the suspect performs an alcohol breath test on an approved instrument. It is anticipated that police would follow the same practice prior to a drug recognition expert evaluation.

In addition to the drug impaired driving elements of Bill C-32, the bill contains provisions that would correct some section numbering of Bill C-10, that is cannabis reforms. Bill C-32 also contains consequential amendments and coming into force provisions.

Currently, there are several provinces with police officers that have sobriety test and DRE training. However, these officers have no authority to make a demand for testing and can only conduct tests if a suspect voluntarily participates. Bill C-32 will, in that regard, be a giant step forward for police who investigate drug impaired driving incidents.

Clearly, the time has come for this type of legislation to be put in place. I urge all members to send the bill to committee for review. There we will be able to have all the stakeholders and the witnesses can come forward and make their perspectives known. Clearly, this area is an area that does present some difficulties. However, I believe this bill goes a long way toward bringing us to a point where drug impaired driving will bring the penalties to it that it deserves and will help in removing them from our roadways.

I encourage all members to support this going forward to committee for further review.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 29th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to reassure my colleague and Canadians that we are working on a number of bills.

We will proceed this afternoon with third reading of Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa). This bill, which we introduced and which is now at third reading, makes it possible for us to send pharmaceutical products to help countries in Africa.

This will be followed by third reading stage of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

Then we will move on to report stage of Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This will be followed by the debates on the motions for referral to committee before second reading of Bill C-29 and Bill C-32. I would like to point out that it is as part of our democratic reform that we are now regularly referring bills to committees before second reading, to allow them to review the legislation.

Therefore, before second reading, we will refer Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code (drugs and impaired driving) and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. We know that Canadians really want us to deal with the issue of impaired driving.

Of course, we will deal with third reading of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

This is for today. We may not have time to finish everything, because there is a lot to do. In any case, tomorrow we will deal with report stage and, if possible, with third reading of Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004.

Then, we will undertake our review of Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act.

Of course, next week we will continue with any unfinished business.

Incidentally, Thursday of next week, May 6, will be an allotted day. I would suggest that hon. members get a good rest, because there is still a lot of work to do.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 4:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noted with some interest that the member said that she was asking for the support of the House. I think she would know that in the vote last evening indeed there was overwhelming support for this bill.

Therefore, could she help me understand if there is some kind of strategy that her government is presently undertaking with respect to this debate that perhaps she could enlighten us on? I do not know if it is correct or not, but I should mention that I believe we have some people even in this chamber who are watching us who are very interested in seeing this bill go ahead.

What we find perplexing is that in spite of the overwhelming support of the House for this bill, the fact that there is very limited opposition and indeed any of those issues have been fully vented in the course of this debate, that the government continues to filibuster its own bill. We are rather confused about that, particularly when I for one happen to agree with the member that we should be getting on with the business of the House.

Would it have anything to do with the fact that the Prime Minister and the government are not prepared to govern at this particular point? For example, let us look at the other bills that will immediately follow this bill should debate collapse. Bill C-10, the marijuana bill, is at third reading, which means that we could have a debate on that and get that through. Bill C-11, the Westbank bill, certainly is one that we could dispose of right now. Bill C-12, child protection, is a bill that is at third reading and could be disposed of fairly quickly. Bill C-15 concerns the transfer of offenders.

The House is trying to get these bills through. Indeed in ordinary procedure one would have the opposition trying to stop things, or the opposition trying to bring forward particular points of view, which is just fine. That is what the parliamentary process is about.

Considering that the Liberals' legislative cupboard is completely bare as a result of the Prime Minister having no idea of where he wants to take Canada, is that the reason, in the judgment of the member, she herself, unimaginably, would actually be part of the filibuster of this very important bill that the people of Westbank want to go ahead?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 22nd, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, tomorrow and Monday, we will continue with the business listed, namely third reading stage of Bill C-11, an act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement, this reading of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, third reading of Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences and third reading of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

We will also continue with the report stage of Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as well as debate on the motion to refer committee before second reading Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Tuesday shall be an allotted day.

On Wednesday, we hope to be in a position to take up the final stages of Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. I understand that there are some discussions under way that could make it possible to deal with this bill a bit earlier. The government would be prepared to cooperate with any such desire.

I hope that my colleague across the way, and all of his colleagues, are in excellent shape, because we have a lot on our plate.

JusticeOral Question Period

April 2nd, 2004 / 11:35 a.m.
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Mount Royal Québec


Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burlington for raising this important question and also for her excellent work on chairing the special committee that examined Bill C-10.

I hope to shortly introduce amendments to the Criminal Code that will facilitate the detection and prosecution of drug impaired driving.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 1st, 2004 / 3 p.m.
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Brossard—La Prairie Québec


Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we shall continue debate on Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004. If this is completed, we will commence second reading of Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act.

Tomorrow, we will debate a motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-25, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings, and hopefully deal with the Senate amendments to Bill C-8, an act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain acts in consequence.

When the House returns on April 19, any of this business that is unfinished will be taken up, along with Bill C-11, an act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement, Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, and Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and the bill introduced yesterday, Bill C-31, an act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I should like to wish my colleagues a happy and pleasant holiday period and to express my hope that they return refreshed and ready for a full legislative agenda for the spring.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on the budget.

First, after listening to our Conservative friends across the way, or our “Alliance lite” friends, I want to say they really demonstrate that they are high on rhetoric and very weak when it comes to substance. In fact, I think they demonstrate more than ever why they should never be trusted to form a government.

The Conservatives, the Alliance lite over there, continue on a daily basis to say “spend”. They say to spend billions on this and billions on that with no accountability. Then there are days when they come in and say “cut”. They say to cut this and cut that without really analyzing the impact of those cuts.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, this is a party, a group, that when it came into office in 1993 inherited a deficit of $42.5 billion. That deficit was because of overspending and lack of accountability. This government came into office and said, “We are going to get the fiscal house of this nation in order”. We know that over the years it took a lot of work, a lot of hard work from Canadians, supportive Canadians, in order to eliminate the national deficit.

We know that the Conservatives really have not improved much since then. Their kissing cousins in Ontario left the incoming government of Ontario with a $5.6 billion deficit, this from a party that said it could in fact reduce taxes, spend less and deliver more. All it delivered in the end was a whopping deficit to Ontarians. The fact is, they could not manage the purse strings, and there is no indication from that party across the way that it has matured enough to be able to do it.

In fact, accountability is what this government has been all about. In fact, when the $42.5 billion deficit was eliminated we said we would not spend and we would not reduce taxes until such time as the fiscal house was in order.

It has almost become routine now, but the finance minister announced last week that this is the seventh consecutive balanced budget or better. There were times, I am sure, when we would have heard the opposition members telling us we were still in deficit. Now that we are at seven balanced budgets or better, we do not hear anything from them. In fact, the silence is deafening. Maybe it is because they do not have the words. They do not know what to say because they are dumbfounded that any government, the only government in the G-7, is able to balance seven years in a row. This is unprecedented in Canadian history. Again, the silence on the other side is deafening.

They are not deaf when it comes to saying spend in this area and cut in that area, but they have no fiscal plan. This government has a fiscal plan. We said we would get our house in order. We have done that with seven balanced budgets or better.

We have listened to Canadians. They said they wanted expenditure controls to make sure that when we spend a dollar we know where that dollar is going. They said to make sure we bring in smart investments. That in fact is what we have been all about.

Reducing the national debt used to be something that the Conservatives, the Alliance lite over there, used to talk about all the time. They do not talk about it anymore and again we hear great silence on the other side. Why? Because we are the only G-7 state paying off the national debt. In fact, we have now hit a target. We have now said we are going to go below 40% of the GDP. It was as high at 71.5% five years ago. Now we have said that the target in 10 years will be 25% of the GDP.

There were times when the other side used to say we did not have a target. Opposition members asked us why we did not have a target for debt reduction. Now we have announced a target for debt reduction and obviously it is too much for them to handle. There is no comment from the other side about the fact that we are now paying off over $52 billion in debt.

What does that mean? Our friends in the NDP say debt reduction is not that important. The NDP believe, I think, that the saving of $3.5 billion in interest payments is extremely important. Why is it important? It is important because social programs in this country can be and are funded because we are saving on interest.

To me, just those two areas alone demonstrate the fiscal management of the government: seven balanced budgets or better and the GDP going down to 25% in 10 years, something that could not even have been visualized 10 years ago and something that they still cannot grasp today, which only goes to prove that if one is a member of the opposition one's CV is very light. The opposition members clearly do not understand economics. They do not understand how to manage budgets. They are good at rhetoric but they are not good when it comes to the delivery of what Canadians want in terms of the fiscal management of Canada. We have delivered.

In fact, they do not have to take my word for it. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said that Canada will do again this year what no other state has done: balance the books or better and pay down the debt. Again, we did this last year, which was a very difficult year: SARS, forest fires in British Columbia, hurricanes in the Maritimes, and the mad cow crisis. Yet because of the prudent fiscal management of the government, we were able to deliver a balanced budget or better for the seventh year in a row.

The fact is that we practice what we preach. We do not go out and spend moneys that we do not have. We again have shown the importance of the contingency reserve, that cushion against unforeseen economic circumstances. That $3 billion is important, and another $1 billion, again so important in terms of being able to set those moneys aside in case there are unforeseen circumstances that buffet the Canadian economy. We were able to respond in spite of all of those challenges of last year and we are still able this year to deliver a balanced budget or better. I think that is an impressive record.

Also impressive, I think, are the prudent investments we have made. Again, we have a resilient economy. We have the support of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which again this year has applauded us for the work we have done in terms of dealing with debt and in terms of balancing the books.

Also, our friends across the way talk about the fact that we did not do enough in this or that area. Simply let me say that having balanced the books and having again reduced the debt, if that is not enough, what else did we do? We made an accord with the provinces. In that accord, we invested over $34 billion and another $2 billion, for over $36 billion, in health. This Prime Minister has said that in this particular case we are prepared to do more; in fact, we are prepared to give a 10 year commitment. But we cannot and will not continue to put in money without structural changes and, as we all know, it is up to the provinces, which administer the health care system, to make those changes.

The Prime Minister has said very clearly that this summer in a first ministers meeting he is prepared to go all the way in terms of making sure that we make those structural changes in cooperation with the provinces and provide the long term funding for 10 years, but the fact is we cannot continue to provide money to the provinces when the accountability is not there. Again, it is very important that there is accountability in terms of where those tax dollars are being spent. It is important to know that when it comes to the health care system the government supports a publicly funded health care system. We are going to continue to support it and we are going to continue to work with the provinces.

Of course our friends across the way, particularly the Conservatives, our Alliance lite friends, would like to see a two tier system. They of course are champions of Mr. Klein. In fact, that is not what Canadians want. They want to know that the system is there today and for the future.

In regard to the long term, we agree with Mr. Romanow, who has said not to put more money into it until there is a substantive agreement on the structural issues. That is what we are going to do. That what the Prime Minister has said he will do, and hopefully--not over lunch, not over dinner, and if it takes three or four days, whatever it takes--it is going to be done and done right.

One of the most interesting attacks we have had from our friends across the way has been on the issue of the urban agenda on the municipal file. It is absolutely unconscionable that the Conservatives, the Alliance lite party, would have this audacity. In fact, I cannot believe that they would even mention this issue since they have never supported this issue. Being a former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, I know what I am speaking about. I know that they used to say no all the time.

In fact, having been in the House over the last number of years, I remember Bill C-10. Bill C-10 was a bill in which we said we were going to deal with the issue of payments in lieu of taxes. What does that mean? In 1992, the Conservative government did a unilateral tax cut. It said that crown corporations would pay 10% less than private corporations. In theory, we could have had a CTV building and a CBC building in our city and the CBC would have paid 10% less. That was unacceptable. What did we do? The Liberal government worked with the FCM and municipal governments across the country and brought in Bill C-10.

Bill C-10 essentially said that we would pay our taxes on time, and that if there were a dispute it would go through the normal dispute mechanism available to the average taxpayer and we would pay interest if we were late. That party across the way voted against it and voted against it because that party was consistent in that it has never supported cities.

Lately, of course, that party goes on about the gasoline tax. It has discovered the gasoline tax, heaven forbid. These members are the champions of provincial rights and yet the party across the way, our Conservative, Alliance lite friends, ask why we did not bring in a rebate in this budget and assist the municipalities today. It is pretty obvious. Anybody who knows constitutional law knows that under section 92 the provinces are responsible for municipal governments, which are creatures of the provinces. Therefore, we need to get a tripartite agreement. We at least need to get the provinces on board, because we are not going to simply turn over money to the provinces and then say that hopefully it will go to the cities, towns and villages across the country. That will not work.

We have given a solid commitment. The Prime Minister gave a solid commitment that he will in fact work with municipal governments and the provinces in order to ensure that the moneys, either those from the gas tax or a similar amount of money, will go to our cities, towns and villages.

It was this government in 1993 that brought in the national infrastructure program. That party across the way opposed it. Those members are so shallow when it comes to the cities file. It is incredible to suggest for a moment that they are now the champions of the urban agenda in this country.

When it comes to the government, we implemented the national infrastructure program in 1994. Since then, this has been a very important and successful program for cities, towns and villages, over $25 billion of it. The fact is that it has helped the infrastructure in our cities, towns and villages across this country.

Going further, in 1991 when Brian Mulroney brought in the goods and services tax, he wanted municipal governments to pay 100%. The FCM, of which I was a part, said it did not believe that cities should be taxed, simply because the provincial and federal governments did not tax each other. In fact, we came up with an agreement, eventually and reluctantly, for a 57.14% rebate.

What has this government done? The government has now brought in a GST rebate of 100%, something for which municipal governments and municipal leaders have been asking for years. What does that mean? It means a $7 billion saving over a period of 10 years. My own municipality of Richmond Hill is going to save between $500,000 and $1 million a year. That is a significant amount of money, money that Richmond Hill can use for other projects. Again the fact is that the GST rebate is a very important initiative and again we are in consultation with our municipal friends.

We have gone further. We have said we are going to work collaboratively with cities, towns and villages in this country to make sure that if federal legislation comes in that is going to have an impact on them, we are going to have them at the table. We would like to have them at the table with the provinces and with the territories, or we will do it separately if in fact the provinces and territories do not agree.

We are committed to working with our cities because of course they are where 80% of Canadians live. The fact is that on the infrastructure file we had a 10 year program. We now have speeded it up to 5 years. We put aside $1 billion last year, spread out over 5 years instead of 10, because municipal governments of course have their capital works projects and devise 5 year and 10 year programs. This helps to assist them whether they are large or small.

A billion dollars has been invested in affordable housing, which is another important initiative. Even though some provinces have not picked up the ball on that, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that needed housing is constructed. That is important.

To ensure that there is a strong voice, the Prime Minister has again said that he wants to start those discussions. He has been very open, as was the former prime minister with team Canada missions. Municipal representatives worked with business leaders and the federal government. We have continued to work in collaboration on this city file.

The former premier of British Columbia, a good friend of the NDP, Mr. Harcourt, has been brought on board on an external advisory committee on cities and communities to ensure that concerns of communities are heard. I know my NDP friends would be happy to see that. We do not talk about these issues; we deliver.

Contaminated sites is another important issue with which cities have been dealing. The government in the budget said that it would provide $4 billion over 10 years to do just that. That is very important. There are 3,800 federally controlled contaminated sites. We will respond to that, working in conjunction with municipalities, just as we did with the green enabling fund where we initially put $250 million in, then doubled it because it worked so well, showing a leadership in that regard.

On the issue of immigration and settlement for cities, $15 million annually was allocated there to deal with language training issues, another important incentive. Our friends across the way are silent on these issues because these are good initiatives. These are important things, but they are mired in the politics of cheap rebuttal. They want to talk about scandals. Yet they do not want to look at how this government has responded to expenditures and how we responded effectively.

The government has responded. The opposition is very weak when it comes to substance. It is high on the rhetoric. We are interested in ensuring, in listening to Canadians, that we provide not only a balanced approach, but also ensure that the investments made are made effectively for Canadians.

On taxes, our friends across the way complain. This is the $100 billion tax cuts, the largest in Canadians history. It is the fifth year in a row, and is assistance for small business.

In any event, I know members opposite do not like to hear the truth. I know it bothers them, and I am sure they will all get up ready to make comments which will have very little bearing on the budget.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 22nd, 2004 / 5:15 p.m.
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Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. I am not so sure that as a government member I am as sanguine and content with the subject of the motion, but as all opposition motions are, they attempt to hold the government to account, and we on this side of the House attempt to respond.

The opposition would like to have us believe that Canadians have lost confidence in the legislative agenda of the government. The fact is that the government has the full support of Canadians on a number of legislative items now before Parliament. Let us talk about these, particularly measures aimed at protecting the rights and security of Canadians.

Since the beginning of this session, a number of important bills have been debated in this House. I believe it would be worthwhile to examine them closely.

I will start with a bill that I believe is of huge importance in protecting our children: Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. It is currently at third reading stage before the House. It proposes reforms in five key areas. It strengthens the provisions against child pornography. It protects youth against sexual exploitation. It increases the maximum penalties for specific offences committed against children. It facilitates the testimony of child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable persons. It modernizes the criminal law through the creation of the offence of voyeurism.

The bill has been crafted to bring to our children better protection against abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation. Canadians are well aware of the gravity of the issue of child pornography. Even though Canada currently has on the books some of the toughest legislation to combat child pornography, Bill C-12 proposes to go even further by directly responding to concerns flowing from the child pornography case involving the accused John Robin Sharpe.

This is a case wherein the courts convicted Mr. Sharpe of possession of child pornographic photographs. He was, however, acquitted on the one charge of possession of written materials for the purpose of distribution or sale. Even though the court found these stories morally repugnant, Mr. Sharpe was acquitted of this charge because they did not meet the existing definition of written child pornography, that is, they did not advocate or counsel unlawful sexual activity with children.

Bill C-12 directly responds to this concern and proposes several changes to the Criminal Code to broaden the existing definition of written child pornography. It proposes to prohibit written materials, such as those authored by Mr. Sharpe, that describe unlawful sexual activity with children where these written descriptions are the dominant characteristic of the material and are written for a sexual purpose.

To the concern expressed by some Canadians that some people could circumvent the law by demonstrating the artistic merit of pornographic material, the bill includes a different test that draws on the wisdom of the Supreme Court of Canada. It proposes only one defence, the defence of public good, which involves a two-step inquiry. Does the material or act serve the public good? If not, there would be no defence. If it does, then an additional second question is asked: Does it go beyond what serves the public good? In other words, if the risk of harm to society posed by such material outweighs the benefit that it offers to society, then no defence would be available even if it had artistic merit or educational, scientific, medical or other value.

The government has as well clarified the notion of public good defence, including its legal interpretation. As amended, Bill C-12 now defines the public good as including acts or material that are necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, medicine, education or art. This new, inclusive definition closely models the language of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sharpe case, thereby strengthening subsequent reliance upon this judgment to assist with the interpretation and application of the public good defence.

The government also recognizes that we must do better in protecting youth against sexual exploitation by those who would prey on their vulnerability in other ways. Therefore, Bill C-12 also amends the law in order to allow a court to infer that a sexual relationship is exploitive, having regard to the circumstances and nature of the relationship itself. Essentially, this provision would remove the right to consent of a person aged 14 to 17 years of age, allowing for the conviction of the exploiter even where the young person actually had given the consent.

An additional fourth factor has been added to the list of factors that are considered in law, namely, the actual age of the young person. This more clearly indicates that the court must consider this factor as well as the age differential between the two parties, the young person and the older person. Up to now it was assumed the court would take note of the actual age of the young person. It appears that the court simply accepted this age as a given and extrapolated from that to look at the age of the other person. Now the court must consider the age of the young person who is alleged to have been exploited.

Bill C-12 also proposes important reforms to facilitate the testimony of child witnesses and victims and other vulnerable persons. Although this part of the bill has received less attention, it has been largely well received and was developed in close consultation with the professional community that works with child victims.

Bill C-12 also proposes to create a new voyeurism offence to better protect privacy of Canadians. It would prohibit secret observation by any means or recording in specific situations where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, for example, when the person observed or recorded is in a place where a person is expected to be in a state of nudity or engaged in sexual activity, as in a bedroom, a bathroom or a change room, or when the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.

Bill C-12 would also prohibit the publication or distribution of any recording made as a result of an act of voyeurism. It would also enable the seizure of copies of any such recordings to prevent them from being distributed or sold, as well as for the deletion of electronic copies of these recordings from computer systems, including the Internet.

Bill C-12 is an important bill, one that the opposition and all members of the House should support and bring into law as quickly as possible. One might ask, then, why is the opposition intentionally opposing its passage? Why is it now putting up roadblocks? Why has it introduced what we call a hoist amendment at third reading? Perhaps members opposite will have a comment on that at the end of my remarks. The bill is aimed at protecting vulnerable persons and is, I suggest, too important to be the object of political games here in the House. I call upon the opposition to stop its tactics and pass the bill.

A second important justice bill currently before the House is Bill C-10, which is the bill to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is another important piece of legislation. Regrettably, however, it is another bill for which the opposition has introduced a hoist motion at third reading in an attempt to prevent the bill from becoming law.

Canadians do not agree with the opposition. I suppose it is fair to say there may be Canadians out there who do agree with the opposition, but I, sitting on this side of the House, believe that the vast majority of Canadians agree with the intent of the bill.

The government committed itself in 2003 in the Speech from the Throne to act on the results of parliamentary consultations with Canadians on options for changes to our drug laws, including adjusting the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. On May 27, 2003, the government introduced a bill that delivers on that commitment. I know; I worked on the House committee that worked very hard for a number of months, indeed, over a year, on this issue.

Presently under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the offence of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana or one gram or less of cannabis resin is punishable by up to six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,000. Very recently, two parliamentary committees--we have mentioned them here--examined the question of the use of drugs. The House of Commons Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs and the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs conducted thorough research and held numerous public hearings on the legislative provisions dealing with all drugs. Both committees concluded that changes to the legal scheme regulating these drugs were necessary.

Astonishing data emanate from recent research. Just to give a round number, about 100,000 Canadians use cannabis on a daily basis. Approximately 23% of Canadians have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime in spite of the fact that it is a criminal offence to possess this substance. In the last five years, cannabis offences have increased by more than 50%.

Canadians would like to see a reduction in the negative social impact of a criminal conviction. The opposition does not see it that way. I believe the opposition is out of step and out of touch with Canadians on this.

Canadians have also expressed concern over the unfair and unequal application of the law across the country. Police and court activity in respect of the possession offence varies considerably from region to region across Canada. In large urban areas, offenders often receive no more than a verbal warning, and if charged and tried will likely receive either a conditional or absolute discharge. In other parts of Canada, however, for the same offence an offender is more likely to be charged and, if convicted, to receive a fine and possibly a more serious penalty.

Based on these facts, it has been the commitment of this government to reform our legislation dealing with cannabis. The government has a responsibility to Canadians to adapt and address these current concerns. With this proposed legislation, our drug law would be reformed so as to reflect the Canadian reality.

The objectives of the bill are: to discourage the use of cannabis; to reduce the discrepancy in the enforcement of the law concerning the possession of small amounts; to improve law enforcement by peace officers; to modernize the law so that it better reflects the views of Canadians on consuming cannabis; to reduce the adverse consequences of a conviction for this activity; to maintain the crime status of possession of cannabis; and to combat large commercial cannabis grow operations. The bill contains large increases in penalties upon conviction for being associated with promoting or using these cannabis grow operations.

I have to point out as well that cannabis is one of a large and even a huge number of drugs that have been and are being used in our communities. The drugs being used vary. They include prescription drugs. OxyContin is one that has often been named as a culprit. It is a drug that is abused, over-prescribed and diverted from prescription use into illegal street use. I believe I recall that in one Atlantic Canadian city the street drug of choice was not cocaine or heroin but OxyContin, which of course is available at drugstores.

We all know that we have a serious drug issue, not just in urban Canada but across the whole breadth of our Canadian society. We must continue to take steps to educate and to deal with this. Not only do we have diversion from prescription use, but we have the old standbys. I do not want to pretend that it is just another routine drug description, but we have heroin making its way up and down the marketplace. We have cocaine and crack cocaine and we have all the other drugs which people have heard about and read about in their papers.

Among all those drugs, alcohol appears to be the drug that causes the greatest harm to Canadians, followed in close order, I believe, by nicotine. Tobacco is a bad one and extremely costly. We then get into heroin and cocaine, and we work down the list of addictions, and the cost to society.

This is my own view but I look at the overall picture, I regard cannabis as a bit of piker in the list of drugs that harm Canadian society. It is still a drug and it is still abused but it is not a drug that has a huge swath of addiction nor the broken lives and deaths that are associated with other drugs. I include alcohol in the deaths, broken families and ruined lives. While cannabis and marijuana use is an issue, and I will even rank it as an important issue, it is not the killer or as addictive as are all these other drugs.

As a country I suggest we have to focus on where the real harms are first. We will include all the drugs, including cannabis, but we must focus on where the real harms lay.

In conclusion, even though the opposition members do not like all of the government's agenda, I call upon them to please stop delaying passage of the bills to which I have referred today. This is social justice legislation that is of real importance. I call upon the opposition members to join with those members of the House who will vote yea in passage of these two important bills.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 6:15 p.m.
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London West Ontario


Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I look forward to your looking into that matter.

I have sat here all day. We started the day in the chamber doing third reading debate on a very important bill for the government, Bill C-10. It is a bill on which many people have worked long and hard. The chamber was engaged and all parties were working together debating the objectives of the bill. We also heard the dissenting viewpoint from a party but we were debating at third reading stage so we could go to the vote at third reading.

This afternoon we saw the use of a valid procedural tool, a hoist motion. What I have been listening to for the last number of hours was not the debate on the bill but the debate on the hoist motion, which would put this bill on hold for six months. It was perfectly legitimate to move that motion. That is not a problem.

However, I have been listening attentively to every speech today. I have been listening as a representative of constituents who have the same concerns for community safety, the same concerns about grow operations, the same concerns about young people and education. I wanted to hear a valid reason for not proceeding with the bill, for not proceeding to the vote on the bill, for not moving the legislation forward.

Even though all parties in the chamber have been engaged in third reading debate, surprisingly I have been listening to one party debate this motion. This motion was not about the bill, it was about the motion to hoist the bill, to delay it. That is the position of the opposite side. What have I also heard members opposite say? I have heard them say that mandatory minimums are the solution.

Perhaps we should look at one state in the United States because they refer to that country a lot. California has some of these three strikes and you are out bills. What do we see there? We see a state that spends more money on incarceration than it does on education, which is a shame because it does not work. If it worked, perhaps I would be willing to embrace something like it, but what works is really important.

I listened to the debate all afternoon. Members were talking about the government allowing or encouraging certain things. That is not so. In fact, I have only heard that type of message from the opposition. In reality all we are doing in the bill is making the sanction efficient and consistent in a manner that police organizations and prosecutors across the country will be able to free up the resources in the courts and make it a ticketing offence on the streets. If a minor were involved, the parents might be advised, something along those lines, something that might have an impact on young people.

I have heard the criticism about the differential in the fine rates between the younger person and the adult. Maybe we want the young person involved in paying the fines. Maybe these sanctions are not about putting kids in the cycle of not being able to pay fines and therefore escalating a system that does not work.

Millions of dollars for the drug strategy have been announced. It is very difficult to get the honest answer out if misinformation is put on the table and I have seen that strategy used before in other areas where it has failed. In fact, on other bills there have been lots of strategies used. I can remember a time when I stood as the chair of the aboriginal affairs--

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Provencher for his speech. It was a tremendous wealth of information and knowledge. I was dismayed, as I looked across the way, to see that there was only one Liberal who was even paying half attention to what he had to say.

The message he shared earlier is very important. The people who are trying to make the decisions, as my other colleague pointed out, will be whipped in their vote very shortly. They need to listen to what the member for Provencher had to say about the issue of marijuana decriminalization.

We are debating Bill C-10, which will amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with respect to the possession and production of marijuana.

What is the objective of the legislation? As I look through it, the objective is really not clear. What should the objective be of legislation dealing with drugs in our society? The best objective would be to remove the influence of addictive substances from people's lives as much as possible. That would be a noble goal if we were writing legislation dealing with addictive substances.

What do we do with addictive substances in other areas? An obvious example would be tobacco. Over the last 10 or 15 years we have seen what the government has done to the tobacco industry. It basically destroyed the industry. It spent billions of dollars trying to stop people from smoking cigarettes. It applied heavy taxation to the industry in order to ruin it. In many ways it has been successful. That was a good goal: to get people away from smoking.

The second example is alcohol. The government has a program, which is not as extensive as that of tobacco. The objective is to restrict the consumption of alcohol to some extent. It does that through taxation and restrictions on advertising.

When it comes to soft and hard drugs, we seem to have a different situation. When we look at hard drugs, the experiments we have been conducting in Vancouver have been a failure. The member for Langley—Abbotsford is familiar with that.

I found it interesting that even the United Nations is calling our small drug plan a failure. In fact, the International Narcotics Control Board condemned the experiment that is going on in Vancouver. It took aim at us in a number of ways, particularly the lack of a drug strategy in this country.

I want to talk a little bit about its criticism of the government initiative that was launched. It argued a couple of different things. First, the Vancouver safe injection site, which opened only last September, violated the fundamental principle that elicit drugs should only be used for medicinal or scientific purposes. It went on to talk quite a bit about that.

When drug abusers can acquire elicit drugs and take them into premises which are managed by the state or the town, there is definitely complicity. It could not accept that under the international drug control convention. That is the United Nations speaking, which is definitely not a Conservative organization.

Second, it took issue with the proposed changes that the government was making to the federal marijuana laws. The government claimed it would contribute to the mistaken perception that cannabis was a harmless substance. The United Nations was concerned about the type of leadership the government was failing to show.

The board was also opposed to the medical use of marijuana, which has been another failed experiment of the government, until its efficacy as a treatment could be determined. When we look at what the government has proposed so far, even the international community sees it as a complete and total failure.

We move on from hard drugs to marijuana use. What is the government doing in terms of marijuana? Its policy looks just as schizophrenic as it is in other areas. On the one hand it is trying to leave the impression with the public that it is fighting drug use, but with its legislation it seems to be saying it really encourages it.

I want to talk about some of the provisions in Bill C-10 and discuss where the bill will be taking us. The bill amends the law with respect to the production of marijuana. Apparently the production of marijuana is an offence that will be punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

We will hear a lot about “up to” in a few minutes. The proposed legislation breaks down the sentencing in two or three different ways. One of the things that it says it that an individual found growing just one to three plants will face summary conviction with a fine of not more than $500. Four to 25 plants would constitute an offence punishable by up to $25,000 and/or 18 months in jail. Growing 26 to 50 plants would result in a sentence of up to 10 years and the growing of more than 50 plants would be 14 years.

As we have said this afternoon, and we will continue to say, one of the problems is that there are no minimum sentences in this legislation. We have seen this in so many other pieces of legislation that the government has brought forward. It has happened one more time here. Basically, with no minimums, we are sending no message. We get things like conditional sentencing, house arrest, and small fines. The penalties are just not appropriate for the crime that has taken place.

I think that in a lot of ways the government has just given up. It really has. It has decided that it will not fight this battle anymore. What this society does not need now is one more way to get high. It is not as if this society is not being provided with enough options as it is.

The bill provides a whole new system of fines for the possession of marijuana. The possession of between 15 and 30 grams of marijuana is left up to the police officer as to whether a ticket will be issued or a summons for a summary conviction. With no minimum sentencing, we would expect that police would likely turn to whatever the judges were enforcing. It would seem to be that police would be just giving out tickets and nothing more because the judges would not enforce it if the police did anything more than that.

Possession of one gram or less of cannabis resin would be punishable by a fine of $300 for an adult and $200 for a youth. That sends a tremendous negative message to our youth. It actually encourages them to use drugs. It encourages adults to use our youth to use drugs as well. Those are maximum fines. The younger people would be encouraged then by the older people to carry the drugs and have them in their possession because their fines would be less.

Possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana under this legislation would be punishable by a fine of only $150 for an adult and $100 for a youth. Again, those are maximum fines, so it basically wipes out any penalty at all for using marijuana.

This legislation is really flawed. Despite what people say, we all know that marijuana is a gateway drug. If young people are going to start using drugs, marijuana is the drug of choice. It is the drug that they are usually first exposed to and the drug that they use to begin to get high. This legislation sends the wrong message to our young people.

Penalties for the production of marijuana have actually decreased. That is not something we want to have happen and that is something that the government is claiming is not true. However, where small amounts of marijuana are being produced, which would probably be most of the local, homegrown operations, the penalties are decreased. It encourages people to get involved in it.

One of the concerns that I have, and we heard about it this afternoon as well, is that there are a lot of young people who do not want to use drugs. They feel they are being put in a tough situation. Peer pressure comes into play, the other kids are saying they can use it, it is not a big threat, the government and adults do not seem to be worried about it, so they go ahead and use it.

I have young people who tell me they do not want to be using drugs. They are living in an environment where more and more younger people around them are trying to push them into it. It is not as if they do not have enough peer pressure to take up some of these choices as it is. Therefore, it is not wise for the government to be setting up a situation where our young people are actually being pressured into using more drugs.

One of the problems with the bill is that it provides absolutely no resources for police to begin to track down organized crime. We all know that organized crime is involved with a lot of the grow operations. It is making billions of dollars off this industry. The government has come out with legislation that basically decriminalizes marijuana possession, but it does not give the police anything in terms of being able to enforce the legislation.

The fines set out in the bill are low to begin with, but one of the other problems is that they do not increase with subsequent offences. There is no incentive for people to get away from dealing drugs and living in that environment. Repeat offenders must face more serious consequences if they are going to continue to break the law.

There are no law enforcement tools in the bill. The Liberals have gone ahead and liberalized our drug laws without providing the police with the tools they need.

One of the areas where police will not be able to do their job is in roadside assessments. If we are going to have people driving around and doing drugs, we need to determine at some point if they are impaired or not. This legislation gives absolutely no direction or help to the police when they stop people to see whether they are impaired.

That is one of the points that the Canadian Alliance made and, now as the Conservative Party, continues to make. There needs to be some way of determining whether someone is impaired at the roadside before we take a look at changing our marijuana laws.

The bill also encourages trafficking. By decriminalizing possession of 30 grams or less, the Liberals have made it easier for traffickers to operate and have removed the fear of any real sanction on these people when they move their drugs. Thirty grams of marijuana can provide as many as 60 joints. That is certainly enough to make a fairly good salary if people are selling them to their friends and neighbours. We just see that everything about this bill encourages our young people to move in a direction in their lives in which they do need to move.

Another big concern is that the Liberals do not have a national drug strategy. There is nothing in place to enable them to deal with the problems that would come out of decriminalizing marijuana,

We understand, and I hope they do as well, that there will be consequences to this decriminalization. There will more drug use. There will be consequences within families and consequences within communities. I suggest that we will see an increase in crime as well. The Liberals do not have a strategy to deal with that. As my colleague from Provencher mentioned earlier, if they do have a strategy, they are keeping it secret from all of us. The last thing we need is for the Liberal government to be keeping secrets on any level from anyone.

Another interesting issue is that there has been no legislation developed to curtail financial institutions from funding mortgages relating to grow ops. There are companies that are well aware that grow ops are concentrated in certain areas. There are financial institutions that are willing to finance those buildings because they understand they will get their money back fairly quickly. Something needs to be done to deal with the financial institutions. If they are aware of what is going on in those houses and buildings and they are not turning people over to the police, then we need to have some legislation to deal with that.

One of the other problems has been the judiciary. We need a commitment from the judges that they will begin to enforce the legislation as it stands. Unfortunately, with the lack of minimum penalties, the judges will not be enforcing this in any way that will bring any kind of fear to anyone who is involved in this activity.

No provisions have been made to deal with the increasing toxicity of marijuana. Over the years marijuana has become stronger. The drug the government thinks it is decriminalizing in fact is not the drug that it is decriminalizing. It has become much more toxic and much more addictive over the years. The government needs to be ready to deal with the problems that arise from that. Added to that is the problem of the marijuana and methamphetamine being mixed together.

The Conservative Party has some solutions. We are opposed to the open-ended decriminalization of marijuana. There are things that need to happen in this country with regard to marijuana. One of them is that the use and possession of marijuana must remain illegal. Possession of more than five grams of marijuana must be considered a criminal offence.

Fines for possession of marijuana should increase significantly for subsequent offences. If someone insists on going back to the well, that person should pay an ever increasing price for doing that.

One of the key things is roadside assessment. We need some way to determine if people are impaired. We know that if we decriminalize marijuana, people will be taking it and likely will be driving their vehicles. We have to give our law enforcement officers the tools they need in order to do those assessments before we change this law. We do not have those tools or that ability to determine impairment at the roadside. The government should put this law on hold until they have those tools and the police are given the resources that they need.

The Canadian Alliance was consistent throughout its history. We had a good position. Our new party has a very similar position, which is that possession of greater than five grams of marijuana must be considered a criminal offence.

We want fines specified in amounts and increased significantly for subsequent offences. We need to vigorously enforce fine payments. We need appropriate roadside assessment practices. We need improved and stronger prosecution and sentencing practices, agreed upon between the federal government and the provinces. It has been good to see that the Conservative Party is taking a strong stand against this legislation.

I need to ask the question, why are we here? Is this an issue that is spellbinding for Canadians and holding their attention? It really is not. There are a lot of other important issues that need to be dealt with and the government seems to be setting those aside. Unfortunately, it seems to have no direction. The only legislation the government has brought forward in the last few months has been reworked legislation from prior sessions. The government does not seem to have any real goal or direction.

Fortunately, the official opposition has taken the leadership in a lot of areas. One of them is agriculture. We have waited almost 10 months for the government to do something about the BSE problem in this country. The government has basically done nothing. It came out with a couple of programs. The money was absorbed. It disappeared and we really do not know where it went. We have sat through this session waiting for the agriculture minister and the department to make some commitment to people and to farmers who are stressed and there has been nothing.

The opposition has stepped forward in many areas but particularly in agriculture. We have come out with a good plan. I am sure members are interested in hearing some examples of what the opposition would do if we were government. There are a number of things the opposition would do.

We would top up CFIP. In the last few years the government has shorted farmers. It told them it would pay them so much money and when the time came, it shorted them of their money. We would put in enough money to pay out 100%.

We would top up the new CAIS program to try to make it work for farmers. We do not believe it is a good program, but maybe with some more money in it and some of our suggested changes, it could possibly be a good program for farmers.

We have suggested things like putting some money into increasing processing capacity. We have called for a cull of cows. That needs to be done to bring the numbers down to a place where the market can begin to respond.

Agriculture is just one of the areas on which the Conservative Party has taken a strong stand and shown some tremendous leadership.

I am disappointed in the government. I look to it to lead the country. We heard this afternoon in question period that sponsorship money has disappeared in two more places. The Bluenose has been a Canadian icon. For some reason the government committed money to it but the money never showed up. It disappeared. Today the minister said he does not know where it is. The government is going to launch legal action but it has no idea what happened to the money. We heard later in question period that the government committed money to the Pan Am games in Canada. Did the cheque get there? Only a very small part of it was received.

It is frustrating for Canadians who are facing the issues every day, paying their taxes and being threatened if they do not. Over the last year and a half we have seen, particularly with EI and the GST, people going after ordinary folks if they have not received every cent from them. Those folks are paying their taxes, living their lives, trying to get ahead, and the government continually disappoints them.

Defence issues arise weekly. We have submarines that do not immerse. We have planes that do not fly. We have trucks that do not move. We just heard today that the government sent troops on a training exercise, gave them their $50 per diem and after the training exercise, turned around and told the corporals that they would just get $17 a day. At the same time the bureaucrats on the other side are dining out. There are no restrictions on what they are doing but those poor soldiers are required to pay the money back. We would expect the government to at least listen and do something about that.

The government is not dealing with the issues of leadership in this country right now. It is foundering. It is incompetent. It is corrupt. It is disappointing to see that it has pushed ahead with legislation like this--