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--

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to participate in this debate today.

The issue for me on this bill is that we, as parliamentarians in coming to vote on this issue, need information. We simply do not have the information available to us to make an informed decision. The government, rather than providing the opposition, its backbenchers and Canadians with the necessary information to make that informed decision, has simply chosen to push Bill C-10 through for one reason or another. We owe it to our country, we owe it specifically to our children, to get answers from the government and the minister as to why the haste on this bill.

There are a number of issues I would like to see addressed. There are a number of substantive matters which I believe need answers and those answers have not been provided by the government.

The first thing that strikes me about Bill C-10 is that the bill is tailor-made for encouraging trafficking among youth. We are lowering the prohibitions in the law. We are basically stating that anywhere from 15 cigarettes to 30 cigarettes to 45 cigarettes, depending on how they are rolled, could be carried in a youth's jeans and sold at, say, $5 to $10 a piece, but we would have to catch that youth in an individual transaction in order to prove trafficking. It is very low level trafficking but at a large scale and it will make money. It may not necessarily mean that much money for the youth involved in the trafficking but the youth would probably make enough to support his or her own habit. That is the other aspect of the bill.

Bill C-10 would increase the influence of organized crime. It would perpetuate bigger profits. We are increasing demand through low level trafficking and all the other trafficking that goes to support it, and at the same time we are keeping the source of the marijuana illegal. What do we do? Prohibitions are down, but the profits are up. This would provide a wonderful opportunity for organized crime to expand. That is what Bill C-10 is all about.

A fundamental question would be why are we setting up the bill in this way, one which profits illegal enterprises and hurts our children? That is the consequence of the bill. I have not seen an answer. The Liberals have not refuted that that is the consequence of enacting this legislation.

The second question to which Canadians want an answer is the issue of impaired driving as a result of drug use. I spent a lot of my career in the attorney general's department as a prosecutor in constitutional law. Back in the late 1980s, the number of deaths and injuries on the highways was increasing.

Even back then the federal government was unwilling to take the necessary steps to stop this carnage. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I am proud to say that Manitoba was a leader in this, we saw new initiatives to decrease impaired driving through administrative methods, administrative seizures of licences and administrative seizures of motor vehicles from those who drove after their licences had been suspended. These initiatives were tremendously successful.

The biggest challenge that Manitoba had was to convince other provinces that this was the right thing to do. It was not just the defence lawyers who were saying that it was unconstitutional and we should not do it, it was other attorneys general. The federal government was skeptical about it well into the 1990s. Yet if we look at the history of that initiative, most provinces have adopted that model, and to a good end. Fewer people are dying. Fewer children are being killed on the highways. Fewer adults are being killed and injured on the highways. This is a good thing, but we risk undoing the gains that we have made through hard, diligent work.

When we are encouraging an increase in the use of marijuana, the inevitable result will be an increase in the use of marijuana and driving. Why are we going down that road? We know that marijuana coupled with alcohol has a much more dangerous cumulative effect in terms of impaired driving. Having one marijuana cigarette and one or two beers is not the same as having three beers. There is a multiplier involved. The impairment is severe. We do not have an effective roadside screening device, or other devices, that will detect that.

Why are we proceeding at this time? We do not have those answers. Why are we putting hundreds and thousands of people's health and lives at risk by going down that road?

I do not have that answer. I cannot give that answer to my constituents because the government has failed to provide that information to me as their representative. How can I in good conscience tell my constituents not to worry, that the Liberals have some secret plan that will overcome this fear that their children may be injured on the highways and that their spouses may be killed on the highways? How can I tell them not to worry, that the Liberals have a secret plan?

That is not good enough. Canadians are entitled to know what response the government will put in place if the law goes into effect and impaired driving through the use of drugs is increased.

I have another concern to which I still do not have an answer. Many people view marijuana as a harmless drug. We could speak to virtually any drug addiction counsellor. Marijuana, especially with the THC content that it has now, is an extremely physically addictive drug. There is no debate about that issue any more. It is an addictive drug. I do not know on what scale it is addictive, whether it is the same as heroin, cocaine, crack or crank, but the guidance counsellors and addiction counsellors say that it is addictive.

We are not dealing with a harmless drug and yet we do not have a local or national strategy to deal with the problem. Why are these issues not being raised and answered so that I can go back to my constituents and say that the Liberals are prepared to allow their children to become addicted but that they should not worry because the Liberals have a secret strategy in place to address this, a national secret strategy, and we should trust them?

In view of the Liberals' record over the past couple of months, I cannot go back to my constituents and ask them to trust the Liberals. They are not worthy. They have not earned it. They have lost the trust of Canadians.

The other concern I have is the issue dealing with methamphetamine and the soaking of marijuana in methamphetamine. I do not know if members know how horrible a drug methamphetamine is. On the street it is called crank or white ice. American officials who I dealt with back in 1997 through 1999 warned Canadians that this was coming. It was devastating rural America. These law enforcement agencies told me that what crack did to urban black areas, crank or this white ice will do it to blue collar, white, rural, small town America and Canada. It is happening. It certainly happened in the United States. What crack did not complete, crank is finishing in our rural areas and in our small towns. It is a horrible problem.

I will tell the House what crank or methamphetamine does to people. People do not just go on a 12 hour run with methamphetamine. They go on 30 day runs where they virtually do not sleep for 30 days. Does anyone know how they go to sleep? They take heroine to calm down so they can go to sleep. It is a horrible addictive drug. Now organized crime is soaking marijuana with methamphetamine.

These labs are nickel and dime labs. They can be set up virtually anywhere. They are set up in hotel rooms, in rented rooms, anywhere. The ingredients are cheap and the process is simple. It is an explosive thing. It is a very dangerous thing to make methamphetamine. The explosions occur as quick as lightening and the death that follows from those explosions is immediate.

I have seen video tapes where the first responders go into a hotel room where the meth lab has been in the washroom and the explosion has occurred in the washroom. The person in the washroom is dead immediately. The person at the doorway staggers a step or two. The person on the bed who tries to make it to the door makes it about three or four steps. The gas kills immediately from those explosions.

We might say that those are the people involved in making this. Well, if we have no sympathy for those human beings, we should at least have sympathy for the first responders who open up the motel room door and are hit by that cloud. They die as surely as the drug dealers who are making the methamphetamine.

In 1997 and 1999, agencies in the United States told us that over 80% of all child welfare apprehensions in California were as a direct result of methamphetamine. There is an explosion in apprehending children from parents addicted to methamphetamine. I am certain that the rates would be similar in terms of crack use in urban America. Now we hear of the same problems developing in Canada.

The Americans back in those years were saying to us that they had outlawed the precursors, the ingredients to make methamphetamine, but the American drug dealers were coming across the border, especially from Montana, into Alberta, going into drug stores, literally cleaning out the shelves of over the counter drugs, boiling them down and using those ingredients back in the United States. We were oblivious to this problem. This problem is now hitting us with a vengeance.

One other area where methamphetamine has hit very hard in the United States, and it is finding its way into the same areas in Canada, is in our first nations communities. It has been a horrible problem in first nations communities across the United States and now it is coming here. We look at all the problems that some of our first nations communities have and now they are going to be met with this problem.

I am worried. We are moving in this direction with marijuana, marijuana soaked with methamphetamine which is addictive after one or two uses. It is almost certain that people will become addicted. Imagine kids trying marijuana soaked in methamphetamine, waking up and realizing they have a monkey on their backs, and it is a horrible monkey.

Where are the answers? The government has not provided me with those answers. How can I go back to my constituents and tell them not worry about these aspects because the Liberals have assured us that its drug policy will work? Will it work like their drug policy in east Vancouver, which now has the highest crime rate in property crime in North America second only to downtown Miami?

The people in organized crime are telling everyone that if they are caught with drugs anywhere in Canada they should waive those charges into British Columbia because they will never go to jail. The laws are not being enforced there. The judges are not enforcing them. The efforts of other judges in other areas of the country are being undermined as these charges are being waived into British Columbia, and judges there simply do not seem to care.

We need things like sentencing guidelines or minimum sentences to establish a floor right across the country so that if some judges do not care about our kids and our communities, at least Parliament says that they had better do their jobs by following these sentencing guidelines or these minimums. Why do we not see that in the bill?

Those are some of the questions that I have been asked by my constituents. How do I go back to my constituents and tell them to trust the government when the government simply does not have the answers? If the government has the answers it has not yet decided to share them with the opposition and with the people who we represent.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments on Bill C-10 made by my colleague from Saskatoon—Wanuskewin. He raised a number of relevant points about this legislation, as have Conservative members one after another.

I am a little dismayed that the Liberal Party, which has put forward this legislation, is not debating it. That is the Prime Minister who has said that he is increasingly concerned about the democratic deficit, not only in the chamber, in the people's House of Commons, but at committee and in other areas where members of Parliament are engaged in other venues. He has said he is concerned about the democratic deficit and yet today we see this legislation before the chamber again. It is a retread. It is flawed legislation that was put forward by the Prime Minister's predecessor, Jean Chrétien. It is back once more, yet the Liberals will not even get up to try to defend it in this place.

One of the concerns the member touched on is that the fines and jail terms are too low. One of the concerns I have is that once again we see a situation where the government sees fit to bring forward a range of fines and/or jail time that encompasses maximums.

Concerning the production of marijuana, I would like to read into the record the fact that an individual found growing one to three plants faces summary conviction and a fine of not more than $500, or $250 for a young person. It was subsequently amended at committee, but the key words that people need to understand are “not more than”. Four to twenty-five plants would constitute a offence punishable by “up to” $25,000. Growing twenty-six to fifty plants would result in a sentence of “up to” 10 years. The maximum penalty for growing more than fifty plants would be 14 years.

This is one of the problems that we consistently see with government legislation brought to this place. There are no minimums. We have argued this time and time again. People who resort to criminal activity in this country--and production and trafficking is big business for big crime--have to understand that not only will there be a maximum sentence, they will face a minimum sentence if they are caught and are convicted of this crime. The police, the prosecutors and our justice system depend upon criminals getting the message that if they are caught they are going to be dealt with swiftly and severely for this type of criminal activity.

I wonder if my colleague from Saskatoon—Wanuskewin is as concerned as I am that once again we see the government bringing forward legislation that contains no minimums. Criminals can get away with a slap on the wrist and go through the revolving door right back out of the courtroom, right back to work, and laugh in the face of the police, the prosecutors and everybody who is working diligently to try to protect society. They are back out on the street conducting criminal activity, preying on our young children, the very future of Canada.

I for one am getting quite fed up with this type of activity and this type of attitude from the Liberal government. I have been in this place for 10 years. We have debated a lot of legislation dealing with the Criminal Code of Canada and criminal issues. Time and time again we see the results: the Liberal government talks a good talk but refuses to get tough on crime.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, I know we have had reference thus far in the House today by individuals who have spoken of the tremendous impact it will have on lives and the harm that will be created. Others have brushed it off, saying that it is mostly a personal choice which affects maybe only the individuals themselves but has no affect on other people.

As we debate Bill C-10, which is legislation to amend the Contraventions Act to allow for certain offences to be prosecuted by means of a summons or a ticket and in short to decriminalize marijuana possession under 30 grams, I want to begin by making the point about the carnage created and the in the lives of other people in a couple of pretty significant ways. I will sketch them out off the top here.

In questions and comments in the House I have questioned the justice minister's concern about the carnage caused on Canadian roadways by impaired driving. I have drawn to the attention of the minister one of the many concerns raised by police chiefs, in particular by Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino when he spoke about the government's agenda to soften Canada's marijuana laws.

I asked a question of the minister some time ago. Julian Fantino, chief of police for Toronto, stated in a letter to me his many concerns about the government choosing to decriminalize marijuana. In that letter he referred to research indicating that if this bill were to come into place in the draft form as it was at that time, the number of drivers under 25 years of age under the influence of marijuana might increase by as much as 400%. That is the number of drivers under 25 years of age under the influence of marijuana or, in other words, driving while drunk.

Police Chief Fantino spoke of the added hazard this would then create on our roadways and highways. He spoke of the kind of unbelievable carnage and the grief and heartache families would experience when they lost a child, or a spouse, or a father or a mother because of somebody driving under the influence of marijuana. He spoke of the awful scene of a tragic accident where lives were lost.

I ask the question again today. Does the minister and the government not understand the tremendous carnage that could be caused on a yearly basis by such impaired driving? This is not only about oneself and a personal lifestyle habit. It is also very much about the very tragic impact it could have on others around us, as we are out on the highways and the byways.

Widely reported in the media over the last number of months has been the bad news about marijuana use and the violence and gang warfare, which is far too prevalent. The government's soft on drugs legislation before us today was referred to a special committee. We really had hoped the committee would show a lot more respect for the views of Canada's frontline police officers and emergency workers than the Liberal government has thus far.

Back on October 28, the Globe and Mail reported on a gang-style double murder in Toronto, with police officers directly tying that incident to a growing problem of marijuana and gang warfare in the city. I had an exchange with the member for Crowfoot earlier today about a poll that came out the very next day, on October 29 of last year. The media reported widely on a new poll which showed that marijuana use was higher than tobacco use among Canadian teens. That is significant and it is something we should all sit up, take note of and pay attention to, as I mentioned in my question to him.

We have the Liberal government promoting an aggressive campaign, with lots of dollars being put into it. Across the country we have posters, seminars, lessons and all kinds of messaging to dissuade youth from tobacco use. However, the proposed changes to marijuana legislation send the very opposite message.

Canada's frontline police officers remain distressed over the Liberal's soft on pot law. I have talked with them in my home riding of Saskatoon--Wanuskewin. The Canadian Professional Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have again written to the Prime Minister. They have asked for stronger legislation against the most serious drug related offences. Very bluntly, Canada's police officers are dismayed at the government's attempt to fast track this premature and seriously flawed bill.

The Conservative Party opposes Bill C-10, but it takes the position that if the Liberals are going to force it through, it must first set up a national drug strategy. Other members, at least from the Conservative Party, have referred to that today.

We need a national drug strategy that works at the street level in all our cities and all our communities across this great country. It must establish a progressive fine schedule with fines and penalties, increasing with the number of convictions, and significant consequences for non-payment of fines. That is not in the bill.

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. We need to have a handle on that. We need to have that set up and ready to go before the legislation is passed. The police need legislation to enhance their enforcement powers in situations where drug impairment is suspected.

The very fact remains that the lower the penalties for drug use and drug running, the more lucrative this illegal activity will be. The more lucrative drug running is, the easier it will be for drug dealers to attract young people into this very dangerous and criminal activity.

The member from Calgary in his speech made clear, and I could not agree more, that the older ones will simply use the younger ones who will be more lightly prosecuted. They are the ones who will get off with a lighter sentence. They will be use them to be the stooges, the runners and those who take the hit. It will be simply an invitation to drug dealers to invite and lure younger people into this very dangerous and criminal activity. Those who already use marijuana will be more easily lured into trafficking.

New data indicating a rise in the number of teens using pot should be of grave concern. It is a serious issue, especially in view of the fact that recent polling indicates we have some real problems with greater use of marijuana than tobacco by teens in Canada. There has been reference to this by a number of people through the course of the day so far. Some of the questions and interventions have also revolved around this.

Putting aside the harm it does on the road, the carnage on the highways, the violence, the drug trafficking, the gang warfare, et cetera that will be created by the very soft on pot legislation, we also know it will harm all Canadians. It is not just a personal thing where people can say that it is their business and that it does not affect anyone else. As has been drawn out a couple times already, it very significantly will affect businesses. The member for Provencher talked about this. When big companies want to get deliveries in pretty quickly, but are held up at the border, it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars in the course of the day. It does not just affect the individual. When regimes are put in place with more serious surveillances, it affects good people all across the country, including business people. It will probably result in tighter border restrictions between our two countries.

I really do not know what constituency the Liberal government is trying to attract with this new approach to drug legislation. It certainly is not the law-abiding citizens back in my constituency who love their children, love their youth and who want to live in safe communities.

Bill C-10 has a detrimental effect, not only on the person who uses it. We know there are harmful ill effects from that, medically. There have been studies that have proved that. However, it also affects carnage on the highways with drugged driving. We do not have the regimes in place to prevent or to detect that. It also affects the violence and the gangs in terms of the increased criminal activity related to this. It is also a gateway to harder drugs. As well, it affects the business community. It affects anybody exchanging goods between Canada and the United States. Therefore, there are some pretty serious consequences.

I find most appalling that they are setting up this discrepancy or difference between adults and youth, and fining youth at a much lower rate. What kind of a message does that send to say that it is okay for young people do it, but if adults do it that is a more serious thing? I find it most disturbing when we have lighter fines for young adults. On one hand the Liberals are saying that they are trying to prevent youth from using drugs. On the other hand, they are effectively eliminating any real penalty for them if they do so.

When we look at any kind of legislation, we want to have something in place so the effective and proper enforcement can take place. In this case we do not have the resources in place for the police to crack down on organized crime that is profiting from lack of enforcement and will all the more as the bill is put into effect.

The legislation might in fact increase demand for marijuana and, therefore, make the illegal production and distribution of marijuana even more lucrative for organized crime, using our vulnerable youth in a greater way as their runners, stoolpigeons and so on. That is very troubling.

The fines set out in the bill are much too low. They are a light slap on the wrist. It is the cost of doing business, and no more. There is nothing that would deter somebody from becoming involved and moving clients on to harder drugs where there is an even more serious effect.

Also, a tremendous drawback with the bill, a flaw, a negative, is there is no increase for subsequent offences. As the member from Calgary said if somebody has done it once, that is one thing. However, if it is done again and again that obviously should be taken into account. For repeat offences, there should be more serious and tougher consequences along the way.

One might say that the Liberals have really liberalized Canada's drug laws without providing the proper kind of enforcement. That is always troubling. When we get into the billion dollar boondoggle, the gun registry, having not thought this through in advance--

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important and timely debate to have in the chamber today about the decriminalization of marijuana. After listening to some of my colleagues debate this issue, I am reminded that one of the reasons the government seems to be in a hurry to address this is it is trying to pretend there is a perception that the vast majority of young people believe that pot should be decriminalized.

I have had the opportunity to speak in high schools throughout my riding of Prince George--Peace River. I have found that young people are not unified on this particular issue. There is no big hue and cry from young people for the decriminalization of marijuana or for the full legalization of it.

I put three different options to young people: legalize it, and thus be able to tax it and treat it like alcohol, for example; decriminalize small amounts as Bill C-10 would do; or leave the status quo, where it is a criminal act and against the Criminal Code of Canada to possess marijuana. The young people were split on this issue, as I would suggest would be society at large. There was no clear consensus even among young people that we should rush pell-mell, full speed ahead, to decriminalize marijuana.

My colleague from Calgary has been active on university and college campuses across Canada speaking to young people. I wonder whether he has run into the same situation as I have in my riding.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, that was a very reasonable question.

I serve as the opposition critic for Canada-U.S. relations. In that capacity I have occasion to meet frequently with American law enforcement officials, legislators and administration policy makers. This issue of Canada liberalizing its marijuana and drug laws is very much on the radar screen of policy makers in Washington.

In the post 9/11 environment, we have a critical national imperative to make Americans comfortable with sharing an open border with Canada. For our economic survival we need to ensure an open border that right now encompasses $1.8 billion Canadian in daily trade. Bill C-10 would only increase pressure in Congress and in other sources of authority in Washington to increase border inspections and to increase the number of customs officers for surveillance of Canadian vehicles and passengers going into the United States, all of which would mean longer lineups, more hassles, and a greater cost for the Canadian economy.

I am afraid that this will have an unintended economic cost in terms of greater American border vigilance as they seek to intercept the increase in the supply of marijuana in Canada which they anticipate will be the unintended result of the bill. Let us be very mindful of that.

Let me make a related comment. It is interesting to note that three U.S. states, Oregon, Nevada, and one other, have had referendum campaigns on decriminalizing marijuana. They had very vigorous debates in those states. In each instance, the voters in those states decided to maintain the prohibition against production, trafficking, and possession of marijuana.

I am not suggesting that we should always govern ourselves according to American domestic policy trends, but we have to be mindful of them. When we look at the post 9/11 security environment and we add on to it the growing American unease about Canada as an exporter of drugs, particularly cannabis, into the United States, the bill is particularly unhelpful.

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March 8th, 2004 / 4:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10 on behalf of my constituents of Calgary Southeast.

This has been an unusually difficult issue for me to analyze and on which to arrive at a position. I find the argument offered by libertarians in favour of the decriminalization of minor possession of marijuana or the decriminalization of marijuana all together reasonable and compelling.

Their argument is predicated on the notion that marijuana is not a harmful substance. Therefore, it does not damage the users of marijuana, is not addictive in a destructive sense, and does not endanger the broader common good or society. I find that a reasonable and compelling argument, although I am not sure that I agree with the predicate that marijuana is in all instances a harmless drug.

I balance that reasonable libertarian appeal on this issue against the personal experiences that I have heard from many constituents and other Canadians, particularly parents. Those who like myself do not have children do not have to worry about the difficulties that young people have growing up in today's society and perhaps are not as concerned about the deleterious effect of marijuana on young people.

However, I know many parents who believe very passionately, from their firsthand experience, that they lost their children, that their children became ensnared in an entire lifestyle that was unhealthy and unproductive, and that it was in fact destructive of themselves, their families and their relationships because of their principal use of marijuana.

It is my sense that a majority of my constituents believe that there should continue to be significant sanctions for the production, sale and possession of marijuana. On the other hand, most Canadians and most of my constituents do not believe that individuals who are arrested and in possession of one joint should face a lifetime criminal blemish because of perhaps an isolated mistake in their youth.

I do believe that this is a complex issue. I am quite frankly someone who sees things in black and white. This is one issue where I see reasonable arguments on both sides.

However, as I do more research on this issue and talk to more constituents, and look more closely at the bill, I have come to the conclusion that the bill is an inappropriate response to the desire to prevent an undue lifetime penalty of the burden of a criminal offence on someone. That is understandable and the bill simply goes too far.

Basically, Canadian society is seeking a balance on this issue and that is a reasonable thing to expect. I do not think this is a balanced bill.

Effectively, the bill seeks to decriminalize possession for amounts of under 30 grams, for all intents and purposes. The expert testimony is that 30 grams of marijuana can produce as much as 60 marijuana joints, which is certainly more than what most Canadians and certainly most parents would regard as minor possession.

Indeed, the position that the previous Canadian Alliance arrived at, which has now been adopted by the new Conservative Party, is a reasonable one. It is to decriminalize possession of cannabis for amounts of less than five grams, which is essentially one or two marijuana joints. That would be a reasonable balance. It would take into account the circumstances where young individuals made one small mistake in their lives. It is a desire to give them a second chance without burdening them for the rest of their lives with a criminal record.

On the other hand, if we were to adopt the five gram limit proposed by my party, we would still maintain a significant criminal law disincentive for the production and distribution of marijuana.

This is really a critical issue which the bill fails to adequately address; that is, the enormous proliferation of marijuana production in Canada and the involvement of organized crime in that field.

We have all read and seen the stories about the thousands of so-called grow operations that exist in disproportionate numbers in the Province of British Columbia. I think the bill fails to take that into consideration.

My colleague from Provencher points out that apparently some of these very prosperous grow operations were helpful in financing the recent leadership campaign of the right hon. the Prime Minister in acquiring memberships in British Columbia. There is now a very serious criminal investigation in that province.

If we were to decriminalize for amounts of 30 grams and under, essentially, we would be giving a green light to trafficking and a green light to a grow op production on the scale that we have before us today. In fact, these grow ops, which are fuelled by organized crime, are growing like top seed right now under the current law, which criminalizes any kind of possession or trafficking of marijuana.

It seems to me that if we were to send a signal that Parliament is less interested in prosecuting possession and trafficking of marijuana, we would only get more grow ops, which would mean more resources for organized crime. That seems to me a rather perverse, perhaps unintended, consequence of this bill.

Another aspect of the bill which I find troublesome is that it would create a two tier law. The Liberals always demagogue about the notion of two tier health care, but they seem to be rather attached to the idea of two tier criminal law. They have passed amendments in this place which make certain offences even greater offences if they are committed for particular reasons. Rather than simply making all acts of violence equally abhorrent under criminal law, they have identified acts that are motivated by certain subjective impulses as carrying greater penalties.

Similarly, in another field of course, we know that the government has legislated less strenuous penalties for people who violate the law based on race, which I find quite an outrageous offence against Canadian liberal democratic values. Similarly, in Bill C-10, the government would propose separate fines for the minor possession of marijuana for adults versus youth.

Surely we can all agree in this place that Canadians are equal under the law and that if a young person commits an adult crime, then he or she should face the consequences. To suggest that young people are somehow less responsible for their actions is demeaning. It creates all sorts of perverse messages and unintended consequences.

If a 17 year old is able to transport 60 joints, under this law, and face potentially a third less fine than somebody who is 18 years old, that means that 17 and 16 year olds would become pigeons for drug traffickers. That would be one of the perverse outcomes of this bill. In a sense, it would encourage drug traffickers to use younger people as stooges in their businesses. I do not understand why the government does not see this.

Furthermore, the government has actually decreased penalties for the production of marijuana in this bill through its schedule of fines related to the number of plants. Again, this is completely naive.

Grow operators can limit themselves to a potential fine of $25,000 for growing up to 25 plants, but if they have 26 plants they could face 10 years in jail. Guess what they are going to do? Instead of having one grow op with 100 plants, they are going to have four grow ops with 25 plants.

This is such an absolutely and transparently absurd understanding of human nature that we find in this bill. It is an incentive for marijuana producers to be even more stealthy in the amounts of marijuana that they grow to avoid the penalties under the law. The police, instead of identifying one significant grow op, are going to have to chase dozens and dozens of smaller ones that are established precisely to avoid the 26 plant limit in the law.

Similarly, the bill does nothing to assist police in cracking down on organized crime that is currently profiting from lax enforcement. The legislation will increase demand for marijuana and therefore make the illegal production and distribution of it even more lucrative for organized crime.

The fines set out in this bill do not increase for subsequent offences either. This is a major flaw. It seems that if we want the law to have an instructive capacity, to teach people, particularly young people, about what constitutes acceptable conduct, then we should increase the penalties with the number of repeat offences.

If a college student is caught with one marijuana joint, I personally do not believe that the person should face a lifetime criminal record, but if a young person is arrested and found to be a serial user and possessor of marijuana, chances are that there is more to it than just the possession. Chances are that the person is involved in trafficking or has a serious habit, and the law needs to assist in breaking that habit. I would propose that the bill see increased penalties and consequences for repeat offenders.

I have mentioned some of the deficiencies in the bill. My colleague from Crowfoot spoke about the need for a broader national drug strategy. I believe that there is compelling evidence, certainly anecdotal and I believe empirical evidence, that marijuana is--not in every instance, but can be in many instances--a gateway drug to more serious narcotics, narcotics that destroy and kill people.

If there is anybody in this place who thinks that the drug trade in narcotics is just a lifestyle choice and that we ought not to make any moral judgment about the use of such drugs, then I invite them to come down to the lower east side of Vancouver and literally see hundreds of mainly younger people whose lives have been completely, for all intents and purposes, sucked out of them by the addiction to narcotics.

I would venture to guess that virtually every one of the junkies on the lower east side of Vancouver whose lives have been destroyed will tell us that the first contact they had with drugs was with marijuana.

We have to be very alive to the connection between marijuana and the larger drug culture in terms of more serious narcotics. There is no national drug strategy attached to this bill. No provisions have been made to amend the proceeds of crime legislation. No provisions have been made to deal with damages to real estate through residential grow ops, a very serious problem. No legislation has been developed to curtail financial institutions from funding mortgages related to grow ops that would require them to exercise due diligence to stop the money laundering that occurs through these operations. No coordination has been proposed by the government to work with provincial welfare departments and federal authorities to stop welfare fraud, which is used to fuel the drug trade.

No commitment has been obtained from the judiciary to increase penalties within the limits set out in this bill in terms of maximum penalties, or to follow the established possession guidelines. No provisions have been made to deal with the increasing toxicity of THC content.

My colleague from Crowfoot discussed the fact that toxicity of cannabis today is several times greater than it was when the former minister of justice, the former minister of health and much of the frontbench of the government were recreational users of marijuana, according to their own admissions, in the 1960s. They look back at that as some kind of romantic period.

The former minister of health, Alan Rock, no longer a member of this place and now our ambassador to the United Nations, glories in his hippie days, hanging out with John Lennon and he snickers about illegal drug use. We can let him have his psychedelic romantic memories from his youth in the 1960s, but that has no relevance to the lives of young people today who are dealing with a product in cannabis that is 10 to 20 times more potent than when the current ambassador to the United Nations was a recreational user in the 1960s.

I would ask the members of the Liberal government to put aside their romantic attachment to this as the drug of the summer of love. I ask them to look at real families and young people whose lives are being negatively affected by addiction to what can in many instances be a very damaging drug. I would ask the government to reconsider the bill.

In closing, I would support amendments to the act that decriminalized possession of very minor amounts. I do not seek to penalize in perpetuity young people who make an occasional mistake, but we do need to use the law to stop the enormous and unchecked growth in the organized criminal drug trade in this country. Therefore, I will oppose this bill unless the government agrees to substantially amend it along the lines proposed by my colleagues.

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March 8th, 2004 / 4:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the member's question is yes. We do need to look at all kinds of ways to get the message across to Canadians that it is wrong.

He is also right. Here we are on a Monday afternoon in the House of Commons. We have issues that are absolutely devastating, especially to my constituents, and the legislative agenda has us debating Bill C-10. That is fine.

We have BSE right now that is absolutely killing the cattle industry and the agriculture sector as a whole and we are here debating a bill to decriminalize marijuana. I guess the bill has to be debated but there are so many other things that should have the attention of the government but does not.

We have a billion dollar gun registry that is so ineffective that it is not preventing crime and yet over $1 billion will be pushed into the registry regardless of what effect it has. There will be dollars for that.

We have a softwood lumber industry with as many people in the unemployment lines now as there were months ago.

There are so many issues, especially the beef industry issue, that I feel I should be here debating but we are on Bill C-10.

I believe we need all the resources possible to educate the public. We have already seen many grow ops being raided. People with homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or maybe even millions of dollars have cut out rooms in their basements for marijuana grow ops. If we were able to confiscate the money from this type of criminal activity the money could be put right back into fighting crime. Let us take the money that is tied up in these grow op houses and put it back into fighting crime and to educating Canadians about the harmful effect.

The government acts as if it is only one joint or two joints that people are smoking. However, where are they getting this drug? They are getting it from organized crime.

The government says that if we decriminalize it and allow people to grow their own then it will no longer be organized crime any more. That shows that this is a government that does not have a clue how to fight this kind of crime and how to recognize the problems that we have in this country.

I appreciate the question from the member for Skeena. Yes, let us fight crime using the criminals' resources. Let us shoot the money back into fighting crime. Let us take the gun registry and absolutely get rid of it.

We have a budget coming up. We have a new Prime Minister. I ask the Prime Minister to show Canadians that he understands what is happening out there and get rid of the gun registry. If he wants to fight crime and he wants gun control, all he has to do is tell people that if they perpetrate any type of crime using a firearm they will be on a registry and they will never own a firearm again. That is the gun registry that I can accept. It is not going to cost anything.

If the Prime Minister wants to have gun control he should tell Canadians that we will stop the illegal smuggling of guns that are coming across the border daily and that we will have a greater commitment to stopping them, because we do not.

Instead, we are debating Bill C-10 on how we should tell Canadians and young people that marijuana is not all that bad. Shame on that government.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 4:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the one billion dollar-plus gun registry; the softwood lumber committee adjustment fund of some $55 million for British Columbia where very little of it has gone to the people in the communities that need it at this stage of the game, some 450 days later; the ad scams, some $450 million program; shoot-up sites in big cities like Vancouver; and then we get legislation, such as Bill C-10, which will likely exacerbate the problem; it appears to me that the government needs to change its priorities.

How does the member for Crowfoot feel about a suggestion that the firearms registration be cancelled and that the government cut its losses and put future funds that would have gone into that ridiculous program into crime prevention, including developing an adequate roadside test for marijuana use and firm enforcement of existing marijuana laws? Would that not make a whole lot more sense to Canadians?

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today and debate Bill C-10. Only a number of weeks ago, we in the House had the privilege of debating Bill C-10 at report stage. At that time I stood in the House and brought out some of our major concerns about the bill. I brought out some of the concerns we have with a government that is moving toward decriminalization.

I really believe that deep down the government is moving toward legalization of marijuana. Although this bill does not make it legal, we are moving in that direction. The government is moving in that direction and to that I say shame. I say shame on stepping forward and coming up with a program or a plan that would tell people, tell Canadians and tell young people that using marijuana is not all that bad, not even as bad as not wearing your seat belt and not as bad as drinking. It is just not that bad, says the government, because the level of fines the government has included in this bill sends the wrong message to Canadians.

First, let me mention that about two years ago a committee was struck to study drug use and our drug strategy. It was called the Special Committee on Non-medical Use of Drugs. At that time my leader asked me to sit on that committee. We had a government that was bent on recognizing a drug problem in our country and felt that the answer to the drug problem was to build safe injection sites, clean places where people could shoot illegal drugs into their veins. The government felt that it would certainly help solve a drug problem that is even more prevalent in our nation today.

Besides a drug strategy, there was another part of what that committee was studying, which was whether, because heroin on the streets is so dirty, the government should provide clean, pure heroin to drug users in what we would call a heroin maintenance program, that is, should heroin addicts be given clean, pure heroin free or at a greatly reduced price? It would then be guaranteed that the drugs were clean and it would help prevent problems down the road.

I have a problem with that type of philosophy. I have a problem with that type of strategy of the government. I believe it is the wrong message. I believe it is the wrong way of dealing with the drug problem. Certainly the longer we went on in that committee, the more we realized that the government had no plan. It had no indication and no idea of how to fight one of the problems that hurts so many families, hurts so many Canadians and hurts productivity.

Therefore, our committee began to travel. We travelled across the country. Indeed, we travelled to many countries. We went to Germany and Switzerland and we travelled to Amsterdam. Many times on that trip I had the opportunity of looking into the eyes of young people who had lost hope. I had to keep telling myself that somewhere those young children had mothers or fathers who cared for them and loved them. Yet these young people had lost any type of hope and any type of opportunity that they ever might have been able to attain.

As I went into that committee, I did not know how much of a problem this drug use was in my constituency. I have what is basically a rural riding. I found out very quickly and to my own shame that this is not only a problem in the urban centres. It is a problem that is throughout our country and too many people have given up on it.

I believe the government has given up. I believe the government has looked at it, thrown its hands up in the air and said, “We surrender”. It has said that it has no plan so it will try to help in some type of so-called harm reduction. Again, that sends the wrong message: that as long as people shoot drugs in a clean environment it will be all right, that as long as people shoot drugs that are clean they do not have anything to fear.

That is not the case.

At the time, the government was committing $4 million to safe injection sites and pilot projects. When it came to bringing up the point of having more resources for detox centres, my colleague, the member for Langley--Abbotsford, and I went to that committee and said that we were committed to fighting drugs. We asked that we make sure that if people needed or wanted adequate help they were going to be able to get that help.

We heard the member from Calgary talk about the number of break and enters because of people needing money for drugs. When we brought up the point that perhaps we should have detox centres right within the prisons, we were met with total opposition. The government asked why we would want to put detox centres in prison, why we would want to bring people down off their drugs while they were in prison. It was almost like the government felt that would be going against their rights. We have a prison system that believes in zero tolerance, yet when we go there we see that this is indeed not the case.

Then, right in the middle of the study, one day the government suddenly dropped the whole ball on the question of decriminalizing marijuana right on the table of our committee. It upset the whole strategy and plan that we were going through as far as hard drugs were concerned. It suddenly became the focus point. It became the focus point of the minister and the government. It became the focus point of the media. Every media call was saying to us, “Forget the safe injection sites and forget the heroin problem. What is the committee going to do about marijuana now?”

It really pre-empted the committee's study when suddenly the minister told us what the government was going to do. He said the government needed to move toward decriminalizing marijuana. There was the committee, set up to study marijuana, set up to study illicit drug use, and the minister pre-empted it and basically rendered everything we had studied and brought forward inconsequential, because, he said, “This is what the government is going to do”.

Now we see legislation, Bill C-10, that again is what the government is planning to do. Let me make it very clear that this opposition party, the Conservative Party of Canada, is going to oppose this type of open-ended decriminalization that basically sends the wrong messages and tells Canadians this is all right.

What would this bill do? It would establish a new system of fines for possession of marijuana. Right now we have a problem with courts that are not bringing down any type of deterrent sentences for marijuana use. We have a problem with courts that are in some cases giving a little slap on the wrist and putting people back into society. There has to be some recognition that the status quo is not working right now.

The government said initially that possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana should be punished by a fine of $150, and for youth, by a fine of up to $100. I can tell members that this type of sentencing, this type of fine, will be no deterrent to anyone starting to use marijuana.

We believe we need to send the message to Canadians that marijuana is harmful, marijuana is illegal, marijuana should not be tried, and they should stay away from all these mind-altering drugs. This type of legislation does nothing to do that.

I ask Canadians and I ask the government, when was the last time that any court sentenced anyone to a maximum fine on a drug charge? If I get a seat belt violation while puttering around in rural Alberta, I am going to get hit harder than I would if I were caught smoking a joint of marijuana.

Again we say that this type of summary offence and this type of sentencing show how out of touch the government is with what is going on out there. I had the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to travel throughout my constituency and speak to different RCMP detachments. In the southern part of my riding, Strathmore and Gleichen, the new part that will become part of Crowfoot, I asked the members of those detachments how prevalent drug use is in their communities. Again, drugs are the driver of crime. As my colleague from Calgary, a former police officer, has said, drugs are what drive crime. When I look at these kinds of fines and sentences, I realize the government has no commitment at all to deterrence.

I have already talked about the fact that this sends the wrong message to Canadian youth. I talk to some of the teachers and principals at schools and they say young people already believe that marijuana has been legalized. Again, this is the wrong message coming out of the House. It is the wrong message coming out of the Parliament of Canada, but that is what young people believe.

The question is, how do we enable our law enforcement officers to go out there and uphold the law? Anyone who is caught at a check stop for drinking and driving realizes that when a person blows into the breathalyzer and is told he or she is over the legal limit of alcohol, the police have substantive evidence that they can bring to any court to say the person blew over .08 and was impaired.

I can only imagine the types of trials dealing with drugs that are going to take place because of this legislation. The question will be whether the person was impaired or was over any legal limit. How are officers going to explain it? Are they going to say they tried to make them walk the line and they were not able to do that? Is that going to hold up in court? I can say absolutely that this bill is going to make it very difficult for any prosecutor to prove that someone was driving while impaired with marijuana. There will be much more use of marijuana. We will see it in our driving, on our highways and in our cemeteries. We will see it with people who are buried because someone was driving while stoned.

I had a chance to chat with the member for Yellowhead about crystal meth. We have a problem in some of our provinces. Even in my constituency of Crowfoot we are seeing much more crystal meth being brought in and used. That is why one of the things we are looking at is a private member's bill to deal with precursors of all the ingredients that go into making crystal meth. We are also looking at ways to help families that are being torn apart by people who use crystal meth.

Today I do not want to get into the argument on whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug, but I want to say that we are seeing marijuana being used with other drugs to heighten the high. The member for Yellowhead told me about marijuana being soaked or dipped in crystal meth and then smoked for a better high. I met with police officers who say that sometimes people soak toothpicks in it. They are driving trucks, the toothpicks are in the visor, and they will just suck on toothpicks that have been laced with crystal meth.

We are seeing more and more drugs out there all the time because we have not sent the right message on marijuana or on any type of drug; we have not sent the right type of message. We are reaping what we have sown. Unfortunately we are reaping it with kids, with families breaking up, with productivity going down and with education opportunities being lost. In every high school across the land, we are seeing the effects.

We should have the courage in this place to put in tough laws that show we really care about the effect these kinds of drugs are having on Canadians.

At committee I recall a question being asked of one of our witnesses: “Do you believe that people who are caught with marijuana will pay their fines?” At that time we were talking about a $500 fine as a deterrent. A number of witnesses said no. They did not know how we could force anybody to pay a fine.

In that committee we had a blackboard behind us. We wrote down things that we believed had to happen if there ever were to be decriminalization. We talked about the roadside tests. We talked about having the methodology for determining if someone is under the influence of any type of narcotic or marijuana. We talked about fines as a deterrent. We also discussed whether we could structure something that would force people to pay their fines, or would it just be another fine that would never be collected. We referenced tying it to the driver's licence, but that would come under provincial jurisdiction.

This is a bill that does not set out how we force people to pay these fines. People simply will not pay them. Until I hear someone on the government side say that we have a way to do roadside tests, we have the ability to have substantive fines in place, we have the ability to make sure those fines are paid, I do not really want to hear any more about the road we are on in decriminalizing marijuana.

The use and possession of marijuana must remain illegal. Canadians must realize that not only is it illegal but that there must be a substantive fine to show the damage and the harm that it can cause.

Every year police officers take the DARE program to schools. They talk to young Canadians about the damage that is caused by violence and drugs. There are ads on television and in newspapers showing the terrible effects of drugs. There are some good drug abuse education programs happening. However we have a government that wants to move toward decriminalization and in effect is telling Canadians that it is not as bad as we once thought it was.

Someone gave me a piece of information a while back which talked about the difference between today's marijuana and the marijuana of 30, 40 or 50 years ago. The high that one gets from the drug now is so different and yet we are saying that it is time to decriminalize it. The marijuana now is so powerful, with B.C. bud and some of the other types of marijuana, in toxicity levels. It is so much different from that of the 1960s during the hippie movement and the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up and in high school. It was harmful then but it is much more harmful now. We knew it was wrong then and we know it has no benefits today, but we want to make it easier for young people to possess.

The government is wrong. The government has missed the mark. That is why this party does not support Bill C-10.

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March 8th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Calgary for his speech. He is one who has been in the field as a police officer and has dealt in the past, day after day, with the effects of all kinds of drug use. Certainly, marijuana use back then was the drug of choice and very prevalent in the city in which he lived.

He mentioned part of something with which my question deals. When I look at legislation like Bill C-10, I think what is the upside? What are the positives of the bill that would bring a government, as he already mentioned, to sit down and consider taking us down the road toward legalization, toward a much more liberalized way of dealing with drugs?

We do not have a drug strategy in our country. A couple of years ago a committee was struck, the non-medical use drug committee, to study drug strategy. Not since the 1970s, with the Le Dain Commission, had there been any type of study of the drug strategy. When we come out with Bill C-10, which brings out summary offences and has a fine structure, what is the upside? Does he see any upside in the bill?

Another point I would like him to make reference to is what message is being sent to the children? We heard in another member's speech that in one small community of about 7,000 people, already 780 possession charges have been stayed. Charges have been laid, but the courts have stayed those charges pending the outcome of Bill C-10. Therefore, we have young people running around, many who believe we already have legalized marijuana. Many of them believe we have said that pot is not that harmful, that it will not hurt them, and that is why the government is working toward legalization. I agree with those members who have said that this does not make marijuana legal, but the public believes that it does.

Therefore, could he comment on the upside of this, if there is any, and could he comment on what our messaging to our young people is?

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March 8th, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am appreciative of the fact that I can stand in this House and deal with this particular topic.

Being a former police officer for over 20 years, I have seen the usage of marijuana and other drugs and how they can affect, not only the lives of those who have used it and their families, but also society.

I can recap one situation. I was patrolling in the streets of Calgary one evening and a vehicle in front of me, which had just driven out of one of the local bars, was all over the road. I stopped that particular vehicle to determine if the driver was impaired. I thought he was impaired by alcohol. He was placed on the final breathalyzer test and actually blew under the limit, advising me as a police office that he wasn't impaired by alcohol. He had been smoking marijuana at the same time. It was a small quantity of marijuana that he had actually smoked but with the enhancement of the alcohol, his ability to drive was severely hampered.

That is what is happening in too many driving situations today. The roadside testers do not have the ability to detect the use of marijuana on the breath of a driver. In fact, there are accidents happening where drivers are impaired by a drug and not by alcohol. They often, unfortunately, slip through the checkstops and never end up being charged.

There is major problem with the direction that the government is taking when it comes to the legalization or the decriminalization of marijuana, even small quantities. The small quantity, up to 30 grams, is enough to impair any driver. Any person getting behind the wheel of a car would be considered a hazard. And if there is alcohol mixed with that, it is even worse.

I think that sends the wrong message to Canada's youth. Unfortunately, I can recall the statement of a previous Prime Minister who made reference to “marijuana brownies”. That remark was irresponsible and absolutely uncalled for. For it to come from the top person of the land was offensive.

The use of marijuana is not a joke. The use of any drug is no joke. It destroys family. It destroys even those outside the purview because it is costly in treatments and it is costly to fix the damage that is being done by those who are using drugs.

I will relate another situation. Some say that it is not an addictive drug. I beg to differ with that comment. I have arrested individuals who went on house break-in sprees just to get enough money to buy marijuana. The marijuana of today is not what it was 50 years ago or 40 years ago. It is a lot different. It is addictive in many of its forms. It is also being mixed with other more lethal drugs nowadays that make it even worse.

An individual who had been responsible for 400 house break-ins got to the point, just to support his marijuana need, of even using violence if he was confronted by people in the house he happened to enter, which was not very often. However, two or three times is two or three times too many. He kicked an elderly woman so he could make a clean escape with the goods he had stolen from her house.

He was a marijuana user with a habit. He wanted money, no matter how he could get it. In this particular case, he went out to get it by entering houses unlawfully. He stole the goods of ordinary people that were sometimes artifacts that they had saved from one generation to the next. He sold them for peanuts so he could support his drug habit.

I find it reprehensible to think that our government is moving down a path that will make marijuana usage more acceptable by lowering fines and by taking away what should be strong court action to deter this kind of activity. Unfortunately, our government has not taken into account the societal needs of restriction or abstinence from this kind of drug.

Those individuals in the highest governmental position in the land are condoning the use of marijuana. They are saying that marijuana brownies or chocolate brownies could be used to the same degree, but they are also starving our law enforcement agencies from enforcing the law that would restrict those who want to violate the law by distributing and growing this particular drug.

What does it take to crack down on organized crime? It takes organized police action across the country and internationally. To have organized police action we need a national drug strategy. We need strong communication links between police agencies within the country. We need strong communication links to police agencies outside the country. These grow operations and marijuana distribution links are outside the country. They are not just in Canada. People are getting fat off of this kind of activity. Lawyers will go to any length to defend them because they know there are lots of bucks involved in the drug trade.

This legislation could very well increase the demand for marijuana. Bill C-10 could make the illegal production and distribution of marijuana even more lucrative because it is such a minor measure. It is more enticing to those who want to use marijuana. It is more enticing to those who distribute it knowing they would get more of their product out. They would grow their quantities of marijuana in a more aggressive way because the legislation would allow them to do so.

Enforcement agencies always have a hammer that they can hold over individuals who use marijuana. They could use this hammer as a lever to charge those who use small quantities or use it as a lever to determine where individuals receive it or who is pushing the drug in the community. However, that lever has been watered down more and more. The police no longer have that as an advantage to enforce the law. That is a travesty in itself.

The legislators on that side of the House are aware of what they are doing when they diminish the effectiveness of law enforcement to determine who on earth is pushing a serious drug in the community.

If we look at the fines that have been set out, we know right away these are minor fines, especially with young people. I noticed that a 14 year old youngster was caught recently in Alberta. He was looking after one of these grow ops. What will they do with him? The law really will not affect him a whole lot. However, because he is a youngster, he is subject to more leniency within the system because the fines attached to the legislation are considerably different than what they were years back. Law enforcement agencies do not have the leverage over those who even possess small quantities of this product.

Let us now turn to industry itself. Because of the messages being sent from the government side, industry has another fight on its hands, whether it is the trucking industry, or heavy equipment operators or machine operators. Employers are very concerned about the increased use of marijuana by machine operators. Now, many of them insist that their employees take tests and if they are using marijuana, they are not acceptable.

Fortunately with that drug, it stays in the blood stream for a few days and random tests, or even more than random tests, will detect the drug in their systems. However, the problem is that people are using it while operating equipment and while driving trucks on our roadways. Even within police and security fields, there are all kinds of restrictions about usage of marijuana, but the government is not following through with its legislation. Industry and others are bearing the brunt of government legislation that tends to want to make things more lenient.

Where do we go from here? Bill C-10 does not address the issues broadly across our society. It seems to only address those who want to use this substance and makes it lighter on them. The message being sent to our youngsters is that this is an acceptable way to go.

We in the House have a lot on our plates with which we have to deal. As members of the opposition, we are dealing with the scandals on the government side and are spending our time rooting out the truth. We have to look at our farmers who are suffering. These are issues that have grave importance. We are the highest taxed OECD country. It actually is crippling our productivity and our economic growth.

Our health care system has all kinds of demands on it and it is disintegration. The provinces want this to be dealt with too, on a national level. These are answers that come out of this Parliament. On top of all that, our military is in a state of decay. Yet here we are in the House dealing with Bill C-10 on the possession of marijuana.

Where are we going when it comes to our priority list? I cannot understand it. What is our priority list? Is it investigating a scandal? It should be. Let us get down to the bottom of it right now before an election. Is it fixing medicare? No. Is it restoring our military, our troop strength and equipment? No. These are not the subject of a lot of bills when we look at what has gone through the House, but there sure has been a lot of time spent on bills like Bill C-10. All we are talking about in this bill is making the smoking of dope easier. Basically that is where we are.

I think the bill is not worthy of support and I will ask my colleagues not to support it. We should be putting our efforts into something that has much more significance.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

March 8th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.
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The Speaker

The Chair is satisfied that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-10B was at the time of prorogation of the 2nd session, 37th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to order made Tuesday, February 10, 2004, the bill is deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House.

(Bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 1:10 p.m.
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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, before getting into the bill, I want you to know that I am not holding the little mistake made earlier against you.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10 and the amendment before us. We will not be able to support the amendment because we think that the legislation should not legalize, as is often assumed incorrectly, but decriminalize marijuana.

In the next 20 minutes, I will try to clarify the confusion. I have met people who are part of civil society or groups, who think that, by adopting Bill C-10, parliamentarians are going to legalize marijuana. The Bloc Quebecois presented amendments at report stage, and we would like the bill to be passed. As I hope to prove, it is not very reasonable for young people who are arrested for simple possession of marijuana to suffer extremely serious legal consequences when they are looking for work or travelling.

Let us start from the beginning. Like the U.S., Canada has had a prohibitionist strategy over the past 80 years, in the sense that the possession and growing of marijuana are prohibited under drug legislation and punishable not only by a fine, but imprisonment under the Criminal Code.

Are we to understand that, while Canada has maintained a prohibitionist strategy for the past 80 years, it has in a way deterred large segments of the population from using marijuana? Obviously, the answer to this question is no. Despite this prohibitionist strategy prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana, there are extremely conclusive statistics.

The latest statistics have been presented to the justice committee and the special committee. As a member of the Bloc Quebecois, I represented my party at the committee which reviewed the whole issue of non-medical use of drugs. As hon. members may recall, a colleague put forward in this House a motion and, for one year, by order of the House, a special committee reviewed the whole issue of non-medical use of drugs.

The work done by the other House, with Senator Nolin, was perhaps a bit more elaborate then what we did in our committee, but both Houses reached the same conclusion. The prohibitionist strategy, which Canada followed for more than 80 years, did not give the expected results.

The statistics are clear. More than one in ten Canadians uses cannabis despite the fact that it is illegal. Over 30,000 Canadians are charged each year with simple possession of cannabis. In Quebec, the province I represent, 80% of those charged with simple possession of cannabis are adults.

So there is a clear gap between our legislative system and the statistical results on possession and use. When our committee considered the whole issue of drug use, it became quite clear that the legislative framework was completely out of date. There is a consequence to maintaining the prohibition, as set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code. Consequently, for decades—I am certain that my colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier will agree—Canada invested considerable resources in the war on cannabis possession.

In fact, when the parliamentary committee heard testimony from the RCMP and representatives of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, it realized that millions of dollars, as much as $500 million, had been invested in the war on drug possession. However the war on drugs in Canada has meant to a great extent a war on marijuana.

No one is saying that using marijuana is good. In terms of public health, we are well aware that the message we need to send young people in schools and everyone in our communities is that it is better never to use marijuana and, obviously, any other drugs.

However, it is not true that the use of marijuana justifies the repressive approach taken these past few years. That is the distinction we need to make.

And so, when we looked at the figures with the RCMP and the CCRA, we found that the repressive approach—which costs $500 million—does not justify the results it produces. Bill C-10 is not asking us to legalize marijuana. There will still be legal consequences for simple possession of marijuana and certainly for growing it. There will still be sanctions but they will be more in the nature of a ticket and fine system. People will be fined amounts ranging from $100 to $400, but they will not have criminal records. We all know what it means to have a criminal record.

Let us imagine a young man of 16 who has 5 grams of marijuana. This is a fictitious example, but it is real nonetheless. If we do not change the law, this young man who is going to smoke marijuana—and we know, medically speaking, that moderate use of marijuana is much less harmful than using drugs or tobacco—and who finds himself in possession of 5 grams of marijuana, would end up with a criminal record that would follow him for years, with all that can mean to a working person changing jobs.

We know that young people who are now 17, 18 or 19 are likely to have at least 5 careers while in the labour force. The days when a person worked for the same company for 25, 30 or 35 years are over. Today, both people and their jobs are mobile, meaning that every 5, 6 or 7 years, they change jobs. There are job-related consequences of having a criminal record, as there are consequences of having a criminal record with respect to travelling to the United States or elsewhere. We believe these consequences are out of proportion to an offence that has no victims.

Moreover, if we did a little test with our colleagues in Parliament and those in the galleries and asked how many of them were in possession of 2, 3 or 4 grams of marijuana, there would be at least a 1 in 10 chance of hitting the mark. I can see some knowing smiles and that does not make them bad citizens for all that. Perhaps if we asked the members how many of them have—experimentally—used marijuana, I am certain that hands would go up. We would not want these people to have a criminal record.

The bill addresses this issue. That is why the Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of this bill. Once again, I repeat, it is better never to use drugs. We do not need drugs in our systems. They are not natural. However, this does not mean that creating an offence for which a person would receive a criminal record—with criminal sanctions—would be desirable. That is the main reason we will support Bill C-10.

The parliamentary committee worked extremely hard. We looked at the whole issue for at least one year. We realized that, all in all, young people were not getting a lot of information.

The situation in Quebec is a bit different because various public health networks offer various community outreach programs, particularly within the CLSCs. Quebec adopted this model in the 1970s. Some of the CLSCs go into the schools and provide information on the consequences of drug use. Obviously, the distinctions between marijuana or cocaine and heroine are outlined. There are major distinctions to be made in terms of consequences. The point is, obviously, that people should get through life without using marijuana.

However, we are not here to judge. Just because a prohibitionist strategy has been in place since the 1980s does not mean that people are not using marijuana. We need to create a framework in which people can obtain information on which to base informed decisions about their lives, so they do start abusing marijuana.

Certainly, using a little marijuana to relax from time to time does not have much in the way of consequences. Moreover, and the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier will correct me if I am wrong, an editorial in The Lancet of November 1998 stated that moderate cannabis use had little effect on health and that the decision to ban or to legalize cannabis ought to be based on other considerations. This is, of course, a very serious and well-known British medical journal, an authority in its field, a learned scientific journal. The other considerations taken into account in this bill are, of course, the consequences of a criminal record on a person's life.

This is not a new debate. One of the reasons we will not be able to vote in favour of the amendment is that we appear, from what I have just heard, to require additional information.

I believe you were a student back in 1969, Mr. Speaker, if I recall correctly. I do not have much trouble imagining you with long hair and a luxuriant beard and a bit of a rakish air. That was the year the commission of inquiry known as the Le Dain commission was created. The member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier was not even born. He came into the world in 1970.

So, the Le Dain commission looked at the entire marijuana issue in 1969. I had the opportunity to meet a criminologist who was to become a leading light in her community, professor Bertrand. As far back as 1969, some felt that the prohibitionist regime in place in Canada—following the U.S. example—was not based on any practical reality.

Throughout our deliberations, we kept hearing from witnesses begging us to put an end to this system of offences which does far more harm than good. Something we did right in the parliamentary committee was to go to the United States, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands.

This afforded us the opportunity to see that, statistically speaking, there are prohibitionist strategies in place in certain countries. Let us compare, for instance, the 18 to 30 age group in the U.S. and the Netherlands. Can you imagine this: despite the ban in the United States, with all of its system of very strong repression, there are more people in the United States in that age group using marijuana than in the Netherlands?

Just because there is a prohibitionist system does not mean that young people are automatically deterred from using marijuana. For instance, look at the U.S. and the myth around the war on drugs, a myth that is upheld at the highest levels.

Think about the statements made by Presidents Reagan and Bush. Nevertheless, in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where the governments are much more liberal with respect to drugs, fewer young people use marijuana than in the United States.

Of course, we agree that there needs to be information and public health policies. I hope my friend, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, will agree with me that, if we want there to be fewer young people smoking marijuana—even though they may not be his target clientele—it is important for this information to be available with respect to different aspects of public health. Naturally, this is not the role of the federal government.

The member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier also pointed out at every opportunity in committee that we could not talk about a national drug strategy. It is not the role of the federal government to implement a national drug strategy. It is the role of educational establishments, parks and communities; in other words, the municipalities and provincial governments. We do not think the federal government is the best interlocutor when it comes to drugs, except maybe for aboriginal people, toward whom we acknowledge the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility. For the rest, we do not think this is the federal government's responsibility.

That is so true. When we discussed this national strategy, we looked at the federal government's expertise and found that the government that knows the least about the issue of drug use is the federal government. I am asking the Minister of Veterans Affairs to bring before cabinet the idea of investing in transfer payments and making sure the money gets to the provinces so that they can make the best use of it.

Once again, there is no correlation with a prohibitionist strategy. There are at least 10% of Canadians, according to statistics and national public health surveys. Moreover, I wonder if all the ministers in this House have not, at least once, tried cannabis. Obviously, it is not my place to be an inquisitor and ask the question directly. I believe we would be well advised, as parliamentarians, to ensure that we have a new legislative system, which is what we are considering in Bill C-10.

In closing, I would like to say something about the question of international treaties. As we know, Canada is not a country where international law can produce immediate change. For international law to have an effect in Canada, we must vote on ratification. That stands in contrast to some countries where international treaties are automatically incorporated into national law—Canada is not that type of country. For international treaties to have an impact, those treaties must be ratified.

As the House is aware, Canada ratified two treaties during the 1970s concerning what were known at the time as psychotropic drugs. That was the term used in the treaties.

I will end with three points. The Bloc Quebecois worked very hard on the special parliamentary committee on the non-medical use of drugs and on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, so that Bill C-10—Bill C-38 as it was then—would be amended.

We support Bill C-10 because we believe that the legislative system must be changed and that it is not rational for people accused of simple possession of marijuana to find themselves with a criminal record. We hope that money will be made available to the provinces in order to assist in the distribution of as much information as possible about the consequences of drug use. We believe that people should not use drugs and that they do not contribute to personal growth.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member makes an excellent point, a point that maybe has been missed by the Liberals in the House.

By having decreased fines for young people, this will encourage senior people to associate themselves with young people and get them involved in the drug trade. It is the same now with the Young Offenders Act. If older people can get younger people to go along with them in committing crimes, they maybe can get the sentences put on to the younger people. In many these cases sentences are much more lenient. It encourages a person to get involved. It encourages older people to involve youth in drug activities.

Also decriminalizing the whole possession of marijuana under 30 grams really sends the signal to youth that it is all right to experiment with a few of these things.

Thirty grams is 60 joints. That is a lot of marijuana. Many people do not realize that this is a significant amount of drug. With the high THC content now, that will have a very negative effect on our young people.

I do not think I have to say any more on this. The RCMP has said the same thing, that the high profitability, the low risk and the lenient sentences will entice growers and traffickers, and will make it very difficult for law enforcement agencies. We have to listen to these people.

We pass laws in this place, laws that impact the entire country. We had better get it right, and Bill C-10 does not get it right.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
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Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are definitely not in favour of the amendment.

For a clear understanding of what is going on here this morning, I should point out that we are dealing with Bill C-10, formerly C-38, which was studied in parliamentary committee—

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 12:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-10 which was introduced not by the present government, but by the former government under Mr. Jean Chrétien. We are sometimes given the impression that the legislation we are debating is new, but that is not the case.

I would like to begin by expressing some of the concerns expressed to me by young people in my riding. They are the ones who are witnessing firsthand the drugs flowing into their schools. The problem has become worse because of the signal being sent to them by the government in decriminalizing the use of marijuana. I must correct something for the record. It is not the Conservative Party that is giving that impression; it is the government that is giving that impression right across Canada.

Bill C-10 sends the wrong message to our youth and it has not yet been passed. With discounted fines for youth, teachers and parents will experience much more difficulty than they already are in convincing their children that drug use is wrong. Meanwhile the government is unwittingly encouraging the use of marijuana by giving out discounted fines to youth and decriminalizing the drug. The Liberal government is communicating the wrong message to the citizens of tomorrow with Bill C-10, a bill to decriminalize the use of marijuana.

Not only are our youth receiving the wrong message, but police officers are left with no way to legally prosecute offenders. Drunk driving is already a huge problem and now we are introducing drug driving. There are currently no effective and legal ways for officers to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Appropriate roadside assessment practices must be developed for detecting drug driving offences before Bill C-10 is passed, not after. I made that point previously.

Penalties for the production of marijuana have decreased when they should have increased. Growing fines were decreased further at committee stage for fewer than three plants. The fines set out in the bill are too lax.

There also needs to be increased fines for repeat offenders. An individual should receive an increased sentence on the second offence and an even greater one on the third. I will talk more about that later in my speech.

Canadians deserve much better than this. This open-ended decriminalization of marijuana is extremely detrimental to our youth and our society as a whole.

I and most of my Conservative colleagues believe that the use and possession of marijuana must remain illegal. Possession of marijuana greater than five grams must be considered a criminal offence. Decriminalizing marijuana will not only send the wrong message to youth, but it will also increase difficulties with border crossings.

Canadians need to keep our border crossings with our neighbour and largest trading partner free flowing. This legislation will put that free flow of trade greatly at risk. With the BSE situation we have seen how even a small incident with one mad cow has really disrupted trade with our partner.

Police must be given the resources they need to combat organized crime. Grow operations have become multibillion dollar businesses for organized crime. Police do not have the manpower nor the resources to effectively combat this serious issue.

Bill C-10 hands out discounted fines to our youth, has no deterrent to stop repeat offenders, metes out reduced maximum sentences for growing 25 plants or less, and results in more drug driving with no tools to legally prosecute individuals. There will be increased trafficking because 30 grams can be in one's possession without it becoming a criminal offence. There is no national drug strategy to fight the use of drugs. No resources have been provided for police to crack down on organized crime. That is deplorable.

Canadians and Canadian youth will be negatively affected by Bill C-10. It is my view that Bill C-10 should be put on the shelf and left there until such as time as we can come up with an effective strategy to combat drug use in Canada. I will now outline some of the problems.

The THC content of marijuana has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. Back in the 1960s it was about 3%. Now the THC content of marijuana can be as much as 10 times higher, as much as 33%. It is 10 times more potent. We are not dealing with a harmless substance when we are dealing with marijuana. It is an extremely detrimental drug.

Here are some of the negative effects of marijuana. It can cause changes in the brain chemistry. It can lead to difficulty in concentration and attention to detail. It makes learning new things more difficult. Complex information cannot be processed as readily. It increases the work of the heart. It is 50% more irritating to the lungs than tobacco. It decreases blood flow to the limbs. Of course it has an extreme psychological negative effect on the brain. Also it is a gateway drug to many other drugs because, as I have said, the THC content is much greater than it used to be.

Bill C-10 establishes a new system of fines. I want to briefly outline those so people who are listening to this via television will know what we are talking about. Possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana would be punishable by a fine of $150 for an adult or $100 for a youth. 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. For possession of between 15 and 30 grams of marijuana, the police officer would decide if the person should receive a ticket or a summons for a summary conviction. The ticket fine would be $300 for an adult and $200 for a youth.

The fines that would be imposed are almost laughable if it were not so sad. We all know that the profits being made in the drug trade are huge. Thousands and millions are being made. A fine of $150 or $300 will simply become a business expense. It is similar to slapping a fine of $1,000 on the CEO of Enron or fining Martha Stewart $1,000 when she may have made hundreds of thousands on insider stock trading, or giving a minimal fine of a few thousand dollars for dumping waste to the owner of Canada Shipping Lines. That is the context of what we are talking about here when it comes to fines. They are laughable. They will not deter anything.

There was a lot of fanfare recently when the human resources minister announced the $8 million commitment from the federal government for Ontario's crime prevention program. This is good of course. We need to target the root causes of crime. I have been calling for this ever since I began exposing the Liberal folly called the gun registry. I want to deal with this a little bit. A big deal was made about committing $8 million.

The Liberals have been wasting $100 million a year. In this year's budget they will be spending over $100 million just on the gun registry, which does not target the root causes of violence in our society. It does nothing to deter the use of firearms in our society. It is a huge paper-pushing exercise. With that $100 million, or $130 million, or by the time the supplementary estimates are done it may even be $150 million, and I am not sure because they keep hiding the amounts from us, they could have effectively put in place something that would do a lot more than what this legislation does in dealing with the drug problem.

Surely money could have been diverted from the useless gun registry. The government is now spending $273,000 a day on the useless gun registry. Just think what we could do with that money if we used it in the right area, especially in combating the illegal use of drugs.

The $2 billion that has been spent on the gun registry could have paid for eight years of salary for 4,444 police officers. We could put that many more police officers on the street for eight years. Just think what that would do to combat some of the illegal grow operations or the organized crime that is associated with drugs.

By the way, the minister announced this commitment for Ontario. There is a drug problem in Vancouver. There is a drug problem in Edmonton. There is one in Regina. There is one in Saskatoon. There is one in my riding. The Liberals do not seem to get it.

I also want to quote from an international source, the 2003 annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board, which is a United Nations agency. Sometimes members opposite will say that the Conservative Party raises issues that have no basis in fact.

Here is what we have a United Nations agency telling us. I would like to quote the concerns it has expressed. The International Narcotics Control Board, a UN agency, “is concerned that the revisions could contribute to the mistaken perception that cannabis is a harmless substance”. It is not the Conservative Party telling the world that this legislation communicates the wrong message to Canadians. Here we have a UN agency saying that it communicates the wrong message, especially to our young people.

The bill also amends the law with respect to the production of marijuana. Currently the production of marijuana is an offence punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment. Among other things, the proposed legislation provides that an individual found growing one to three plants would face a summary conviction offence with a fine of not more than $500, or $250 if the offender is a young person. For persons growing from four to twenty-five plants, under this bill there could be a fine of up to $25,000 or 18 months in jail. For persons growing more than that, of course the penalty would be even more severe and could include jail time.

Levels of fines do not increase for subsequent trafficking offences or growing offences, so in fact this becomes a business expense: get caught and pay the fine, get caught and pay the fine. Why are there not increased penalties in the legislation for repeat offences? This is a serious problem that the Liberals have not addressed.

There is no process for the collection of fines. The police will tell us right now that this is virtually unenforceable. They will not be able to collect these fines from young people. This will simply become a joke. There should be a progressive fines schedule put in place. That is not done in this legislation. There should be some kind of consequence for the non-payment of fines.

No provisions have been made to amend for the proceeds of crime. People make money in the drug trade but there is nothing in this legislation that would remove the profits from them. That needs to be addressed. It is not now.

There is no provision in the bill to deal with those who have damage to their property in a neighbourhood where there might be a grow operation. We see this right across Canada. Grow operations spring up and the neighbours suffer greatly because of decreased property values.

No legislation has been developed to curtail financial institutions from funding mortgages to grow operations.

I also have to add that no resources have been provided for the police to crack down on organized crime, which is profiting from lax enforcement. The legislation will likely increase the demand for marijuana and therefore make the illegal production and distribution of marijuana even more lucrative for organized crime. The legislation is going to have the opposite effect, just like the gun registry has increased smuggling in the black market for firearms. The Liberal government is going to put in place legislation that would make this worse than before, worse than if it had done nothing.

We need a comprehensive strategy. Already I have made that point. There are huge flaws in the legislation. If there are problems with drugs in Canada--and we all know that--before the legislation, this is not going to address it. We need a national drug strategy, a drug strategy that works at the street level. It is not working now. In fact, it is having the opposite effect.

It must be self-evident. There are three obvious omissions. Growing and trafficking must become criminal offences. “Drugged driving” laws and roadside assessment must be in place before we put this in place. I have mentioned this. We need an appropriate roadside assessment developed for detecting drugged driving offences. We have known for years that this is a problem. The Liberals have done nothing about it. Why not?

They have liberalized Canada's drug laws without providing law enforcement with the tools needed to determine whether someone is drugged driving through a roadside assessment test. The hon. member who spoke before me said that they will get it done. We have heard that promise before. Good intentions do not make good legislation.

Because of relaxed laws, Canada will have increased refugee claims and illegal entry into the country through the underground railroad. It is going to become more of a problem. The borders are going to be even more of a problem for Canada than they are now. Why did we not have proper discussions with the U.S. before we undertook this? The effect of cross-border traffic will be very negative. The BSE crisis we are going through just now has been compounded because of deteriorating relations with the U.S. over unrelated matters.

We are poking our nearest neighbours in the eye repeatedly with totally uncalled for comments. If we pass Bill C-10, crossing the border will be much more difficult. It will seriously affect trade between the two countries and we need that trade. We need to develop a strategy that is agreed upon with our neighbour nations.

This is sending the wrong message to our youth, as I have already said. It now makes it much more difficult for families, parents, teachers and schools and for crime prevention in our communities. It is making all those areas more difficult.

Houses in our neighbourhoods are being destroyed. Property values will undoubtedly suffer. These cultivators are not caring, contributing citizens within our communities. An excellent comprehensive report published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Criminal Intelligence Directorate in November 2002, titled “Marihuana Cultivation in Canada: Evolution and Current Trends”, is available on the Internet. I would like to quote from it in the conclusion of my speech:

The link between marihuana cultivation and organized crime cannot be overemphasized, and neither can the consequences for society. The huge profits associated with grow operations are used by many criminal groups to purchase other much more dangerous drugs or even weapons, and finance various illicit activities.

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

This bill does not address the problems we have. I have touched on a variety of issues. I could go on to explain more of them in detail, but why does the government not bring in effective legislation? Half measures will never do it and good intentions do not make good legislation.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to move an amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following therefore:

Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time, this day, six months hence.

I would like to take more time to speak to this. I would like to have the government set this aside and do this right six months from now, not rush it through now and have many of the detrimental effects of this legislation being experienced.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I listened to the speaker from the government side articulating the reasons why we should support Bill C-10.

The former solicitor general articulated some of the problems that we have with drugs. Articulating those problems and recognizing them in no way improves the fact that this is extremely flawed legislation. I listened to him very carefully and I would say that good intentions do not make good legislation.

Because the government intends to do something about the increasing drug problem in this country does not mean that this legislation does that. The member started out by asking, is this better than doing nothing? It probably is better to do nothing than to introduce extremely flawed legislation.

I will give the House one example. In my hometown of Yorkton, I have young people coming to me because the problems have increased in the high schools in Yorkton. Yorkton has several high schools. However, in one particular high school problems are already being increased in the classroom and the legislation has not even been passed. I have already raised this in the House the week before last.

The member talked about all these things and how we should get on side. What has been put into this legislation is virtually unenforceable. If we were to talk to the police, they would tell us that there is no mechanism to collect fines from these people.

The fact that young people have a reduced fine compared to older people may in some cases communicate the message to youth that it is not a serious problem.

The way this legislation has been put together is deplorable. The government does not have an overall drug strategy. The greatest problem with this legislation is that it is not part of a greater effective framework. The government will tell members that it is, but there is no effective drug strategy.

I will be speaking in a few minutes and I will make all of these points. However, I want this member, because he is before me, to answer some of these questions. He talks about the grow operations. Why not deal with that problem? The legislation does not do it. I challenge the member to tell me how decriminalizing marijuana would create a stronger penalty for grow operations? It does not.

He talked about putting money into research to find a roadside test to check people who might be on marijuana while they are driving and creating a hazard on our roads. The test should be put in place first and then the legislation should be passed. It is not done the other way around. The horse is put in front of the cart.

There are huge problems and I will deal with them in my speech. However, it is incumbent on the member to come clean and answer just a few of the questions I have raised.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 12:10 p.m.
See context


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-10, which is really a follow-up and re-introduction of Bill C-38 from the previous Parliament. I had the opportunity to speak at second reading, but after reviewing some of the remarks by some members I feel it necessary to speak again.

Some people say that the bill does not go far enough and therefore we should not pass the bill. Just a moment ago the member for St. John's West said that the bill would further open up the door to substance abuse. He could not be more wrong. The bill would not open up the door to substance abuse. It lays out the specifics and the law in a consistent fashion across the country.

Those who say the bill does not go far enough could not be more wrong. Does anyone in the House actually believe that if we do nothing things will improve? The bill is a major step in the right direction. If we do nothing, how many more lives will be destroyed? How long will it be before the House is again this close to changing the laws on marijuana use and making them consistent?

The bill would increase penalties for marijuana grow operations and it sets out some conditions to the courts. It sets out clearly in law how to handle small amounts of marijuana. It is not about legalization or decriminalization. It is still illegal to use marijuana. The bill would set out in law clear penalties by which the police forces should abide. It educates the public, and especially youth, on the harmful effects of drug use and that it is still illegal to use drugs. It brings consistency to the law.

Let me put it quite bluntly. If we do not act now and the current situation is allowed to prevail, then the House and all members would, by our lack of action in my view, allow more lives to be destroyed. That is a tremendous loss of human potential. The bill would move us forward.

As a former solicitor general, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact of drug use and its devastating effects; lives destroyed. In downtown eastside Vancouver, where drugs are the scourge in that community, lives have been destroyed, loss of human potential, families disrupted and just human disarray.

I also had the opportunity to see the dangers of marijuana grow operations. These operations are run by people who profit from growing marijuana through illegal means. It is a crop that destroys lives and human potential. It is a product that is used by some within our high school systems. It could be used by a son or daughter of anyone in the House. It is not necessarily the fault of those young people that they get on marijuana. They give it a try but they become addicted and as a result they lose the potential of their lives.

I want to refute some of the remarks that have been made by other members. I will quote from Hansard what the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough said on February 23. He was talking about a Statistics Canada Report. He said:

It, in essence, points out that drug use and crimes related to drug use have increased substantially in recent years. In police reported drug crimes the rate has gone up an estimated 42% since the early 1990s and now stands at a 20 year high.

That is absolutely true. I agree with his point but he argues against the bill. The bill is a new drug enforcement strategy. The current laws are not working. We have to make them consistent. This bill would move us forward. It would change the laws so they would in fact work. Therefore, I encourage everyone in the House to support the bill.

On the part of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, who was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party for a spell, his point in spouting the statistics, admitting there is a problem but saying that we should stay with what we have and not change anything, shows an extreme lack of leadership. To lead one has to address the issue and that is what the current bill before the House would do. It addresses the issue so we can change the drug situation in Canada.

It does it in these ways. It would implement a prevention and education program with dollars attached that will enhance the regional and national coordination. With increased funding it will utilize better the Canada Centre on Substance Abuse with better research into the impact and in terms of some of the solutions on how to get young people and people of all ages off drugs. It would increase the level of contribution to international drug bodies. That is the intent of the national drug strategy. The intent is also to increase enforcement and protection.

We cannot bury our head in the sand, as the member for Pictou--Antigonish-Guysborough implies we should do. We must address the problem, which is what the present bill tries to do.

The current laws are not working. They are not being enforced by the police consistently across the country. That is well-known, as was mentioned in the previous debate in the House. If people are caught with marijuana in my community, in a rural community, then probably they will be charged, they will have a criminal record and it will affect their lives for years to come. If they are truck drivers they may not be able to cross the Canada-U.S. border and as a result their livelihood suffers. However if they are in one of the bigger Canadian cities, they may get a little slap on the wrist. That is not a consistent application of the law.

What the bill attempts to do is to make it a consistent application of the law across Canada. Yes, I know, as some people have said, not all police forces in the country are in favour of the bill. To a great extent the reason is because they lose police discretion.

Yes, I would like to see them have police discretion in most instances but the current law is not working. Therefore, in this case, from zero to fifteen grams, they would lose police discretion. I personally would have favoured lowering the rate to five grams instead of fifteen. I lost that fight but I still believe the bill moves us a giant step forward.

The penalties right now are not applied to the extent intended by the law and differ considerably from one province to another. The bill would change that. I do not have time to go through how it would change that but it is in the bill in proposed 10(2.1) where it lays out the kind of criteria that the courts must apply. Proposed subsection 10(3) states:

If the court is satisfied of the existence of one or more of the factors enumerated in paragraphs [above], but decides not to impose a custodial sentence, the court shall give reasons for that decision.

I have seen this firsthand in terms of my meetings with police forces. The legitimate feeling right now is that the courts are not imposing the penalties intended by the law.

Why is it necessary to outline in legislation better direction to the courts? It is because the courts have not been proposing heavy enough penalties on those involved in marijuana grow operations. The court has consistently let people off with a slap on the wrist. This legislation would force the court to explain itself if the penalties are not applied.

I feel very strongly about this section of the bill. During my experience as solicitor general, I had the opportunity to meet with RCMP officers and other police forces across this country. One of the meetings I remember most vividly was in Richmond, British Columbia where I held a round table with a number of RCMP drug enforcement officers who take down marijuana grow operations. They said that they put their lives on the line, that doors are sometimes booby-trapped and that one of their colleagues or themselves could lose their life or limb.

They take these people in and charge them. However, all too often, before they arrive at the office the next morning these people are out on the street. I did a tour with those officers and saw the houses with marijuana grow operations. I saw the dangers to the neighbours, the booby-trapping of doors, the stealing of hydro electricity and the damage to real estate. It is absolutely unacceptable. The courts have a responsibility to close them down when the RCMP and other police forces take those people in and charge them. This bill would move us a giant step forward by laying out the conditions by which the courts should lay down those penalties.

I vividly remember the frustration of some of those police officers, who had been in the ranks for perhaps just 18 months to a year, nearly in tears over the work and the effort they put in to dealing with the people who run marijuana grow operations that destroy lives and are so frustrated by the courts when they do not impose the penalties intended by the law.

We cannot lose our highly trained police officers. We need them but we need to help them deal with their frustration. The bill would move us a step forward to laying out better directions to the courts in terms of the intent of the law so they do impose the penalties intended by the law. The bottom line is the bill would more effectively deal with marijuana grow operations than is currently the case.

If we are going to stand with police officers doing their job, then we need the bill. We need the stronger directions to the court outlined in the bill. We need the increased penalties outlined in the bill. We need the increased financial resources for enforcement outlined in the national drug strategy.

I was rather dissatisfied, would be putting it mildly, when I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs who spoke in the House in opposition to the bill. He said:

It is so much so that as confirmed by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, this product is becoming the product of choice for members of organized crime, who I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, are not, and I repeat not, marijuana enthusiasts. Instead, they see opportunities of renting or buying a house and for $25,000 they can make a $600,000 return on investment.

In terms of the problem, his point is correct. However, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in opposing the bill, is leaving the situation the same. The bill would improve the situation. It would lay out the penalties, as I already said a moment ago.

The same Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs opposes the bill because there is no roadside test. Again, let me quote him:

Number one, there is no protocol to take roadside sampling for individuals who have imbibed the product. We now know through studies in Ontario, through various organizations, and I am not just talking about MADD Canada, that young people are choosing marijuana as a means of evading detection.

The national drug strategy that accompanies this bill would move us ahead. It would put money into greater training for police officers. It would put money into research for creating a roadside test.

It makes no sense to bury our heads in the sand and not deal with the problem because we do not have the test. We would be putting moneys in place, through the national drug strategy, to find the test. This bill would move us forward substantially. As part of the national drug strategy, moneys would be put in place for police officer training and research.

Before I conclude, I would like to deal with the misperception promoted by those in this House opposed to the bill. I want to quote the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who said on February 23:

The legislation sends entirely the wrong message as far as the public perception is concerned.

There are some members in this House who oppose the bill, and they have reasons for doing so. To say that the bill would legalize marijuana is wrong. Those people who are talking about this bill as if it would legalize marijuana are in fact creating a misconception out there that would move some young people to greater drug use.

This bill is about laying out the criteria, establishing the penalties, and keeping drug use illegal in Canada. It is about improving the situation. Members should be upfront and say what the bill is trying to do because that is what the bill spells out.

In fact, the bill is not about legalizing small amounts of marijuana. It is about changing the penalties. It would bring consistency to the law by ensuring penalties are imposed.

The legislation is based on four pillars. The first pillar is prevention, through drug awareness, community programming for youth, parents, athletes, coaches, the RCMP community actions programs for children, et cetera. It is about a prevention program that talks about the harmful effects of drug use in Canada and how it can destroy lives.

The second pillar is enforcement of the law and laying out before the courts the criteria that they should follow, in terms of imposing penalties under the law.

The third pillar is treatment. There are substance abuse pre-release programs and, through the Canadian Centre for Drug Abuse, treatments--for those people who, for whatever reason, get drugs--to get people off drugs.

The last pillar is harm reduction. It would ensure that human beings do not harm themselves as a result of drug use.

The bill would move us a huge step forward. We may differ in terms of the amount, from zero to 15, and on the front end penalties. However, as a whole, the bill would move us a giant step forward from where we are currently. If passed by the House, the bill could save the loss of human potential as a result of drug use now.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 11:40 a.m.
See context


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure on behalf of the NDP caucus to join in the debate on Bill C-10.

I would like to begin by paying tribute to and recognizing the effort of the NDP social policy critic, the member for Vancouver East. I think most people who are involved with the bill will agree that she has dedicated a great deal of energy, resources, time and personal capital to try to develop a mature 2004 approach to the issue of substance abuse, specifically the issue of marijuana use.

The member for Vancouver East recommends to our caucus that we not support the bill in its current form. I believe we went into the process with the best of intentions and in the spirit of some cooperation, or at least willingness on our part, to work with the government in the recognition that the current approach to the prohibition of marijuana had failed in the overall strategy to reduce substance abuse, whether it was among youth, or for marijuana alone or for the broader issue of substance abuse.

I would like to recap where we are.

During the previous session of Parliament, Bill C-38 was examined by the special committee for the non-medical use of drugs and was amended through that process. Through that committee, the member for Vancouver East and the NDP pushed for a number of changes. I might add that the touring, travelling committee on the non-medical use of drugs did very necessary and important work, and it heard from Canadians. I want to be balanced and fair and say that we did get some movement from the government on certain aspects of this bill, and I want recognize that.

When Parliament was prorogued in November and the new session commenced, Bill C-38 became Bill C-10. That is how we find ourselves now working on the bill in the House of Commons today.

Let me say that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the bill across the country. The misunderstanding is between those who support more decriminalization or true legalization and those who are opposed to what they believe is too much movement in terms of decriminalization. Both sides are not happy with the bill. Often that is a measurement that we have a good piece of legislation when no one is happy with it.

In this unhappy circumstance, we have to speak against the bill. It not only fails to achieve what it sets out to achieve, but it has the reverse effect in the decriminalization measures imposed by Bill C-10. We have been reminded time and again by the former minister of justice that it is not decriminalization and it has never been decriminalization. However, the shift to a fine regimen for simple possession may have the reverse effect and this level of decriminalization could lead to even more people being punished rather than fewer.

The original role was to take a softer approach to the very small personal use levels of one or two joints. In fact there was a time recently when police would overlook that type of minor offence. However, now that there is an automatic fine associated with even the smallest level of marijuana, it has a net widening effect.

Criminologists have often found that lowering, but not eliminating punishment, results in more people being punished. Previously the police would let people off with a warning and a wave under the old system. However, they definitely will be charged with a fine under this proposed system. In other words, decriminalization could lead to more people being punished, not fewer.

This would be a cutting edge plan if this was 1968. It is not 1968 and our approach toward substance abuse and our understanding about drug abuse has matured since 1968. It has matured since 1920 when this whole mess began.

Today is International Women's Day, and I would like to be one of the first in the House to recognize that March 8 is a very important day around the world. I raise this with all respect, but one of the famous five, a Canadian suffragette who has a statue within the smoke rings drifting from the House of Commons today, had a profound effect in shaping our views toward the criminalization of marijuana through the naivety that existed in 1920 about many social issues. Some of the most socially progressive people in the country at that time were advocating eugenics because they were naive, and they were plain wrong.

I put it to the House that the first female magistrate ever appointed in the British Commonwealth, Emily Murphy, was fundamentally wrong about marijuana. What has been called her vitriolic diatribe against using marijuana set the tone for the legislation that was to follow, and set the tone for what I believe is 100 years of abject failure in our treatment of substance abuse. She was a prohibitionist.

Let me explain some of how this terrible bit of history came about. She was an admirable woman, and a hero today to women for fighting for the vote. She was a prolific writer. She turned out four books and scores of magazines under the pen name Janey Canuck.

Some of her famous publications were stories on the grave drug menace, which bordered on being racist because it really was tied up with the use of opium on the west coast among the Chinese community. It was their fear that marijuana, opium and opiates were all one issue, and they pointed to the menace on the west coast. Some say that the country's war on weed was prompted by little more than a racist, erroneous dossier on the non-existent marijuana menace in a 1922 essay penned by Emily Murphy, with the help of a seemingly delusional Los Angeles police department chief.

It is galling to hear groups who support prohibition argue that there must have been some sound reason for criminalizing this drug in the first place, when there was no such thing in 1922 or today. Unfortunately, it was based upon misinformation that stemmed back to Emily Murphy, who is clad in her sensible shoes in her statue among the famous five. We have all had our pictures taken under her broad-rimmed hat and her sensible shoes.

However, this misinformation has caused us years of clogging up the court systems and the criminal justice system, with kids being busted for a bag of pot. We were trying to lock up a whole generation of children over some naive position taken in 1922 by a woman who was not an authority. It has been crazy and frustrating for me to have grown up in a generation where I saw friends arrested and their careers jeopardized for simple possession.

There are still kids in Texas jails serving the final years of 30 year sentences, having been busted in the 1970s for marijuana. Those who believe that tougher penalties will deter substance abuse are naive to the point where they are ignoring everything we know about substance abuse and what leads people to abuse narcotics, alcohol or anything else.

Locking people up does not work. We know that because the tougher the penalties get in the states, the worse its drug problem gets. It is a directly inverse scale that is 180 degrees wrong-headed and stupid. At least Canada, I believe, will not follow the Americans on their war on drugs, which has been so fundamentally counterproductive that they have had to privatize their prison system because their jails are bursting at the seams with people locked up for simple things like substance abuse, people who may need treatment but certainly who do not benefit from years in prison.

I raise that only because it is a cruel irony that Canada has been following misguided recommendations. Because of her concerns about opium use among Chinese immigrants, particularly at a time of growing unease in B.C. over B.C.'s growing Asian population, Murphy, an Alberta magistrate, launched a high profile campaign against drugs of all kinds. She was a prominent suffragette and social activist, but that does not mean she could not be wrong.

The police chief for Los Angeles, Charles A. Jones, who she was influenced by, was quoted throughout Murphy's editorials. They were being influenced by somebody in the United States who was wrong.

I do not have time to go through as much as I would like to on this matter. Twenty minutes is not long enough to do justice to this issue. However, I want to go through a brief history of the prohibition of marijuana in Canada as we know it today. I am trying to defend why the NDP will vote against the bill.

In 1908 the Opium and Narcotic Act created a framework for prohibiting illicit drug use in Canada. In 1922 Emily Murphy's book, The Black Candle , sounded an alarm about drug addiction in Canada. One chapter was devoted to “Marahuana--A New Menace”.

The addition of cannabis indica, not cannabis sativa, to the federal schedule of prohibited drugs in 1923 made marijuana illegal in Canada, killing an industry on the prairies. Prairie farmers were growing marijuana, or hemp, for rope. Anyone my age probably knows the difference between cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. We learned metric by those things.

In 1932 marijuana cigarettes were seized by police in Canada for the first time. Ten years went by between the passage of that law and the first time marijuana cigarettes were seized by the police.

In 1938, reflecting on the reefer badness scare, the Toronto Daily Star ran a story from a United States headline, “Marijuana smokers seized with the sudden craze to kill”. That was sensationalism.

In 1961 Canada signed the UN convention on narcotic drugs. It toughened its laws for possessing, cultivating and importing marijuana.

In 1966 the number of cannabis related offences nationally exceeded 100 for the first time. Look at how much this has escalated since 1966. How many court cases per year have there been since that time? The number has grown exponentially. It has crippled and bogged down our criminal justice system to the point where it is handicapped.

In 1973, with thousands of young people then being convicted annually for smoking marijuana, the federal Le Dain Commission recommended ending criminal charges for possession. The report was never implemented.

In 1980 a growing consensus in Canada on decriminalizing marijuana possession was derailed by the U.S. declaration of the war on drugs under President Ronald “star wars” Reagan. Thanks a million Ronnie. We really appreciated his valuable contribution to the issue of substance abuse. That was another bright move by the bright light of American politics, Ronald Reagan.

In 1984 New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield was charged but later acquitted. Rich people do not go to jail. We save those spaces for Indians who steal a loaf of bread. We do not put rich white guys in prison. Indians steal a loaf of bread, they go to Stoney. Even though the bag of marijuana was found in his luggage before being loaded on to a plane during the royal visit by the Queen, we were willing to forgive that. He brought dope on to the plane with the Queen. That was no great hazard.

In 1992 marijuana advocate Umberto Iorfida was charged with promoting the use of illicit drugs. The case was thrown out of court two years later by a judge who ruled it was an infringement of free speech to advocate the use of marijuana.

In 1992 the federal Conservative government introduced a bill doubling the penalties for marijuana possession. I guess it went arm's length with Ronnie. When Irish eyes were smiling, the Irish eyes were also doubling the penalty for marijuana possession. What madness was that? Did that party not read any textbooks about substance abuse? Did it not talk to any scientists about the treatment of substance abuse? Was it completely stupid? Fortunately, that party was kicked out in 1993 and the bill for doubling penalties was never implemented.

In 2003, an Ontario judge ruled that Canada's law on possession of small amounts of marijuana was no longer valid and dismissed the charges against a Windsor youth. Finally a judge said it was time to stop clogging up our criminal justice system and ruining the lives of young people by giving them a criminal record for the simple possession of marijuana, something we on the prairies used to make rope out of, for a profit, until unfortunately a misguided magistrate from Alberta started her own vitriolic campaign against marijuana and put us in the trouble we are in today, almost a century later.

Let me back up a bit to 2000, when the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that federal law prohibiting the possession of marijuana was unconstitutional and gave the government a year to amend it. The highest court in Ontario declared a federal law prohibiting the possession of marijuana unconstitutional and gave the government one year to amend it.

That was about the time that Chuck Guité and others were right in the heart of the sponsorship scandal, so I can imagine why the Government of Canada was seized with other issues in the year 2000. That was essentially a lost year for progress in terms of social issues in Canada.

The law was deemed a violation of the rights of sick people who were using marijuana for medical purposes, which was an interesting development. In July 2001, Canada became the first country in the world to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. That is not bad. I commend the government for doing that.

In 2002, the special Senate committee on illegal drugs sparked a national debate by recommending the legalization of marijuana. It caused a huge furor and uproar, even though that was 2002 and not 1922, when the fearmongering was such that people tried to convince others that by stiffening penalties we could influence social behaviour as it applied to addictions and substance abuse. What absolute folly. What a terrible and tragic mistake. Not only do the people who are sick and have a substance abuse problem not get the help they deserve, but we are clogging up our police departments, the courts, prosecutors' departments and the criminal justice system with unnecessary offences and we are perhaps ruining the lives of some innocent young people who may in fact just be dabbling with that biodegradable substance.

The NDP tried to push for changes. Amnesty provisions regarding past changes or convictions for simple possession were to be erased. Records for contravention and for the receiving of fines for simple possession or cultivation for personal use were to be sealed and not shared with Interpol or other foreign jurisdictions. These are all things that the member for Vancouver East raised at the committee.

There was also the non-commercial transfer of marijuana. Currently, even simply giving marijuana for no money--in other words, passing a joint--is trafficking. If somebody says “don't bogart that joint”, under Bill C-10 that is a non-commercial transfer. That is trafficking. We argued that a gift of up to 30 grams should not be considered trafficking. We lost on that issue.

The NDP strongly believes that the bill needs to contain amnesty provisions for people who currently have criminal records for simple possession. If simple possession of marijuana no longer risks a criminal charge, those who now have a criminal record for similar conduct should be entitled to automatic amnesty. We should erase it from their records and stop messing up the careers and the lives of young people who may have been convicted under a law that we now accept to be wrong-headed. If we have now come to the conclusion that we have been wrong for the last 80 years, why are people still suffering from that persecution?

The federal NDP believes the federal government must move beyond decriminalization and examine and introduce a non-punitive, rules based approach to adult marijuana use, with an emphasis on prevention, education and health promotion. Marijuana policy needs to eliminate the criminalization of users and focus on reducing harm and preventing crime.

The federal government should be putting resources behind public education, not criminal prosecution. Even for the fines regimen it is putting in place, what if people do not pay the fine? They would wind up in the courts because they would then be guilty of the offence of not paying the fine. The government has not really simplified or decriminalized to the extent we are advocating.

Taking the example of tobacco, consistent and strong messaging on the health risks of tobacco has greatly reduced tobacco use. It is not necessary to use criminal law to discourage harmful forms of drug use. In many cases, it is counterproductive.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2004 / 11:10 a.m.
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Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today is making waves both inside and outside the House of Commons. Talking about decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana is an important issue that has raised much interest in the general public. A number of us have been contacted by various groups that would like to present their points of view.

As the Bloc Quebecois justice critic, I have had the opportunity to talk with various people and groups that have given me their comments. Because it is an important issue with considerable symbolic value, it is the duty of the members of this House who want to address this issue to do so calmly, without demagoguery, and with enough perspective for a clear analysis of the situation and the bill before us. We must analyze what has led to this bill and what its results would be.

Therefore, I call upon the members of this House who are going to speak to this bill to do so without personal attacks, without grandstanding, with a cool head, in short, as rigorously as possible. That would be the least of the expectations of the women and men who have elected us to this place.

This is the third reading of Bill C-10. One of the reasons we are examining this bill is that there is a movement within the population that has been asking for some liberalization of the Canadian legislation. One of the most influential groups, in my opinion, has been the Forum Jeunesse of the Bloc Quebecois, which has been battling on this front for a number of years. This week, it can finally see the result of its lobbying efforts.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the Forum Jeunesse. It has held forums, discussions and debates on this subject of considerable interest to the population group it represents.

We are at this point today because there is a fairly solid, fairly firm, awareness of what should be done. A policy based exclusively on repression will not work in this matter because it does not lead to the desired results. It is an expensive policy, and definitely not a cost-effective one.

So, we must take note of that. We must also keep in mind what we know does work and yield tangible results, which is to increase public awareness.

To smoke marijuana is not good for anyone. In order to fight this phenomenon, we must increase public awareness of course, and particularly that of young men and women, of teenagers who may want to experiment with this substance, which is harmful to health.

I want to be clear. Those who, both inside and outside this House, support a degree of flexibility in the criminal legislation on the possession of marijuana are not promoting its use. They are not promoting the use of a substance which we know can be harmful to a person's health. What these people are saying is that, currently, the punishment is worse than the crime, and this is what this legislation seeks to correct.

This bill seeks to ensure that, while a person caught with a small amount of marijuana should, of course, be punished and suffer the consequences of his or her action, such punishment and consequences should not be worse than the crime itself.

It is important that, in conjunction with this liberalization, this vast awareness campaign that I am calling for be launched, but with the following caveat: this awareness campaign dealing with education and health must be run by Quebec and the provinces. The federal government must not, yet again, use a commendable objective to interfere where it does not belong. It is time that steps be taken to allow Quebec and the provinces to run widespread awareness campaigns against the use of marijuana.

From the beginning, I have been saying that we must debate this issue calmly and objectively, which does not mean not being involved, but rather being objective, in order to examine the situation properly. Most of this work has been done in committee. It is important to repeat in this House what was said in committee, including the fact that other countries that have decriminalized possession have not seen an increase in marijuana use.

For the benefit of those who say that decriminalizing penalties for simple possession of marijuana would send a bad message and entice more young people to use, when we take a cold look at the situation and the studies that have been presented and analyzed in committee, we see that this is not the case. We can all agree that this removes quite a significant amount of rhetoric from this whole debate.

Despite its partisan and ideological differences, I believe the committee did excellent work, which resulted in the a new bill being put before the House, which is better than the one the committee examined.

There are four main reasons. First, many of us feared that there would be problems, despite the fact that individuals charged with and even found guilty of simple possession of marijuana once this bill is passed will not have a criminal record. Many members of the committee from both sides of the House feared that, even if an individual had no criminal record, this information could end up in some database somewhere and that even, for example, if a charge were dropped and the Canadian government did not retain that information, it could end up in the hands of a foreign government or an international organization, such as Interpol. Also, many feared that individuals charged or convicted in Canada for such an offence might still suffer the consequences, for example, when they wanted to travel abroad.

That is why I moved an amendment, the essence of which the government has retained, to include a prohibition on disclosure of a charge or conviction to a foreign government or an international organization, thereby ensuring that the consequences we wish to lessen in Canada will not continue to have as much impact outside Canada and throughout the world. This first improvement was supported by a strong majority in committee. I believe this is an extremely important improvement to this bill.

The aim of the second major improvement is to conduct a review in three years. I supported this amendment because I strongly believe that in three years, once the review is complete, people will realize that those naysayers inside and outside this House who predicted that the earth would all but stop turning and that Canada would basically become a land of junkies were wrong and that these predictions will not come true. The important thing, when it comes to such as a sensitive issue, is to conduct a rigorous analysis of the facts. This amendment will ensure that, in three years' time, the consequences of this legislation can be reviewed. I firmly believe we will conclude that we were right in passing this bill.

The aim of the Bloc's third major amendment is to ensure that anyone possessing from one to three marijuana plants is not charged with production, but is recognized as possessing small amounts of marijuana. I want to explain.

Everyone in the House knows that drug trafficking is controlled by crime rings. We all know and agree that our intention here is not to encourage these crime rings. We do not want to provide any encouragement whatsoever to these criminals.

The occasional user ought not to be forced to buy on the black market which is run by the underworld, thereby criminalizing him or her even further, although they are regular members of society in everyday life, paying taxes, raising families and so on.

The purpose of the amendment passed in committee is, therefore, to prevent the occasional user from having to buy on the black market and deal with hardened criminals.

The fourth element, not an amendment to the bill but rather a report tabled in this House by the committee chair—because there were two reports—has to do with driving under the influence of drugs.

I had introduced an amendment in committee to that end, but it was deemed out of order because it fell outside the parameters of the bill. The committee agreed with me, however, and so we raised that point in an additional report. One of the concerns frequently, and quite rightly, expressed by the public in fact relates to people driving under the influence of drugs.

What we want most emphatically to see is for the government to introduce a bill on driving under the influence of drugs, and to do so as soon as possible. We are aware of the results of the present legislation, as well as the numerous campaigns against drinking and driving. The same sort of approach needs to be taken to driving under the influence of drugs.

Driving under the influence of drugs is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. We must therefore come down very hard on those who contemplate driving under the influence of drugs.

I therefore wish to reiterate the support of the Bloc Quebecois for Bill C-10. I also wish to reiterate our most impassioned plea for a bill on driving under the influence of drugs to be introduced and passed. I call upon my colleagues in this House to debate this without rhetoric, to analyze it coolly and rationally, even if they may feel very strongly about the issue. This is definitely a symbolic debate, but it is also a very important debate for the future of our society.

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

February 27th, 2004 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10, pertaining to marine conservation areas, calls for a mineral exploration review assessment prior to establishment of any new areas This process must be adhered to, otherwise west coast oil and gas development potential will be seriously jeopardized.

Will the environment minister meet this legal obligation as it pertains to his hurry up, Scott Island marine wildlife area proposal?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

February 26th, 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, I will begin at the end, to be completely logical.

These are Senate matters. They do not concern the House in any concrete way. I would need to know what the Senate was going to decide before I could answer the question.

Also, regarding new bills, I am assuming that a bill that is good for the people is a bill that is good for the people, whether or not it existed previously. That is what we are working on. I hope to have the cooperation of our colleagues across the way to continue this process.

As to the plans for the coming week, as you know, this afternoon, we will continue debate on the opposition motion. Tomorrow, we will begin debate at third reading of Bill C-18, an act respecting equalization and authorizing the Minister of Finance to make certain payments related to health, including transfer payments of $2 billion to the provinces. Then, we will consider Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, followed by Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, and finally Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

On Tuesday, March 9, at 10 a.m., the Secretary General of the United Nations will address both houses of Parliament in the House of Commons. As you know, all parties have agreed that the Wednesday schedule will apply that Tuesday, in order to leave the morning free in honour of the Secretary General.

Finally, Thursday, March 11 will also be an allotted day.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2004 / 10:15 a.m.
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Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the motion for third reading of Bill C-10 as listed on today's Order Paper.

The Order Paper lists the said motion as moved by Mr. Cotler, Minister of Justice, and seconded by Mr. Assadourian, Brampton Centre. I believe that you would find unanimous consent to have the bill listed as being seconded by Mr. Bagnell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2004 / 4:50 p.m.
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London West Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on third reading of Bill C-10 which will reform Canada's laws as they relate to the possession and cultivation of cannabis.

Bill C-10 is the culmination of a long process that illustrates how the House should approach a major reform of the law in a non-partisan spirit.

All parties in the House can point to parts of the bill that respond to concerns that they raised and points that they made. Of course, there are divergent views in the House as there are across the country, but Bill C-10 represents a modern made in Canada approach to dealing with the harm caused by marijuana.

Members are well aware of the major steps that led to this reform. The House in May 2001 agreed that a special committee on the non-medical use of drugs should be established. The special committee undertook extensive public hearings across Canada. Witnesses from government departments, specialists in drug issues, educators, police and concerned Canadians made their views known.

The special committee made many recommendations regarding overall drug policy. The government has responded to those recommendations by renewing Canada's national drug strategy and providing $245 million over five years for education, prevention, law enforcement and harm reduction strategies. The special committee also recommended alternative measures for dealing with possession and cultivation of up to 30 grams of cannabis.

It is important to note that there were three minority reports. While the Canadian Alliance considered 30 grams too much, both the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois supported the intent of the recommendation, although they both had concerns.

Bill C-38, introduced by the government in May 2003, followed up on the recommendation of the special committee. This bill was referred to the special committee before second reading.

At that time, the Minister of Justice said that this demonstrated that the government was listening and willing to consider amendments to ensure we got it right, and that the special committee on non-medical use of drugs was well positioned to examine this issue after the exhaustive work it did to prepare its report, which was released last December.

The special committee in turn took its responsibility seriously. At this time I would like to thank the members of that all-party committee, including the chair, the member from Burlington.

It did make important improvements to the bill. In particular, it recommended that the bill make it an offence to release personal information to foreign governments and international organizations in relation to the offences of possession or cultivation of small amounts of marijuana that are punished by a ticket. They are still offences, but it is the way of handing out the fines and the sanctions that have been adjusted.

It makes the cultivation of one to three plants for personal use punishable by a fine of $500 for an adult and $250 for youth. It provides that where there is an agreement between Canada and a province, the offence could be prosecuted by a ticket under the Contraventions Act. It requires that the government review the impact of the new legislation within three years. We are pleased with that addition.

The amendments to Bill C-38 proposed by the special committee were accepted by the government. The result of all these actions is the bill now before us, Bill C-10, which I believe meets the expectations of Canadians.

Members of the House are aware of the problems that a criminal conviction for the possession of a small amount of marijuana can cause for a person. It can close opportunities for employment and prevent travel to certain countries.

As a society, Canadians have decided that it does not make sense that a young person who makes a bad choice in life by experimenting with marijuana should receive the lasting burden of a criminal conviction and face such serious consequences.

The members are also aware that Canadians want stricter sanctions on large marijuana growing operations, which are both a danger to our communities and a source of revenue for organized crime.

Bill C-10 reflects what Canadians want. Marijuana remains a prohibited substance and its possession will remain a criminal offence. This is the message that youth must understand, that there are sanctions. This is not legalization.

Bill C-10 reflects what Canadians are telling us. Marijuana remains a prohibited substance and its possession will remain a criminal offence. However, the procedure for punishing a person who is convicted of possessing a small quantity of marijuana or cannabis resin for personal use has been changed in a way that better reflects the attitudes of Canadians toward the seriousness of the crime.

Possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana will be punished by a summons or a ticket and not by summary conviction. The fine will be set at $150 for an adult and $100 for an adolescent, if there are no aggravating circumstances.

Police officers will retain the discretion to give a ticket or a summons to appear in criminal court for the possession of more than 15 grams of marijuana and up to 30 grams. If a summons is issued, then the maximum sentence will remain a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. These fines would be higher in many cases than what offenders are getting now.

It is important to note that when a youth is facing a charge, his or her parents will be notified. We believe the punishment for possession will now be seen by Canadians as fitting the crime.

Bill C-10 also responds to Canadians' expectations concerning the cultivation of marijuana. It will double the maximum penalty for cultivation if the offender has more than 50 plants. In addition, it sets out a number of aggravating circumstances which would require courts to provide reasons for not imposing a prison sentence.

It is appropriate that the penalty for cultivating up to three plants be reduced. The person who is growing only three plants or less is likely to be cultivating for personal use; however, we deplore the use of marijuana. Canadians recognize that there is a difference in culpability where the person is growing for personal use as opposed to cultivating for sale to others. Bill C-10 makes that distinction.

All members are aware that Bill C-10 by itself will not solve all the problems that drugs are causing in our country. It is of course important that criminal law be modernized. Bill C-10 should lead to more uniform enforcement of the prohibition of possession of marijuana.

Currently it depends in what city, town, province or territory one lives. This hopefully will assist more police officers encountering a problem. Tickets will be issued that then will get paid. The amounts for youth will be of the amounts that they can pay and the money will not come from parents pulling dollars out of their pockets. These are sanctions for youth.

Those sanctions will free up police officers so that they can do more important work and not be there handing out numerous charges in some areas and voice reprimands in others. It does not seem to be much of a sanction for youth if they are in a city or town where it is just a verbal warning as opposed to this ticket that is going to cost money each and every time.

Bill C-10 should lead to more uniform enforcement for the prohibition of possession of marijuana. The greater penalties for cultivation combined with the extra police resources that the government is funding under the national drug strategy should reduce the prevalence of grow ops. We all know how important it is to go after the grow ops.

However, the drug problems being experienced by our communities across Canada require a comprehensive response to address the underlying causes of drug abuse. Much of what has been done does not fall on the shoulders of the federal government. It is therefore particularly important to note that the government's commitment in renewing the national drug strategy is to work with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, addiction agencies, non-government organizations, professional organizations and associations, law enforcement agencies, the private sector and community groups to reduce the harm to individuals and to society of drug abuse.

The government is playing the leadership role that it should play in the fight against drug abuse and it is rejecting the “Ottawa knows best” attitude that in the past has hindered cooperation with our partners. Through the mechanism of a bi-annual conference, the first of which will be held this year, the government will bring all the stakeholders together to set research, health promotion and drug prevention agendas.

In that regard, the amendment made by the special committee and accepted by the government that, after three years, there must be a comprehensive review of the effects of the alternative penalties on Canadian society is to be welcomed. This was a good addition.

It is my sincere belief that when Parliament reviews the effects of Bill C-10 on Canadian society, it will find that the legislation struck the right balance, and that Bill C-10 will have played an important part along with the many individuals and initiatives who are working and being funded under the national drug strategy in reducing the harm caused by drugs to Canadians.

I want to point out to Canadians that operating a motor vehicle while impaired by any substance remains a serious criminal offence. Driving while impaired by drugs including marijuana is included in the offence under subsection 253(a) of the Criminal Code. Section 254 of the Criminal Code calls for minimum penalties for impaired driving including a mandatory minimum $600 fine on a first offence, a 15 day minimum sentence on a second offence, and a 90 day minimum sentence on a third offence. The maximum penalty for impaired driving is five years unless someone is hurt or killed putting the maximum penalty up to 14 years.

The challenge for police dealing with drivers impaired by drugs is proving a person's impairment because as yet, no scientific screening device exists to determine the levels of impairment by drugs. The government is proceeding to deal as expeditiously as possible with practical difficulties inherent to proving the drug impaired driving offence.

Consultations that were started last fall have been completed. We intend to move forward very quickly in this area. This is an important area to the government, and I do not want Canadians believing that we will let this area go. We are actively working on it right now.

I know the bill has proven to be of some difficulty for members in the House, but we are not sent here to do the easy things. I firmly believe all of us in the chamber, on every side of the House, want to improve the lives of Canadians. We want to make penalties and sanctions fit the offences in a manner that is appropriate and in a manner that will not destroy lives, but will allow in some instances, especially with our youth, them to make an error in judgment, to be sanctioned, then to move on with their lives and not carry a penalty for the rest of their lives.

Many of my colleagues have talked about pardons. Canada has a pardon mechanism. People can apply for pardons on an individual basis. Some members, who have worked very hard on the bill, wish we could wave a magic wand and erase the criminal records of people who carry these records because of a simple possession charge. There are maybe over 6,000 people in Canada who carry criminal records because of a simple possession charge.

Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to do a broad amnesty or pardon because we have to look at the specific situation of everybody's case. When examining pardons, it is a material part of that process to see what exactly is being pardoned, such as whether the original offence was a plea bargain down from a more serious offence. We should not do a retroactive blanket pardon.

There are students heading toward universities or professional schools who would make good and productive members of society, but who may have in their youth taken part in activities that are still illegal in this country. They might be unable to obtain employment, or they might be unable to take university courses, or they might be unable to work in a government office if they carry that criminal record. They may have to delay their education.

I do not think anybody excuses bad behaviour. However, we on this side of the House, with the help of those who look seriously at the bill before us and who look at what we have a chance to change in society, think there is more than ample reason to change the law today.

Bill C-10 deserves the support in the House. Ladies and gentleman, colleagues in the chamber, it has been a long time coming. The Le Dain commission was nearly 30 years ago. I believe we should move cautiously forward. Some people advocate going immediately to legalization. Most of the time our bills move forward step by step. Law, just like anything else, is a living tree. I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-10.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2004 / 4:25 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


Reg Alcock Liberalfor Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be read the third time and passed.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2004 / 6:05 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 1 at report stage of Bill C-10.

The question is on Motion No. 1.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 4:10 p.m.
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Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk about Bill C-10 at report stage, the legislation to modernize the marijuana laws. I appreciate the support of the Bloc and NDP on the motion.

I had a speech ready, but I am more interested in replying to the last two members who spoke because it will make a far more interesting debate to rebut the points they made as opposed to dryly giving out the facts on this.

First, I want to talk about some of the points that my close colleague, the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, made. I want to commend him. We work very closely together on a number of things. He has done an excellent job on the drug patents to help reduce drug prices in Canada. We are partners on a lot of things, but on this bill we disagree on a number of points.

The member suggested that, without amendment, the bill would not enjoy the support of the people of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge. I would contend that a majority of people in Canada are in favour of changing the marijuana laws. Therefore, I cannot see that some of people in his riding would not be in support of changes. I know in my own riding people are mixed on this. They have made some of the points the last two members made, and there are some people who are definitely in favour of this.

I have to agree with both the members on the sentencing. If seven years results in an only 35 day sentence then obviously that is a problem, but that is not what we are dealing with here today.

The member talked about there being no means to take a sample in relation to driving. This has been raised a number of times in the debate at the various readings we have had.

First, people are working on this intensively. I think people became aware of that in committee and at other readings. I do not think it is too far off in the distant future. More important, impaired driving is an offence and there are hundreds, probably thousands of substances and activities that can make a person impaired. There are tests and mechanisms that police use to determine impairment. It would be fallacious if people were getting the impression through this debate that impaired driving through marijuana was not a crime and that police did not find it.

There is a message that the bill is contradictory to the message we are giving on cigarette smoking. I would argue that it is not true. We have very large, well funded public campaigns. I know I announced the funding in my own riding about cigarette smoking, and we have a large funded campaign to convince people about the dangers of marijuana, some of which were so eloquently outlined by my colleague.

One point was made that we should not use the argument, on which I will probably elaborate more at the end, that we would give a person a criminal record for life at the age 19. That is actually one of the strongest motivations, certainly it is for me. For a small amount of possession, which has occurred for many people in North America, the penalty throughout the rest of their lives can be immense.

The member suggested that we should perhaps reduce the time for those convicted to get a pardon. I agree with that, and I have no problem with it. However, the problem is that a Canadian pardon does not help one overseas. Having worked in a constituency office and having seen these problems a lot, it does not help one in the United States. Once people have a record, another country does not erase it just because we do.

I have all sorts of people who have come up against this problem in other countries. While they have their pardon here, their access to the rest of the world is restricted. I think many people could make the mistake of having a small amount in their possession, and we really should not allow that to make such a drastic effect on the rest of their lives.

We have talked about the medical implications of marijuana. I do not think anyone disagrees with that. This bill puts tougher penalties on those who provide the drugs or on growers of the drug. It works to reduce the ability to get it, and therefore there is less ability of people to harm themselves by using it.

I agree with many of the speakers, including the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge about perception. I am not sure that Parliament has done a good job in getting the message across of what Bill C-10 is about. The bill to a large extent is being tougher on drugs. It is being tougher on the people who grow marijuana, who sell it, who promote the use of it and who traffic in it, and on organized crime. To some extent members are right that the message is not getting out properly. The government will have to work on that aspect.

I will now move on to the remarks of the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I enjoy debating with the hon. member, and we have a great relationship. He talked about driving while impaired. I have said that there is work being done on that aspect of the bill.

The member also talked about a criminal record. He said that many people only received a conditional or an absolute discharge. However, later on in the member's speech he said that there should be a deterrent in sentencing as well. What is the deterrent in sentencing if, as he also has said, everyone is receiving a conditional or an absolute discharge?

The member went on to say that the police officer could take the person home and give him or her a tongue lashing. What kind of sentencing deterrent is that? What the government is proposing is a $100 fine. This is definitely a deterrent to a young person, especially because this is a summary conviction or a type of ticket offence which can be quite easily imposed, and many people could end up with this type of sentence. This may have the effect of tougher sentences than are being allocated, if they are being allocated at all, which is the evidence that the member opposite just provided.

It is encouraging that the member supported our promotion strategy. The government is doing a large public relations campaign to ensure that people understand the dangers of drugs and the harm marijuana has on their health. The member said that the strategy was not real. However, it will cost $245 million. I consider that amount of money over five years quite real and an excellent beginning.

Concern was expressed with some of the amendments proposed and that this was an amorphous timeframe. However, the government has stated in the amendments that the strategy should be in place within a year.

It also has been mentioned that marijuana is a gateway drug. This is another major argument that has been raised against Bill C-10. However, science does not prove that. There is no science which indicates that because people use marijuana that they will go on to other drugs.

I believe it would benefit the opposition speakers, when they speak to Bill C-10, if they could provide some of the detailed scientific, educational and statistical information on the use of a gateway drug.

The United States will be happy that Canada is being tougher on grow operations. There are a number of states that have no imprisonment at all for a first offence and small fines ranging from $100 to $500. These states include, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and West Virginia.

A lot of these places have $100 fines. When we compare that to our present first penalty of six months in jail or up to a $2,000 fine, we are moving more in line with reality and more in line with what a lot of Canadians think. We also are sending a message to the growers and those in organized crime who are using drugs for illegal purposes.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 3:50 p.m.
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Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge Ontario


Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am a little surprised that Bill C-10 has come forward. Under its previous number, Bill C-38, it went through a very interesting process, a parliamentary subcommittee of members of Parliament who, certainly on my side, spent a considerable amount of time on this issue.

I have a number of concerns about the bill. I should say from the outset that if the bill does not have sufficient amendments, it will not enjoy the support of the people of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, the riding I represent.

I want to quantify my concerns as to why I believe this bill is not sending the appropriate message at the right time. Clearly if one wants to include themselves in a national drug strategy, one ought to consider putting the strategy in place first and foremost. To have decriminalization come in at the same time almost defeats the purpose of trying to educate young people as to how this ought to work and to give them, if you will, a proverbial heads up as to the dangers of marijuana.

We have seen more recently the scourge of marijuana grow operations right across my region. We have seen it in the greater Toronto area. We have seen it in Barrie, Ontario, certainly in terms of the sophistication of some of the marijuana grow operations. It is no longer about a few people growing this recreationally, Cheech and Chong style. It is in fact a very serious matter.

It confirms the report that I tabled in the House earlier in the year about operation green tide, which of course is not about what is happening in Atlantic Canada, but is about the serious nature of the economic impact that marijuana growth is having across the country. It is so much so that as confirmed by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, this product is becoming the product of choice for members of organized crime, who I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, are not, and I repeat not, marijuana enthusiasts. Instead they see opportunities of renting or buying a house and for $25,000 they can make a $600,000 return on investment.

I believe notwithstanding the provisions here and the penalties the government has put forward of doubling the sentence, that in fact the courts will treat it the same way. Currently seven years is yielding an average of about 35 days for every marijuana grow operation that is out there. Does that now mean it will be 70 days for people who effectively provide a product that will wind up with the students in many of our schools?

We all understand it is a product which many people will try from time to time. Frankly, I probably do not care a whole lot if Johnny or Josephine wants to have a joint in the basement of his or her house. Frankly the concern I have is much greater than that and it deals specifically with a number of very serious flaws in the bill.

Number one, there is no protocol to take roadside sampling for individuals who have imbibed the product. We now know through studies in Ontario, through various organizations, and I am not just talking about MADD Canada, that young people are choosing marijuana as a means of evading detection. They want to get high and rather than taking a bit of alcohol, they smoke a joint. The effect is that their responses are affected and they should not be operating a motor vehicle. Yet there is no means under which we can take a sample.

The bill calls for a series of fines for possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis and one gram of resin. However the fines for each offence are not uniformly applied. Adult fines are higher than those for youth. As well, the fact that the fines are not high is hardly a deterrent. A concern also exists for reducing the fines applicable to youth, especially if the federal government is actively trying to educate young people not to take up cigarette smoking. They are contradictory messages.

There is no provision for repeat offenders. In other words we are dealing with simply a ticketing offence, much in the same way one would get a parking ticket. The court system will be clogged. Let us be honest about this. We will effectively render a situation which will be impossible to enforce and which will undermine the very credibility of what the bill is trying to accomplish, and that is to get this thing away and unclutter our court system.

The aggravated provisions have a maximum of $1,000 or six months of imprisonment. However, there are only three aggravated provisions: possession while operating a vehicle; possession while committing an indictable offence; and possession in or near a school. More aggravated provisions in my view could have been added, for example, possession in or near a sports or community centre.

The $1,000 or six month penalty are maximum fine sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences would have been more productive, as courts rarely, as I have just explained, impose sentences, and they are really far from it.

Section 253 of the Criminal Code prohibits operation or control of a motor vehicle while impaired by either alcohol or a drug. However there is no mandatory blood, saliva or urine testing roadside protocol in the bill that could determine the level of impairment from marijuana use. It is serious when organizations have pointed this out and the bill is deficient in that. The question is why? Perhaps that is not a question that I can answer at this stage.

To try to rush a bill through because we are concerned about young people having a criminal record for the rest of their lives is a noble point but we have the Youth Criminal Justice Act. At 19 years of age their criminal records are removed any way. If we want to deal specifically with removing the opprobrium on individuals who are caught with possession, I suggest we begin to look more seriously at reducing the amount of time it takes, for instance, a pardon.

Much has been said about the United States, and I am glad we have used it as an example. While it is true that 12 states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is not true that the U.S. government has abandoned its discretion to impose penalties and to continue to enforce the national criminal code as it exists with respect to possession. That argument is a non-starter.

A sliding scale of increased penalties, summary, hybrid and indictable, are introduced based on the number of plants involved in the grow operations. The maximum penalties in terms of fines and incarceration appear sufficient at first view but that is not the case.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to put yourself in the position of a police officer or a peace officer who has to look at the prospect of determining the 15 grams and how many tokes or how many joints a person needs to have in order to make a determination between the criminal provisions or the decriminalized civil provision for giving the person a ticket.

It is conceivable that if people were able to get 15 or 20 young people to move these things around for them at any given time then they would be able to avoid the sting of trafficking. In the rush to push this legislation forward, this was obviously missed in the bill. I think that would do an injustice and would only increase the appetite of traffickers to get around the law.

The mandatory direction to the courts, in my view, should not have been limited to only those examples on the list. Grow ops are the product of organized crime and over 90% of the marijuana in this country derives from those operations. We know that they are exported in many respects to the United States.

After attending several conferences there is no doubt in my mind that there is concern about the damaging effect this could have on Canada's image around the world. There have been concerns that as a result of this and the massive amount of exportation to the United States and other jurisdictions, Canada is gaining the unfavourable moniker of being somehow a drug centre for other nations, particularly as it relates to marijuana.

I would not be so concerned about that except for the fact that the THC level in the product has increased dramatically so we are no longer dealing with a soft drug. No one on the committee and none of the proponents of the bill have bothered to look at the medical implications for individuals who may suffer long term psychosis and other effects that in many respects lead to the potential for this being a gateway drug. I am speaking of individuals who will never see an opportunity, through a national drug strategy, to know that there are real implications.

Why would other countries be concerned about what we are selling to the United States? According to the national institutes of health in the United States, over the past few years a greater number of people are being admitted to emergency wards because they have not been able to accept the high potency of the Canadian marijuana product. This certainly is not helpful in terms of our image. I can assure the House that there is more concern for all of us here to ensure that we get this legislation right and that we get it right from the beginning.

I think it is clear to all of us that, if we are to take this issue seriously, in order to correct the problem of possession, the perception that we are giving young people a criminal record for the rest of their lives, we are in effect opening the door to a greater perception that it is acceptable to do these things, whether we like it or not.

Parliamentarians know full well that they cannot control what happens beyond here. It would be simply irresponsible for us to pass the legislation at a time when Statistics Canada has pointed out that there is an increased use in drugs across the country. The last thing we need to do is to give a green light. It is time to step back, understand this product and, for the goodness of our society, stop the legislation, vote against it and have a second look before we leap.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
See context


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

This is an extremely important bill. There are quite a number of aspects to the bill, but one of the most important components of it is the national drug strategy itself. It would put in place the funding for a lot of education and getting information to the general public, especially young people who may be interested in trying marijuana.

First and foremost, this is not about legalizing marijuana. Those in the opposition and others across Canada often say that it is about legalizing marijuana. That is not what it is about at all. It is about changing the penalties. It would still be illegal to use marijuana in Canada should this bill carry.

The time has come to deal with this issue. The current system is not working. Unless we put in place the strong components of this bill, the current system will cause young people and families, and many Canadians continued hardship through the use of marijuana and through the continuation marijuana grow operations.

I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of police associations across Canada. Yes, it is true, there is some opposition to this in some ranks. But people who say the current system is working are fooling no one but themselves because the current penalities are not being applied uniformly across the country.

Let me give an example. If an individual in my home province was caught smoking a small amount of marijuana or in possession of a small amount of marijuana, that individual would be charged and would have a criminal record. We know what a criminal record would do to individuals. These individuals may be truck drivers. They would not be able to get across the border to do their job, and participate in the economy of country and provide for their family. In that situation, individuals caught with possession of a small amount of marijuana would face the full wrath of the law.

In other areas of the country, say in Toronto, one would just get a slap on the wrist in many cases. There is no penalty in that case, other than maybe a talking to by a police officer.

The current law is not working because it is not being applied uniformly across the country. We might as well recognize that up front. This bill is attempting to change the penalties in order that there would be a fine for small amounts of marijuana less than 15 grams. In fact, the bill states:

--in an amount that is not more than fifteen grams, guilty of an offencepunishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine of not more than the amount referred to in item 2 of Schedule VIII.

The bill clearly lays out the penalties, in terms of an individual caught with no more than 15 grams. There would be a penalty. It would still be illegal and there would be a fine.

Some people will argue that the fines are not high enough, and that is their right . That is a debatable question. I myself believe that the fines should be increased; however, at least this bill would certainly be a good start.

I have had the opportunity to go to the Vancouver downtown east side which, for about a three block area, is devastated by the drug problem. I had the opportunity, in my previous responsibilities, of meeting many groups of police officers of both jurisdictions, local and RCMP. I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss with them the marijuana grow operations.

Marijuana grow operations are a terrible problem in many areas of the country, especially in the Vancouver and Toronto areas. Marijuana grow operations must be dealt with and dealt with severely.

I know we are not supposed to criticize the courts, but in the province of B.C., in terms of individuals caught with marijuana grow operations, I do not believe the courts are imposing the penalties that were intended by the law. This bill sets out some aggravating factors and the courts must justify in writing if they are not imposing the penalties fully intended by the law.

When I hear police officers tell me that they put their lives at risk when they go in to take down a marijuana grow operation and before they come back to work the next morning those individuals are back out on the street again, that tells me that the current system is not working. The bill moves some distance to ensure that the penalties intended by the law are imposed by the courts. That is as it should be.

There are some who have argued that we should not bring in this bill without having a roadside test for driving while drug impaired. It would be nice if there was one, but there is not.

However, the national drug strategy puts in place, first, the funding for the training of police officers in order for them to see the physical characteristics of individuals to determine whether or not they believe they are drug impaired. Second, it puts in place some moneys for research to find something that is similar to a breathalyzer, only related to drug issues. It moves the issue forward. It is an important step. It is one that is spelled out concretely in terms of the national drug strategy itself and it moves us ahead in addressing the problem of those who may be driving while drug impaired.

One of the most important aspects of the bill is the whole aspect of education. As I indicated earlier, the current system is not working. In some areas offenders get a slap on the wrist and in other areas they end up with a criminal record. Individuals out there, young people, do not believe that it is really against the law to be using marijuana or to be in possession of it.

Within the national drug strategy, there is funding in place to go out on a fairly major campaign to educate people, to tell them about the harmful effects of marijuana, to tell them about some of the situations that can be seen in downtown Vancouver's east side, and to tell them about the harmful effects, that it is illegal, and that they should not be using it.

There is some talk about how the Americans are strongly opposed to Bill C-10 and the changes in the penalties on marijuana. I have had the opportunity to meet with Attorney General Ashcroft as well as the drug czar in the United States. When appropriately explained to them--rather than the rhetoric by some on the other side of the House--what the intent of the bill is and how it will accomplish a reduction in marijuana use over time, and how it will put in place penalties to shut down marijuana grow operations, the U.S. political players will in fact come on side.

In conclusion, it is very important for the House to pass Bill C-10. We must pass it now because the longer we wait, the greater problems that will occur for many young people and many families in the country. Let us get it done and pass the bill.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite said she was concerned about drug use and its effect on our young people. I have no doubt that she is sincere when she says that. However I do not know where she is coming from when she relates a serious subject such as marijuana to the use of too many corn flakes when we were young.

I know this is a serious issue and Canadians are concerned about it. There are many serious aspects to this discussion that need to be discussed and relating it to corn flakes seems to me to be off the wall and inappropriate.

The government has continued with a legislative agenda that amounts to smoke and mirrors; illusions. It seems that legislation after legislation comes forward with serious problems that affect the health and well-being of Canadians and the government's response is to come forward with smoke and mirrors.

We have an ad scandal going on right now and the response has been to slap the crown corporations and hold the heads of those corporations to account. Even though they were former members of the Liberal government, and several were prominent ministers, they are not elected and not accountable. The government wants to hold the 14 supposed civil servants responsible but it does not want to look across at its colleagues who almost certainly had knowledge of the affairs and put responsibility where they could be held to account by the voters. That is smoke and mirrors.

Pornography was up for discussion earlier last week where we heard the artistic merit defence. We are talking about artistic merit as a defence for child pornography and the government comes up with a public good defence as a substitute. This creates the illusion that we are taking the appropriate response, when in fact we are not. The same could be said of sentencing.

When we talk about Bill C-10, members of the House ought to be concerned about the health and welfare of Canadians and building healthy Canadians. I am sure all members have an interest in this. I am opposed to Bill C-10 because it would not improve the health of Canadians. In fact, I argue that it would do just the opposite.

The consequences of smoking marijuana have yet to be studied and thoroughly understood. The health minister right now is spending $500 million trying to convince Canadians to stop smoking cigarettes. That is a lot of money. We have serious health problems in Canada. On the one hand the government wants to make it easier to smoke marijuana and on the other hand it wants to put $250 million into advising Canadians not to smoke marijuana. If we are trying to build a healthy population, what the government is doing is not logical nor is it consistent.

It is well-known that the benzopyrene, the tars, the carcinogens in marijuana are far more concentrated than they are in cigarettes. It is estimated that two to three marijuana cigarettes are equivalent to roughly 20 cigarettes in terms of the harmful components in that product. If we are talking about building healthy Canadians, this would be a health care disaster.

The former prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said “Politics that ignores science will not stand the test of time”.

I am opposed to the bill for a number of reasons, the first being the effect on our young people. My colleague from Red Deer, who spoke a few moments ago, talked about the influence of marijuana now laced with crystal meth, for example, and the risk that poses. Society is at risk for break-ins because money is needed to buy the fix and so on.

The second reason I am concerned is the dangers to the public. We have no way of testing when someone is impaired by the use of drugs, including marijuana. The police are not able to do roadside tests that would provide protection for the public from people under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, when they are driving a vehicle or operating heavy equipment.

My third concern is the impact this would have on organized crime. Organized crime is up to its ears in marijuana and other illegal drugs and the bill would not help. It would only enhance their profit making.

My fourth concern has to do with the effects on our borders. My final concern has to do with the health of Canadians. All of those are very serious issues that have not been adequately addressed by the bill.

On May 9 of last year the Vancouver Sun ran a series of articles on the marijuana grow ops on the west coast. The same can also be said of Toronto. It is estimated that some 10,000 grow ops exist in and around the metro Toronto area. The headline in the Vancouver Sun at that time read:

In every neighbourhood

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

It estimated marijuana to be worth $4 billion a year in sales. Some estimates went as high as $7 billion. That would make marijuana the largest cash crop in British Columbia and probably in Canada, certainly in terms of agriculture. It would be higher than all our farm produce, the apples, the fruit and all other cultivated crops.

The RCMP say:

Canadians who dismiss marijuana as a harmless drug should think twice.

The link between marijuana cultivation and organized crime cannot be over-emphasized, and neither can the consequences for society. The huge profits associated with grow operations are used by many criminal groups to purchase other more dangerous drugs or even weapons, and finance various illicit activities.

On the west coast the RCMP are concerned about Vietnamese gang activity in Vancouver's cannabis cultivation industry which increased almost 20 fold between 1997 and 2000. The police are concerned about gang wars between Hell's Angels, the traditional profiteers in this realm, and the Asian gangs.

Again, in that series of articles by the Vancouver Sun , there was a response from then minister of justice, Martin Cauchon, who said “We're getting tough”. It is interesting that the marijuana bill was introduced at the same time as the health department announced that its revamped national drug strategy will spend millions on drug education and prevention. It is inconsistent.

The then minister of justice said:

My primary concern here is to make sure we're going to have an effective policy, sending a strong message that marijuana is illegal in Canada.

I do not think the message being put forward in Bill C-10 is that message when we make it easier to access the product and as many as 30 grams or 30 joints will not even require an appropriate response from the government.

I have an article that deals with crystal meth, which was mentioned by the member for Red Deer earlier. It is a substance for just $10 that can be salted into marijuana. Crystal meth is produced very easily in laboratories and homes. It is such a dangerous and debilitating drug that cocaine and heroine are safer choices, says Dr. Ian Martin. The success rate for treatment is a dismal 10%.

The article goes on to say that meth is a sneaky killer, that it is at least as addictive as heroine and cocaine, yet it is almost impossible to die from an overdose of meth. Meth addicts are more likely to kill themselves by leaping off bridges than to die from the direct effects of the drug.

What meth does do is kill brain cells. It causes hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis, following an exquisite high. The excess free radicals in the cells kill brain cells. All these dead brain cells lead to memory loss, a decrease in the ability to plan even simple things like going to the grocery store and it reduces motor abilities resulting in symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease. That cannot be good for our young people.

Our young people are being led to believe, by actions like the government is proposing, that there is nothing wrong with these drugs, that they are simple and harmless. In fact, it is a very dangerous precedent once people start to go down the path of these mood altering drugs and it makes them vulnerable to abuse from those who seek even higher profit from seeing them addicted in a manner they can no longer control.

The message of different fines for young people from older people, in my mind, is a very inconsistent message. It makes it possible for young people to be victimized by those who are a little older. They will simply say that it belongs to their young friend as they try to duck responsibility for the fines and the product.

What kind of message is it when we can say that all of a sudden it will be legal to possess it but illegal to grow it and illegal to buy it? This is an exercise in foolishness.

Canadians are looking for sound policies and real responses from government. They are not looking for smoke and mirrors. They want the kinds of answers that will build a stable society, not create more problems, more affected young people, more debilitated young people and more young people who are suffering and who will need help in the future when they will not be able to produce and look after themselves.

The bill has many deficiencies. The police need the tools to be able to evaluate a person's ability to drive a vehicle or operate heavy equipment. Organized crime does not need the kind of boost that Bill C-10 would provide.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 1:15 p.m.
See context


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-10. The Minister of Justice has just reinstated Bill C-10, the proposed reform legislation for Canada, and the government is proposing amendments to the bill. I am pleased to speak to the bill and the amendments.

Some people have questioned Canada's ability to bring about a reform of the cannabis possession legislation as proposed in the bill. I would like to place on the record some of the facts and technicalities about cannabis and the international conventions that deal with cannabis.

Canada ratified the single convention on narcotic drugs in 1961 and the protocol amending the single convention in 1976. It acceded to the convention on psychotropic substances in 1988 and it ratified the convention on illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in 1990. All three of these drug conventions are in force at present.

The international community's main efforts in regard to drugs, as evidenced by the single and psychotropic conventions, are directed toward creating a network of administrative controls. The primary object of this regime is to regulate the supply and movement of drugs with a view to limiting their production, manufacture and import and export to the quantities required for legitimate medical and scientific purposes.

The conventions also require governments to furnish to the international drug control agencies periodic reports on their application of the international instruments and to submit to international supervision.

While the single and psychotropic conventions are, first and foremost, regulatory in nature imposing obligations to control the supply and movement of drugs, the trafficking convention is a law enforcement instrument. This convention calls upon parties to take specific law enforcement measures to improve their ability to identify, arrest, prosecute and convict drug traffickers across international boundaries. However it also contains a provision dealing with the possession of narcotics and psychotropic substances.

Cannabis products, marijuana, hashish and cannabis oil, are classified as narcotic drugs under schedules I and IV of the single convention. The single convention requires that a series of activities, cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, preparation, possession, offering for sale, distribution, purchase, sale, delivery, transport, importation and exportation of drugs, be established as punishable offences when committed intentionally.

Parties are required to ensure that serious offences are made liable to adequate punishment, particularly by imprisonment or other penalties of deprivation of liberty.

Parties to the trafficking convention are required to establish as criminal offences under their domestic laws many of the same activities as those enumerated in article 36 of the single convention in respect of any narcotic or psychotropic substances.

Prior to the development of the trafficking convention, there existed a debate as to whether the simple possession of cannabis needed to be criminalized. Under the single convention, a party must, subject to its constitutional limitations, criminalize the cultivation, possession and purchase of drugs.

A few countries have taken the view that possession in the context of the single convention does not include possession for personal consumption. It was argued that the term “possession” that is contained in the enumerated list in article 36 refers to possession for the purpose of distribution. This view was based on the reasoning that the provisions of article 36 are intended to combat drug trafficking because this article is in that part of the single convention that deals with illicit traffic. Most countries have not accepted this line of reasoning and have criminalized possession for personal consumption.

The trafficking convention resolved that issue. Parties to the trafficking convention are required to establish, as a criminal offence, the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for personal consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 and 1971 conventions. This view is confirmed by the interpretation of the United Nations commentary to the trafficking convention.

None of the conventions requires the imposition of specific sentences. All of them require, in one form or another, that imprisonment or other forms of deprivation of liberty are available as a sanction for serious offences.

The conventions also provide that in appropriate cases where abusers have committed an offence, and in appropriate cases of a minor nature, parties may provide as an alternative to conviction or punishment or in addition to conviction or punishment measures such as education, rehabilitation, social integration, treatment and after care.

With respect to cannabis possession involving small amounts, the conventions do not require the imposition of specific sanctions. Accordingly, parties are free to impose the level of sanction they believe appropriate in respect of this offence.

It is possible to deal with this offence in a manner that excludes the possibility of imprisonment. The use of the Contraventions Act whereby a fine would be imposed through the issuance of a ticket without requiring a court appearance is an acceptable alternative to a possible imprisonment sentence. Such an approach would not decriminalize the possession offence. The behaviour would remain a criminal offence and would still attract a penalty, albeit in the form of a fine.

As can be seen, the international drug conventions are constructed in such a way as to give parties to the conventions flexibility in dealing with the offence of possession of small amounts of cannabis. Countries can choose to deal with this offence in a manner that best reflects that country's values and attitudes toward the possession of cannabis.

I will conclude my remarks by indicating my support for the bill and for the proposed amendments.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 1:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill C-10, this government's feeble attempt to address the possession and production of marijuana in Canada.

At times Canadians must wonder if the government is even aware of the problems of marijuana grow ops in Canada. I have tried for some time now to make these Liberals aware of the extent of the problem in my constituency of Surrey North.

In Surrey alone, an estimated 3,500 to 4,500 grow ops generate, conservatively estimated, in excess of $2 billion per year. B.C. bud goes into the United States as currency for guns and cocaine. These grow ops are run by violent criminal gangs and many are located in residential neighbourhoods where there are plenty of children. I continue to receive letters, e-mails and phone calls from constituents who are extremely angry that too little is being done.

The criminal intelligence directorate of the RCMP issued a report, “Marijuana Cultivation in Canada”, in November 2002. In 2001, Canadian police seized close to $1.4 million marijuana plants, a six-fold increase since 1993. In 2002, 54 million grams of bulk marijuana were seized, up from 28 million in 2001. This phenomenal increase in the illegal production of marijuana occurred under this government's watch while the current Prime Minister held the purse strings on funding that could have addressed the problem long before now.

The RCMP told the former solicitor general that grow ops had reached “epidemic proportions”--that is their wording--and that resources to take them down were an issue.

Innocent lives are at risk here. We have had drive-by shootings, assaults and murders. Neighbours frequently have their homes violently invaded in so-called grow rips, when the bad guys get the wrong address.

Why do we not see any resources directly targeting marijuana grow operations and why is there not a strategy in place? This is out of control.

The former solicitor general called the problem serious and admitted it should be challenged head on. He said, “We do have to do more”. He said that he had raised the matter with the former minister of finance, the current Prime Minister. At that time, he declared that in the next few weeks the government would bring forward proposals that, in his words, “will in a more comprehensive fashion challenge the grow operations, to increase penalties and take them down”.

Bill C-10 falls woefully short of that promise.

The current maximum sentence for growing marijuana is seven years. The bill we are debating proposes increasing the maximum sentence to 14 years, but only for more than 50 plants. The maximum sentence for growing four to 25 plants will actually be reduced to five years. That is shocking. We are reducing sentences while international organized crime is increasingly establishing grow ops in Canada due to our already lax laws and lenient sentences.

Besides, with penalties still at the discretion of the courts, what is the point of increasing maximum sentences when they rarely, if ever, come close to imposing the current maximums? With no set mandatory minimum sentences, we will continue to see judges giving far less than the maximum penalties for cultivation. If the government were truly serious about combatting grow ops, it would have instituted mandatory minimum jail sentences and more effective proceeds of crime legislation.

This legislation is great news for organized crime. The November 2002 RCMP criminal intelligence directorate report declared that high profits, a low risk of being caught and lenient sentences are spurring the epidemic of marijuana grow ops in Canada. It states:

Police resources are now being taxed to the point where difficult choices must be made when faced with competing priorities.

This explains why law enforcement agencies are unable to make a lasting impact on the marijuana cultivation industry in Canada. Huge profits from illegal marijuana growing are often used by organized crime, in the words of the report “to finance other illicit activities, such as the importation of Ecstasy, liquid hashish and cocaine”.

The number of illegal marijuana operations is rising so fast that some Canadian police agencies are being overwhelmed, the RCMP report said, stating that:

In some parts of the country, the phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions.

I have been asking questions in the House for some time now about the government's lack of effort to take down marijuana grow ops. In the spring of 2003, the former solicitor general visited Surrey to examine the problem, in part, by his own admission, because of questions I had asked in this place. To this point in time, neither my constituents nor I have seen any action from the government. I commented at the time that his visit was just a grow op photo op. It now appears as though that is all it was.

In August 2003, another RCMP criminal intelligence unit report said that organized crime is extending its marijuana grow op reach clear across Canada by merging with biker gangs.

On December 17, 2003, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police released a report entitled “Green Tide: Indoor Marijuana Cultivation and its Impact on Ontario”. This study sounds an alarm in Ontario about a problem the RCMP labelled epidemic on a national scale one year previously. It details the threats to public safety and the cost to society in stolen electricity and insurance premiums, among other things. It also links grow ops to organized crime and shows that the problem affects both rural and urban communities. This is all old news to British Columbians.

B.C. and the Surrey RCMP have been tackling the problem head-on and in recent months have taken down numerous grow ops, no thanks to Ottawa. Perhaps now that grow ops are a problem in vote-rich Ontario, these Liberals will take serious legislative action.

Why has the government allowed the problem to get worse? Report after report, year in and year out, has declared that there is an escalating marijuana grow op problem. Why did it not use the bill to do something significant rather than just tinker around with maximum sentences?

On the issue of decriminalization, the government is sending our youth an extremely confusing message. On one hand it has said not to use drugs and that it is getting tough on cultivation and trafficking, but then it has followed up by tacitly condoning the use of marijuana by decriminalizing its possession.

To further exacerbate things, the Liberals propose lower fines for kids than for adults: one gram of hashish, $300 for adults, $200 for youths aged 12 to 18; 15 grams or less of marijuana, $150 for adults and $100 for youths; 15 to 30 grams of marijuana, $300 for adults and $200 for youths. What lunacy: if they can afford to buy the drugs, then should we not assume they can afford to pay the fine? What kind of message is this?

To sum up, although the Liberals have committed to studying “drug driving”, without effective roadside assessment capabilities we will see more drug impaired drivers getting behind the wheel with no concrete way to detect them. The Ontario police are experimenting with a “potalyser”, which would detect marijuana in the bloodstream. The federal government should investigate these types of innovations.

Collection of fines and the nonpayment of tickets will fall under provincial jurisdiction. Many provinces have already indicated that they do not have the resources to follow up in these areas.

Fine levels do not increase for subsequent offences, so therefore there would be no deterrent for repeat offenders.

There has been no provision put in place by the government to review changes to the law resulting from the future increase in THC toxicity or potency of marijuana.

The proposed meagre enforcement resources add up to about two dozen extra RCMP officers nationwide. Local or municipal law enforcement would not receive any new resources.

There is no establishment of an office to coordinate the efforts to deal with illicit drugs in our society.

There is no change in the penalties for trafficking, and only a truly pathetic effort at addressing grow ops.

Personally I am opposed to any attempt to decriminalize the possession of even small amounts of marijuana, for a very simple reason. I have experienced the ultimate consequence of drug abuse by young people. The individuals involved in the assault on my son, which culminated in his murder some eleven and a half years ago, raised marijuana abuse as an issue for defence.

In conclusion, let me say that many of my constituents, several provinces, the Canadian Police Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and many Liberal backbenchers have expressed various concerns over this legislation. For all of these reasons, I will oppose Bill C-10.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 1 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to partake in the debate on Bill C-10 which would provide for a fine or would make it a summary offence for the possession of marijuana.

I also say that it has been a pleasure for me to serve on the non-medical use of drug committee where we studied the whole issue of the decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs issues as well.

At the outset, I would like to reiterate the position of the Conservative Party of Canada on this contentious issue.

The most important thing to understand is that we believe the use and the possession of marijuana must remain illegal. The message that we would get out to young people and people all across the land is that it must remain illegal. However, possessions of five grams or less could be dealt with through summary offences, after other safeguards have been put in place. This is significantly less than the 15-gram limit that the Liberal government is proposing.

Failure to pay these significant fines should result in the loss of a driver's licence or something similarly important. In other words, we would propose that if we move to placing this as a summary offence, the payments must be vigorously enforced.

I would like to also personally suggest that all moneys collected from possession fines be specifically earmarked or tagged for drug addition research, for education, for information and treatment.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that what we are proposing could be more of a deterrent than the present situation inasmuch as the police may be more likely to fine individuals than charge them with a criminal offence. Writing out a fine is less onerous than laying a criminal charge, a charge which is often dismissed by our courts.

In my opinion, and I have spoken in the House regarding this in the past, scarce police resources could be better utilized dealing with much more serious crime, such as drug trafficking, which is synonymous with organized crime. Police forces all across Canada are grossly underfunded. As a result, the police are forced to priorize or to risk manage their investigations and their crime files.

On numerous occasions in the House, I have outlined the financial difficulties many municipalities in my riding of Crowfoot are encountering, as far as paying for police services. I pointed out that as a result of this financial crunch, the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police had stated that, without federal support, police services in the Province of Alberta would have no choice but to set an order of policing priorities. This would seriously jeopardize the safety and security of all Canadians.

I, unlike the Liberal government, fully recognize and respect the position of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police in regards to funding issues and in regards to Bill C-10.

The Alberta Chiefs of Police are opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana. Last year, at a meeting of the Alberta Police Chiefs in Lethbridge, Camrose police Chief Marshall Chalmers, said:

We are absolutely against decriminalization. We believe it's absolutely sending the wrong message.

Chief Chalmers is also the president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police. He believes that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs and to much more addictive drugs.

The Canadian Professional Police Association has serious reservations about the government's approach to drug use in Canada, particularly in regard to Bill C-10. It believes that it sends the wrong message to the youth. It has therefore strongly recommended that before the government does anything, that it come forward and implement what our committee asked, and that is to implement the national drug strategy that would provide frontline police officers with the tools to help reduce drug use and its negative consequences in communities.

The Canadian Medical Association and other health representatives are of the same opinion as the CPPA and have therefore urged the government to meaningfully fund and implement the national drug strategy prior to changing the legal status of marijuana.

As far as I understand it, this has the full support of the former minister of health, who publicly warned last year that decriminalization “will cause a spike in drug use”. Those are powerful words. The former Liberal health minister stood up and said that if we decriminalize marijuana, it will undoubtedly cause a spike in drug use. It sounds to me as if this is really defeating the problem we should be trying to solve.

Following a caucus meeting in mid-May, the former health minister, pointing to other countries that have softened their laws, expressed concern that decriminalization would lead to an increase in marijuana smoking, which in turn would lead to an addiction. The former justice minister rejected his colleague's assertion outright.

I imagine that similar sentiments have been proposed to all of us. As members of Parliament we receive letters. I know that similar proposals were conveyed to the Prime Minister in an open letter from the Canadian Professional Police Association. I will quote from their letter:

Perceived tolerance of drug use and misinformation has contributed to increased drug use among school age children. This will only continue until Canada adopts a National Drug Strategy focused on consistently and sufficiently informing Canadians about the true harm of drug use...we are disappointed by the rush to move forward with decriminalization before such a strategy is operational--

The CPPA outlined the necessary components of a national drug strategy, a strategy aimed at discouraging young people from using drugs. Unfortunately, the limited time available to me today does not permit me to provide the details of that plan.

I support the CPPA's proposal regarding the necessary components of the national drug strategy, as well as its advice not to proceed with Bill C-10 until the strategy is firmly implemented, established and properly funded.

I hold out little hope, however, that the justice minister will heed the advice, as his predecessor has totally ignored the advice of provincial counterparts.

The provincial justice ministers asked the former justice minister to remove Bill C-38 from the legislative agenda and to give greater priority to the national sex offender registry, to child pornography legislation and to conditional sentencing reviews.

As is evident by the bill before us today, the justice minister did not listen. This comes as absolutely no surprise to those of us on this side of the House and to members of the non-medical use of drugs committee. The justice minister completely pre-empted and ignored our committee's report. Our committee spent months travelling across the country. Indeed, we spent time travelling to other parts of the world consulting, and the justice minister completely pre-empted our report and did not really pay any heed to what it said.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the graduates in my riding and all those involved in the DARE program. Last week, my daughter attended her graduation in DARE. I know that over the last few weeks hundreds and perhaps thousands of children throughout Alberta and Canada have been a part of the DARE program, a program that warns children about the harmful use of drugs and about violence in their communities.

I see that my time is up. I would simply like to urge the justice minister to drop the bill from the legislative agenda until the national drug strategy has been fully implemented and is operational, and to return his focus to more priority measures against crime, such as the national sex offender registry.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 12:50 p.m.
See context


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak in favour of the amendments of this bill.

While I was not a member of the committee, I followed the issue very closely. It had a great deal of interest in my riding, for several reasons. I would like to commend members on all sides of the House for a truly productive committee process.

I know my colleague from Winnipeg Centre mentioned some of the amendments that he would like to have seen take place. I would underscore that my understanding is that the amnesty was simply too complex to build into the bill and must be dealt with administratively on a case by case basis. I would also really encourage anyone who has a criminal record to apply for a pardon before undertaking international travel.

I am very pleased to speak of some of the other amendments that are found in Bill C-10. Members are undoubtedly aware that countries treat cannabis possession in different ways. Some countries tolerate certain forms of possession and consumption, certain countries apply administrative sanctions or fines and others have penal solutions to the issue.

Despite the different legal approaches toward cannabis, there is a common trend and we certainly can see this particularly in European countries. There is the development of alternative measures to criminal possession for the cases of use and possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use. There is regime that can involve fines, cautions, prohibition, exemption from punishment and counselling, and we see these among the European judicial systems.

In Australia some states and territories have also adopted cannabis decriminalization measures. Some of these measures are similar to the ones being contemplated in Bill C-10, which is before the House. I would like to take just a few moments to describe the situation in South Australia, the first Australian jurisdiction to adopt cannabis decriminalization measures, and I think we can learn from this example.

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

The cannabis expiation notice, also known as CEN, came into effect in South Australia in 1987. Under this scheme, adults committing “simple cannabis offences” could be issued an expiation notice. Offenders were able to avoid prosecution by paying specified fees. The fees ranged in Australian dollars between $50 and $150, and Australian dollars are fairly comparable with Canadian dollars, as I am sure everyone is well aware. This fine had to be paid within 60 days of the issue of the notice. Failure to pay the specified fee within the 60 day period could lead to prosecution in court and the possibility of a conviction that would then be on a person's record.

Underlying this change was the rationale of a clear distinction that needed to be made between private users of cannabis and those that were involved in dealing, producing or trafficking in cannabis. This distinction was emphasized at the introduction of the cannabis expiation notice scheme by the simultaneous introduction of a more severe penalty for offences relating to manufacturing, production, the sale or supplying of all drugs of dependence in prohibitive substances. This included offences relating to large quantities of cannabis.

The CEN scheme was modified by the introduction of the expiation of offences act of 1996. It now provides those served with expiation notices the option of choosing between being prosecuted in order to actually contest the original notice. Previously if one did receive a notice, that person had to let the payment period expire before he or she could actually have a court appearance and then the notice could be contested. In choosing to be prosecuted, however, people who were issued a notice had their alleged offence converted from one which could be expiated to one which still carried the possibility of a criminal conviction.

The expiation system for minor cannabis offences in South Australia has been the subject of a number of evaluation studies. The impact of the implementation of such a system can best be seen in that review.

As I mentioned, the South Australian cannabis expiation notice system began in 1987. The main arguments for the system were the reduction of the negative social impacts upon the convicted minor cannabis offender as well as a potential cost saving to the state. Implicit in the former view was the belief that potential harms of using cannabis were outweighed by the harms arising from a criminal conviction.

None of the studies upon the levels or patterns of cannabis use in South Australia found that an increase in cannabis use was attributable to the introduction of the CEN scheme. Cannabis use did increase in South Australia over the 10 year period between 1985 and 1995, but increases in cannabis use were detected throughout Australia, including in jurisdictions that possessed a total prohibition approach to cannabis use. In fact the largest increase in the rate of weekly cannabis use across all Australian jurisdictions occurred in Tasmania, which was a strictly prohibitionist state between 1991 and 1995.

A comparative study of minor cannabis offenders in South Australia and in Western Australia concluded that both the CEN scheme, as well as the more punitive prohibition approach, actually had very little deterrent effect on cannabis users. Offenders from both jurisdictions reported that the expiation notice, or the conviction, had really little or no impact upon their subsequent cannabis and other drug related use. However, the adverse social consequences of having a conviction for using cannabis far outweighed those of receiving an expiation notice. A significantly higher proportion of those apprehended for cannabis use in Western Australia reported problems with employment, further involvement with the criminal justice system, as well as having trouble finding accommodation and having interpersonal relationship problems.

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

Substantial numbers of offenders still received convictions due to their failure to pay their expiation fees on time. This was due in large part to a poor understanding by the cannabis users of the legal implication of not paying their fee to avoid a court appearance and due to financial difficulties. Most CENs are issued for less than 25 grams of cannabis and half of all CENs issued were received by people between the ages of 18 and 24. This can have a huge impact on somebody's future if they are looking at a criminal conviction.

There has been strong support by law enforcement, as well as criminal justice personnel for this CEN scheme. It has proven to be relatively cost effective. They estimate that the costs for the scheme were about $1.24 million from 1995 to 1996 while total revenue from the fees and fines were around $1.68 million. Therefore, it is a difference between costing that for policing and getting that in revenue. Had a prohibition approach been in place, it is estimated that the total cost would have been around $2.01 million with revenue from fines around $1 million.

There is much to be learned by the international examples. The South Australian example is very instructional and it is one of which I think our government has made good use.

I would underscore that this is not technically decriminalizing measures, but simply bringing in a different regime on how we deal with people who do use small amounts of cannabis. I am very pleased to be here to speak in favour of the proposed legislation.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 12:40 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to enter into the debate on Bill C-10 on behalf of the NDP caucus.

I wish to pay tribute to the work done by the NDP's social policy critic, the member for Vancouver East, who has dedicated a great deal of energy and resources to this issue. She has tried, as is her way, to introduce a voice of reason into a highly charged and emotional debate about the decriminalization of marijuana. Her contribution has been noted by other speakers in the House and I too would like to acknowledge the good work she has done on the bill.

It was during the previous session of Parliament that Bill C-38 was examined by the special committee for the non-medical use of drugs and was amended. Throughout the committee process, the member for Vancouver East and the NDP pushed for a number of changes. We did get some movement from the government on certain aspects of the bill. When Parliament was suspended in November and the new session commenced, Bill C-38 became Bill C-10 and is now up for debate in the House today.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about this bill and about the government's effort. On September 30, 2002, the Speech from the Throne indicated that the federal government would consider the possibility of the decriminalization of marijuana possession. This piqued the interest of a great deal of people across the country. Many of us believe that it is a waste of time and resources to lock up a whole generation for the simple possession of marijuana.

Many of us are reminded by our own youth when we learned that places like Texas were locking people up for 30 years for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. There are still people in Texas jails serving the remainder of 30 year sentences that they received in the 1970s for marijuana possession. Our belief is that this is absolute folly.

We should be clear though that what was introduced in the Speech from the Throne was never passed because by May 2003 a government backgrounder on the bill stated that:

Under the proposals included in the bill, cannabis possession and production will remain illegal in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. What will change is the approach to enforcement.

The justice minister at the time made a public statement. He said:

--you say I'm saying it's not decriminalization. It has never been decriminalization.

Let us not let the Liberal government mislead people to think that the bill is about the decriminalization of marijuana. It is not and it never has been. What has been introduced under the bill is a fine regimen for simple possession under 15 grams.

Our problem with that approach is that, if enacted, the bill may lead to increased prosecutions and increased waste of resources by having this mandatory fine system and having fewer people charged criminally. The reason being is that quite often police let people go for a simple possession of under 15 grams because it would tie up the courts.

That would now be eliminated. Those people would now be fined. Criminologists have found that lowering, but not eliminating a punishment, results in more punishment. Among criminologists, it is called the net widening effect.

Individuals charged with fines and the people the police would normally have let off with a warning and a wave under the old system will instead be guaranteed to be hit with a fine. In other words, decriminalization in this formula could lead to more people being punished, not fewer. The Ottawa Citizen on May 28, 2003 stated:

A cutting-edge plan--if this was 1968: Replacing the criminal charge for possession with a fine will change little, or nothing at all.

What did the federal NDP push for? Our member for Vancouver East was very active in the committee and she pushed for the amnesty provisions that past charges or convictions for simple possession of marijuana should be erased. A pardon does not go far enough. We said that it should go back as far as records were kept.

I still have people who have difficulty travelling to the United States because on their permanent record they have a simple possession from back in 1970. If they answer honestly at the border if they have ever been convicted of an offence and they cite their simple possession charge in 1970, they run into difficulties.

We made suggestions that the records of people who received a fine for simple possession and/or cultivation for personal use would be sealed and not shared with Interpol or other foreign jurisdictions. That is a sensible thing that the NDP member for Vancouver East pushed for at committee and we are happy that the government side did accept it. This is truly something to celebrate.

I also wish to recognize the member for Burlington and her efforts on the committee and her willingness to work toward a reasonable resolution to some of these issues.

Under the non-commercial transfer of marijuana, simply giving marijuana for no money, in other words passing a joint, would be technically trafficking. When someone says “Pass that joint over to me”, technically the person who passes it may be guilty of trafficking.

Bill C-10 should be amended so that the non-commercial transfers of up to 30 grams of marijuana would not be considered trafficking. We pushed for that idea.

Under reasonable grounds for searches, changes should be made to the provisions which are required for police to obtain a search warrant to enter a person's home. Currently, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act suspicion that an illicit drug of any amount in a home is enough for a warrant to be issued.

The bill should include new provisions that are more consistent with decriminalization. The bill should be amended to require that police demonstrate reasonable grounds to believe that an amount of marijuana in the home would exceed 30 grams or that trafficking is in fact taking place in order to receive a search warrant.

Under fines, the NDP proposed that we eliminate the proposed fine for possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana. That was our base line position. Our member for Vancouver East argued that as aggressively as she could.

Under personal cultivation, non-punitive provisions for personal cultivation should have been included in the bill allowing for the personal cultivation of up to five plants. This has always been an irritant to any reasonable person in the country, that something that grows wild in the ditches could be a criminal matter if it is grown in their home.

The NDP did succeed on some issues. Throughout the committee stage, the two primary issues the NDP pushed for were ensuring that information on people who received fines for personal possession would be kept sealed and not shared. We are pleased that is the case today and that the laws would be amended to allow for the cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. We did get some improvements in these two areas.

The committee amended the bill to prohibit the disclosure of information on people who had a fine for simple possession. That is a very important measure because it would prevent law enforcement agencies in Canada from sharing that information with other countries. The U.S., in particular, often prohibits people from crossing the border if they have marijuana related charges or convictions.

Although the federal NDP pushed for amendments to allow personal cultivation of up to five plants, the Liberal dominated committee chose to set the maximum at three and it still supported imposing a fine. However, rather than the risk of jail time, those found with up to three marijuana plants would face a $500 fine. This is not satisfactory.

The NDP believes strongly that the bill needs to contain amnesty provisions for people who currently have criminal records for simple possession. Let us put a retroactivity measure in the bill, which we should have had, to correct an historic injustice and an historic wrong.

If simple possession of marijuana no longer risks a criminal charge, those who now have a record for a similar conduct should be entitled to amnesty. We feel very strongly on this point.

We had hoped that Bill C-10, or Bill C-38, would be a first step in recognizing the harms associated with a prohibitionist policy toward marijuana.

However, the new Minister of Justice has not given any indication that he supports further changes in this direction, leaving intact the myth that the criminal law can resolve problems relating to the use of drugs. We disagree and we feel it is sad that we could not get more of our amendments put through.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
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Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, again it is with pleasure that I rise to speak, this time to Bill C-10, which was previously Bill C-38.

The issue of simple marijuana possession has been studied frequently by many groups and often at great length. One such group is the Bloc Quebecois' youth forum, which has repeatedly looked at the risks associated with decriminalizing simple possession. In starting my speech, I would like to acknowledge and thank them for the work they have done on this issue.

Most analyses, if not all, have to be based on the premise that the repressive approach does not work, or, in any case, does not work well. This is a fact, despite the millions upon millions of dollars that have been invested. What we do know works well is prevention, and raising the awareness of everyone in our society, but especially of young people. That is the direction we should be taking.

Beyond raising awareness and prevention, we should adopt the principle that the possession of a small amount of marijuana must remain illegal and be penalized, but not under the Criminal Code. Leaving simple possession under the Criminal Code often makes the punishment worse than the crime. Bill C-38, the predecessor to Bill C-10, set out to eliminate this paradox. However, in the last session, the bill was not nearly as good as Bill C-10, which is currently before the House.

I believe we must give credit where credit is due and pay tribute to the special committee that was formed to work on this bill. I would like to acknowledge, among others, the work done by the member for Burlington, who chaired the committee. She did her job well, despite the fact that feelings often ran high in the committee. The subject matter the committee had to deal with naturally raises strong emotions and to many Quebeckers and Canadians is quite gut-wrenching, pardon the expression.

For many reasons, Bill C-10 is an improvement over its predecessor, Bill C-38.

First, this bill is an improvement because it contains the prohibition on disclosing a charge or conviction for possession to a foreign government or international organization. Many committee members believed, quite logically, that, if we want to avoid stigmatizing for life someone caught possessing a small amount of marijuana, it was essential not only that the Canadian authorities not use such information but that the knowledge of the offence for possession, the charge or perhaps even the conviction of an individual for possession not be disclosed to an international organization, agent of a foreign government or any individual working on behalf of another country. In this information age, we wanted to prevent a foreign country from learning about the offence committed by an individual, who would then be stigmatized not only in Canada but also abroad. We had to find a way to prevent something we did not want done directly from being done indirectly.

The other very interesting improvement is the comprehensive review of the effects of Bill C-10 within three years. Many people sent us e-mail messages, all based on feelings and very unscientific methods.

People claimed that, if marijuana possession were decriminalized, the earth would stop turning, civilization as we know it would end, and everyone would smoke up almost all the time. To avoid succumbing to pure demagoguery, we must base ourselves on the facts. What better way to do this than with a tri-annual review of the effects of enforcing Bill C-10. We will see that the naysayers predicting endless misfortunes as a result of the decriminalization of marijuana were wrong, and their fears and the consequences exaggerated.

I am not saying that the consequences of smoking marijuana are positive. That is not what I am saying; it is still a dangerous drug, and bad for our health. Nevertheless, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts will not lead to the decline of western society, as someone from Calgary commented in a letter to me.

Another improvement in the bill concerns possession of one to three plants. We have been told on so many occasions that organized crime was in control of the black market. So forcing occasional users to buy on the black market was forcing them into contact with biker gangs, making them into “worse” criminals, as well as encouraging organized crime because they made profits from the marijuana trade.

I brought in an amendment concerning growers of one to three plants. While this would still be illegal, it would not result in a criminal record, would not be a criminal offence under the Criminal Code. I was extremely pleased to see that my colleagues on the committee supported passage of that amendment.

It should also be pointed out that the special committee produced two reports. There is of course the one we are discussing today, with the amendments I have already mentioned, and then there is the one which called upon the government to step up the process of examination of legislation on driving under the influence of drugs. A number of different organizations, MADD Canada among them, came to us in order to raise our awareness of the problem of driving under the influence of drugs, and this they did most effectively, moreover.

We in committee felt there was sufficient consensus to make it a kind of twin brother—if I may call it such—to the bill decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana, by being far more severe on driving under the influence of drugs, and providing more efficient means of detection. At that time, I proposed a amendment to Bill C-48 in committee and was told this was out of order because it did not fall within the parameters of the bill. The idea was a good one, however, which is why we all decided to produce this second report. I must thank my colleagues for their support.

Today I saw reports in the media indicating that the Minister of Justice had heeded me, had heeded the committee, and will be taking steps to ensure that this bill, which is in preparation in various offices within this department, will be available for our discussion very soon.

That bill will make it possible for us to deal with driving under the influence of drugs, and is at least as important, if not more so, than Bill C-10. It must not drop out of sight. So we reiterate our support for Bill C-10.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

London West Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, we on this side of the House accept the Speaker's guidance on the motions that have been forwarded on report stage debate. The Speaker has accepted two technical motions brought forward by the government to amend Bill C-10. These amendments flow from the amendments that were made by the special committee and will make the bill a better bill while maintaining it, in each case the intention of the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs.

The amendments were proposed by the government after it had the opportunity to consider the amendments that were made by the special committee. Members are aware that, in the somewhat unusual circumstances of last October, the special committee did not feel that it had time to wait until another day for the government to present amendments to implement the changes it wanted. Thus, we have those amendments before us today.

Accordingly, the amendments were drafted in some haste on the night when the special committee began its clause by clause review of the bill. It is therefore not surprising that these technical amendments that we have today are necessary to consider the wording of the amendments made by the special committee. The government believes that the improvements to the wording can and should be made.

I will walk hon. members through the amendments so they will be able to vote on them with a full understanding of their implications. I am confident that members will then support the changes.

The first technical amendment is to clause 3.1. The special committee added a prohibition regarding the disclosure to a foreign government or an international organization or their agents of information relating to a cannabis contravention offence maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or by an organization having a law enforcement role unless the disclosure is required by a court order. Violation of the prohibition would be a summary conviction offence.

The wording adopted by the special committee is somewhat imprecise and vague. Reference to “other law enforcement information systems” and “organizations having a law enforcement role” are vague and need to be clarified. The government's proposed amendment would bring added clarity and precision to the text. However there is a very important change suggested.

The wording of the bill currently refers to “an agent of a foreign government”. The concern is that “agent”, which is undefined, could be interpreted quite narrowly. Therefore the government believes that the special committee's intent to foreclose unauthorized disclosure to anyone of information regarding tickets would be best accomplished by replacing “agent” with “a person who acts in the name of or on behalf of such a government or organization”.

The next amendments deal with the review of the provisions of the act. Members of the special committee heard conflicting testimony about the consequences of moving to a ticketing regime. They also heard from some witnesses that the increased penalties provided for major grow ops would have little effect in part because the courts would not respond to the signal provided by Parliament and that the offence of cultivation was to be treated very seriously. Some witnesses called for mandatory terms of imprisonment.

Given the importance of the changes which Bill C-10 is making in the way we would punish the possession of a relatively small amount of marijuana and in the way we would treat the cultivation of marijuana, the government fully accepts that there is a need for the review but the question is how best to ensure in law that the review will take place. The amendment of the committee is somewhat imprecise and vague.

The expression “national drug strategy”, for instance, is undefined in the bill. We know there is enough national drug strategy, announced by the government, and $245 million would be devoted to fighting drug abuse over five years. However, in law, the national drug strategy is not specifically existing.

Moreover, the term “government” is not defined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as it is in some other acts. To rectify this, the government is proposing an amendment that would bring added clarity and precision to the text and make it more effective in four ways.

First, the responsibility to appoint someone to carry out the review is placed squarely on the shoulders of the minister who is charged with the administration of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and who has the primary responsibility for Canada's drug strategy, and that would be the Minister of Health.

Second, the scope of the review was significantly expanded. The provision in the bill currently calls for a review of the “Alternative in Penalties”, which refers only to the ticketing regime. The proposed change will cover “the provisions and operation of the act”. This means that the report should cover the effects of the increased penalties for grow ops.

Third, the existing provision provides no timeline for the completion of the review. In theory, the mere appointment of the reviewer of the act would constitute compliance with the provision. If this amendment is accepted the review will have to be completed and submitted to the minister within one year of the appointment.

Fourth, the minister of the day will be obliged to table the report in both Houses of Parliament within 30 sitting days after receiving it.

Clearly the process that is proposed in these amendments is preferable to the process currently in Bill C-10. I put these motions and their explanations before the House for its consideration.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I have so much to say and only 10 minutes in which to say it. There are several things that must be pointed out here.

The question is why Bill C-10 is before the House now. I suppose it is to try to take the focus off the government's stealing antics, of taking money from the public. I think the other reason it is here is to take the focus off the national drug strategy, which there really is not one. Here we are trying to do a little bit of a national drug strategy and we are not doing a good job of it.

I will provide a quote from the Ottawa Citizen . The Prime Minister said:

I think one's got to take a look at the fines, I think that you have to take a look at the quantities and I think that there has to be a larger effort against the grow ops and those who distribute it.

The heading of this article is, “Marijuana bill will be back, but stronger: Martin favours higher fines than Chrétien's version”.

The fact is that virtually nothing has changed. The new Prime Minister has tabled in the House virtually the same bill that was tabled before. Nothing has changed. We were told that something would be better in this bill and it is just as bad as it was before.

I also want to remind everyone that we are talking about a harmful substance. Before I get into the bill itself, I want to provide the medical evidence of what marijuana does.

Marijuana has a strong addictive capacity. This is emerging more and more in research and it is obvious for many marijuana users. Marijuana clearly impacts school performance and developmental trajectory. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned of the possible effects of marijuana on the developing fetus, especially in the parts of the brain responsible for attention and memory. Marijuana has the same effects on the respiratory system as tobacco. Marijuana impairs motor functions. Estimates suggest that up to 15% of fatal motor car crashes involve marijuana.

The use of marijuana as medicine is highly questionable. Research has not demonstrated clear and unique benefits. Even Holland has refused to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

This is the product we will be talking about throughout the whole debate. I want people to know that we are not talking about a substance that we want to give a green light to in this country.

The Prime Minister suggested that he would change the bill. I want Canadians to know what is not in Bill C-10.

Bill C-10 sends the wrong message to Canada's youth. Penalties for the production of marijuana have actually decreased from the current legislation where 25 plants or less are found, when they should have increased. Fines for growing the plants were decreased even further at committee stage for amounts under three plants.

Having a lighter fine for young people than for adults sends the wrong message. On one hand the Liberals are saying they are trying to prevent youth from using drugs and on the other hand they are effectively eliminating any real penalty for them to do so.

I also take note that no resources have been provided for police to crack down on organized crime that is profiting from lax enforcement. Nothing has been done in that area.

The fines set out in the bill are much too low and do not increase for subsequent offences. In other words, if a person is caught once or 30 times it makes no difference, the fine is the same. That is a major flaw in the legislation. Repeat offenders should always pay tougher consequences for their crime.

The whole idea about a national drug strategy is interesting. We started out with the drug committee of the House of Commons, although it was biased, and we can appreciate that, from the government's point of view. We wanted a national drug strategy. We do not have a national drug strategy. What we got is a government throwing out this idea of decriminalizing marijuana and leaving it at that. No proceeds of crime legislation has been advanced, or put into this legislation, or amended along with this legislation.

I have just dealt with one case and there are thousands of cases like it. The individual came from another country and has been on welfare since the day he got here. He got caught in a grow op. We found out that he owns three houses. How does one person who has been here for nine years on welfare own three houses? It is from proceeds of crime. The houses should be removed from the individual under the tax act or any other legal means and used for drug rehabilitation or some other facility. That was not advanced in this legislation.

No provision has been put forward in this bill to deal with the damages done to houses and other facilities as a result of grow ops.

What really irritates me about this more than anything is the fact that I am talking about marijuana legislation and there is not one single Liberal sitting in the House. That is really irritating. I have to say there is something wrong in this country when we are debating an extremely important bill and not one Liberals is sitting over there.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Nepean—Carleton Ontario


David Pratt Liberalfor the Minister of Justice


That Bill C-10, in Clause 3.1, be amended by replacing lines 12 to 23 on page 2 with the following:

“trieval system maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or any other law enforcement information system maintained by an organization that has a law enforcement role, and who knowingly discloses to a foreign government, an international organization or a person who acts in the name or on behalf of such a government or organization information contained in that system respecting an offence referred to in subsection 4(5), (5.1), (5.2) or (5.4) or paragraph 7(3)(a) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is guilty of an”

That Bill C-10, in Clause 9.1, be amended by replacing lines 1 to 8 on page 7 with the following:

“9.1 (1) Within three years after this section comes into force, the Minister shall appoint one or more persons to carry out a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this Act.

(2) The review shall be completed and a report of the review submitted to the Minister within one year after the appointment referred to in subsection (1).

(3) The Minister shall have a copy of the report laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first 30 days on which that House is sitting after the Minister receives the report.”

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2004 / noon
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

There are seven motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-10.

Motions Nos. 5 to 7 will not be selected by the Chair as they could have been presented in committee.

Motions Nos. 2 and 3 will not be selected by the Chair as they were defeated in committee.

As well, Motions Nos. 2, 3 and 6 have not met the notice requirement pursuant to Standing Order 76(2).

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

Motions Nos. 1 and 4 will be grouped for debate and voted upon separately. Motions Nos. 1 and 4 shall now be proposed to the House.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 17th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
See context


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions. The first one is mostly from members of my riding in the City of Windsor with a couple hundred signatures in support of Bill C-10B, which is the bill providing further protection to animals in our society by way of amendments to the Criminal Code.

Contraventions ActRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Mount Royal Québec


Irwin Cotler LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved to introduce Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-38 was at the time of prorogation of the previous session.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
See context


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying through you to the member for Rimouski--Neigette-et-la Mitis that as long as she is present in the House of Commons, Quebec's voice will never be diluted. As I reflect back over the last 16 years I have served in this chamber, one of my special joys has been meeting members from different parties for whom I feel great admiration for the work they do. The member is one of the special contributors to helping this place be a better place.

On the point of the motion, I humbly disagree with my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. It is important that we let Canadians know what we are trying to achieve. It is an easy thing to pick and choose the bills that we are trying to reintroduce to the House in this motion.

I heard one of the members from the new Conservative Party this morning put a big focus on Bill C-38, the marijuana bill. This is not about reintroducing just the marijuana bill. There are a number of bills on this motion that we are trying to reintroduce.

We should tell Canadians the reason we are trying to reintroduce these bills that lapsed in the last session is we want to pick up where we left off, especially with those bills on which we probably have a consensus, such as: Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals, which I will come back to in a minute; Bill C-17, public safety; Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship; Bill C-20, protection of children; Bill C-26, the railway safety act; Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences; Bill C-43, the Fisheries Act; Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act; and Bill C-56, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. There are many more like these bills.

If we are going to be candid with the Canadian public who are listening to this debate today, we have to let them know that it has been a convention for hundreds of years that in a new session the government has up to 30 days to introduce bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session ended. This is a convention that has long been practised. It does not mean that when these bills come back we will vote on them all at once. Members will have a chance to say yea or nay on each individual bill.

The idea of delaying this has an adverse effect on citizens in every riding of the country. Some of those bills touch every riding in the country. A case could be made on the electoral boundaries. We all know what that is about. That is an attempt to delay the election. I personally would not have any problem if we delayed the election for a while, but the reality is that we will have a chance to vote yea or nay on all of these bills when they come back. I do not think this delay tactic serves the opposition party well.

I want to talk about a very specific bill on the Order Paper that has concern in my riding and has had national attention in the last couple of weeks. It is Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals.

As hon. members may know, Withrow Park is in my riding. It is a fairly large park. It certainly would not be large by the standards of the member for Rimouski, but in my little community in downtown Toronto, Withrow Park is a major park and is probably about 10 to 15 acres big. About two weeks ago someone put poison in the park where people walk their dogs and from time to time let the dogs off the leash. The one that hit national media was T-Bone, a King Charles spaniel. He was quite well known.

In my constituency there are over 10,000 pet owners. Those pets are sources of comfort and have special relationships with many of the seniors and families in my riding. The attachment, the love and the affection for these animals is in many respects similar to that of parents with children. The notion that someone would drop poison is overwhelming. In fact the poison is not even available in Canada; it can only be obtained by licence in the United States.

It is that kind of insensitivity with which a bill like Bill C-10 deals. The notion that this House would work at delaying reintroducing a bill like that is not in my mind a constructive way to go.

I am hoping that through the motion that is on the floor today we can create some new consensus so that we can move forward on getting these bills back on track.

A lot of people would feel pretty anxious if an election was upon us and we let a lot of these bills die before the election. When we came back, I believe we would have to go through the entire process again. What is that process? Probably a lot of Canadians do not realize that hours and hours go into getting a bill to this stage. Witnesses come to the various committees of the House of Commons and give members of Parliament from all parties expert advice on designing the bills.

In the manufacture, preparation and formulation of a piece of legislation in the House, we do not just snap our fingers and a bill is put together by the legislative branch. Bills are built after receiving hundreds of hours of input from citizens across Canada. Some of them use their own money to come here to give expert testimony. The House of Commons committee system funds some of them to come here. The notion that we would just scrap all of that work is most disrespectful to the work of all of those witnesses we have heard with respect to the 40 or 50 bills that we are trying to put back on the Order Paper.

I would appeal to the leadership of the Conservative Party and the leadership of the NDP. The NDP should take a strong stand on this because I know there are bills here on which the NDP has had a strong influence. Those members should stand and say they support the government in moving these bills forward.

There are bills that affect every region of our country, such as the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Look at all the great work that went into putting that bill together. Look at all the travel time from every region of the country, especially the long distances from the north. Look at the ethics bill. How could the opposition not want us to proceed on the ethics bill? There is also the whole area of the Food and Drugs Act.

These are bills that affect the health of the citizens of every riding in the country. The notion that there would be opposition to bringing these bills back and passing them is counterproductive. It is part of the reason that people lose trust in this place, because stalling just for the sake of stalling I do not think serves anyone very well.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 10th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.
See context


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this issue today particularly because we have heard a lot in the House about taking action on various issues. It is regrettable that opposition members talk about taking action but are not prepared to do anything.

When it comes to the reinstatement of government bills, there is a time honoured tradition in the House and in Great Britain with regard to reinstatement. I do not hear any alternatives from that side of the House. If we do not reinstate these bills, what does the opposition propose?

We have debated, examined and reviewed a number of bills that are at various stages. We are asking, as the government, to reinstated them so we may continue in the public interest. The public interest is not served by the delay tactics of the opposition. The public interest is not served by the opposition pretending concern about the state of the issues, whether they are environmental or public safety issues or whether it is about democratic reform.

At the same time those members do not want to act because they would rather play politics. They would rather not look at the fact that since 1970, 1972 and 1986, it has occurred in the House. Maybe the opposition has a lot more time on its hands than we on this side of the House have but when something is examined and reviewed it is brought back to the current state in which it was left in order to proceed. I assume that part of the objective would be to hopefully complete the legislation and move forward. That would be in the public interest.

The public interest is not served by delay and it is not served by politicking or continuous chatter. It is only served when we take action and move forward on legislation in which all of us have been involved.

All of us have been involved in the various bills that are now being asked to be reinstated before the House. Unfortunately we have members across the way who are suggesting that we do not need to do this but they offer no alternative. It is very easy to criticize but, unfortunately, they are not prepared to act.

One of the things that we have talked about is that we have tabled an new action plan for democratic reform. However apparently it only is supposed to work on this side of the House and not on that side. We on this side of the House want free votes but I have never seen, in all the years I have been here, free votes on that side. On that side they always vote together. Why? It is because their objective is to defeat the government.

They are not interested in true reform. If they were interested in true reform they would loosen their own whips and allow the kind of votes that need to take place.

However, that is one of the reforms that has been tabled in the House. We hear a lot of rhetoric from that side but we have not seen any action.

What is the process of government? Bills are introduced in the House and once they pass second reading they go to committee. Many of the standing committees have reviewed legislation. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries have appeared before those committees. Members have debated the issues. Canadians are saying that they want to see certain legislation go through but the people on the other side would rather delay.

I find it incomprehensible to understand why they would want to delay legislation that is extremely important for Canadians, such as animal cruelty? Why would they want to delay that bill? More than one member in the House has received calls on the issue of animal cruelty, on Bill C-10B. No, we would rather have this whole thing start from scratch, because that is the only alternative. It is utter nonsense to suggest that we review something we have already reviewed.

As a former teacher, I do not think it is very productive to do that. Some teachers might want someone to write lines on the board 100 times but that is not very productive. I would rather use the time more effectively. I am sure there are colleagues on the other side who would like to be more effective than simply rewriting what we have already done.

I know some of my colleagues across the way work very co-operatively when it comes to getting bills through the House and making sure we deal with the information but we have some who would rather delay. Why do they want to delay? It is because they have no other suggestions and no alternatives. They want to start from square one.

The particular motion before the House is to restore the role of parliamentarians. It is for parliamentarians to examine legislation carefully. This is not a time limit where we are going to suddenly say that the bill has to be passed tomorrow. However we cannot deal with the legislation if we cannot move forward. At the moment we cannot move forward because some members have said that they do not want any action whatsoever.

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say on the one hand that they want the House of Commons to be effective, to move forward and to have democratic reform when on the other hand they would rather stay pat and not do anything. I do not know what we would be doing but according to them they want nothing done.

The interests of Canadians are not being served by simply doing nothing. The public interest is only served when we are working and when we are working effectively on legislation that we have been dealing with.

What is the issue? The issue from our side is that we want to reinstate legislation, something that has been done many times in the past, as I have said, namely the bills that were examined before Parliament was prorogued in November. This is very simple and it has been done many times before.

I am sure there are bills that members on the other side of the House are concerned about. Whether they support them or not, I think they need to be debated and they need to have a public hearings but his cannot be done if we simply freeze everything and say that we are not going to do everything because we would rather debate procedure, rather than debate the real issues.

We cannot get royal assent on a bill if we cannot get it back on the Order Paper and it dies. We do not want it to die. The Canadian public wants bills to be adopted and they cannot be adopted if we are going to reinvent the wheel, which seems to be the approach.

We will not start at zero. We will not give the same speeches or go through the same witnesses. We will not go through the same examination. It has been done and, I am sure, very thoroughly by the standing committees responsible for various pieces of legislation.

It is clear that because the committees will be established that in this case we will not be very productive if there are some bills that have been sitting around because of amendments that have not been dealt with that Canadians are saying let us move forward on, and yet we are more concerned in some quarters in the House with dealing with the issue of whether or not the government should be able to bring in closure. In fact, in Great Britain closure is automatic on every bill.

I hear about democracy. Some of the people on the other side really send me when they talk about democracy, when in fact they use the most anti-democratic means possible to hold up legislation. They say that they support free votes but do not ask them to apply free votes. Some members in certain quarters over there do not practice what in fact they preach. It is a bit hypocritical to suggest otherwise.

Of course none of this has escaped notice on this side of the House that parliamentarians are interested in getting work done. If at the end of the day a committee decides not to pass legislation, that is the will of the committee, but a committee cannot act if it is not constituted and it cannot be constituted unless we move forward. That is what we are prepared to do on this side of the House.

I think we all have much better things to do. Unfortunately, today we are taking up the entire day talking about whether we should reinstate bills. This is a waste of the taxpayer dollars. People on that side of the House, particularly those in the Conservative Party, always talk about whether money is well used. I think it is a misuse of taxpayer dollars to talk about whether we should move forward on legislation that has already been before parliamentarians. I would certainly commend the fact that we move forward as expeditiously as possible.

As the House knows, this proposal would allow ministers, within 30 days after the start of the session and after the motion is adopted, to apply to the Speaker for permission to reinstate bills from the previous session. That, in fact, is what we are trying to do.

As members know, when the last session ended we brought forward a motion to simply say that we wanted to reinstate bills, as was done before, and that we would do it in in a way that would not come as any surprise to my colleagues, either on this side or the other side of the House.

However it is not new. Perhaps some of the members on the other side were asleep, but it clearly has been a procedure that has been done many times. It was done in 1970, 1972, 1986 and 1991. In fact it is something that is there and it gives us the opportunity to deal with very legitimate legislation. Even in October 1999, the House adopted a similar motion to the one before us today.

Clearly the proposed motion is similar to the Standing Orders that allow private members' bills to be reintroduced following prorogation. I know dealing with the issues of private members is of concern to members on this side of the House and I am sure to my colleagues on the other side of the House.

What we are dealing with today is nothing new. It is nothing radical. It is nothing surprising. It is simply trying to get the business of the nation moving forward, and we cannot do that with the delaying tactics from the other side.

We need to get on with it. We need to ensure that legislation moves forward. As to what the result will be, that is up to the committee and ultimately to the House. However, we cannot do it if we cannot start immediately.

There has been derogatory comments made on the other side, for example, on Bill C-49 which sees the enhancement of the democratic character of our nation by having new boundaries. Clearly, some of the members on the other side would rather us have boundaries which reflect population changes which have not been seen in 10 years.

I come from a riding that is the second or third largest in Canada by population; close to 200,000. I think it reflects the fact that in a fast growing community, such as mine, need to have these changes. It may be all right for some members on the other side, but the reality is that we want to be up to date.

We believe these changes are important and Canadians have said they are important. If we are to have a census and we do not take action on what the census has told us, why have a census? If we are to truly represent British Columbia, which will get two new seats, or Alberta with two seats or Ontario with three seats, we have to be much more responsive. As I say, we will simply respond to what the census has told us.

Bill C-34 deals with an independent ethics commissioner reporting to the House of Commons. Who could argue against that? Again, this is something Canadians have said they want to see. It is something we said we are prepared to act on quickly. Yet every day we hear the other side complaining about why the ethics counsellor is not reporting directly to Parliament. We have a bill that will do just that and the opposition members are still complaining.

I do not understand for the life of me how they think they can have it both ways. Either they want an ethics commissioner who is independent, who reports to the House and they are prepared to vote on it and move forward, or they are not. They cannot simply say one thing and do another, although some of them obviously have Ph.Ds in that regard because they have mastered this to such a degree that they say one thing and do another.

As the former parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, I remember that. On one day members of the opposition would say that we should spend $2 billion. The next day they would say that we would have to cut $3 billion. Only Harry Houdini could probably do that. However, the reality is that we had to balance the books on this side and we could not take, and thank goodness we did not take, the advice of some of my colleagues on the other side.

There is the issue of public safety. We have the public safety act of 2002 and amendments to the Criminal Code. Some of our friends in the Conservative Party continually talk about the Criminal Code. Who could argue against protecting children and other vulnerable groups of people, which is the public safety act? Apparently some members can because they do not want this legislation to go forward.

To me the protection of children is paramount. Why we would even waste any time wanting to debate whether that bill should go forward? It is disgraceful to suggest that the protection of children should take second place to the procedural wrangling of the opposition. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

The Westbank First Nation self-government act is another example. Again, that has been debated and discussed, and the opposition would rather drag its feet.

We want to ensure clean water, a good environment and a strong health care system, issues that really need to be debated in the House. They need to be debated in committee. Unfortunately, the opposition is more interested in procedural wrangling.

I would suggest that the time has come to move forward. The time has come to put people first and to put the workings of this Parliament ahead of the politics across the way. If the members opposite do not support the legislation, fine. However, unless we have the debate on that legislation, we will be unable to do the business of the nation. We cannot do the business of the nation under the current situation.

As I said before, even Great Britain, which of course we model ourselves after, has closure. The opposition uses the word closure as if somehow it is a dirty word. That is done for every bill in England. The parliamentarians have a discussion on one day, then they move on. Here, we talk about different issues. Sometimes a long discussion is good. Unfortunately, the group on the other side is only interested in dragging its feet. It is not interested in dealing with the nation's business. Whether it is cruelty to animals, or protection of children, other than concern, these are hardly issues which I would think there would be much to say about. Let us put those things first and move forward.

Unfortunately, we continue to have to do this once in a while, and it is regrettable. However, we do not have the support of our colleagues on the other side because they play politics. I know they are obviously concerned about other things, but we are not afraid on this side of the House to talk about the issues. We are not afraid on this side of the House to deal with the issues. We are not afraid on this side of the House to let the chips fall where they may. However, we cannot do it if we are going to spend hours and hours wrangling over whether we can move forward with legislation, which every member in this House has been involved in, whether it has been examining or discussing it in the committee.

Let us move forward and let us get on with the business of the nation.

Reinstatement of Government BillsGovernment Orders

February 9th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
See context


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion seeks to reinstate bills that died on the Order Paper when the previous session of Parliament ended.

As all of us know, the goal of the motion is a simple one: to spare members the burden of having to repeat work on bills that got as far as the committee stage in the last session.

This is especially commendable given the numerous pressures MPs are under and the limited resources available to us.

What features are contained in the motion? Simply put, under the motion a minister would be able to request during 30 sitting days after the motion's adoption the reinstatement of a bill that had reached at least the committee stage when the last session ended. Should the Speaker be satisfied that the bill is the same as in the previous session, the bill would be reinstated at the same stage as before.

Thus during this session we can skip all the stages of debate that have been completed so far. The work of the committees that are considering the bills would consequently be preserved. In short, this is a very appealing option.

Parliament relies heavily upon precedents which means we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure new measures are consistent with past practices. Is this motion in keeping with the longstanding practices of the House? It is in fact a practice we have had for over three decades.

On a number of occasions reinstatement motions have been adopted by consent and without debate. It is clear that today's motion is well within the bounds of accepted parliamentary practice. This is supported by Marleau and Montpetit's authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure which discusses this issue in some detail. While they recognize that as a general principle prorogation of a session means that all bills that have not yet received royal assent die on the Order Paper and must be reintroduced in the new session, they also recognize that “bills have been reinstated by motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached at the end of the previous session; committee work has similarly been revived”.

One point that needs clarification is that this motion allows the government the flexibility to reintroduce certain bills. It does not require the government to reintroduce all bills that were on the Order Paper at a certain stage when Parliament prorogued. Let me give an example of some bills which the government would have the flexibility to reinstate if it so chose.

One is Bill C-7 on the administration and accountability of Indian bands. The new government has indicated it would like to revisit that whole question of governance but nonetheless, this motion would give the government the flexibility to reintroduce that bill should it so choose.

Another one is Bill C-10B on cruelty to animals which has received a lot of attention in my riding. Bill C-13, assisted human reproduction, as an example had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate and a great deal of the work that had been done here in the House of Commons would have to be redone. Bill C-17 on public safety was another bill that had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate.

Bill C-18, an act respecting Canadian citizenship, is another bill that the government if this motion passes will be able to reintroduce if it so chooses. Bill C-19, first nations fiscal management, was at report stage. Bill C-20, protection of children, was at report stage. Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, was in committee. Bill C-23, registration of information relating to sex offenders, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-26, the Railway Safety Act, was in committee. Bill C-27 on airport authorities was at second reading when the House prorogued.

Bill C-32, Criminal Code amendments, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-33, international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, was at report stage when we prorogued. Bill C-34, ethics, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate where it had been amended.

These are bills that have gone through a lengthy debate and process within the House of Commons and some already within the Senate.

Bill C-35, remuneration of military judges, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-36, Archives of Canada, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage and second reading. Bill C-40, Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was at first reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-43, the fisheries act, was at first reading when the House prorogued.

Bill C-46, the capital markets fraud bill, had passed third reading and had been sent to the Senate. This is a bill that will help the government deal with the kind of corporate fraud that we have seen with Enron and many other examples. We want to make sure that our government has the ability to deal with these types of issues so that investors are protected from the fraudulent activities of the management of various companies and their directors.

Bill C-49, the electoral boundaries act had passed third reading and was in the Senate.

Bill C-51, the Canada Elections Act, and Bill C-52, the Radiocommunication Act, were at second reading when the House prorogued. Bill C-53, the riding name changes, had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate. Bill C-54, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act was in committee as was Bill C-56, the Food and Drugs Act, when the House prorogued. Bill C-57, the westbank first nation self-government act was also in committee.

There was a lot of work involved in getting these bills to this stage. The government is not necessarily committing to reintroducing all these bills, but we want the flexibility to reintroduce those bills which we support and not have to reinvent the wheel.

The amendment put forward by the member for Yorkton--Melville indicates that there are a number of bills that, given the government's flexibility, he would not like to have reinstated. That includes Bill C-7, the bill dealing with the administration and accountability of Indian bands. Our government may want to revisit that bill.

The member for Yorkton--Melville has said that Bill C-13, the assisted human reproduction bill, should be left alone as well. He names a number of other bills such as Bill C-19, Bill C-20, Bill C-22, Bill C-26, Bill C-34, Bill C-35, Bill C-36, Bill C-38.

I should point out that a number of these bills, Bill C-13 for example, passed third reading and was in the Senate.The member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over with that bill.

He said that Bill C-34, the ethics legislation, should not be reinstated, yet that bill had passed third reading and was sent to the Senate where it had been amended. We all know about that bill.

He said that we should start all over again with regard to Bill C-35, remuneration for military judges legislation. That bill had passed third reading and was in the Senate,.

I do not know what is so contentious with regard to Bill C-36, the archives of Canada legislation, but the member for Yorkton--Melville wants us to start all over again with that bill. Bill C-38, the marijuana bill, was at report stage.

A lot of work has already been done in this chamber and in the other place on bills that, without the passage of this motion, would have to be started all over again. There is a long list of precedents for reinstating government bills and reviving committee work.

For example, in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986, the members of this House gave their unanimous consent to a motion to reinstate bills from a previous session.

In 1977 and 1982 members amended the Standing Orders to allow Parliament to carry over legislation to the next session. All of which testifies to the longstanding practice of the House of allowing the reinstatement of bills at the same stage as was the case in the previous session, which is precisely what the motion calls for.

It is interesting to note, and I have some personal interaction with this particular idea, that the procedure proposed in the motion is similar, in fact it is identical, to that which exists in the Standing Orders for private members' bills which the House adopted in 1998.

I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, an act respecting user fees, that unanimously passed all stages in the House, was in the Senate, had passed first reading in the Senate and had been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. Then we prorogued. Without this particular feature, I would have had to start all over again in the House of Commons after two to three years of work and a bill that had passed unanimously at all stages in the House of Commons.

With this particular Standing Order, the bill is already on the floor of the Senate. We did not have to reinvent the wheel here in the House of Commons. I am hopeful that it will be passed to the Standing Committee on National Finance shortly and then onwards from there.

We say that those rules are good for private member's bills, in fact they have the support of the House because they are now part of the Standing Orders. We say, on the one hand for private members' business, it is all right to reinstate these bills, but for the government's business it is not, this is a whole new thing.

The member opposite said that if we have a new government then why do we not have new ideas. I can assure the member that if he read the throne speech, and if he looked at the new democratic deficit paper, this is just the start. He will see that the government will be operated very differently.

However, having said that, there is no problem in my judgment to reintroduce those bills that make sense. There has been a lot of work done already. With this motion, the government would have the flexibility to deal with these bills that have been passed, where there is consent of the House, and send them to the Senate.

It is interesting to note that in 1977, a private member's bill was reinstated after Parliament was dissolved.

All of which inevitably leads us to the conclusion, as I said earlier, that if it is reasonable to reinstate private members' bills at the same stage, surely we have the common sense in this chamber to say that it is reasonable to follow the same procedure with respect to government bills.

What would be different about government bills? If we have adopted the procedure in the House for private members' business, why would we want different rules for government business, unless we are out to score political points or be partisan in our debate?

I should point out that this practice of reinstating bills is also practised in other mature democracies that have ruled in favour of bringing legislation forward from one session to another.

I think of the parliament in the United Kingdom from which many of our own parliamentary practices originally came. It has reinstatement motions to allow government bills to carry over from one session to the next.

The official opposition has told the media that it would oppose the motion for the sole purpose of delaying bills from the last session. This is patently unfair and contrary to House practices. The attitude shows it has little regard for the work of the House and for Canadian taxpayers. Opposition members will ask members of the House, at great cost to the public treasury, to come back and re-debate bills that have already passed this chamber and are in the Senate in many cases.

The bills that will be reinstated would include the legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries which was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate.

We talk about dealing with western alienation. This particular legislation would allow more seats for British Columbia and Alberta. This is the way to proceed. Why would we want to delay that bill? Why would we want to have the debate all over again on something that is patently obvious.

We take the census and figure it all out, and draw the boundaries. This is not rocket science. This is done by Elections Canada. It redefines the boundaries. It recognizes that Canada is a growing country, that different areas are growing more quickly than others, and it redefines the boundaries.

If we have that bill when the next election is called, Alberta and British Columbia will have a bigger voice. I think Ontario would receive more seats as well. I am sure that there could be an amendment that could be put forward to deal with Nova Scotia perhaps.

There is the legislation to create an independent ethics commissioner and a Senate ethics officer, something that the members opposite have argued for vociferously for months, perhaps years. This bill could be reinstated very simply by agreeing and adopting this motion. We could have an independent ethics commissioner for the House and a Senate ethics officer.

The motion should have the support of the House. It is the practice in most mature democratic countries.

In conclusion, we need to be clear that adoption of the motion does not mean that all the bills that were on the Order Paper when we prorogued would automatically come back. It means that the government would have the flexibility to pick those bills that, in its wisdom and judgment, it sees fit to bring back. That would allow us not to have to reinvent the wheel and re-debate those bills that have the support of the chamber. Many of them also have the support of the Senate, at least at first reading stage.

The motion before us today does not represent a break with our parliamentary traditions. In fact, it is very much a part of our parliamentary traditions and it is entirely consistent with the practice of the House dating back to 1970.

Moreover, the measures described in the motion would greatly contribute to freeing up the members so that they can focus on the important task of developing new initiatives for promoting the well-being of Canadians.

With this in mind, I certainly intend to support this motion. I would urge other members to support it so we can get on with the business of the House, the important business and legislation that can be brought forward and reinstated and not have to be re-debated.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

February 5th, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.
See context


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to comment on the Speech from the Throne.

First, I would like to note that the Prime Minister clearly outlined a vision that Canadians can clearly understand: a compassionate society that invests in young people and technology and at the same time keeps the books balanced, which is very important.

I found it odd that before the Speech from the Throne was read critics on the other side were already denouncing it before it had actually been released. That kind of clairvoyance is something that is rather new. The Super 7 draw is on Friday at $32.5 million. If they could tell us the numbers in advance, I think we would all benefit because they clearly already said there was nothing in the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne in fact is not a detailed document. It obviously gives a broad brush to outline the direction that the government wants to take in the next few years. I point out that there were a number of key elements in it.

The first one clearly is on the issue of not going into a deficit, to ensure that whatever plans move forward they are done in a fiscally responsible manner. Canadians expect no less, demand no less and the government has a proven track record when it comes to strong fiscal management. It is important again, with six balanced budgets or better, in terms of paying down the national debt. It is important that when we invest, we do so responsibly.

Some people will argue that we are not back to 1993 levels in some areas. The fact is, if we look back at the financing in 1993, a third of it was borrowed money. We can now say with strict confidence that the moneys that are being allocated and spent are moneys that we have in the bank, and we are not borrowing.

A lot has been said about municipal governments and the new deal. I have many years in municipal politics as the former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. I was around at the time arguing for a 100% rebate on the goods and services tax. In 1991 the Conservative government of the day agreed to a 57.14% rebate. I am of the view that municipal governments are like no other governments. It is a government and therefore it should not be taxed, provincial governments to federal and federal to provincial, and the same with municipal.

The Prime Minister announced that a 100% rebate would now be applied. It is estimated to be $7 billion over 10 years. It is a significant infusion and is something that we as a government can do to assist in terms of transit, affordable housing, et cetera.

The point is municipal governments are still, under the constitution, creatures of the provinces. It is important to note that when we had legislation in the House a few years ago on Bill C-10 to ensure that we had timely payments as a federal government to municipal governments in this country, our friends over there, the johnny-come-latelies on the issue of municipal governments in Canada, opposed the national infrastructure in the 1993 program and opposed the issue of payments in lieu of taxes . Now they say we are not doing enough.

It is always easy for the opposition to say that we are not doing enough because one day they want the government to spend $3 billion, the next day they want it to cut $3 billion. The difficulty is it has to be done in partnership and in a responsible manner. The Prime Minister clearly has understood the needs of communities, large and small, and is prepared to work with them.

The issue I think is one of empowerment , so I am very pleased to see the Prime Minister in this Speech from the Throne address those issues and address them because we know that people, whether they live in small communities or large, need to have the proper environment. They need clean water and road systems. We have to ensure we are investing in the people in those communities.

The response of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the mayors is significant. In fact Mayor Miller of Toronto said that it fundamentally changed the nature of the relationship between cities and the federal and provincial governments forever. He said that it was a complete sea change, a breakthrough.

These are people who deal with the day to day issues in their communities. We realize that we cannot supplant the provinces, but we can work in conjunction with provinces, territories and municipal governments.

That is a fundamental recognition because 80% of the people in the country live in urban areas. That was obviously not the case in 1867 when we had about 6%. We have recognized that and are moving forward.

Regarding the issue of empowerment, colleagues across the way often talk about the fiscal imbalance in the country, which is a myth. Provinces have the ability to tax even more so than the federal government. When this government was in a situation where we had a $42.5 billion deficit, we never heard the words “fiscal imbalance” emanate from that side of the House or from the provinces. Now with a much better fiscal situation in Canada, we now suddenly have this fiscal imbalance.

We have to also note in the Speech from the Throne the issue about investing in our social foundations. What could be better than to again provide an additional $2 billion in the area of health care?

The Prime Minister has said we have to deal with the issue of waiting time for elective surgery, et cetera. However, the administration of the health care system is provincial and again we have to have accountability. We have to know that through the health care council Canadians want to know where their moneys are going and want to be able to track that money. Not the federal government, but Canadians need to know. Obviously if money is transferred, it is important because every time we make these agreements, the provinces then come back a few months later and say they need more. As the national roundtable on health concluded a number of years ago, it is not simply about money. It is about how the dollars are utilized. That is extremely important.

The Speech from the Throne talks about R and D investments. Nothing could be more important than ensuring that Canada is on the leading edge of research and development. Again, picking up on the innovation agenda, which we have been working on for the last few years, it is important to ensure that Canadians have an opportunity to do that type of research and development and that the opportunities are there whether they are medical or environmental in terms of R and D in particular.

I am very pleased to see that. I am also pleased because it demonstrates clearly to Canadians the social conscience of this government. It demonstrates that we can do things both in a fiscally responsible manner, but also ensure that there is an investment in families and children and that the Canadian population will benefit because of that.

Also, we have enunciated clearly in the Speech from the Throne our responsibility on the global stage. Again, I applaud the Prime Minister for the invitation to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations to come here. We are a nation that believes in a multilateral approach. We are a nation that has taken on our responsibilities. If we go back to the great war or World War II, volunteers went overseas because they believed in the cause for which they were fighting. We have always responded to our international commitments.

We continue to do that today through our peacekeeping forces around the world. We respond through agencies such as the Canadian International Development Agency. That is important and our response on the issue of HIV-AIDS and the issue of generic drugs. Again, proceeding with that legislation is so important. It shows that we are not simply concerned about our own national interest, but also our responsibility on the world stage. That again outlines the type of compassionate society that Canadians want and expect us to lead as a national government.