Mr. Speaker, before I begin to speak to Bill C-2, I have to address my hon. colleague's contradictory comments about the lack of mandatory minimums. On the one hand, he lambasted the Liberal Party for not wanting mandatory minimums. On the other hand, he said very clearly that we had them and we called for a strengthening of them.
When the member for Mount Royal was the justice minister, he introduced mandatory minimums for weapons offences. That was a good thing. That is why we support Bill C-2. We have been trying to drive forward much of what is in the legislation. Ironically, we have been obstructed by the government.
I will go through the facts. Unfortunately, in the House one could look at the old adage that “in war, truth is the first casualty”. What we have here is war by another name. Sometimes truth is the first casualty in the House of Commons, and that is sad for the public.
Let me talk about the facts for a minute and give viewers a bit of history on the bill.
Bill C-2 is an omnibus bill involving a combination of five bills, including mandatory minimum penalties. We support mandatory minimum penalties. I caution the government, however, to ensure that the mandatory minimum penalties for weapons offences, violent offences and sexual offences cannot be plea bargained away and that they run consecutively and not concurrently. Too many times people who have committed serious offences receive penalties that get plea bargained away, so there is no effective penalty.
We also support an increase in mandatory minimums for weapons trafficking. My colleague from Mount Royal introduced many mandatory minimums for these offences in the last Parliament.
The Liberal Party supports the provisions for dangerous offenders, impaired driving and reverse onus in firearms offences. Many years ago there really was no penalty for a person using a weapon in the commission of an offence. That was changed by the last government. The Liberal Party supports the changes in Bill C-2.
Let me talk for a few moments about a few facts around the passage of the bill.
On October 26, 2006, our Liberal leader made a first offer to fast track a package of justice bills in the House, including Bill C-9, as it had been amended, Bill C-18, the DNA identification legislation, Bill C-19, the street racing legislation, Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, Bill C-23, the animal cruelty legislation and Bill C-26, respecting payday loans. We also added Bill C-35, on March 14 of this year, a bill for bail reform, and we support that.
On March 21, we attempted to use our opposition day to pass the government's four justice bills: Bill C-18, Bill C-22, Bill C-23 and Bill C-35. The Conservative House leader raised a procedural point of order to block the motion. Those four government bills would have been fast tracked through this place in the same day, yet the government House leader, for reasons unknown to us and the public, blocked this. Those are facts.
What has been the path of government justice bills through the Senate? Of the six justice bills that had been passed before the summer break, only four went to the Senate. How on earth could the Senate pass bills that it just received prior to the government proroguing Parliament? It could not do that. It is disingenuous for government members to stand and suggest that the Senate was trying to block their bills. By the time the Senate received the bills, the government closed Parliament. Those are the facts. Anybody can check them out if they wish.
We support Bill C-2. However, I want to bore down on a few dangerous issues that the government is pursuing. One deals with the issue of drug trafficking. The government has said that it will increase the penalties for those who traffic in drugs.
There are two populations of traffickers.
There are those parasites in society who are involved in commercial grow operations, frequently attached to organized crime. We should throw the book at them. Those people are a cancer in our society and they deserve to be in jail.
There is another population that will be swept up in the government's anti-trafficking bill. It is the low level dealers who sell small amounts of illegal drugs to people, but they themselves are addicts. In essence, they are selling drugs to pay for their addictions.
If we criminalize people who have addiction problems and throw them in jail, they come out being hardened criminals. We also do not deal with the underlying problem, which we will have at the end of the day when they come out. In effect, we increase public insecurity and costs to the taxpayer. We do not address the underlying problem and we make our streets less safe. That is stupid, not to put too fine a point on it.
If the government goes through with the bill to criminalize people who are addicts, the low level people buying and selling drugs, it will end up with the situation we see south of the border, which has used a war on drugs approach. It has proven to be an abysmal failure.
What we see south of the border is a view of the future for us if the government pursues its course of action. There have been increased rates of both soft and hard drugs use, increased numbers of people have been incarcerated, increased costs to the taxpayer and more violent crime. Society loses.
The government ought to work with the provinces to implement solutions that address some of the underlying problems.
I will get to the organized crime aspects in a moment.
For the drug problems, I cannot overemphasize what a disaster this will be. The government has been warned of this by people across the country.
Let us take two projects, in particular, that have been extremely effective in dealing with people who have intravenous drug use problems. Both of them are found in Vancouver and championed by Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Thomas Kerr, superb physicians and research scientists, who have underneath them the Insite supervised injection program and the NAOMI project.
The supervised injection program is a place where addicts can go to a supervised setting and take the drugs they are given. What has that done? It has reduced harm, put more people into treatment, reduced crime and saved the taxpayer money. Fewer people have gone to emergency and there has been less dependence on our health care system. It works.
The other project I would recommend we pursue is the NAOMI project. Before I get to it, I point out that in the eleventh hour the government extended Insite's ability to engage in its program up until June 2008.
All the evidence published from The Lancet to The New England Journal of Medicine shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Insite supervised injection program saves lives, reduces crime and gets people into treatment. It is good for public security and it saves the taxpayer money. Why extend it to only eight months?
If the government gets a majority, it will kill the program. That, in short, will be murder. The government knows full well the program saves lives. To remove that program, would result in, essentially, the killing of people.
A program that works better, which the government does not support but ought to expand, is the NAOMI project. The NAOMI project deals with hard-core narcotics abusers. These people are over the age of 26. They have had five years of drug addictions and two failed attempts at treatment. They are the hard nuts of intravenous drug use.
The NAOMI project took 243 addicts and randomized them into three populations. One population received intravenous heroine, the other one received intravenous dilaudid, which is a prescription narcotic that is legal, and the third was to take oral methadone, which is a weak narcotic.
What happened to those populations? Of the population on IV drugs, more than 85% of people were still taking those drugs, receiving treatment and counselling, getting their lives together, obtaining skills training and being able to live while not being on the street and not engaging in criminal behaviour to feed their addictions. Of the third population, the ones in the methadone program, 50% of people were still in treatment after a year. It works.
What the government should be doing for both Insite as well as NAOMI, is expanding those programs across our country. Our urban centres need it.
In Victoria there are 1,243 people living on the street, 60% of which have what we call dual diagnoses, which means some of them have both a drug problem and a psychiatric problem. I would also add that some people within that population have had brain injuries in the past and have fallen into the terrible spiral of drug use by being on the street. Those people could be you or I, Mr. Speaker, who one day fall off a ladder or get into a car accident, sustain a significant closed head injury, have major cerebral trauma and as a result their lives are affected forever.
Some of those people are on the street and take drugs. Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw the psychiatric patient, who is dealing to pay for his or her addiction, in jail? That is what would happen with the bill that the government has introduced. Those people need medical treatment. They do not need to be in jail.
My plea to the government, to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister is to bury their ideology, follow the facts and implement the solutions that will help people with addictions, keep our streets safe, and reduce costs to the taxpayers. It is a win-win situation for all concerned.
The interesting thing about the NAOMI project is that because NAOMI actually gave the drug to an individual who was proven to be an addict, that person did not have to go on the street to get the drugs. If that were done in a broader sense, it would be horrific to organized crime that benefits from this situation because the NAOMI project severs the tie between the addict and organized crime. That is what we need to do.
Organized crime would be horrified if a forward thinking government one day were to enable drug addicts to receive their drugs. Doing that enables addicts to get into the treatment programs that they need. It enables them to detoxify, obtain addiction counselling, skills training and the psychiatric therapy they need. If we do not do that, we will not make a dent in what we see on the ground. There will not be any affect on addictions and it will actually increase the criminal population in our country.
The other side of this coin, of course, deals with organized crime gangs, as I mentioned, the parasites and cancer in our society. These parasites are essentially people in $3,000 suits who benefit from a substance that is nearly worthless but has a value well beyond what it ought to have because it is illegal.
I have a bill on the order paper that would decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. No one condones anybody using marijuana, everybody wants to prevent people from using it, and everyone certainly encourages children not to use this or any other illegal drug. The fact of the matter is that people do use it and a significant percentage of Canadians have used it at one time in their lives, particularly when they were very young.
Do we throw those people in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old who has a joint in his or her back pocket in jail? Do we throw an 18-year-old in jail who exchanges or sells or gives a couple of marijuana cigarettes to a friend? That would be trafficking under the government's bill. Do we throw that 18-year-old in jail? Do we give an 18-year-old a criminal record, which is what we have today, affecting his or her ability to work or gain employment and have access to professional facilities for the rest of his or her life? Is that a humane way to deal with our population? It is not.
The worst news for organized crime, in my personal view, would be that marijuana is legal and regulated. It is not to say that marijuana is safe. It is not. It is dangerous, but so are alcohol and cigarettes.
If we can imagine today that cigarettes were going to come onto the market and were proposed as being something that ought to be sold today, do we think for a moment that they would be allowed, with all the cancer, respiratory and cardiac problems that cigarettes cause? No, they would not be, and neither in fact would alcohol. Alcohol would not be allowed today either, for all of the damage it does, but the fact of the matter is that cigarettes and alcohol are legal today.
The groups that benefit the most from the status quo, from marijuana being illegal, and it is just a weed with its value elevated well beyond what it ought to be because it is illegal, are the organized crime gangs. They are making billions of dollars off the status quo, and those billions are used to do any number of things including: trafficking of weapons and people, prostitution, embezzlement, fraud and murder. That is what organized crime is involved with.
What the government should be doing is coming up with a more comprehensive plan to deal with the biker gangs and organized criminal gangs who are--