Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank you for the opportunity to come to this committee to speak about my private member's bill, Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine), as you said.
I believe that by working together we can make a difference in combatting the production and the trafficking of methamphetamine and the pain it inflicts on families and communities across our nation.
Unlike other drugs, meth does not need to be imported or grown, but it can be synthesized using components that are readily available. These two points I think are the most important. The drug can be synthesized from legal products that are readily available, and the drug can be synthesized and available for distribution in a shockingly short period of time.
Colleagues, although it is manufactured from legal substances, crystal meth is one of the most addictive and damaging of all the street drugs, and the tragic consequences and the lives it affects are unacceptable. Mr. Chair, too many of our healthy citizens are losing years of their lives to its devastation, and some are dying in the grip of the horror of this drug.
In order to frame the discussion today, I will spend a little bit of time explaining what methamphetamine is, how it impacts people in our society in a practical way, and the scope of the problem we're facing.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant. It is a derivative of a synthetic stimulant first produced in 1919. It is sold on the street under the street names of jib, crack, meth, speed, glass, fire, ice, and other names. Meth is available as a powder and it can be taken orally, snorted, or injected.
Typically, the drug is heated or vaporized and the fumes are inhaled, allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream very rapidly. It takes only about eight seconds for the drug to get to a person's brain.
Crystal meth is smokable, and this makes the most potent form of the drug, and for this reason many young people tend to gravitate toward it.
Meth is relatively easy and inexpensive to make, using commonly available ingredients called precursor chemicals. The recipe for meth includes products such as over-the-counter cold medications, paint thinner, household products like drain cleaner, and agricultural chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia.
The ability to purchase these commonly available products at any Wal-Mart or Superstore, coupled with the ability to produce crystal meth virtually anywhere, makes it a dangerous combination.
These two facts speak to the limited opportunity for enforcement authorities to intervene. And while I know this bill in itself will not totally stop the production of meth, I hope that offering the authorities these additional tools can assist them in putting a stop to the production and subsequent distribution of meth.
Although meth can be produced almost anywhere, undercover super labs produce the majority of crystal meth that is sold on the streets today. These makeshift laboratories present a grave danger as extremely flammable liquids and corrosive chemicals are being used and mixed by people with no experience or expertise in handling such dangerous products. The hazards of these undercover labs are numerous. There are the problems of exposure to harsh chemicals and the potential of exposure to toxic fumes and poisonous gases during production. There have been cases of fires and explosions caused by poor equipment. There have been situations of severe burns or death from fires or explosions.
There is also danger to the first responders, such as the police, the firefighters, and the social workers who show up at the scene. And of course there is the harm to the environment from leftover precursors and used lab equipment that leave behind toxic byproducts that pollute the land, the air, and the water in places where they are spilled or where they are dumped.
These super labs require huge amounts of precursor material to produce the quantity of meth they do. By giving the authorities the tools that are outlined in my bill, there will be an additional opportunity to stop the production here in Canada.
The dangers of crystal meth go far beyond the production at the core. Let's not forget the core of this issue is people. This bill proposes a vital change to the current legislation, and it is my prayer that we will turn the tide in combatting this drug. The addictive qualities of methamphetamine make it a dangerous drug for any person to experiment with.
To quote a participant from my home province, who was involved in the consultation on this drug, “No human being should be putting fertilizer, iodine, Drano, and battery acid all mixed together with a little ephedrine into their system.” But that is what people are doing.
We need to defend our youth and our families from this harmful, life-destroying drug.
In order to put this into perspective, I think it's important that committee members understand that users of meth tend to be between the ages of 10 and 25 years old. Many users start living at home, attending school or holding down a job, but they end up living on the streets as the addiction progresses.
One frightening fact is that some children, youth, or young adults who are exposed to meth don't even know that they've been exposed to crystal meth or meth. More and more drug traffickers are mixing meth with other drugs because it is so inexpensive and it gives other drugs greater addictive qualities. In fact, I recently saw a statistic that predicted that between 70% and 75% of the drug ecstasy sold on the streets of my home province contains meth because it increases the user's demand for more.
Crystal meth is a highly addictive drug with a long-lasting high that produces an overwhelming euphoria. Those who use it are quickly addicted and experience more intense effects from prolonged use compared with other drugs. The use and abuse of meth is on the rise throughout Canada. Its prevalence is growing as dealers find new ways to target potential users and find new ways to sell their drug.
As part of my goal of reducing the harm that meth can inflict on my community, I've done a number of things, including visiting local area schools in my riding to talk about the horrors of meth. While visiting a grade 6 class I was shocked to hear students tell me of their personal awareness of this drug, as someone in their community had been trafficking meth in the form of candy “pop rocks”.
Mr. Chair, the madness has to stop.
Access to the precursors and equipment used to make this deadly drug is a significant problem. The police need legislation in order to combat the spread and the abuse of this deadly drug. The accessibility to precursors and the low cost of producing this drug impact all economic and social groups. Any person who knowingly exploits young people for financial gain needs to be pursued and dealt with aggressively. I have no tolerance for people who willingly contribute to the destructive pattern of drug abuse.
Meth users tend to be between the ages of 10 and 25. We are speaking of some of the most vulnerable in our society. These kids, these young people, are the ones who have the most to lose, the ones who are most impacted by crystal meth. It is incumbent, I believe, upon us as legislators to enact legislation that holds to account those who willingly produce, or support those who produce, this harmful substance.
I thank you, Mr. Chair, and I'd be happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability at this time.