moved that Bill C-475, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine and ecstasy), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak again to a bill designed to recover our youth, to deliver a greater sense of peace and order to our communities, and to tackle a major activity of organized crime.
The passion I bring to these issues reflects my role as a father of three young children and as a member of Parliament for the riding that hosted many of the Olympic Games in the past month and will next week host most of the Paralympics.
Many of my constituents are also concerned about health matters. These matters are very important to everyone, people of the east, the west, anglophones, francophones—all Canadians. The health of Canadians is also linked to the progress we are making in our fight against drugs like crystal meth and ecstasy.
My private member's bill is aimed at tackling head-on the production of the drugs known as methamphetamines, more commonly called crystal meth and ecstasy, the two most common forms of methamphetamine-type stimulants. The bill would make a new offence for possessing, producing, selling or importing anything if the person involved knows that the thing will be used to produce or traffic crystal meth or ecstasy.
The United States, New Zealand, Australia and the U.K. have introduced aggressive strategies to target one or both of these drugs. This bill follows the approach taken in these countries, introducing several changes to our Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and creating a new criminal offence for the procurement of the precursor chemicals for these drugs if the procurement is accompanied by the intention to produce the outlawed substances.
When passed, the bill will greatly hamper the clandestine production that has made these drugs so easily accessible to Canadian youth.
There are at least three reasons why this issue is of such great concern to my constituents, to the members who sit in the House and to all Canadians. First, crystal meth and ecstasy harm individuals who use them as well as their families and communities. Second, production of these drugs involves direct environmental dangers. Third, the production of these drugs also affects Canada's reputation internationally.
Experts agree that one way to stem the production of these drugs is to focus on the precursors. Today, law enforcement officials cannot investigate or charge someone merely for gathering the ingredients of these drugs. The bill would give the law enforcement community the new tools it needs to do the job.
The 2004 United Nations report entitled, “Preventing amphetamine-type stimulant use among young people”, made clear what a scourge these drugs are to youth in our country. Serious health implications resulting from chronic use of these drugs include dependence characterized by compulsive drug seeking and drug use, and a phenomenon known as amphetamine or methamphetamine psychosis which includes strong hallucinations and delusions.
Crystal meth and ecstasy use can translate over the longer term into schizophrenia, a side effect with lasting consequences. Trauma experienced by users includes great physical, psychological and emotional harm. Too many families and communities are being affected by these awful drugs.
Some personal anecdotes help to give a human face to these struggles. I have been in touch personally with several drug treatment centres and some of the victims of these drugs have shared their stories with me. A young lady, who I will call Vanessa, said “the worst paranoia I've ever experienced was on crystal meth. It creates a feeling of invincibility. I believed I could commit crimes or do anything. The crash when coming down off the drug is so hideous you do whatever it takes to prevent the crash. That's where the crimes come in. You believe you can get away with anything”.
Another person in treatment noted that “ecstasy is what started me and all my friends using other harder drugs” he said. “The come down was so hard, the depression so bad that we needed to find something to numb us out”. He carried on and said, “So we started using cocaine and heroin after a weekend of partying with ecstasy”.
These drugs have affected a large number of Canadians. According to the Canadian alcohol and monitoring survey, about 50,000 people aged 15 or older reported having used methamphetamines at least once in the previous year.
In B.C. it was estimated by the ministry of health in 2003 that 4% of school-aged children have used methamphetamine-type drugs. At the same time, it was estimated by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission that a shocking 5.3% of the school-aged population had tried methamphetamine-type stimulants.
Between 2000-04, 65 people died in British Columbia with methamphetamines present in their bodies. This number, which has been increasing every year for which statistics are available, charts a disturbing trend for all people in Canada.
One of the most insidious qualities of these drugs is the covert way in which they attack users. Ecstasy seems like a harmless party drug to some, one that is marketed through colourful pills and cheerful designs, such as happy faces, but police have found that a significant amount of ecstasy seized from the streets is laced with more dangerous drugs such as crystal meth. When combined, the two can become an addictive, toxic and dangerous combination. Overdoses are common due to the unregulated nature of the drugs.
Side effects of methamphetamines are similarly worrisome. A position paper produced in Australia noted, “methamphetamine use has often been associated with violent crime, and the drug has a strong reputation for inducing violent behaviour”.
To understand the harm of these drugs, it is crucial to highlight their addictiveness. In a 2004 report, the solicitor general of my home province, B.C., explained:
A powerful stimulant, meth alters the brain's production of dopamine. The drug produces an initial positive pleasurable physical reaction by increasing the levels of dopamine, leaving a person depressed as the effects of the drug wear off. The user then requires more of the drug to return to normal. This "binge and crash" pattern leads to loss of control over the drug and addiction.
To look at the addictive nature of these drugs from another angle, addiction counsellors say that the relapse rate of crystal meth users is about 92%, which is higher than the relapse rate for cocaine.
Having covered aspects of harm to the individual consumer and his or her community, let me speak to the second of these main reasons to attack the production of these drugs, the dangerous environmental aspects of the production.
In the absence of production standards, there is no way to control the quality of substances produced, the safety of production or the location. A report produced by Carleton University in 2004 stated, “Versatility is the term that best defines methamphetamine production. Clandestine laboratories have been found in sites as diverse as private residences, motel rooms, dorm rooms, campgrounds, storage facilities” and almost any other place that we could imagine. Though large-scale industrial production of these drugs is an increasing reality, the vast amount of crystal meth and ecstasy are produced in small, kitchen-like labs. These labs house toxic waste and other substances dangerous to humans and are located in our neighbourhoods and in our homes.
The United Nations notes “environmental harm and costs caused by illegal laboratories and their safe removal are considerable”. The production of these drugs is an extremely toxic endeavour, one about which we should all be concerned.
A letter I received today from B.C.'s solicitor general, Kash Heed, outlines some of the harmful effects of production. In the letter, he says:
In the last five years, police in British Columbia have responded to over 161 clandestine labs, chemical seizures and dumpsites related to illegal ecstasy and methamphetamine production....As you are no doubt aware, synthetic drug labs in British Columbia are large-scale economic labs that...produce...quantities greater than five kilograms per production cycle and, in some instances, 40 kilograms per cycle. At least six kilograms of waste is produced for every kilogram of finished product. These waste products are typically dumped causing serious environmental damage.
One person who was involved with the drug noted, “I lived with a person who cooked crystal meth. He had burns all over his arms. It was in an apartment building and I'm sure that it affected all the people in the building”.
The environmental degradation, the violent nature of the chemicals and the harmful effects are all reasons which independently dictate the need for action.
Many colleagues in the House have expressed to me their concerns about the effects of these drugs on people across Canada. However, the marketing of crystal meth and ecstasy transcends Canada's borders and tarnishes our reputation on an international scale.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2009 that Canada is the single largest supplier of ecstasy to the United States and is a significant supplier of the drug to Japan and Australia. The UN report also concluded:
There is evidence that Canada-based Asian organized crime groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs have significantly increased the amount of methamphetamines they produce and export, for the U.S. market, but also for Oceania and East and Southeast Asia.
The report also noted:
Canada has grown to be the most important producer [of ecstasy] for North America, and since 2006, all ecstasy laboratories reported have been large-capacity facilities operated principally by Asian organized crime groups.
We have many resources, skills and commodities to export. How sad that we Canadians must now include crystal meth and ecstasy among our recognized exports.
My friend and colleague, the member for Peace River, originally introduced the bill and invested enormous effort to obtain unanimous consent in the House. His bill made it to second reading in the upper house. However, an election intervened and the bill died. He and I have since consulted extensively with stakeholders such as law enforcement officials in Ontario, Alberta and B.C.
The bill would improve on the original bill put forward by the member for Peace River by adding the drug ecstasy as a substance which precursors would now also be restricted. The production of crystal meth and ecstasy are often linked. Law officials therefore encouraged us to link the two drugs in the bill.
We have received endorsements for the bill from the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed and several other associations in the riding I represent, including the Catholic Women's League. This past weekend, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities also passed a resolution in support of this bill, calling on our House to work with the provinces to enact more stringent regulation with regard to precursors in Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, just as proposed in this bill.
First nations leaders such as Chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish Nation have voiced their support for the bill. I have also received support from B.C. communities regarding the bill, including places such as Gibsons, Bowen Island and Powell River. I am also proud to note that our government has taken action to reduce the level of addiction in our country already through education and treatment. Government-financed programs such as the youth justice fund and the national anti-drug strategy will continue to work in conjunction with the bill to increase liability for possession of the chemicals needed to create crystal meth.
I appreciate the supportive and constructive comments that I have received already from colleagues in the House from all parties. My colleagues have taken note of the three reasons to legislate against the procurement of precursors of crystal meth and ecstasy: the harm to consumers of these drugs; the environmental hazards involved in their production; and their prejudice to Canada's good name as an exporter.
I hope all members will join me in bringing to an end the possession, production and trafficking of crystal meth and ecstasy in Canada. By directly targeting the ingredients of these devastating drugs, we can work to create a safer and stronger Canada. I ask all members join me in support of Bill C-475.