Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Peter MacKay  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco and to provide for minimum penalties of imprisonment for repeat offenders.

Elsewhere

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.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in favour of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco). This bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Code to create a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco and to provide minimum penalties of imprisonment for persons who are convicted for a second or subsequent time of this offence.

To help reduce the problems of trafficking in contraband tobacco, the government committed, among other things, to establish mandatory jail time for repeat offenders of trafficking in contraband tobacco in its 2011 election policy platform. This bill would fulfill that commitment.

Indeed, the bill prohibits the possession for the purposes of sale, offer for sale, transportation, delivery, or distribution of a tobacco product or raw leaf tobacco that is not packaged unless it is stamped. The terms “tobacco product”, “raw leaf tobacco”, “packaged” and “stamped”, have the same meanings as in section 2 of the Excise Act.

The penalty for a first offence would be up to six months imprisonment on summary conviction and up to five years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment. Repeat offenders convicted of this new offence in cases involving 10,000 cigarettes or more, or 10 kilograms or more of any other tobacco product, or 10 kilograms or more of raw leaf tobacco would be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days on a second conviction, a minimum of 180 days on a third conviction, and a minimum of two years less a day on subsequent convictions. Overall, the proposals represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for serious contraband tobacco activities. The bill proposes minimum penalties only in cases where there are certain aggravating factors present.

The contraband tobacco market first became a significant issue in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the taxes on cigarettes were increased sharply to raise government revenue and deter individuals from taking up or continuing smoking. During that period, more and more legally manufactured Canadian cigarettes destined for the duty-free market began to make their way back to the Canadian underground economy. The high retail price of legitimate cigarettes made the smuggling of cigarettes across the border a lucrative illicit business.

The RCMP and Canada Customs seized record quantities of contraband tobacco. The RCMP was also engaged in investigating this illegal activity at its source. These investigations eventually led to negotiated settlements involving certain tobacco companies, a landmark agreement signed in July 2008 that set a combined total of $1.15 billion in criminal fines and civil restitution, to be paid by the companies over 15 years. Also, two guilty pleas entered in April 2010 by JTI-Macdonald Corp. and Northern Brands International resulted in $550 million in criminal fines and civil restitution.

By the mid-1990s, this type of smuggling activity largely came to an end, and there followed a period of relatively low levels of illegal activity related to contraband tobacco.

However, the illicit tobacco market in Canada has rebounded in recent years, rising rapidly since 2004 to become an acute problem once again. Today, the illicit manufacturing, distribution, and selling of contraband tobacco products is different from that of the 1980s and 1990s. Now illegal activity in Canada is primarily connected not to the diversion of legally manufactured products but to illegal manufacture, although it also includes to a lesser degree the illegal importation of counterfeit cigarettes and other forms of illicit tobacco from abroad.

Organized crime plays a central role in the contraband tobacco trade in Canada, and that means that this illegal activity is linked with other kinds of crime. Most of the organized crime groups across the country involved in the illicit tobacco market are also active in other forms of criminality. What we have in Canada is a situation where illegal contraband tobacco products are sold to children in schoolyards, because they are less expensive. It is a way of getting young people hooked on nicotine and tobacco, which is obviously very injurious to their health and contrary to Canada's long-standing commitment to reduce smoking in our society.

They also allow those people who sell cigarettes individually or in small quantities to students to get them onto other drugs as well. The organized crime groups such as the Hell's Angels and other motorcycle gangs will provide them with tobacco now, and then maybe in a few months' time, will slip in a marijuana cigarette, and then maybe sell them some more of that and perhaps other drugs too. The profits from contraband tobacco fuel all that other criminal activity. That is one of the reasons we need to be vigilant and we need to pass this bill to crack down on the trade in contraband tobacco.

The problem is further complicated by the international aspects of the illicit tobacco trade. For example, some of the illegal manufacturers that supply the Canadian market are on the U.S. side of the Akwesasne Mohawk territory, which spans the borders between Quebec, Ontario, and New York State. The contraband tobacco market is driven largely by illegal operations in both Canada and the United States. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of contraband tobacco manufacturing operations, the majority of the high-volume smuggling points, and the largest number of consumers of contraband tobacco.

There are approximately 50 contraband manufacturers operating on first nations territories in Kahnawake, Quebec, and the Six Nations reserve in Ontario. As I mentioned earlier, there are also manufacturers on the American side of the Akwesasne Mohawk territory, which is uniquely located at the confluence of borders between Ontario, Quebec, and New York State, giving rise to jurisdictional and legal challenges between federal, provincial, and state laws.

Organized crime networks are exploiting First Nations communities and taking advantage of the jurisdictional and politically sensitive relationships between those communities, governments and enforcement agencies.

The 2012 National Threat Assessment on Organized and Serious Crime prepared by the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada has identified 58 organized crime groups that are involved in the contraband tobacco trade throughout Canada, 35 of which are currently operating in Central Canada. These criminal networks re-invest profits from the manufacture and distribution of contraband tobacco in other forms of criminality, including the trafficking illicit drugs, firearms and human smuggling. Furthermore, the RCMP reports that violence and intimidation tactics continue to be associated with the contraband tobacco trade.

It is clear that the illicit tobacco market is dominated by criminal organizations motivated by the lure of significant profits and relatively low risks. Enforcement actions are therefore directed at increasing the risks associated with contraband tobacco activities: dismantling illegal manufacturing facilities, disrupting distribution supply lines, apprehending key figures, confiscating conveyances such as trucks and boats, and seizing the proceeds of crime. These actions have the dual goal of disrupting the illicit flow of tobacco and weakening the organized crime groups involved in the production, distribution, smuggling, and trafficking of contraband tobacco.

Contraband tobacco is a serious threat to our communities if left unchecked, and organized crime will continue to profit at the expense of the health and safety of Canadians and government tax revenues.

Recent intelligence indicates a rise in counterfeit tobacco products entering the Canadian market as well as the diversion of some raw leaf tobacco grown in southwestern Ontario to illegal manufacturers in and around first nation territories in Ontario and Quebec. These illegal products are then transported through nation-wide networks for sale to consumers as a cheaper alternative to legitimate tobacco products, thereby making them more accessible to youth.

The Government of Canada recognizes that contraband tobacco smuggling has become a serious problem in the last several years. Certainly, Canadians want to be protected from offenders involved in these contraband tobacco smuggling operations, which threaten their safety and that of their families as well as the health of our youth. They also want to be protected from organized crime associated with contraband tobacco activities...

Protecting society from criminals is a responsibility this government takes seriously. Accordingly, this bill is part of the government's continued commitment to take steps to protect Canadians and make our streets and communities safer.

Canadians want a justice system that has clear and strong laws that denounce and deter serious crimes, including illicit activities involving contraband tobacco. They want laws that impose penalties that adequately reflect the serious nature of these crimes...

This bill, in my view, achieves that.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for his speech on Bill C-10. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights worked extremely hard on this file. I enjoyed working with my colleague on it. Contraband tobacco is not a straightforward topic.

However, I am wondering about something. The opposition we heard in committee came from first nations chiefs who are concerned because they were not consulted about this, despite the fact that they are often the ones who are most affected by tobacco smuggling. It sometimes happens on their land.

According to clause 4 of the bill, the legislation will come into force on a date to be fixed by order in council, so I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary knows if his government intends to use the time it has before the bill's implementation to have those extremely important conversations with first nations in the areas that are plagued by tobacco smuggling. It is unfortunate that it would be happening after the fact, when it should have happened beforehand.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the NDP justice critic's question. I do appreciate her hard work on the justice committee, and I enjoy working with her on that committee.

The member will remember that when we were at committee, there were a number of representatives of native communities from across Canada, especially those straddling the borders between Ontario, Quebec, and New York.

They told us about the illegal activity that is brought into their communities by organized crime groups that are largely not first nations-related groups. They take advantage of the people living there. They drag them down this road into illegal activity with the promise of easy money.

We were told by one chief that his Mohawk community had a very proud tradition of working in the construction industry, in high steel, in places like New York City and other places around the United States. Unfortunately, the lure of this easy money from smuggling illicit tobacco products across the St. Lawrence River was dragging his people away from that legitimate proud tradition and bringing them into areas of criminality.

We listened very closely to what the leaders had to say. This bill has been crafted largely in consideration of their views. We will always take the opportunity to listen to first nations communities about how this bill should be implemented.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, contraband cigarettes are indeed a serious problem in many different regions in Canada. In fact, in certain areas it does fuel a significant amount of organized crime because of the amount of revenue that can be generated.

The negative impacts of that organized crime are fairly profound and have a serious impact on many communities throughout Canada.

My question is for the minister. Has the department done any sort of any analysis, or can it provide us with any information in terms of the degree to which contraband cigarettes are on the market in different regions of the country? Does the minister have that type of information? If so, I would personally be quite interested in receiving it. If he could make it available, that would be greatly appreciated.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, that information was largely supplied at the justice and human rights committee during their study of this bill. It comes from various sources, the government as well as other NGO organizations.

I am sure the member has heard similar stories in his constituency. In my constituency, in Mississauga, there is a secondary school called Erindale Secondary School. There was an analysis done of the tobacco butts lying around the school yard and just off the school property where young people smoke. It was found that a significant percentage, more than 30% of those cigarette butts, came from illegal contraband tobacco.

That indicates that across Canada there is a problem with very cheap cigarettes being sold to young people in very small quantities that they can afford, maybe four or five cigarettes at a time. It gets them started down that road, which is a very serious health risk to young Canadians across Canada.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, coming from Oxford, which is one of the five counties where tobacco is grown in southwestern Ontario, we know we have a problem.

The legitimate industry is looking for serious help from all levels of government to try to work with this issue. Being a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety and dealing with the aboriginal community, I know many of them are concerned about the guns, drugs, and gangs that are involved in this.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice knows, they use the young people in the aboriginal communities as a shield.

This legislation will be welcome. I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary could elaborate a little on where the penalties will go. We see illicit growing of tobacco. Recently there have been large seizures of leaf. Certainly that is the beginning of the process.

I am wondering whether the parliamentary secretary has some information for us.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know this is an issue that has been very important to my colleague. He has worked very significantly on it over the last several years.

There are a number of new offences under the bill. There will be a penalty for the first offence of up to six months in prison on summary conviction, or up to five years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment. This is for both the transportation and sale and offer for sale of illegal tobacco products. For repeat offenders, those convicted on indictment could be sentenced to a mandatory minimum penalty of 90 days on a second conviction, 180 days on a third conviction, and two years less a day on subsequent convictions after that.

What we found in the past, under the Excise Tax Act, is that the trade in illicit tobacco products was simply an administrative statutory offence, and therefore the perpetrators received fines. They just made that the cost of doing business. They would pay the fine and continue to do it over and over again.

This is a very tailored set of penalties that increases with each subsequent offence. That will target the people who are involved in the continual trade in illicit tobacco products, and those would largely be criminal organizations from outside the native communities, not in the native communities.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, tobacco use is a rather serious problem, and it is directly related to smuggling. If people use tobacco, it will be smuggled. If no one smoked, there would be no smuggling.

Does the minister know if there are other ministers working on measures to ultimately reduce tobacco use? This bill on contraband was introduced some time ago.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question, and the answer is yes, there are many programs that the government is supporting to reduce the use of tobacco among all Canadians, especially our youth. The ministry of health has one in particular. We have introduced new warning labels on packages of cigarettes and little cigars. These labels have a phone number for a national quit line and a website address for people who want help in quitting.

We have banned flavoured little cigars, which were targeted toward youth. In my constituency, I have seen young people go into convenience stores and try to buy the little banana-flavoured or cherry-flavoured cigars. That is a way of getting them hooked on tobacco, making it sweet and palatable to them.

We renewed the federal tobacco strategy in 2012 for five years, and Health Canada will continue to work on tobacco control initiatives that aim to preserve the gains made over the past 10 years to continue the downward trend in smoking prevalence.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-10. We supported it at second reading, but we had quite a number of concerns, particularly in terms of its compliance with the charter because it includes mandatory minimum penalties.

I am also concerned about the process that led to Bill C-10. The government did not consult the partners in the federation, namely the provinces, the territories and the first nations. We were therefore determined to carry out a thorough study in committee. That is what I hoped for.

The committee did a good job. It heard witnesses in various capacities talk about the scourge of contraband tobacco. I will have no trouble convincing everyone in the House that contraband tobacco is a scourge, period.

However, there might be a little hypocrisy around this issue in our society. Even as the government tries to control tobacco and fight contraband tobacco, it is raising taxes on tobacco and making a lot of money that way. That hypocrisy became entrenched over the years, and now it is complicating the issue. Add to that the ancestral rights of first nations peoples to manufacture tobacco, and the issue gets very murky.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights had some good meetings. It heard from excellent witnesses, including chiefs of first nations. I did not hear a single first nations chief express support for contraband tobacco to the committee. Nevertheless, the chiefs were very realistic. They insisted on protecting their traditional rights to produce and grow tobacco as they have done historically within their territory.

That being said, they are also aware that contraband tobacco, which is often part of organized crime activity on their land, has the lure of easy money for their young people. It is a vicious circle because there is a great deal of poverty on first nations lands that tends to get ignored, and then we are surprised when the black market takes hold there. This does not help first nations chiefs to provide their people on their land with something worthwhile.

I have already done so in person, but since we have the time, I would like to publicly thank my NDP colleagues who served with me on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and who may not get the chance to speak to the bill in the House. They did exceptional work. I particularly want to thank the NDP deputy justice critic, the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi and the hon. member for Beaches—East York. They contributed a lot to this file through their personal experience in their own part of the country.

What is more, we proposed an amendment. I am still sad that the government did not see fit to approve the amendment that we proposed to respect R. v. Gladue. That decision calls on the courts, when sentencing, to consider the extenuating circumstances of the accused when the accused is from the first nations, especially considering that there are mandatory minimum sentences. That is the requirement that resulted from that decision, but according to lawyers at Justice Canada, Bill C-10 will take precedence over R. v. Gladue. We will see whether there are more appeals. I suspect there will be.

If one of the people arrested is a first nations member, it is very possible that the defence will make use of some of the arguments in the Gladue ruling. I think it would be wise to say that this did not trump the facts in the Gladue case.

True to form, the Conservatives are so terrified of adopting any amendment other than their own, and I find that very unfortunate. They may be rapped on the knuckles once again, as they have been in the last four or five major Supreme Court decisions. I feel like a mother who says “I told you so”, and I am a little tired of that. That is how I have felt for the past three years.

The opposition members are trying to do their job. I listened to the prayer recited by the Speaker at the beginning of the sitting. He asked Parliament to make good laws. I believe that is what we are trying to do both in the House and in committees.

Suffice it to say that the amendment was rejected. The mandatory minimum sentences will apply to repeat offenders, where a high volume of contraband tobacco is involved, and so my concerns about the sentences have been allayed. I still have no guarantee that the bill complies with our charters because the government does not see to be too worried about that. When we weigh out the two issues, public protection and contraband tobacco, which affects our children, we realize that this is extremely important.

The NDP has always taken the problem of contraband tobacco in Canada seriously, and Bill C-10 has not changed that.

I am going to digress for a moment regarding Bill C-10. When it was introduced in the House, we were told it was an absolute emergency, but it has been around for a long time now. If memory serves me correctly, the bill passed second reading in November. It was then referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where we worked very diligently and quickly. Throughout the month of December, until the adjournment, we worked on this legislation. As soon as we came back after Christmas, in early February, we proceeded to clause by clause. What is intriguing is that the bill then fell into oblivion. We never heard about it again. Then, this week, I noticed we were going to debate Bill C-10. There are many numbers in my head, such as C-10, C-32 dealing with prostitution, C-587,C-590 and others. All these bills seem to deal with justice.

When I saw my name tied to Bill C-10, I wondered what the bill was about. It reminded me of the good old days when I was pleading before the court. We would prepare a case and arrive in court with witnesses. Unfortunately, for some very serious reason, the other side would ask for a postponement. We had prepared the case and met with witnesses and we were more than ready. We would return to our office, back at square one, and tell ourselves that we would wait for the next time. However, we sometimes had to wait a year or a year and a half and start all over again. Clients would sometime wonder why we were billing new hours. The answer was that we had to refresh our memory.

This is the impression I get with Bill C-10. I had to review the whole file because, in the meantime, we had debated several other justice bills and a number of issues that are now in the annals of the House. The government does not have to tell us this is urgent. The Conservatives seem to move into high gear at two very specific times: during the week preceding the holiday season and during the last two or three weeks before the summer recess. During these periods, we are incredibly productive.

I almost wish we could change the calendar so that it could be June all year long. Canadians across the country would be amazed at our productivity.

This week in the House, we debated Motion No. 10, which supposedly seeks to increase our work hours. It seems we are not working enough, but if that is the case, I am not sure why I am tired. In any event, I was listening to some of my colleagues, and their argument was that we had passed only nine bills.

What is fascinating is that about 15 bills will likely be passed in two weeks. One has to wonder if that means that we are being more productive or less democratic because we will have less time to speak to these bills and fewer people will have the opportunity to speak on each topic. I think the answer is obvious.

Bill C-10 is a good example. It has been sitting on someone's desk since February when it could have been passed quickly the week after it came back from committee. There were no formal or serious objections that would have prevented the bill from passing. This bill could have been passed by now.

These are important points to raise. I would never let anybody tell me that we are not working hard on these issues because we take them very seriously. Sometimes, we rise to speak to a bill at second reading to raise some of our concerns. There is no denying that we are concerned about this bill.

I know that the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco is made up of many people who benefit from tobacco sales. I was not born yesterday, and I see where their interests lie. In their testimony, some police forces also told us that they will need resources. This is an extremely important message that came out of the committee's examination of Bill C-10.

The first nations have their own to-do list for their territory. We need to stop making cuts to first nation police services. If Bill C-10 gives the police new tools by adding an offence to the Criminal Code that existed only under the Excise Tax Act, then from now on all police forces can begin dealing with contraband tobacco. However, we have to give them the resources they need. We need police officers on the front lines.

Some witnesses also told us that contraband was increasingly coming from countries other than Canada, for example, China. This is an issue for border services, and this agency will need resources. All we ever hear about on the news and here in the House is successive budget cuts being made to border services. How do we expect this agency to combat the large-scale smuggling that organized crime groups are conducting through well-organized networks?

This is not just about tobacco; it is also about arms and drug smuggling. It is all connected. The government is always a bit hypocritical, since it introduces bills and claims to want to fix everything, but it does not provide tools for the people on the ground so that they can do their jobs properly. I find that worrisome. Nevertheless, all of the witnesses we heard from in committee made the facts clear, regardless of their reasons.

For example, I know that the Canadian Convenience Stores Association wants us to put an end to contraband tobacco. When contraband cigarettes are available, no one buys cigarettes at the convenience store. The association does not want to put an end to tobacco use; it wants to put an end to illegal competition in its industry. The association is right. We must stop being hypocritical. If we decide that tobacco is a legal industry in Canada, even though we know that it kills, these stores should be able to happily sell it and make money legally.

That is why I really liked the question my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue asked the parliamentary secretary. She asked him if there were ways other than Bill C-10 to eliminate the scourge of tobacco. She and I both know that it is not easy to quit smoking. She can share her personal experience with that. In my case, I have been chewing Nicorette since 1999. People in the committee had quite a laugh when I told them that. In December, I was proud to tell them that I had quit Nicorette, but unfortunately I have to admit to everyone that I have started up again. It must be the Conservatives' fault I guess, because either I chew Nicorette or I get even more aggressive than usual. That is what I thought: everyone is eager to recommend that I chew Nicorette. That is what I do. Maybe I will stop one day. My point is that it is a constant battle.

We tell kids not to smoke, but tobacco companies attract them with all kinds of products. I know that is why I started smoking when I was young. It was cool. We thought we were so smart. Had I known how bloody hard it would be to quit 30 or 40 years later, maybe I would never have started. Young people know that now.

There are other ways, as my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue said. There has to be a concerted public health effort, not just changes to the Criminal Code. There has to be a concerted effort to raise people's awareness that this product kills. That is what the warnings on cigarette packs say: this stuff kills, causes all sorts of problems and places a heavy burden on our health system. We have to do everything in our power to bring tobacco use rates down as quickly as possible.

We will tackle the issue of contraband tobacco immediately. I hope that it will help, but I am not convinced that it is the silver bullet or that it will solve every problem. I want to reiterate that for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. This bill will come into force on a date to be fixed by order in council. That is better than when we are sometimes told that the bill will come into force within 30 days of the bill being passed, which means that it applies immediately. I feel that it is of the utmost importance that the government use the time before the bill comes into force to sit down and talk with the first nations that have a considerable number of issues with and concerns about the bill. It is not that they support contraband tobacco. However, as Gina Deer, Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, said:

Bill C-10 proposes an infringement on our inherent aboriginal and treaty rights pertaining to the production, transportation, sale, and regulation of tobacco products.

If that is how Chief Deer perceives Bill C-10, a government representative needs to sit down with the chiefs to correct that perception. I think that the government's vision has to be explained, and first nations and the government need to discuss it as equals. The government did not have the decency to do that before it introduced the bill.

We are supporting this bill, even with its flaws. I am still waiting for the Conservatives to introduce a perfect bill. I do not think it is going to happen any time soon. That said, the committee did a fine job. I would like to thank my committee colleagues for their work, and I would also like to thank the witnesses who came to enlighten us on this subject, which is not always straightforward.

I appreciate the work being done by police, in particular. They do not have an easy job. As I said earlier, when we talk about contraband tobacco, the discussion often turns to other types of contraband or illegal activities such as organized crime and dangerous individuals. Police officers are putting their lives in danger every day. We must appreciate their work, but we also need to give them the tools and means to do their job. They have all been critical of that.

That also includes police forces in first nations territories, the aboriginal police who do this work and whose programs have been eliminated by the government. At some point you have to put your money where your mouth is. If the government wants to take action, it must provide the tools.

Bill C-10 is not very long and everyone should read it. For those who are worried about mandatory minimum sentences, they apply to repeat offenders and cases involving large quantities of contraband tobacco, as I was saying.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is with regard to the impact of contraband cigarettes in our communities. I hope to spend a bit of time talking about this at some time, possibly later today, in particular, because of how organized crime has become engaged over the years in this. It is not just cigarettes. The organized crime element deals in cigarettes, drugs, and prostitution. It is all sorts of different issues.

Even though it is encouraging that we see the legislation before us today, all in all, there is so much more we could be doing to tackle the problem of some of the activities that are feeding that organized crime element and causing a great deal of stress on many of our communities across Canada. I speak from experience in terms a good portion of the community I represent, Winnipeg North. I am very proud of my community, but there are some issues. The bill maybe takes a baby step when we probably could have taken a much larger step.

Could the hon. member comment?

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that would be a good title to the speech I just gave, “baby step”, because that is basically what it is. In a sense it is a baby step because it is just a small aspect of the problem. At the same time, it is a big step, because by including it in the Criminal Code, it is a whole new ball game. It would give powers to police in different jurisdictions to tackle the issue. Just on that front, it is an immense step.

That said, it will not solve everything. We still need to educate kids. I do not want to divulge my age, but I can understand that in the early 1970s, it was cool to smoke, because we had no pictures of rotten teeth and bad lungs and so on on our cigarette packs. Our cigarette packs were pretty cool, actually, to hold. They were colourful, and we looked so old, so mature, so whatever. Nowadays, if we have a pack of cigarettes, we had better hide it, because it is really gross. People know, so why do they still do it?

If we cut the demand, it will be very hard to continue contraband when there is no demand, but right now there is demand. I wake up with headlines in my region, which has one of the highest percentages of smokers and of smokers of illegal contraband tobacco.

We are close to reserves and places where it is easy to obtain contraband tobacco. Therefore, we all have to work hard. All stakeholders must work together: the provincial, territorial and first nations police, the federal government and public health officials. All of these people have to work together.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I fully support this bill. I believe tobacco use does in fact kill, and I want to share a story.

My mother recently had a very serious issue with her health. She had a cardiac arrest because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which was because of smoking. Unfortunately, she spent a considerable amount of time in hospital and is now suffering with brain damage. This is exactly the type of thing we expect to prevent. My mother is an aboriginal woman who believed strongly that it would not affect her health, but 67 years old is too young to be faced with this kind of thing.

She had a career that she loved and worked with young aboriginal people who were in jail, unfortunately. Many of them were getting contraband cigarettes laced with things like ecstasy. This is a harmful substance that is in fact killing our communities.

I ask my colleague what she would say to the parents of these children who pick up the contraband tobacco laced with something that essentially could kill them. What would she to say to those people, other than “Well, we should put more money into looking for police answers”?

The answer is to prevent contraband tobacco, to regulate it, to cut this demand, and to cut the supply when it is not regulated. This is the only way to go.

I would ask the member to respond directly to those families who will, unfortunately, see deaths because of tobacco, particularly contraband tobacco, in the near future.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I could answer by telling my story.

My dad died at 55 because of cigarettes. I do know the damage that cigarettes can create, and that is not even the contraband kind of cigarettes that are laced with crap. I think we all share the message that tobacco kills. I mean, if one smokes, one is not doing a good thing for one's health.

However, I am not the one saying we need resources; it is the RCMP.

Border officers told us that they need resources. Organized crime has become very sophisticated.

It is not a bad thing to tell the government to wake up because this work cannot happen on its own. This bill does some good, but at the same time there has to be an overall vision. It is not enough to be fixated on a small piece of the puzzle and to say that it is going to solve all the world's problems. We need the necessary tools to ensure that parents do not see their children in situations like the one my colleague just mentioned. I want to prevent that.

I take to task all the young people I see smoking. I tell them that they do not know the road they are headed down and they have no idea of the hell they will go through when they try to stop, because that time will come. It will be extremely difficult for them to kick the habit, especially with all the junk that is added.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2014 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, coming from Hamilton, in the 1950s and 1960s, we had some experience with organized crime. I will not go down that road, but there are a lot of stories that can be told.

From my generation, out of nine friends, I was the only one who did not smoke. If we went to a restaurant, everybody smoked. It was in every place. However, we have made very significant gains against tobacco usage.

If we are going to undertake this in an appropriate way, there have to be more resources for our police departments. When they dealt with gangs in Hamilton, there was a particular group of police officers dedicated to that. Now we see teenagers with hockey bags full of tobacco going through our apartment buildings in Hamilton. In order to address that, the police will need more resources.

I would like to ask the member for Gatineau if, in her conversations with the government, that discussion took place.