Evidence of meeting #8 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chemicals.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michel Aubin  Acting Director General, Drugs and Organized Crime, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Rebecca Jesseman  Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
David Podruzny  Vice-President, Business and Economics, Canadian Chemical Producers' Association
Doug Culver  Sergeant, Chemical Diversion Unit, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Carole Bouchard  Director, Office of Controlled Substances, Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Department of Health
Jean-Sébastien Fallu  Assistant Professor, École de psychoéducation, Université de Montréal

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

I would like to call the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order.

Being Thursday, December 13, 2007, we will, as a committee, continue our evaluation of Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, methamphetamine.

Before us are a number of witnesses. I'm going to ask that all witnesses come forward and sit at the table, including the Department of Health, from which we have Carole Bouchard.

11 a.m.

A voice

She's not here.

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Professor Jean Fallu from the University of Montreal is not here either.

We have before us at present, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Michel Aubin, acting director general, drugs and organized crime; and Sergeant Doug Culver, chemical diversion unit. As well, we have Rebecca Jesseman, policy analyst, from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; and David Podruzny, vice-president of business and economics for the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association.

Welcome all.

I will turn the floor over to Michel Aubin from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

11 a.m.

Inspector Michel Aubin Acting Director General, Drugs and Organized Crime, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Good morning.

Allow me a few moments for an opening comment.

The clandestine labs today are a world apart from the historic stereotype of the 1960s, or that of their resurgence in the 1990s. There is a concerted effort in the world of organized crime to capitalize on this new-found opportunity and turn synthetic drug production into an illicit economic-based enterprise of unprecedented size.

Clandestine labs producing methamphetamine, as well as numerous other amphetamine-type stimulants, have become entrenched in many countries worldwide, including Canada. The impact these illicit drug labs have on our communities is devastating.

The production of illegal synthetic drugs fuels organized crime groups that profit from their sale in Canada and abroad. These illicit drug-producing operations use hazardous chemicals that frequently explode, catch fire, and generate large amounts of toxic waste. Fires, explosions, and environmental toxins threaten everyone living in close proximity to a clandestine lab, and all too often, law enforcement personnel encounter these “chemical time bombs” in densely populated areas, even in high-rise apartment buildings.

These labs are growing in number, complexity, and size. Organized crime groups are funding these operations through the purchase of vast quantities of precursor chemicals and industrial-grade equipment.

The precursor control regulations that were enacted in January of 2003 provide law enforcement and other regulatory bodies the opportunity to monitor and control the movement of chemicals destined for illicit drug production. Over the past five years, these regulations have provided law enforcement with increased measures to prevent the diversion of numerous tons of precursor chemicals destined for clandestine labs in Canada and elsewhere.

The legislation has been effective in--

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Excuse me, Mr. Aubin. Could you please slow down a little for the interpreters? They're having a hard time keeping up.

11 a.m.

Insp Michel Aubin

I shall, sir. I apologize.

The legislation has been effective in allowing for the seizure of vast quantities of precursor chemicals destined for these labs. It has been successful in mitigating the diversion of the domestic supply of precursor chemicals. Despite our efforts, we have seen an increase in the availability of synthetic drugs on our streets and an increase in economic-based laboratories, those being capable of producing five kilograms or more of product. Many of these laboratories that are found by law enforcement exceed by far this threshold, and their purpose is not only for domestic supply but also for exportation.

It's our opinion that the creation of any legislation that would further inhibit the ability of organized crime to produce these dangerous drugs and damaging substances would be well received by law enforcement. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug capable of ruining lives, families, and communities. However, I would like to respectfully emphasize to this committee that it is only one of many illicit drugs and controlled substances being illegally produced and sold in our country.

All of these operations require materials and equipment to produce. Most of the materials and equipment found at these sites have been diverted from a legitimate use to their present function, the manufacture of illicit drugs. While it is important to focus on the process--abusing the equipment and precursor chemicals to make illicit substances--additional focus must be directed to the issue of public safety in these labs. They are extremely dangerous when in operation and provide contamination to areas surrounding the location and to individuals who are present. Any measures that can be taken prior to a lab's becoming operational would be seen as a very positive step.

Legislation that prohibits the sale, diversion, and use of materials and equipment used to produce any controlled drug or substance would provide law enforcement with another tool in its effort to locate and dismantle these labs and to disrupt organized crime groups responsible for their existence in our country.

The law enforcement community is mindful of the legitimate use of these chemicals and the equipment, and our focus is not in that area. However, any framework that would also prevent the diversion of these substances, equipment, or material used in the production of the substances that are scheduled under the CDSA would allow law enforcement an opportunity to prevent the clandestine labs from ever reaching a stage whereby they would become functional. By being able to prevent the set-up of a functioning lab, we would be able to drastically reduce the negative impact these operations currently have on our communities and environment, and also negate the supply of these drugs and their exportation from Canada. Law enforcement would also be able to disrupt and dismantle organized crime groups involved in this type of illicit activity at the onset.

I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions.

I have with me Sergeant Doug Culver, who is our national coordinator on synthetic drug operations. He has over 10 years' experience in this field and has been recognized by the criminal courts as an expert witness in this.

Thank you, sir.

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Aubin.

Mr. Culver, I believe we ran into one another in Florida at a methamphetamine conference.

11:05 a.m.


Oh, oh!

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Yes, follow the money.

From the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Ms. Jesseman, please.

December 13th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.

Rebecca Jesseman Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Mr. Chairman and committee members, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse appreciates the opportunity to meet with you today to share information on methamphetamine as you consider Bill C-428.

As you may know, CCSA is Canada's national non-governmental organization formed in 1988 by an act of Parliament to provide national leadership and evidence-informed analysis and advice on substance abuse and use in Canada. CCSA recognizes the harms associated with the use and production of methamphetamine and therefore supports efforts to reduce levels of use, production, and availability in Canada.

I thank my colleagues from the RCMP for speaking to the practical enforcement concerns related to the ease with which methamphetamine can be produced using legally available materials in Canada. In light of CCSA's mandate and expertise, my presentation will focus on providing the committee with a summary of evidence on the use of methamphetamine in Canada in order to inform your discussion and provide a context for these very real and practical enforcement-related concerns.

I would like to begin by emphasizing the need to ensure that any response to substance use is evidence-informed. In order to respond effectively to methamphetamine use in a community, we need an accurate picture of the problem, including the extent of use, characteristics of users, social context, and sources of distribution. As an example, the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, supported by CCSA, is currently piloting a rapid assessment methodology that brings together a range of community resources to assess and act on developing substance use issues.

Maintaining current information on substance use at both national and community levels also facilitates the identification of problems in the early stages. This early identification allows communities to gather the health, enforcement, and other social resources needed for a proactive, comprehensive approach to the problem.

Overall, available prevalence data indicates that only a small proportion of Canadians currently use or have ever used methamphetamine. There is also evidence that rates of use in many locations have stabilized or are declining. I would, however, like to emphasize that I do not present these statistics to minimize the potential impact of meth on users, on their families, and on communities, but to provide you with what we know about the scope of the problem in order to inform your discussion.

At the national level, we currently have limited data specific to methamphetamine use. The 2004 Canadian addiction survey categorized methamphetamine under the general category of “speed and other amphetamines”, therefore breaking out what proportion of the 0.8% who reported past-year use of speed and amphetamines—

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Let me interrupt for one moment to ask that you slow down a bit; the interpreters are having a difficult time keeping up to you. Our committee members would like to hear.

11:05 a.m.

Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Rebecca Jesseman

Breaking out what proportion of the 0.8% reporting past-year use of speed and other amphetamines in the Canadian population is therefore not possible.

More specific information is available through provincial student drug use surveys. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's 2007 Ontario student drug use and health survey, for example, the rate of methamphetamine use among Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 in 2007 was 1.4%. The rate in Atlantic Canada was slightly higher at 1.9%.

These surveys also demonstrate one of the characteristics of the meth issue in Canada: wide variation according to geographic regions and population. Within the Ontario student drug use and health survey, the rate of use varied from 0.5% in the Toronto area to 3.6% in the northern region. Within the Atlantic provinces, the rate varied from 1.2% in Prince Edward Island to 2.4% in Newfoundland.

At the local level this variation is often attributed to the presence of a supply source, but variation can also be associated with overall population drug use trends, as well as shifts in specific drug use preferences.

Use of methamphetamine varies not only by region but also by population. In general, males are more likely to use than females, and those in the age group of 15 to 24 are more likely to use than older populations. Evidence indicates that street-involved youth are at particularly high risk for use. Due to the transitory and marginalized nature of this population, accurate figures on use among street youth are difficult to obtain; however, available data indicates that anywhere from 14% to 38% of street-involved youth in some urban centres use methamphetamine on a monthly or more frequent basis.

In this case, methamphetamine may be playing a functional role associated with lifestyle. Meth helps users to stay awake for long periods of time, therefore preventing theft of their personal belongings or other victimization that may occur while they sleep. Meth also reduces appetite, therefore reducing the discomfort associated with hunger. It increases feelings of power and euphoria, therefore combatting fear and isolation.

Concern regarding methamphetamine is also related to other high-risk behaviours that are associated with use. Methamphetamine is frequently injected, presenting risks of soft tissue and vein damage, infection, and blood-borne disease transmission. Methamphetamine use has also been associated with risky sexual behaviour, particularly with those involved in the sex trade, and among gay men involved in the underground club scene.

Those who use methamphetamine are commonly multiple substance users, creating risks of overdose or substance interaction effects. Methamphetamine may also be used by workers performing repetitive tasks or tasks requiring extended periods of concentration, such as construction or long-haul truck drivers. Performing these tasks while under the influence may compromise the safety of the individual and those around him or her.

I would also like to briefly address the question of addiction raised during previous witness testimony on this bill. The theory that experimental use of methamphetamine inevitably leads to dependence has not been supported. Most Canadians who try methamphetamine do not continue use, and there is evidence that many of those who do continue do not use frequently.

This information is extremely useful, since understanding the factors that differentiate those who become problematic users from those who do not can help us identify potential risk and, perhaps more importantly, potential protective factors that can inform prevention and treatment efforts.

Ensuring that enforcement has the tools necessary to charge and prosecute those involved in the production of methamphetamine is an important part of reducing its availability. But as you consider this legislation, it is also important to recognize that enforcement is only one component in an overall strategy to reduce the use and production of methamphetamine.

As illustrated in previous testimony on this bill by the mayor of Drayton Valley, an effective approach to the abuse of any drug requires a comprehensive and collaborative prevention, education, treatment, and enforcement effort. Community drug coalitions provide a means of bringing multi-sectoral partners together to leverage local resources toward the common goal of addressing or preventing the use of substances such as methamphetamine.

Campaigns targeting methamphetamine use have been initiated at the grassroots, municipal, and provincial levels and provide access to a wealth of information for patients, parents, educators, youth, the general public, and those seeking treatment.

I would also like to note that CCSA's drug prevention strategy for Canada's youth, a five-year plan that complements the Government of Canada's new national anti-drug strategy, will include partnerships with provincial organizations, such as the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, youth organizations, communications professionals, and educators. In addition, the strategy will establish a working group on special populations to advise on interventions best suited to high-risk youth, therefore targeting marginalized populations, such as street-involved youth with the highest risks and rates of methamphetamine use.

Treatment also plays an important role in a comprehensive approach to methamphetamine use. In general, treatment for substance abuse problems in Canada needs to be developed in a way that provides users with access to a cross-sectoral continuum of care that meets individual needs through a range of services and supports. Even within an ideal framework of treatment availability, there are challenges specific to the treatment of methamphetamine, including physical withdrawal, cognitive disruption, unpredictable behaviour that may include violence, and poor overall health.

On a positive note, there is evidence for the efficacy of treatment that addresses these issues within a comprehensive approach, involving, for example, cognitive behavioural therapy, social support and family education, individual counselling, and urine testing. The Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission has recently released guidelines for the treatment of methamphetamine users that are freely available through the commission website.

In closing, I would like to express CCSA's appreciation for the opportunity to present evidence on the use of methamphetamine in Canada. Thank you for your interest. I will be happy to address any questions.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Ms. Jesseman.

Now, Mr. Podruzny.

11:15 a.m.

David Podruzny Vice-President, Business and Economics, Canadian Chemical Producers' Association

Thank you.

Let me start by saying that the members of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association produce and market a wide variety of chemicals.

I'd like to restrict my comments to the chemical precursors, in particular the multi-use aspects of a number of the chemical precursors. I'll also restrict my comments to industrial chemicals, not the pharmaceutical active ingredients, which are outside of our membership's purview.

For the most part, our members produce and market to other companies, who in turn produce the products for public consumption. Very little of our production goes directly to the public.

The global trade in chemicals is second only to motor vehicles. Canadian exports to the United States are over 80%. Roughly 80% of our total production in this country is exported. There are estimated to be somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 chemicals of commerce worldwide. In Canada, there are over 20,000 chemicals that are marketed commercially, and many times that are available in lab quantities.

While we produce only a small number of different industrial chemicals within our membership, the Canadian economy uses as diverse a range of chemicals as in any other developed country. I think the chemical sector needs to present to this group that many of the chemicals we produce are inherently hazardous. All of them deserve respect, in both production and handling. Many chemicals have multiple uses, and many chemicals are precursors for the production of other chemicals. I want to come back to that with a couple of examples.

Our members are working within an advisory working group on precursor control regulations. We have been working with Health Canada on how to put necessary controls in place that would allow normal business practice to proceed and yet give the regulators and law enforcement adequate tools to manage the illicit handling of our products.

I'd like to briefly mention a couple of things for the record--and I apologize if I'm speaking to the converted--on the class A and class B precursors.

For class A, at this point you have to be licensed as a manufacturer or shipper. You can only sell to licensed purchasers. You must keep records of what is produced, and those records must be available to enforcement officials.

For class B chemicals, you must be registered, maintain business records, and be audited. As a condition of membership in our association, our members are required to deal only with reputable buyers. They're committed to refusing any suspicious sales where the purchaser does not have a line of business that directly requires the chemicals being purchased.

I want to mention a few specific examples. There is an increasing diversity of chemical imports, with enormous growth in container shipment traffic, particularly through the west coast. Carriers into remote areas of this country might need to come under increasing scrutiny. A number of key carriers, including railways, and a number of trucking companies are associate members of our association, and we spend a lot of time working with them on recognizing when products might be diverted.

Our association also works with Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the chemical weapons area. We work with Natural Resources Canada on explosives precursors, and, as I mentioned, we're part of this group with Health Canada.

There are many areas where chemicals can be diverted for illicit use. Let me give you a couple of examples of class A and class B multiple uses.

Acetic anhydride, which is one of the class A listed chemicals, is also used in water treatment and water purification and air purification as a disinfectant. In the class B area, first of all, all of the chemicals there are multiple use, but let me pick up on acetone, whether it's being used as nail polish remover or being used in the manufacture of paints or varnishes. There's a whole series of applications.

But there are a couple others I'd like to mention specifically. One is sulphuric acid. It's by far the most widely used industrial chemical worldwide. In the United States alone, over 40 million tonnes a year are shipped around the country and outside of the country. Canada is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 million to 15 million tonnes a year. In the case of hydrochloric acid, about five million tonnes a year are shipped. These products have multiple uses. They are used in fertilizer production. They have a wide variety of uses.

Our message is that many of the class A and all of the class B precursor chemicals are multiple-use in commerce. Doing something further or eliminating these products would have a considerable impact on the Canadian economy, restricting the ability to produce a wide variety of important and required goods of commerce. For the most part, banning the use or restricting the use further of these dual-use chemicals would only result in using alternate chemicals to make the same product. Chemistry can find a way.

We don't think that product deselection is going to solve the problem. We do think there needs to be effective monitoring of the products that we produce and where they go, and we believe we're doing that. We're also working very closely with the Health Canada officials on the list and keeping it up to date. We believe your existing legislation has provisions for adding to and subtracting from that list as the technologies evolve.

I'll stop there and offer to take questions.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Podruzny.

You mentioned something about chemical imports. I know that in that conference in Florida--and, Mr. Culver, you were very much aware too--there was indication that huge containerloads of some of the precursors would hit the shores. How is that controlled at our shores, whether in Canada or the U.S.? Is there some control on that?

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Business and Economics, Canadian Chemical Producers' Association

David Podruzny

My understanding is that post-9/11 there has been a significant increase in the review and monitoring of all container traffic coming into Canada. In addition to the paper trail that's associated, there is inspection. I believe we're moving towards inspecting all container traffic. At this point, we're not there yet.

You're probably talking to the wrong person, but my understanding is that purchasers bringing product in from abroad must go through certain kinds of paper identification of what's in the container. I think the administration and the burden of inspection would probably be very onerous.

I didn't mention this, but when you look at the chemical-producing world, Canada produces about 1.6% of the world's chemicals. The largest producer obviously is just south of us: the United States, at about 24%. China is number two in the world, and it's growing. Developed countries are growing in chemical production at the rate of about 2% a year. Last year China grew at 14% for the year, and they've been growing in the 14%- to 16%-a-year range for the last generation. If you want to point to where the chemical production is going in the future, I don't want to make that self-fulfilling, but we are competing with that part of the world.

We are also actively trying to get our responsible care ethic spread around the world. We now have 52 countries that have adopted that ethic, and we're working actively in China to get the Chinese chemical industry to adopt that ethic, which includes things like managing where they sell their product. I'm not pretending that we will overcome illicit behaviour, but I'm suggesting that there is a paper trail of what we produce and where it goes. China is emerging as a huge source for new chemicals.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you very much, sir.

Mr. Culver, you had something to add?

11:25 a.m.

Sergeant Doug Culver Sergeant, Chemical Diversion Unit, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

I completely agree with the statement from the gentleman. There's a large amount of container traffic, naturally, coming into the ports in Vancouver and into our ports right across Canada.

The problem we have is that a lot of the chemicals that are being smuggled into our country are either being secreted and labelled as other loads or coming into the country as chemicals that are mislabelled, which makes it very difficult for us to determine exactly what the contents of each and every container are. Not that I would presume to speak for our CBSA partners, but I realize there's an overwhelming amount of commerce that takes place in our ports right now.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

And it's difficult to control, obviously.

Thank you.

I'm going to invite the Department of Health's Carole Bouchard, director of the office of controlled substances, to make her presentation. Then we'll get into further questions.

Ms. Bouchard.

11:25 a.m.

Carole Bouchard Director, Office of Controlled Substances, Drug Strategy and Controlled Substances Programme, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Department of Health

Thank you.

Good day, honourable members of the standing committee, and thank you for inviting Health Canada to participate in your discussions today.

My name is Carole Bouchard. I'm the director of the office of controlled substances at Health Canada. The office of controlled substances is the organizational unit within the drug strategy and controlled substances program that is responsible for the administration of the legislative framework for controlled substances and precursor chemicals in Canada.

In this regard, I thought I would take this opportunity to provide you with some background on the legislative framework and specifically the precursor control regulations, so as to inform your discussions on this particular legislative proposal about methamphetamine that is before you today.

As you may know, Canada's federal legislative framework for drug control includes the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or the CDSA, along with its associated regulations. CDSA and its regulations provide the parameters for the legitimate medical, scientific, or industrial use of controlled substances and precursor chemicals, and it also lays out the offences and penalties that apply when persons are found to have carried out unauthorized activities.

The act includes eight schedules. The schedules identify the controlled substances and precursor chemicals covered by the act. They are generally grouped with consideration of chemical structure, pharmacology, and abuse liability and dependence potential, and are mainly organized in such a way that lower-numbered schedules are associated with higher penalties for offences. For example, morphine is included in schedule I, and the maximum penalty for offences involving the import, export, production, and trafficking of morphine is life imprisonment, while a simple possession offence carries a penalty of seven years.

By consequence, the maximum penalty for offences involving the import or export of substances included in schedule IV, diazepam, for example—where diazepam is a drug used for the treatment of anxiety—is three years, and it's not illegal to possess substances in schedule IV unless one is found to be in possession for the purpose of trafficking or exporting. These schedules, of course, can be modified by regulation when necessary.

In addition, the CDSA allows Canada to fulfill its obligations under three United Nations treaties, namely: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; the Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Canada respects many of the specific obligations laid out in the UN drug control conventions through a diverse network of regulations made under the CDSA, perhaps the most important ones in terms of your discussions today being the precursor control regulations, which outline the rules governing the production, distribution, import, export, possession, and sales of precursor chemicals in Canada.

Precursor chemicals, in this context, are substances that may be used in the illicit production of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine. Given that the bill in front of you relates specifically to methamphetamine, perhaps I will now turn to how this substance is currently regulated under the CDSA and how the precursor control regulations, or the PCRs, which came into force in 2003 and 2004, work to prevent the illegal import, export, production, distribution, and sale of substances used in its production.

Currently, methamphetamine, including its salts, derivatives, isomers, analogues, and salts of derivatives, isomers, and analogues, is listed in schedule I of the CDSA. This was not always the case, in that prior to 2005, methamphetamine was listed in schedule III to the CDSA. The movement of methamphetamine from schedule III to schedule I has increased the maximum penalty associated with its illegal importation, exportation, possession for the purpose of exportation, production, as well as trafficking, from 10 years to life imprisonment. Similarly, the maximum penalty for illegal possession has increased from three years to seven.

As many of you will be aware, methamphetamine is produced domestically in clandestine laboratories using ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial applications, for example, red phosphorus, which is widely used in the production of matches.

The fact that methamphetamine can be made so easily using ingredients that are relatively cheap and easy to obtain, and that it can be administered using a variety of routes, for instance, intravenously or orally, have made methamphetamine an attractive drug of abuse that is readily accessible in comparison to other illicit drugs.

In a sense, therefore, the PCRs were established in order to respond to domestic concerns, primarily from law enforcement agencies, regarding the ease with which chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacturing of drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy were able to be imported into, exported out of, and moved across Canada. They also enabled Canada to fulfill its international obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

That said, because the chemicals that would be regulated under the PCRs were currently being used legitimately, either in households or in a variety of other industries--for example, in cold medication and in paint products--the regulations had to balance those needs with the desire to curb the use of the same chemicals in the illegal production of synthetic drugs. Inherently, this principle of balancing the needs of legitimate users and the need to reduce abuse and diversion is one that applies in scheduling decisions.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the PCRs, these regulations contain provisions authorizing the importation, exportation, production, packaging, distribution, and sale of precursor chemicals through a pre-export notification, licensing, and permit scheme. The regulations also impose security, record keeping, and reporting requirements on companies conducting activities with precursor chemicals. Health Canada inspectors are authorized to monitor and investigate compliance with the regulations. And where an inspection or investigation yields evidence suggestive of diversion for illicit purposes or criminal activity, this is referred to and investigated by law enforcement.

The implementation of the PCRs has been reported to have had a positive impact in helping to decrease the cross-border trafficking of the chemicals regulated by them and has contributed to greater collaboration between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies. Both the U.S.–Canada cross-border threat assessment reports, produced jointly by the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as the International Narcotics Control Board annual reports have also spoken favourably about the PCRs.

That said, we are always looking at ways to improve the effectiveness of the regulatory framework for precursor chemicals. In this regard, I would be remiss if I did not mention that our ability to administer the PCRs has just received a boost with the allocation of new funds to Health Canada under the enforcement action plan of the national anti-drug strategy. These funds, which are part of a $22 million envelope aimed at assisting law enforcement agencies in tackling illegal drug production and distribution operations, with a focus on gangs and the clandestine production of methamphetamine, will be specifically targeted at increasing the compliance and enforcement capacity of the office of controlled substances and increasing the drug analytical service's ability to support law enforcement agencies via the analysis of seized substances.

As you may know, Health Canada is a key partner in the national anti-drug strategy, which aims to address a wide range of issues associated with illicit drug production, use, and abuse.

In conclusion, our department, with our federal partners, continues to work diligently at administering the CDSA and the PCRs in order to ensure that controls are applied where warranted but that legitimate trade is not compromised. As the proposal that you are debating today will capture a wide range of substances and materials that are found or used in the production of a large number of industrial and consumer products--for example, cold medications, fabric dyes, jugs, pails, and other examples--I trust that the information I have provided will be helpful as you continue your deliberation.

Thank you. I would be pleased to answer any questions.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Art Hanger

Thank you, Madam Bouchard.

We'll go to questions.

Mr. Lee.

11:35 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I found this a very informative and thorough panel. It was so good that it wiped out some of my questions, but I will go right to the big one.

I want to ask the RCMP representatives if there is in existence now any legislation that would allow the seizure/forfeiture of lab equipment used in the production of methamphetamine or, really, any other illegal drugs--either in the Criminal Code or in the CDSA.

11:35 a.m.

Insp Michel Aubin

The CDSA does provide.... It's more a matter of practicality. The situation right now is that we're able to seize and prosecute only at a certain stage. Allow me a moment to explain.

If an individual goes out and purchases all the essential chemicals and equipment and stashes them, for lack of a better expression, in various areas, at that point in time we cannot, by law, proceed against the individual.

To address the issue we have to wait until the process is well engaged. In fact, over the last 30 years the process has always been to await the final stage in the production, whether it's LSD, PCP, ecstasy, or methamphetamine—once you reach that level.

There's been some recent case law that has allowed us to be able to seize a little earlier in the process, but it had to be well engaged. And that's the difficulty, because the individuals can possess the equipment and the chemicals that are essential.

Organized crime has become alerted to our ways. Especially with the legislation as it is right now, they find ways to circumvent it.

11:40 a.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Sure. I could possess an empty bottle, which would become a receptacle for illegal whiskey at some point, and I may keep the bottle waiting for the whiskey, but you're not going to arrest me till I put some illegal whiskey in it. Is that right?

11:40 a.m.

Insp Michel Aubin