House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.


Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

April 19th, 1994 / 12:05 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health tabled Bill C-7, an Act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances, but this legislation has nothing to do with public health.

The government is not being honest in tabling a bill under such misleading pretence. This bill concerns criminal law and nothing else. In its present form, it should bear the signature of the Minister of Justice or the Solicitor General.

Whichever way you look at it, it is hard to find in this muddled document anything but a new criminal law to control drugs. Therefore, for the purposes of this debate, I will assume that this legislation is nothing else than what it appears to be. Obviously, the government would want us to believe that this is a health bill, and for one reason only: Criminal laws have to be precise, clear and conclusive. They are passed by Parliament and leave very little leeway to cabinet regarding the definition of their scope. By making Bill C-7 look like an administrative measure, all the provisions allowing Cabinet to establish regulations become justified. This is perhaps the most comprehensive example of legislation by delegation.

There is no other reason why the government would claim that Bill C-7 is a public health measure. The pretence is simply too obvious. The Liberal government is trying to get full decision powers on the most important aspects of the legislation. It has neither the courage nor the honesty to tell Canadians that Bill C-7 is merely an attempt to fight drug trafficking. Why not be honest? Why is the government hiding its true motive? The government should admit that it is so suspicious of this House, that it tries to hide its real intentions. And those intentions are contained in the wording of the legislation.

Police forces are currently enforcing two complementary acts: the Narcotic Control Act which will be repealed by the bill before the House and the Food and Drugs Act, which will be repealed in part. The government maintains that the new act will give more flexibility to police services, because provocation and undercover activities will be authorized under the new regulations.

However, the explanatory notes of the bill are silent on the government's concerns regarding public health. The purpose of this legislation is obviously to control the movement of drugs and suppress trafficking. Why not clearly say so?

This is nothing but a new Narcotic Control Act, framework legislation, unique in itself, criminal legislation which gives cabinet exceptional discretionary powers as to its scope and its implementation, not unlike the former War Measures Act. This is the context in which we have to consider Bill C-7.

Having said so, I agree with the majority of Canadians that we have to provide police and judicial authorities with the tools they need to efficiently suppress drug trafficking. Therefore, I support the purpose of Bill C-7, to the extent that it tries to put a stop to the movement of drugs. From massive importing to individual possession, the legislative drafters covered all social problems associated with illegal drugs.

On this particular topic, I want to say that I am very pleased with the way the various stages of trafficking are dealt with. The bill considers separately such issues as drug production, and importing and exporting, offenses which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The exemplary nature of such sentences and deterrence must continue to apply. Harsh sentences such as those will not shock honest citizens.

Zero tolerance for illegal drugs means suppression by police and judicial authorities at all levels of distribution. So, I am pleased with the new classification provided in this bill. Offenses, like simple possession, trafficking, possession for purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting, production of substance, possession of property obtained by trafficking and laundering are now very well identified. Each category is treated according to the seriousness of the offence and carries proportionate sentences.

I do have some reservations about the way possession of cannabis is handled, but that issue can be reviewed by the parliamentary committee, and I look forward to the testimony of experts in this field.

This bill could meet with our approval if it were to lead to some true legislation, but unfortunately it is not the case. Bill C-7 is essentially the same as Bill C-85 which was brought in by the late Conservative government. The government party cannot claim to have created this initiative.

It would be a mistake to try to make people believe that this is a new measure, inspired and motivated by recent circumstances

and designed to give the police effective emergency powers of investigation on trans-border Indian reserves.

This is misinformation. This piece of legislation has been on the back-burner since Bill C-85 died on the Order Paper in the last Parliament. It was revived by the Liberals who have just missed an opportunity to produce a bill that would be easy to read and to understand and that would respect the jurisdiction of the Confederated States, which are still called provinces.

I am disappointed, because if the legislation is passed as it is, it may well miss the point, above all because it will be torn to shreds by the courts on the account of its lack of clarity and of its possible unconstitutionality.

I am disappointed also because we are again faced with a botched and improvised measure. Indeed, if Bill C-7 were to be passed exactly as it is, it would not be understandable for most Canadians, who have no legal training and who would need whole legal essays to distinguish all its subtleties and references to other laws.

Allow me to read two quotes taken from an outstanding study conducted by professors Usprich and Salomon, of the School of Law of the University of Western Ontario on the old Bill C-85, which I myself apply to the current bill. I think these comments are as valid for C-7 as they were for the old C-85, and I quote:

It would not be exaggerated to say that the bill reads generally as if it had been drafted by people who are not familiar with criminal law and who have acquired their experience writing legal texts on income tax-

In general, the legislation is badly written and even if we disregard several blatant mistakes, it is uselessly complex and generally difficult to understand. We consider this bill to be a step backward.

And yet, if it were only for the inaccuracy of the text, it would still be possible to send the minister back to the drawing board, but there is more. The federal legislator uses a style that is confusing, complex and twisted to describe and define very simple cases of trafficking, production and possession of illegal substances.

The bill often refers to other legislation for its interpretation and this makes for an obscure text with countless legal nuances and exceptions, a text so incomplete as to need Cabinet regulations before its final scope can be known.

We all want the bill to achieve its underlying objectives but we denounce the insufficient means it proposes to fight drug traffickers, who will successfully challenge it in court at the first opportunity. This is an amateurish piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, mere window-dressing.

This bill should be sent back to the minister, not the Minister of Health, but the Minister of Justice, to be completely rewritten and brought back to the House as soon as possible. We will give our unconditional support to a complete, simple and effective bill in the same spirit, but not this one which was drafted by people who are completely out of touch with reality.

We are told that this would be an improvement compared to the present legislation, and that the bill is needed to control illegal activities on the Mohawk reserves. Nothing is farther from the truth. I challenge anyone to find something in this bill that gives the police more effective power than the present legislation does.

Finally, this bill is unacceptable because it is outright interference in provincial jurisdiction over civil law procedure and the administration of justice. In the disguise of a bill on public health, the government is actually trying to impose a real code of legal and administrative procedure. The administration of justice inside a province is its exclusive jurisdiction, as is public health, by the way.

Whether you approach the constitutional study of this bill from either of these aspects, namely public health or the administration of justice, the conclusion is the same: it is an unacceptable encroachment upon areas under exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

In order to ensure compliance with the forthcoming regulations, the bill allows the Minister of Health to designate inspectors who have considerable powers. As long as these inspectors do nothing else but examine stocks of designated substances held by licence holders, there will not be any problems. I think that the minister responsible for enforcing the legislation must have the administrative means to fulfil his or her mandate. But the bill authorises these same federal inspectors to contravene any provincial legislation regarding the confidentiality of medical records.

Quebec's privacy legislation, particularly with regard to access to medical records, serves as model. Through its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its new Civil Code and its privacy legislation, Quebec has become a world leader in this area. In particular, medical records in Quebec are better protected than a fortress. Now, the Minister of Health introduces a bill that would authorize any federal inspector, whose qualifications could be inversely proportional to his or her partisan activities, to enter the place of business of a physician or a pharmacist, to demand access to records and computer data, to make copies of this information and to distribute it to all kinds of people within the federal government. We do not accept that.

Nor do we accept that, in a much more insidious way, the legislation authorizes the cabinet to make compliance regulations that will manifestly go beyond the scope of the bill and that will constitute new attacks on provincial jurisdiction. The minister has done her homework poorly, and, moreover, she leaves it to Cabinet to finish the job. Clause 54 empowers Cabinet to make regulations on what the legislation does not cover. Not only does the legislation say nothing about important

aspects of its implementation but we do not even know which minister will be responsible for it. This will be up to Cabinet to decide.

Even the professional corporations that should be the first to be concerned by this new legislation do not know whether their members will be affected by the bill. Again, it will be up to Cabinet to decide whether pharmacists, veterinarians, doctors and dentists will have to get a licence to sell and distribute designated drugs. If this were not legislation in the field of criminal law, we might be willing to leave it to Cabinet to make regulations. As in the case of several other pieces of legislation, we would only have to define parameters in framework legislation and give Cabinet extensive regulatory powers. In administrative matters, there is no great risk in proceeding that way. To the extent that Cabinet does not go beyond the powers with which it has been entrusted by Parliament, the regulations are generally valid.

It is quite another thing in criminal matters, for the citizen ought not to be forced to read every order in council to understand the content and the import of the bill. Yet with this legislation we are asked to give the cabinet the power to impose its will. Who can believe that we will accept, for instance, that Cabinet could use its regulatory powers to legislate on the conduct of members of the professions governed by the Quebec Professional Code? The activities of doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians and dentists in Quebec are exclusively regulated by legislation that controls the practice of their professions.

In addition to being submitted to their organization's monitoring, professionals in Quebec are governed by the Professional Code. When the government proposes that the cabinet be given the authority to determine the conditions of practice of certain professions, it is asking us to make a clean sweep of provincial jurisdiction in that matter, to disregard the exclusive privileges of professional corporations and to grant itself supreme authority over the main fields of activity of pharmacists.

We cannot tolerate that this government would take advantage of a piece of criminal legislation to give Cabinet regulatory powers that so blatantly intrude into provincial jurisdiction on professional practice.

Here are two examples.

When the bill, in the preamble to clause 54, entrusts to Cabinet the regulation of the medical use of drugs, it deals with medical practice and not drug control.

When the bill gives to Cabinet all powers over the sale, supply and administration of drugs, it deals with the provision of pharmaceutical, dental or veterinary services.

When the bill gives to Cabinet the power to deliver licences for the sale of controlled substances, its affects the provision of all pharmaceutical services.

When the bill hands over to Cabinet the authority over the sale and storage of those substances, over professional qualifications of people authorized to sell them, over records those persons should keep, over the dealings of a professional corporation with its members, it is really a code of ethics and a whole set of regulations that the government is trying to impose to pharmacists.

We could go on for hours about this bill, which ignores the fact that the Constitution of this country is based on a division of powers.

Two recent initiatives confirm our misgivings.

The bill has still not been passed and debate at second reading has yet to be completed and two ministers, with contempt for basic decency, announce enforcement regulations which show how much power Cabinet seeks.

I said that this bill was incomplete. I now add that it is only a general and confusing preamble to a series of regulations that Cabinet will be empowered to adopt at its whim and for any reason.

The Solicitor General announced, in a tendentious press release that the police would have a clear and definite legislative basis for engaging in clandestine activities.

What the minister does not say is that this clear and definite legislative basis for new police powers will be in the regulations and not in the law.

This technique could be called legislative trickery.

It is a blatant lack of respect for Parliament. As if we could not legislate intelligently in this House as the cabinet can behind closed doors.

And the Minister of Health announced through the media that growing cannabis could be allowed for commercial purposes.

This government is trying to acquire full powers. It is presenting a bill only for the sake of appearances.

It is not surprising that the Minister of Health, who is apparently sponsoring the bill, announces without batting an eyelash that she is already trying to amend the law without going through the House.

That shows what little consideration this governement has for the elected members of this House.

We will vote against this piece of legislation which is badly written and thrown together and cannot hide the ambitions of the government to regulate professions that fall under exclusive provincial jurisdiction and gives Cabinet unacceptable and excessive regulatory authority.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened to some of the speech of the hon. member opposite. Perhaps my reading of the bill is different than hers but my understanding of the bill is that it is basically a codification of regulations that currently exist under two other acts.

I know that in the last Parliament when the Liberal Party was in opposition we fought very hard against government by regulation on many bills that were put before this place. We believe that when measures impact on the people of the country by way of regulation, wherever possible they should be codified. If flexibility is needed that is fine, but the place to debate major changes is certainly on the floor of the House of Commons. It is my understanding that we are not going in the direction of further regulation but we are going in the direction of codification of existing regulations under some acts.

She spoke for a bit about the pharmaceutical industry. I can certainly tell her that when Bill C-91 hit the floor there was great debate on all sides about the impact of that bill on both sides of industry plus consumers in the health care sector of Canada. One of the major things that this side fought for, and we had a particular point of view on it, was that the regulations inherent in that piece of legislation had to at least go before a parliamentary committee to be debated.

I do not know what the position of the members on her side was. I think they did support the bill but we did not. That was one of the reasons. We believe strongly that when we are dealing with things such as C-91 and indeed when we are dealing with enforcement under the Narcotics Control Act or the Food and Drug Act the place these regulatory changes should be debated is here on the floor of the House.

I would like to get her comments because she did mention the pharmaceutical industry. I would like for her to sort of broaden that out because I did not quite buy her argument insofar as it related to the pharmaceutical industry in Canada.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, we are talking about the regulations which cabinet makes from time to time, as I said in my speech. In fact, cabinet may propose regulations in the case of administrative laws but not in the case of criminal legislation. However, the present wording of the bill gives the government or cabinet the right to make criminal laws.

We had a similar case in the debate on gun control legislation, and at the time it was said that the regulations would have to be tabled in the House 30 days before adoption and publication, during which time they could be discussed in the House. That is what we decided, and that is what will happen in the case of our gun control legislation.

As for the second part of the hon. member's question in which he referred to the lack of response on the part of pharmacists and the general public, who do not see these things the way I do, I simply want to say there is no response at the present time because they do not feel concerned by this legislation. They are not mentioned in the bill. Why should they respond? The same applies to dentists and physicians. At the present time, no one is responding and no one is concerned by the bill. Why? Because for the time being, the individuals and professions that will be in this bill have not been identified.

So this is one way to get legislation through Parliament without people realizing what is going on, until the regulations are tabled and people are told these apply to veterinarians, physicians and dentists, and then they will react, but it will be too late.

That is why, as a member of the opposition, I see it as my duty to condemn these practices the government is trying to get through the House.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that the Reform Party members will be dividing their time.

This bill deals with substances as listed in schedules I through IV and involves those substances that: "when introduced into our bodies produce a stimulant, depressant and/or hallucinogenic effect".

I have some concerns regarding the clarity and the continuity of the intent in some areas of this bill. It is a large bill and to illustrate my point I will select a few sections to indicate this lack of clarity or continuity.

Commencing with section 23 and a few thereafter, this section involves the disposing of controlled substances. The bill states, and I paraphrase, that any person may apply to the justice in writing and within 60 days of the seizure date of the substances for their return. If the justice is satisfied a person applying is the lawful owner or legally entitled to possession of the substance, and if the minister does not have reasonable grounds regarding the safety of the substance and the justice agrees that the substance need not be disposed of, then the substance will be returned to the legally recognized owner.

The minister can do this also in another situation and in that case the legal owner gets paid for the amount of the drugs. Considering this disposal when a legal owner is recognized, if the substance here is not required as evidence, the bill provides for the owner, if he or she wishes, to give consent to have the minister dispose of the substance.

On the other hand the bill does not appear to provide this option to the owner if the substance is required for evidence. He or she gets it back. This could be an oversight or it could be an intent.

Other areas lacking clarity are sections 28 and 25. In section 28: "The minister may cause to be destroyed, on notification of the Attorney General, any illegally produced plant from which a substance under schedule I, II or III may be extracted". The decision is made by the minister and the plant can be disposed of by informing the Attorney General before any controlled substance is produced from it.

It is assumed that in this scenario the plant has been seen by the minister as a potential public health or a safety hazard. In section 25, if the minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the controlled substance constitutes a potential security or health and safety hazard, notice is given to the Attorney General again but at this point a justice is required to be satisfied with the minister's belief before the substance will be ordered forfeited to the crown for the minister to dispose of. In this case it appears that a justice is making the decision to have the drug disposed of.

Here it appears that the minister has the authority to dispose of the plants before the components become controlled substances. Once they become controlled substances the agreement from a justice must also be obtained. This may be the intent and if so I recommend a little more clarity or rationale to eliminate the questioning of this concept.

To leave the disposal section of the bill, I would like to look at the first few sections, specifically sections 2 and 3. These seem to allow for some substances not listed in the schedules to fall within the jurisdiction of the proposed act based on either their chemical composition or their effect on the human body or both.

This could be the beginning of potential problems in that the medical practitioner or the pharmacist or some other medical person is left with the decision as to whether the particular substance not listed in the schedules could or would not be considered a controlled substance.

Making this decision based on the chemical composition of the substance may be straightforward. Making the decision based on the effects on the human body is not. An example that comes to mind would be a substance that may on occasions in some people produce side effects that could be seen to fall within the parameters of the bill as stated now and may on the other hand not produce those side effects in other people.

I assume the intent of these sections of the bill is to provide a control mechanism for those substances created between the updating of the schedules, that those substances that may indeed end up as being classified as controlled substances when the schedules are updated. In this regard, I recommend that mechanisms be built into the bill that allow for frequent updating of the schedules without having to review or address the entire bill or act each time.

One possible solution may be the removal of the schedules which list the substances by name, which are from the actual content of the bill and appended to the bill and yet have a detailed description of the types of substances that would be listed on the schedules. Have that within the bill.

There are a couple of other aspects that I would like to address quickly. I am running short of time. One is the monitoring of prescription records and this is presently being done by Canada's bureau of dangerous drugs. I believe the data are submitted once every 60 days. The bill tends to suggest they would be submitted every 30 days.

I would question or wonder about the feasibility of this as an increased workload for both those submitting the data and those receiving the data, and if indeed receiving the data more frequently would enhance the effectiveness of the monitoring of, and thus more control over, these adverse situations.

The second clarification needed is in relation to criminal charges. Apparently the bill provides for criminal charges to be laid if a person is in possession of drugs that are in schedules I and II. If they are in possession of drugs that are in schedule III the intent for trafficking would have to be proven.

In closing, I would have to oppose this bill based on lack of clarity in a number of areas.

Also at this time I would like to propose an amendment to the motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting the words after the word "that" and substituting the following therefor:

"Bill C-7, an act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs."

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The amendment is in order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to respond to Bill C-7 presented by the Minister of Health.

This bill is a near duplicate of Bill C-85 from the 34th Parliament. From my counting it is 71 pages, a considerable piece of legislation. I understand that this bill, like all bills, is not the beginning of something. It is more correctly seen as the end product, the result of much deliberation, consultation and thousands of hours of work by many.

This bill is a major realignment of drug control legislation, specifically an act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances, and to amend certain other acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act. The first flag of concern is that this bill is presented by the Minister of Health. It amends the contents of the Criminal Code of which the Narcotic Control Act and federal drug act have traditionally been part. It is now seen as health legislation rather than behavioural control legislation that is commonly known as the criminal law.

I am directly suggesting that there is joint responsibility between the Standing Committee on Health and the Standing Committee on Justice. When this bill gets to committee the significant and traditional Criminal Code and justice nature of the bill must not be forgotten.

This begs the question: What is the government saying about the drug problem in Canada? What philosophical flavour made this bill be presented as health legislation? Certainly that should be a concern to the community.

The assignment category for legislation into health sends a message to the country. I am not so sure I like that message. Is there a misguided softening on law and order with this government? Has the government given up on the aggressive police enforcement side of dealing with the drug problem? I hope not. Certainly I do not think it has the political mandate for that either.

May this legislation receive the significance and priority that it deserves. For all its hoped for improvements let us hope that changes in the criminal law will not be weakened by Bill C-7's regulation to be seen merely as a health issue.

The role of the federal government in combating drug abuse is long established. Within Canada the Narcotic Control Act, the Food and Drugs Act and the Criminal Code provide the basic legislative structure for the control of psychoactive substances, narcotic stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens.

Enforcement of these federal statutes is the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who work closely with customs authorities, provincial and municipal police forces to combat illicit drug activity.

Health and Welfare Canada's bureau of dangerous drugs has a dual role in the implementation of the statutes. It provides administrative support to law enforcement agencies such as disposal of seized goods and assets, training assistance and scientific expertise. The bureau also administers the regulations covering the legitimate use of psychoactive substances for medical and scientific research purposes.

These provide for distribution procedures, security measures, record keeping and prescribing practice among others. There must be a balance between control over drugs and their availability to meet legitimate medical and scientific needs.

The health care community must also be accountable for its shared role in achieving this balance. Since practitioners, physicians, veterinarians, dentists and pharmacists are licensed by the provincial government where they practise, those governments are also responsible for ensuring that standards are met by health professionals under their jurisdiction.

Close and ongoing liaison among federal and provincial authorities is the key to an effective drug control program. However it must be sustained by bold, clear law that actually works in the courtroom and does not become a retirement plan for lawyers.

Drug control law must also send the right signals for general deterrence. It must work technically but it also must teach. It is symbolism and advance warning of what the community will tolerate.

My reading of the community mood is that it is looking for political leadership and courage concerning our drug laws. The attitudes of zero tolerance are increasing as the community comes to comprehend the long term debilitating effects that illicit drug use has on society, especially among the young.

Bill C-7 replaces a large part of the Criminal Code book which I have on my reference shelf, for the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act have traditionally been known as criminal legislation. Law enforcement agencies are involved. The courts regularly impose sentences on those duly charged under it, fined and given jail terms. This is the character and seriousness of the legislation.

Drugs are also related to organized crime. Yet this bill to amend the Criminal Code is introduced by the Minister of Health. Health is an issue for sure but Bill C-7 is clearly criminal law in tradition and substance. Therefore when we push this bill on to the next stage, I ask the government to send it to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, not the Standing Committee on Health.

I want to talk for a moment about marijuana. A survey a few years ago revealed at that time that 4.5 million Canadians 15 years old and over had tried some form of cannabis. The same survey showed that 1 in 15 Canadians used cannabis in the year of that survey and the numbers were rather astonishing. Approximately 700,000 Canadians have tried some form of cocaine. More than 800,000 have tried LSD, speed or heroin.

Since the drug problem seems to accelerate each year, there is no question that there needs to be a coherent, workable and

strong response by Parliament. We must give our front line people, who struggle valiantly to protect the community, the tools and legal terms to do their job.

I notice that in the first version of this bill, the Conservative one from the 34th Parliament, the amount of cannabis that is to be considered the demarcation line between schedules-serious consequences or not so serious consequences-in Bill C-85, schedule VI, it was one kilo of cannabis. That was the amount. Now in the same section of Bill C-7, that demarcation amount is raised to three kilos. What is the message here?

Maybe there are some arguments, such as fewer cases leading to jail terms, a cost saving measure. Perhaps pressure has come from certain social groups who believe in using pot as their religion. Whatever the reckoning, it is quite a message to send to the community.

What are the effects of the proposed legislation with reference to schedule VI? Those dealing in drugs could do so in shipments under three kilos. Should they get caught it would mean not as heavy a penalty as it would if they were caught with a quantity exceeding three kilos. This change might embolden what is happening on the street, especially in our high schools, and result in an increase in the drug trade. Traffickers will think that the law is getting soft.

How much is three kilos? It is three bricks, three bundles, about 6.6 pounds. It is about the size and weight of my newborn son, 6.6 pounds. What will 6.6 pounds buy or bring the children of our nation? Three kilos or 6.6 pounds would make an awful lot of joints.

As a criminal justice professional I have seen firsthand clients who have lost business careers because of closet marijuana habits. Years ago I saw a cabinet minister of the provincial government light up. How sad. I have dealt with sexual offenders on probation. Some of their excuses for molesting the children in their household was that they were high on cannabis.

The car accidents, the industrial accidents, the misjudged business deals leading to bankruptcy and many needlessly unemployed, the loss of general social judgment, the loss of the desire to work, the loss of the desire for academic excellence, these I have observed firsthand as a probation officer, officer of the court and family court counsellor, the direct result of the relatively tolerant attitude toward marijuana use. There we have some of the underlying principles of Bill C-7. These are the flags of direction that the bill takes.

In summary, first I say clearly that Bill C-7 is criminal law. Let us not slip it by as merely health legislation. Second, what a signal is sent by the threshold of three kilos for cannabis. This bill on that specific seems to go in the wrong direction.

The government may try to send a signal that we now are a mature, sophisticated society and that we can handle drug use in a tolerant and enlightened way under the guise of health but the community knows otherwise. The school authorities in my riding are not looking for a loosening of drug enforcement. The local crown counsel is looking for clear, tough, workable legislation that holds up in the courtroom.

My community wants legislation that gives clear authority to the duty constable when he pulls over a driver. It should give appropriate powers of search and seizure for drugs. I say it is not technically hard to do but it requires political will to send a clear signal which way we are going with this legislation. Let the community absorb what is being proposed. Let witnesses come forward. Let the people speak, not just the experts.

I challenge the government to not only proceed with its top down attitude telling the community what is good for them but let the implications of this bill simmer in the community and then have the courage to adjust its efforts into what the community expects from its leaders.

In closing, Bill C-7 is significant legislation. It is 71 pages worth. It remains to be seen what is the essential thrust, where it is going. I look forward to seeing it referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and give it the character and the intent that it deserves.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made reference to marijuana and a particular threshold of three kilos without making reference to that as being simply a procedural matter in the act and having nothing to do with substance.

The new legislation in dealing with cannabis, which is marijuana, puts the substance into the same schedule, schedule I, that opium, codeine, morphine, cocaine are in, some of the worst drugs that we have. Marijuana and its derivatives are in the same schedule where reference is made that marijuana, its preparations, derivatives and similar synthetic preparations are all included in schedule I.

How can the hon. member indicate that this legislation is not legislation that adequately deals with marijuana when that substance is put into the same schedule as other drugs such as cocaine, codeine and opium?

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

I understand the point. There is a demarcation on schedule VI concerning the three kilo mark, over three kilos or under.

I know the pressure of the court system in the province of British Columbia and elsewhere. If the charge is simple possession of marijuana or a small amount for trafficking, and if there is an option to proceed summarily they are going to chose that option. Raising the amount to three kilos is, I think, sending the wrong signal. The criminal law must act and be functional and stand up in the courtroom, but it also is an educated and symbolic role. I think the bill sends the wrong signal to the community.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think we may have had a problem with translation. I apologize for my lack of proficiency in the other official language but when the Bloc Quebecois member of the Official Opposition was speaking, the translation I believe was coming across that she was concerned about consultation and that pharmacists and other people in the industry should have more time for consultation.

I was reading it through translation as pharmaceuticals and I could not quite figure it out. That is why I asked the question I did. If the hon. member is listening, we probably had a little problem either with translation or my understanding of what the translator said.

I have listened with some interest to what has gone on this morning. We have had the two official parties in opposition, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, both speak on this legislation.

I thought that seven or eight months into the mandate members opposite would have remembered what they said in the first few days of this House. I know that the Bloc Quebecois has a mandate, or so it sees it, in the people who elected them. I think the Bloc members will find out that the mandate is not quite what they thought it was, if ever there is a referendum in Quebec. However, they believe that they have a mandate, first and foremost, to see the separation of the province of Quebec. I may disagree with that but they were democratically elected and I am sure that when they debate issues such as this, they are trying their best to represent the interests of the people of Quebec.

When we first came into this place there was a lot of talk that people were not going to become wildly partisan just for the sake of being wildly partisan, and that when good legislation came forward, members opposite, particularly in the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, would do their best to support it.

This place works on confrontation. It works on opposition. When legislation comes forward the role of the Official Opposition and other opposition parties is to oppose. But I thought that we had gone beyond that and that no longer was it opposition for the sake of opposition.

This is one of the bills where the members opposite in the Reform Party and the Bloc could have shown that they really did want to make this a different Parliament, and that they really did want to co-operate to bring forward non-contentious legislation.

I do not know where some of the members from the Bloc are coming from, but the people in my community spoke loud and clear prior to the last election. They said they wanted a government whose number one concern was the health and safety of the communities.

The people in my community said it very loudly two years ago when I had to go to Portland Estates because we had a gang problem and people no longer felt safe in their communities. They did not want their politicians to get up here and dance on the head of a pin. They wanted real debate about reforming laws and striking the proper balances so that our criminal justice system reflected the reality and the needs of our communities.

There was a lot of talk about the Young Offenders Act. We heard how it had to be strengthened but at the same time we could not just punish; we had to try to reform. The emphasis had to be on rehabilitation not strictly punishment.

There is no question a level of consultation is needed. But I would say to my colleagues opposite when dealing with this that this is an uncontentious bill. There may be a few items here and there they may wish to change or I may wish to change but surely we can get some agreement that this type of legislation is progressive.

The legislation codifies some of the regulatory regimes dealing with the two acts in question. It makes it a little easier for our law enforcement officials and other people in the judicial system to actually enforce what it is we want. That is safer streets and harsher penalties for those who deal in death with narcotics. They do deal in death and narcotics destroy our communities.

I thought we would have gotten a little agreement but perhaps they slide too easily into old patterns. This was quite interesting.

The Reform Party more than the Bloc has indicated that only the Reform Party can talk about family values. I can say that I would get somewhat nauseous listening to some Reform members leading up to the election.

Members of the Reform Party would condemn past and present members of this place as simply not being able to understand what the people in their communities wanted. They literally contributed a great deal to the feeling that this place and the people who practised the profession of politics somehow lived on the underbelly of life and that we simply looked after self interests and not the interests of the community.

Reformers would always say that they were the law and order party: "We are the only ones who can bring law and order back". I remember debating with my Reform opponent in the election campaign. I can say that party would have locked everybody up and thrown away the key. That is what the Reform Party thought would save communities.

I would have thought that when they got into this place they would have also listened to the other little piece of rhetoric they spiel out occasionally. That is that they are truly different and as Reformers they are the only ones who can reform the way Parliament works.

Over the last few weeks we have seen their types of reforms. They give back cars but take 75 cents on the dollar from taxpayers to pay for their leader's car, haircuts, shoe shines, all the things they condemned us for. However I want to put that aside.

The Reform Party has fallen into the old patterns they so easily condemned. I have not seen them come in and support a government motion, except for maybe on one or two occasions, but not many.

This is a major piece of legislation. Surely to goodness there is some consensus that the government must move forward. It must simplify for law enforcement agencies and for the public the laws dealing with health and safety in our community. In this case it is Bill C-7 dealing with controlled substances.

This bill was before the last Parliament but did not get through for whatever reasons. Our government is holding true to our promises in the red book of coming in with progressive legislation and the changes necessary to respond to what Canadians want. They want healthier, safer communities.

Therefore we have come forward in the first few months of our mandate with a bill that was worked on in the previous Parliament. We did not think the bill was all bad so we have changed some of the things. We have modernized it again. We have tried to put some order into how we deal with some sections that without this bill are currently under the Food and Drug Act and the Narcotic Control Act.

I cannot think of anything that should bring more easy support from the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois. If anybody out there is watching, the Reform Party is the one that said everybody had to vote their conscience in this place.

I am not prone to attacking the opposition. I am getting a little fed up with their positions on things like this though. Every day they come into this place and they vote like robots when the government says it is coming in with a piece of legislation. They automatically all have. I cannot believe the Reform Party whip tells them how to vote because they told us during the campaign that was corrupt and bad. They must all be struck by some stardust in that each and every one of them every time a bill comes in finds it bad and they all vote the same way.

I wonder how their constituents who are really concerned about law and order feel about the hoist motion. For those out there watching we debate legislation in this place. We try to make the regulatory and statutory environment society works in a little better. We constantly have to try to modernize our legislation because our own morality as a society changes with time. It is interesting.

The hoist motion just proposed by the Reform Party in the amendment by the hon. member for Surrey North effectively says it does not want the House of Commons to deal with this issue. That is what a hoist motion does. The Reform Party came in with an amendment which, if passed, would hoist the whole issue of drugs, safe streets, crime as it relates to illegal and illicit drugs in our communities. We would not deal with it. That is what the effect of her amendment would be.

If there are any Reform supporters left after the last few weeks of revelations about internal party conduct of that party, I think the hair on the back of their necks should be bristling. They sent their members here to show this place could work differently and that members should support good legislation when it came before the House. More important, they did not want us to get into these games that they used to criticize. Members of the Reform Party criticized the games of Parliament well, such as hoist motions.

Now let us get real here with the Bloc Quebecois and also the Reform Party. Their mandate is to try to get some ink. They do not want the government portrayed in a favourable light because it is probably going to have some impact on their sagging popularity. I understand that. Opposition parties have to take that into account. I am a realist. We were in opposition and I know how the game is played. However, when we deal with these fundamental issues of safety and modernizing our legislation there should be some degree of consensus that we work together.

There is a red herring out there. There might be a cod with it because we cannot seem to find any of them on the east coast. A red herring has been thrown out a couple of times and I am not about to let it go by.

They are saying we cannot let this debate go on about the merits of the legislation, we have to talk about procedure. The real problem is that this stuff comes under the Criminal Code and should have been introduced by the Minister of Justice.

When it comes to cleaning up the streets in Dartmouth, I do not care if it is the janitor who introduces the legislation as long as it gets thoroughly debated and the impact on my community is that it is safer. If the people in Backwater Gulch somewhere are having a problem with drugs in their community, I do not think they particularly care who puts the legislation forward. So let us clear that one off the agenda.

If that is the biggest complaint they have maybe everybody in here will jump up and say they support the legislation. By the way, the Minister of Justice supports the legislation. Just because he did not move it does not mean he is opposed to it. Maybe that is what it was with Reform members and why they

could not support it. Maybe I have clarified it. Maybe they will support the legislation this afternoon.

On committee referral, I know most members of the Reform Party with the exception of their House leader are new here. Most members of the Bloc Quebecois are new here. However, the reality is that committees basically are masters of their own destiny in this place. We do not have the legislative committees the Tories did. We want to make sure we are building up expertise in certain areas on committees by all members of the House.

There is some agreement in this place that we have tried to do what we said we would during the campaign about making Parliament work better. We said we wanted the role of individual members to be heightened. We wanted to make sure they could provide input into the system.

I am the committee chair on fisheries and oceans. The way I run my committee is with the co-operation of members opposite and my own side. That is different from what the Tories did. We actually try to drop our partisanship at the door and come up with better legislation, if that is what we are dealing with. When we did the cod adjustment package, the Atlantic groundfish adjustment, everybody on my side was happy with the report. We showed that this government is putting its money where its mouth is in allowing committees to have as broad a latitude as they think they need from maximum input by members.

The second Reform Party red herring is that we have to get this over to the justice and legal affairs committee. Nonsense. If the Reform Party members in that committee are interested in trying to bring forward better legislation then they can ask the chair. When this legislation goes before that committee it can be put to a vote to have officials from the Department of Justice if that is who they want, or the janitor, appear before the committee. They can do whatever they want.

I want to strip away some of the nonsense that is being put here and to appeal particularly to the Reform Party. Start reading your own campaign material. You ran on law and order. You ran on trying to make sure this place ran better. You ran on trying to strip partisanship and gamesmanship from the House.

On an issue that deals with law and order which cleaned up the streets in my area, you are doing everything that you criticized past members and parties of this place of doing. Wake up. Read the polling numbers. I want to tell you, some of the problems you guys have over there, Mr. Speaker, those individuals-

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1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I guess I rose a little too quickly. I see the member recognized the Chair. I just did not want to be forgotten in this debate. If we get too personal with the "you this" or "you that" we could allow our debate and discussions in this Chamber to degenerate. Of course we are all committed to the most vibrant, animated and forthright discussions possible but please do not forget the Speaker.

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1:10 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, thank you for reminding me. I slipped. What I meant was "they".

Let me put it this way, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps what those individuals on the other side should do is go back and read their campaign literature. They have slipped a few times. They have come to this place having raised themselves on a high holy pedestal. They have found it is a long fall when knocked off.

Indeed their leader found that out a few days ago. I hope they recover. I hope they do find a way to contribute, and I mean this sincerely, to the debates in this House.

They may laugh. I happen to have a great deal of respect for every member of this House no matter what their political affiliation, even if they are separatists. They have a right to have a say in this place. I am trying my best in this new Parliament to show we can work differently. I have dulled my tongue of its partisanship. However on an issue like this I am not prepared to because the public has to know what goes on here.

I have a problem in my community up on Hester Street in the north end of Dartmouth. The prostitution problem is driving this neighbourhood into decline. It is an old residential neighbourhood. It is not downtown in an industrial or commercial area.

The reality is the problem for the residents up in the north end on Hester Street and Albro Lake Road is not just prostitution but is drug related. In and around that area there were a number of known crack houses. These prostitutes are victims of the most despicable types of individuals when dealing with the pimps. Many or most of these young girls in the situation of prostitution have a drug problem. The pimps get them addicted to drugs.

Drugs are far too easily available in every community, every junior and senior high school, even elementary schools, in this country. The reason we have the problem on Hester Street in the north end is because there were two crack houses nearby. The prostitutes who were addicted to crack were plying their trade primarily because they could make some money and get a hit of crack. The police have found the laws would not allow them to take the type of action necessary to clean up the streets. That is a problem.

I will support any initiative this government or the opposition puts forward that would move in that direction. I know Bill C-7, which should not be a controversial bill, does all of those things. It moves in the right direction.

It will not be the last time this government comes forward with amendments to the Criminal Code, to health and welfare legislation, the Food and Drug Act, or other acts. We will respond as necessary. We will take the steps we believe will lead to safer communities and will allow law enforcement officials and the judicial system to deal effectively with those seeking to

destroy our communities and rob many of our youth of their lives and if not their lives, their usefulness in life.

This bill should be soundly debated in the House on the facts. The time to raise the concerns the Bloc Quebecois have had, and they are legitimate concerns I might say, about too much regulation without notification of this Parliament is when it gets to committee. We did that in opposition.

Pharmacists and people who legitimately have to use controlled substances in their legal work should be heard from, but the place to do that is at committee.

I ask members on all sides to see this piece of legislation for what it is. It is not a big piece of legislation. I think there should be unanimous consent on the intent of the legislation. Let us work if there is a problem through the committee structure to make it a better piece of legislation so that our streets are a little safer after it is passed.

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1:15 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the member has dulled his partisan tongue. If he had not dulled it I expect we might need an ambulance over here.

I would like to ask the member, since he spoke so eloquently about non-partisan comments on this specific bill, would he reflect back to the 34th Parliament upon the comments made by the Liberal members of the committee when they were reviewing this bill. I am sure he will know about that.

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1:15 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do know about it. I want to say that the member is very fortunate, as are you, Mr. Speaker, to have lived through the last Parliament.

In the last Parliament things did work differently here. I think one of the reasons that the Reform Party has been so successful across this country is that it was a negative response to the way things were done here. One of the reasons the Liberals so successful in the last campaign is that we recognized that the Canadian public no longer would allow Parliament to work basically by fiat, by a small number of individuals and mandarins to make all the decisions, that consultation was not real, that it was phoney, and that bad legislation and special interest legislation got passed.

I think the member opposite and even you and I, Mr. Speaker, have benefited by the past government's excessive partisanship and lack of consultation when it came to legislative process. Some of us did try to make this a better place. I can say that in the last Parliament one of the few committees that did work effectively was the government ops committee led by Mr. Holtmann, who is no longer a member here, and John Rodriguez, a New Democrat who was the NDP critic. We worked together with the groups there to try to come up with better legislation. I think we were a bit of a model in the way we were trying to do things.

The hon. member is right, there may have been some members in the past. We participated in the venue that was drawn for us by the government. We have drawn a different venue. We have put different rules forward. We allow members of this place to have their say.

I would urge the member not to live in the past, to look at the future, to look at reality. He will see that there is plenty of opportunity without falling into old patterns to allow members of all sides to have their say when it comes to formulating legislation.

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1:15 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see the member who just spoke try to do a psychological analysis of the opposition's intentions, in particular regarding Bill C-7. However, I would like to remind him that when the Liberals were in opposition, they did exactly what we are doing.

As long as we think that a bill fails to reach its goal or is poorly written and is unclear and ambiguous, we will oppose it regardless of what the government says. I believe it is our responsibility, as the official opposition, to do so not only for Quebecers but for all Canadians. This bill is unclear and we oppose it in many respects. I will have later on the opportunity to dwell on a particular point.

But I am concerned by some statements made by the government members opposite regarding this bill. On February 15, the Sollicitor General of Canada stated to the press that it was important to amend the Narcotic Control Act as well as some parts of the Food and Drugs Act in order to be in a better position to fight the cocaine traffic organized by the Warriors on the aboriginal reserves.

I would like to know if the member agrees with this statement and, if so, if it means that the present Narcotic Control Act does not provide any means to control that traffic? Does the member agree with this statement and, if so, could he explain why?

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1:15 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is the first time I have had an opportunity to respond to a question which is so specific that it deals with not just one region of Canada but actually with a very special people in Canada, the native community.

The member does his side and his cause a great disservice, constantly focusing on problems that the native community or a native community or any minority community in Canada may have. If the member wishes to ask some questions dealing with the impact of this legislation across Canada, I would be pleased to answer. I am not prepared in any way, shape or form to allow the member opposite to put questions forward like we heard over and over again in question periods over the last two months in this place that deal specifically with the native community or any other community.

This bill is not meant to just strike out at people who violate the law, the norms of society, when it comes to trafficking controlled substances. I do not really care if they are Gaelic, if they are Cape Bretoners, if they are from the province of Quebec, from the Gaspé or if they happen to be natives. The way this government operates is that it legislates for all Canadians without noting which region they live in or which ethnic group they come from.

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1:20 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the explanatory notes in Bill C-7 specify that the proposed enactment consolidates Canada's drug control policy to fulfill Canada's obligations under international conventions.

That consolidation, which is no doubt necessary, brings about major consequences, the most important of which is the repeal of the Narcotic Control Act, as well as of Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act.

In the guise of that consolidation, the legal and statutory approach to a major problem is dramatically changed and this, without prior consultation. Yes, without consultation, and in a strange heavy context which raises concerns on this side of the House.

As you did, Mr. Speaker, I heard the comments that were made to the media by the Solicitor General of Canada on February 15, as I mentioned earlier. If it is true that there is an emergency, as if the present Narcotic Control Act could not allow the RCMP to stop the lucrative traffic of cocaine and other hard drugs, there is a problem with the system.

A country can have all the useful and necessary laws in some activity sector, but if the political will to enforce these laws in some areas of that country does not exist, they will be useless. So, we believe that it is necessary for Canada and for Quebec to have efficient and stringent legislation that responds to the present and imminent need to stop this plague. But, most of all, the police forces must feel that they have the support of those who will vote for that legislation.

From this House, we must give a clear message to anyone engaged in that black market that the legislator is serious in his or her willingness to counter narcotics and all other drugs. In order to do so, we should step up our effort and enforce the present laws while waiting for the updating wished for by Bill C-7.

In that regard, it might be useful to remind the Solicitor General of Canada of certain provisions of the existing Narcotic Control Act compared to provisions found in Bill C-7 dealing virtually with the same issue. If you read the bill, you will see that the legislator's intent was to criminalize the trafficking in designated substances as well as their import and export. However, the legislator does not criminalize trafficking since trafficking, and importing and exporting of narcotics are already considered a criminal activity under the existing Narcotic Control Act.

I could mention a whole list of provisions contained in Bill C-7 that are identical or similar to those contained in the existing Narcotic Control Act, but since I do not have the time, I will simply mention to this House that there is already an act that can efficiently counter cocaine trafficking or trafficking in any other narcotic, provided it is enforced everywhere in Canada.

As regards the statement of the Solicitor General of Canada who said that Bill C-7 would allow police forces to make sales under surveillance, which means that double agents could infiltrate smuggling networks and catch criminals by proposing deals, one can also question that novelty.

When the Solicitor General made that statement, he was referring to clause 54(2) of Bill C-7.

That provision reads as follows:

(2) The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Solicitor General of Canada, may make regulations that pertain to investigations and other law enforcement activities conducted under this Act by a member of a police force and other persons acting under the direction and control of a member and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, may make regulations: (b) exempting, on such terms and conditions as may be specified in the regulations, a member of a police force that has been designated pursuant to paragraph (a) and other persons acting under the direction and control of the member from the applications of this Act or the regulations;

There is absolutely nothing new in this bill. Something similar exists in the current Narcotic Control Act. The investigative power of police officers already allows them to infiltrate a group that they are watching and further, section 18 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act already provides for that procedure.

Then, why does the Solicitor General of Canada need the powers under clause 54(2) of Bill C-7 when the investigative power of police officers already provides for such measures?

Furthermore, infiltration is aimed at gathering information on dealers or on trafficking.

However, in the case quoted by the Solicitor General, the RCMP and the Sûreté du Québec-and I must emphasize that it is the Solicitor General of Canada who referred to the groups that I talked about earlier-mentioned that they were aware of the cocaine trafficking done by the Warriors.

So, this bill does not set forth anything new, nor does it provide any additional powers. We have to admit that the Solicitor General could act immediately to put an end to trafficking everywhere in Canada. That statement makes us believe that the Solicitor General is behind the anticipated passage of Bill C-7 in order to gain time and delay any intervention in those territories.

If the bill were so essentiel to the fight against drug trafficking in Canada, does it mean Canada never offered any resistance to drug dealers before the passage of the bill we are now studying? I hope this is only an extrapolation and that Bill C-7 is presented to this House with a view to modernizing a police procedure already in place and consolidating the Canadian drug control policy, as mentioned in the explanatory notes to the bill. However, one fact still remains: the government is not reaching its objective with this bill, it is presenting a faulty bill, one that is badly written, confused and difficult to enforce.

That being said, Mr. Speaker, to convince you, I think it would be appropriate to stress one of the points raised on Friday, February 18, by the hon. member of the Bloc Quebecois for Portneuf when he discussed Bill C-7. You will remember he was explaining to the House the deficiencies of Bill C-7.

After studying the bill, the Bloc Quebecois classified its deficiencies under four categories. I will review them briefly. First, the legitimate activities of doctors, pharmacists and veterinarians; were these people adequately protected by this bill? Second, the enormous powers given to inspectors designated by the minister; are they not of such nature as to allow, if not induce, mistakes which will unduly penalize health professionals and their patients?

Third, how will the confidential nature of medical records be respected when the law allows just about anybody designated as an inspector by the minister to copy the files held by health care institutions and to seize all their computer files? The last question is why does this bill call criminal and throw in jail individuals who, in fact, are drug addicts in need of treatment?

As the Official Opposition critic for the Solicitor General, I will deal mainly with the third question regarding the confidential nature of medical records.

I do think that, should this bill be passed without amendment, it will jeopardize the confidential nature of medical records. Under the provisions of the bill, the lawmaker will make it harder for policemen to search the home of a known drug dealer than for an inspector appointed by the minister to carry out what would amount to a seizure in a hospital or at the corner drugstore.

One has only to refer to Part IV of Bill C-7 to realize how far-reaching are the powers of an inspector designated by the minister to enforce the act.

Under clause 29 of the bill:

29.(1) The Minister may designate any person as an inspector for the purposes of this Act and the regulations.

The expression "any person" send shivers down my spine because this person is given a lot of power.

Under clause 30. (1) of the bill:

  1. (1) Subject to subsection (2), an inspector may, to ensure compliance with the regulations, at any reasonable time enter any place used for the purpose of conducting the business or professional practice of any person licensed or otherwise authorized under the regulations to deal in a controlled substance or a precursor and may for that purpose

We are dealing here with professionals, not smugglers or pushers, but real professionals who are licensed for this very purpose.

This small paragraph therefore entitles anyone designated by the minister pursuant to clause 29 to enter at just about any time-clause 30 even specifies at any time of the day-a doctor's office, a pharmacy, a hospital, an LCSC, or the office of any other health professional who has obtained the required licence.

What are the powers of an inspector doing an inspection? I will tell you. Among other things, he can: a ) open and examine any receptacle or package-

examine anything found in a place that: b ) -is used or may be capable of being used for the production, preservation, packaging or storage of a controlled substance- c ) examine any labels or advertising material or records, books, electronic data or other documents found in that place with respect to any controlled substance-

And the list goes on and on.

The inspector can even: e ) reproduce any document from any electronic data referred to in paragraph ( c ) or cause it to be reproduced, in the form of a printout or other output; h ) examine any substance found in that place and take, for the purpose of analysis, such samples thereof as are reasonably required;

As we can see, Bill C-7 gives the inspector powers that even a peace officer does not have to fight the most serious threat of all, cocaine trafficking. Obviously, we are off the track!

Even more disturbing, should Bill C-7 be passed as it is, the inspector can gather evidence which could be used against a pharmacist, a physician, a nurse or anyone else in criminal court, whereas normally any action likely to lead to a trial in criminal court cannot be undertaken without a warrant, except under very special circumstances provided for in the legislation.

I was saying a moment ago that the law is a lot more demanding for police officers than for these inspectors, and to prove it, I will read to you clause 12, subclauses (1) and (7) of the bill.

Under the title Search, Seizure and Detention , clause 12 says:

  1. (1) A justice who, on ex parte application, is satisfied by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a ) a controlled substance-, b ) any thing in which a controlled substance [-]is contained or concealed, c ) offence-related property, or d ) any thing that will afford evidence in respect of an offence under this Act is in a place may, at any time, issue a warrant authorizing a peace officer, at any time, to search the place for any such controlled substance, precursor, property or thing and to seize it.

Subclause (7) provides that:

(7) A peace officer may exercise any of the powers described in subsection (1) -without a warrant if the conditions for obtaining a warrant exist but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impracticable to obtain one.

These two subclauses of clause 12 clearly show that a police officer cannot act without a warrant, except under special circumstances.

As for clause 30 of the bill, it provides that an inspector can act, visit, seize, etc., as indicated, at all times and without a warrant. Thus there is a clear difference between the two.

The only time an inspector needs a warrant is when he wants to visit a dwelling, a private residence. It is normal to require a warrant in such a case. For the rest, there is a clear difference between a government inspector and a police officer doing his job, fighting against smugglers.

I find the wording of clause 30 quite strange, especially when referring to superior court judgements on the importance of search warrants under the Canadian Charter of Rights.

We must not forget that certain previous provisions of the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act authorized searches without a warrant anywhere but in a dwelling, when a peace officer had reasonable reasons to believe that narcotics were to be found there.

There were no such open-ended authorizations in the defunct Bill C-85, a bill similar to the one before us today, because they had been ruled inoperative and contrary to section 8 of the Charter.

Yet, subclause 12(7) would authorize, under exceptional circumstances, a peace officer to conduct a search without a warrant when the conditions for obtaining a warrant exist but it would be impracticable to obtain one. It could be that the time required to obtain a warrant would jeopardize the life or safety of a person or the very existence of capital evidence. Under the circumstances, a search without a warrant would be justified and could not be challenged under the Charter.

To wrap up, I sincerely think that the legislator would be giving far too much power to the inspectors if clause 30 were to be passed as is, as it has no foundation in law.

As the past gives us some indication of things to come, we know that it is not good to give this kind of discretionary powers to a person or group of persons without providing a restrictive framework, legally speaking. The War Measures Act is a good example of this. Never again must we relive such excesses.

In no time, these superinspectors would be living in a glass bubble that would promote excesses.

Furthermore, the powers of the inspector run counter to the provinces' jurisdiction. For example, Quebec has granted inspection powers to the Professional Corporation of Physicians of Quebec, as well as to the Quebec college of pharmacists and dentists. The corporation's or organization's inspector can show up, provided proper notice was given, at the office or place of business of doctors, dentists, pharmacists and others to ensure compliance with the principles of medical practice.

The Government of Quebec also allows the corporation's trustee to examine the practice of any physician, dentist or other professional with respect to a complaint to the effect that he or she has prescribed a hazardous substance to a patient.

It seems obvious to me that this part of the act once again enables the federal government to interfere in provincial areas of responsibility, which the Official Opposition considers both costly and unacceptable.

In closing, I suggest the government go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that would be much more in line with the realities of modern-day life, one on which everybody

would have been consulted. I suggest that it holds consultations on this subject, as part of the multiple consultations it is carrying out these days. I think that consultation in that area would definitely be in order, considering the implications for future generations.

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1:35 p.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm said that Bill C-7 and the Narcotic Control Act currently in effect contained many similar provisions. Could he please give us a few examples?

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1:35 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, yes, I could give a few examples. First I must point out, as I said in my speech earlier, that criminalization of drugs is nothing new as it was done in the Narcotic Control Act, but I will give you three examples.

Clause 6(1) of Bill C-7 reads as follows:

No person shall traffic in a substance included in Schedule I, II or III or in any substance represented or held out by that person to be such a substance.

Clause 4(1) of the current Narcotic Control Act says this:

No person shall traffic in a narcotic or any substance represented or held out by the person to be a narcotic.

Another example, clause 7(1) of the bill before us provides that:

Except as authorized under the regulations, no person shall import into Canada or export from Canada a substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V.

The current Narcotic Control Act says this: "Except as authorized by this Act or the regulations, no person shall import into Canada or export from Canada any narcotic."

I could give you other examples. Clause 9(1) of Bill C-7 is the same as clause 9(1) of the Narcotic Control Act with regard to the commission in Canada of an offence.

As I said earlier, I think the idea is to update the legislation; however, we want, through this House, to send the message that the law we will adopt on food and drugs will be enforced in every part of Canada. And I am saying that, at this time, the Narcotic Control Act is not being enforced everywhere in Canada.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to this bill.

The problem of the use of illicit substances and addiction and those who profit from it troubles the nation, troubles my constituents and, speaking as one who is elected to represent those same constituents, troubles me.

The use of illicit drugs has eaten away at the fabric of our society like a leprous plague. The illicit drug trade and those who live off its avails exact a heavy toll. They prey on that segment of our population that is most vulnerable, our youth, a prime target for those who deal in these drugs.

Drugs destroy families, they destroy careers, they destroy futures. They also destroy young lives. Perhaps most reprehensibly of all, while doing so they put cash into the hands of criminals.

In my practice as a physician I have personally witnessed many young people in families trapped in the cycle of drug dependency. I have worked with many of those families and young people to help them reclaim control of their lives. It is a difficult, frustrating and heart-rending struggle. I am therefore extremely sensitive to the consequences of drug dependence. It is not only a criminal issue, it is a health and social issue.

Realizing the need for action and recognizing that a widespread problem such as this requires a broadly based solution, the federal government launched Canada's drug strategy in 1987.

Canada's drug strategy is a comprehensive set of programs implemented with the collaboration of a multitude of partners and stakeholders. It was the first comprehensive step toward reducing the devastating and costly effects of drug and alcohol abuse to individuals, to families and to communities.

Canada's drug strategy was designed to address drug abuse in a balanced and co-ordinated manner. Emphasis was not only put on treatment and rehabilitation but it also addressed education and prevention.

Part of the strategy contains legislative components in the form of legislation intended to strip traffickers of their ill-gotten assets, legislation that recognizes the obligation of Canada as a signatory under three international conventions, and legislation that consolidates parts 3 and 4 of the Food and Drug Act and the Narcotic Control Act.

All components of phase 1 of the drug strategy are now in place with the exception of the legislation implementing the convention. This controlled drugs and substances bill is the final component of our drug strategy.

Canada's drug strategy is based on the recognition that we must maintain a balanced approach when dealing with substance abuse. Two hundred and seventy million dollars over five years have been dedicated to the reduction of use and to the reduction of supply.

The strategy allocates 70 per cent of its funds to reduction among users. This covers treatment initiatives, rehabilitation, education and prevention. The other 30 per cent is dedicated to enforcement activity.

Bill C-7 provides the necessary legislation to support the resources dedicated to enforcement. Bill C-7 is the third and final significant piece of legislation to ensure that the strategy succeeds. It must therefore be seen as part of the whole strategy and not in isolation.

Within my department alone programs have shifted to focus on new target goals. The federal component of the strategy falls under the responsibility of many departments, health, justice, Solicitor General, finance, external affairs, and national defence.

Canada's drug strategy secretariat is co-ordinating the promotion and evaluation of programs among these departments.

The community support program allows community groups to develop solutions specific to their substance abuse problems and we also have programs to address the unique problems of our native peoples, especially solvent and inhalant abuse, and the department has also introduced the national native role model program.

While the controlled drugs and substances bill constitutes a necessary tool to prevent diversion of drugs it also contains provisions to ensure that drugs intended for medical, industrial or research purposes are made available to those who need them.

This bill would be beneficial to all Canadians in that it would provide them with additional protection against the serious consequences of drug diversion.

Without such legislation drugs would be more subject to thefts and robberies. Drugs would be more easily accessible in the streets. People would be more vulnerable to the consequences of illicit drug supply.

Contrary to some assumptions, this bill is not indifferent to treatment programs, especially for those who are drug dependent. As a physician I support the availability of help and appropriate tools for those who seek to get back to a normal life.

My government is sensitive to the medical and social consequences of drug addiction. The department of health will continue to grant methadone authorization for the treatment of drug dependence. Methadone is a controlled drug and its use well recognized in the medical community.

The methadone program has the full support of the government. This is an initiative directed at use reduction. It assists many opiate abusers to re-establish a constructive life by promoting rehabilitation, reducing health risks and costs to the community.

The department of health will continue to encourage and make available methadone treatment for appropriate patients. Bill C-7 was criticized for not providing drug dependent persons who have committed criminal offences with access to treatment. My government is very supportive of rehabilitation.

Although the bill does not provide for mandatory rehabilitation treatment, the courts have always taken into consideration as part of a sentence the rehabilitation aspect of persons convicted of drug crimes.

The bill does not go against such a practice. It is commonly accepted as a criminal law notion. Rehabilitation has been identified by jurisprudence of the last decade as being an integral part of any sentence rendered in Canada.

We must also take into consideration the necessity for patients first to be referred to qualified health care professionals so that sound assessment and appropriate treatment programs are available to meet their needs.

Drug dependence is a complex health issue. It requires professional diagnostic treatment and rehabilitative interventions. Motivation on the part of the patient is a crucial element in the success of treatment. The bill itself cannot determine who is a good candidate for treatment and who is not. The courts have the opportunity and responsibility to exert discretion and to refer candidates for treatment to qualified health care professionals.

However my government is supportive of all programs aimed at decreasing the dependency and disastrous consequences of illicit drug use.

The department of health is responsible for the national AIDS program. A great deal of thought has therefore been given to the spread of AIDS through intravenous drug use. We are convinced that the strategies used to curb the spread of HIV among drug users will enhance our efforts to reduce drug use in Canada by linking drug users with health professionals and treatment programs.

Needle exchange programs were used successfully by many communities to reduce the spread of HIV. Sections of the Criminal Code dealing with drug paraphernalia have specifically been excluded, such as medical devices such as needles, from the statutory definition of instrument for illicit drug use, thereby allowing for the distribution of sterile needles by health professionals to known drug users who are at risk of AIDS.

It therefore follows that the critical path for a drug free future lies in prevention and rehabilitation, but we also have an escalating problem today that must be recognized and dealt with promptly. We must give law enforcement professionals the tools they need to deal effectively with those who continue to prey on the addicted and on the young would-be addicts.

If we are serious about advancing the broader social goal of maintaining safe and peaceful communities, we must promote law enforcement now. The youth of Canada are of primary importance in my government's platform. They are the key to our country's future.

My practice as a physician has put me in constant contact with our youth. I am also the mother of three sons. I understand the daily difficulties our young people face, their hopelessness and their vulnerability. This makes them prime targets for those in

the drug trade who prey on that vulnerability. It is in order to protect our youth that I support the bill.

The controlled drugs and substances bill addresses the problem broadly. It broadens the scope of controlled substances with certain other provisions and consequently will make it more difficult to reach children. Drug dealing in and around schools, sales to minors and use of the services of a minor during a transaction will constitute an aggravated factor at the time of sentencing. This means that judges will have to justify their decisions for not imposing a jail sentence on a dealer.

Right now as we debate the bill designer drugs have the identical basic properties of the more familiar substances such as stimulants, tranquillizers and pain killers. Only their chemical properties have been slightly altered. The result is that these substances are not covered by the existing legislation and can be sold with impunity. They cannot be subject for prosecution until they are included in the schedule of drugs. Under the bill law enforcement officials will no longer have to wait for these drugs to appear on a statutory schedule in order to stop criminals from selling them.

Then of course there is the problem of so-called precursors which are legal substances used in the manufacture of illicit substances. They can be obtained right now in large enough quantities through various legal means. My government is concerned about the current lack of legislation governing precursor chemicals. We are concerned that Canada may be a conduit for precursor chemicals. We have become a weak link in the chain of drug control among the signatories of the international conventions because many of these precursor substances are not yet controlled in our country.

Lack of effective control over benzodiazepines is another issue of concern. There is more pressure than ever from our co-signature countries for Canada to bring on more effective legislation. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is the much needed legislation to respond to these issues.

I would like to respond to the other criticisms raised by members of the opposition during recent debate of the bill with regard to its perceived impact on certain health care professionals.

The absence of regulations for these groups was identified as a fundamental impediment to obtaining the full impact of the legislation. The activities of pharmacists, physicians, dentists and veterinarians are currently subject to regulations under the Narcotic Control Act and under parts III and IV of the Food and Drug Act. The regulations under the new legislation will not differ substantively from those that currently apply to prescribing activities under the existing legislation.

One of the purposes of the regulation making power in the bill is to enable the government to respond quickly and appropriately to changing professional practices. Any substantive changes in regulations will only be made following full consultation with all affected professional parties, using a regulatory consultation process that has been used for years by the department of health.

Both the Official Opposition and the Reform Party members suggested that there would be inconsistencies between various provisions of the bill and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly with regard to the powers of inspectors. We do not believe this is so. Inspections referred to in the bill are inspections conducted to determine whether regulated persons are complying with the requirements under which they must carry on their business or their professional duties.

There are many acts, both federal and provincial, which confer broad powers of entry on inspectors in the interests of ensuring public health and safety. These are not criminal law provisions; they are really administrative provisions.

For example, an inspector performing an administrative seizure under section 30 of the act would not be able to use the seized substances as evidence before the courts. Similar provisions have been in force in Canada under federal drug control legislation for over 80 years. They effectively establish a federal regulatory scheme that governs the distribution and use of schedule drugs in Canada in a manner that limits their diversion to the illicit market and consistent with Canada's international obligations under the United Nations drug control convention.

I would also like to respond to the concerns raised by both opposition members of Parliament about the powers given to the minister. All hon. members should be aware that one of the ultimate goals of the department of health is to ensure the safety and to protect the health of all Canadians, and to reassure them that they are protected by giving Parliament the means to do so. To that effect the legislation must contain the appropriate prevention measures.

For example, as a member of the opposition mentioned, the minister may make an interim order cancelling or suspending an authorization when the minister is of the opinion that as a result of a contravention of a designated regulation there is a substantial risk of immediate danger to the health or safety of any person. This has been going on for years. The legislation protects not only the population; it also protects the health professionals.

Contravention of designated regulations gives rise to a hearing before an adjudicator. This is indicated in part IV of the bill. It may result in a ministerial order which should effectively prevent a recurrence. A person who is believed to have made a

contravention is given the opportunity to set out a date of hearing and to make representation. This adjudication mechanism would protect the rights of individuals, show respect and allow transparency.

A breach of these designated regulations would not result in a criminal type penalty of fine or imprisonment. Administrative sanctions would be handed down by the minister and not by a criminal court.

Another area of criticism relates to the impact of the bill on physician-patient and pharmacist-patient relationships and confidentiality. Both opposition members identified access to the confidential files of patients as an unacceptable interference in the private lives of honest Canadians, and I agree. However there is very little new in the bill that gives rights to the minister that have not been there before.

For over 30 years under the narcotic control regulations the Minister of Health has had the legislative authority to require a practitioner to provide information concerning a patient treated with narcotics to the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs. This information could include the diagnosis, history or prescribing information relevant to the patient. This has been going on for years.

We have now given inspectors the appropriate tools they need to ensure that health professionals comply with the regulations and to ensure that the public is protected from the hazardous consequences of drugs. The inspectors are also health professionals bound by rules of confidentiality. They are important resources for the department of health and for the Canadian population. They also ensure that the facilities used in the distribution of drugs are secure.

Legitimate program activities required under the current and proposed legislation to protect public health and safety will ensure that patient confidentiality is fully maintained. Any information obtained is subject to the Privacy Act. This prohibits its use or disclosure by any official, except in accordance with that act. The Privacy Act ensures that all information collected by the federal government for program purposes is treated confidentially.

Concerning so-called doctor shopping or double doctoring offences official opposition members cited evidence given by the Canadian Medical Association to the legislative committee which examined Bill C-85. They argued that Bill C-7 would be unsatisfactory to doctors. This criticism from the Canadian Medical Association was accepted by the committee and the provision in the bill was changed, in essence to revert to the existing section found in the Narcotic Control Act. As a result the revision now refers only to persons who receive prescriptions from doctors. The act of providing the prescription in this circumstance is not considered a trafficking offence.

We understand the use of illicit substances is a complex problem and requires a multifaceted approach of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, legislation and punishment. The complete Canada drug strategy addresses all these issues. Bill C-7 deals with the legislative components.

We all understand the regulation of controlled substances is a complex matter which requires a carefully constructed legal basis in order to be effective, judicious and fair. I believe the bill is the most appropriate instrument for administering the laws and regulations we need. We are dealing with an aspect of societal problems which demands proper protection of the innocent, the inexperienced, the young and the vulnerable. It also demands forceful prosecution of the exploitative, the criminal and the ruthless.

I believe the bill strikes just the right balance between these two requirements. While we continue to minimize harm through education and prevention and while we continue to show compassion for victims through treatment and rehabilitation, we must also strike at the criminal heart of the problem. In passing the bill we as parliamentarians would be making our contribution to the battle against drug abuse now and well into the future.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member will have a few moments after question period for questions and comments.

It being two o'clock, pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Bicycle PathsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Raymond Lavigne Liberal Verdun—Saint-Paul, QC

Mr. Speaker, along with all cycling enthusiasts, I am extremely pleased that the bicycle path between Nuns' Island and Verdun will be built very shortly.

Cyclists have been waiting 15 years for this path to be completed.

I want to thank the Minister, Mr. Doug Young, and his department for the consideration they have given to this project.

The proposed bicycle path will link the paths on the South Shore and on Nuns' Island to the path in Verdun.

The City of Verdun has agreed to build a segment connecting these paths to those along the Lachine Canal. Therefore, all of the major bikeways on Montreal Island will be linked.

Over 20,000 cyclists will thus be able to enjoy some wonderful outings thanks to this initiative on the part of the Government of Canada and the municipality of Verdun.

Co-operation always accomplishes more than confrontation.

Human RightsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Since the Tiananmen Square massacre, human rights in China have been repeatedly violated.

Yesterday, representatives of agencies defending Chinese refugees in Montreal expressed their outrage at the government's decision to review the status of 4,500 Chinese nationals living in Canada under the threat of deportation to their native country.

It has been announced that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will make a final resolution on these cases this summer.

According to information gathered by the newspaper Voir , of the 827 cases reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board since the Tiananmen Square massacre, 663 applications, or a full 80 per cent, have been rejected.

Under the circumstances, the minister's stalling tactics are unacceptable.

Once again, the government is making a mockery of human rights and giving in to this simplistic approach whereby if one wants to do business, one turns a blind eye to fundamental rights.

OntarioStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, who is speaking for Ontario? This new Parliament is six months old and no one is showing concern for the biggest engine that drives Canada's economy.

While we are all interested in what is good for Canada, the role of Ontario is being overlooked. What is good for Canada is a healthy and growing Ontario economy.

The red ink book made a major issue of infrastructure and jobs, yet Ontario's largest and most important piece of infrastructure is being allowed to deteriorate. No much needed jobs and the delay are jeopardizing a number of job creating projects.

Ontario was forced to reduce tobacco taxes due to pressure from one province. Because of this Ontario taxpayers face an additional tax loss of $500 million.

Toronto loses out as the obvious choice for the NAFTA environmental office for purely political considerations.

The silence is deafening. What did Ontario do to deserve such rejection?

Sustainable DevelopmentStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House today to say that the Ontario members of the Liberal caucus are working very hard on behalf of Ontario.

Globally and nationally there is much talk about sustainable development, but a shared understanding of what it means does not exist. To some it is a phrase that suggests development can be sustained at any cost.

In my opinion sustainable development will not work as a vision goal or a process unless it includes equity. Equity is served when people from different lands, the north, the south, and people from different classes in the same land are treated with respect.

Equity is served when the natural environment is respected. Equity is served when our intergenerational responsibilities are acknowledged and when our global roles and commitments are honoured.

Killer CardsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the recent increase in violent crimes has raised the concerns of people all across Ontario and all of Canada.

As part of its efforts to reduce violence in Canadian communities, the government should without a doubt ban the importation of serial killer cards. These cards are a perverted twist on children's hockey cards. They feature psychopathic killers with a detailed description of the crimes they committed.

The lives of the victims of violent crimes should be remembered, not the killers and their actions.

This government is committed to measures to get at the root causes of violence and this should include the banning of these offensive cards that glorify murder and reduce victims to anonymous statistics.

On behalf of the constituents of London-Middlesex in Ontario, I call on Parliament to amend the customs and tariffs legislation to ban the importation of serial killer cards, ensuring that they will not continue to be sold in Canada.