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House of Commons Hansard #250 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-7.

Topics

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion negatived.)

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall Liberalfor the Minister of Health

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to.)

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By unanimous consent now?

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall Liberalfor the Minister of Health

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of Bill C-7.

The revisions to the bill, the changes made since it passed second reading in the House, combine two quite different approaches to the control of drugs. The approaches are different but they are actually complementary.

The first enshrines an attitude of tolerance, compassion and concern for the drug addicted person. The government believes that someone convicted of a drug offence, a user who shows genuine desire to recover from his or her addiction deserves the chance and opportunity to rebuild and renew their lives on a healthy, law-abiding basis.

This component speaks therefore of rehabilitation and speaks to the health aspect of drug use.

The second approach is to reinforce our longstanding condemnation of violent behaviour or any drug dealing that harms our youth and other vulnerable citizens.

The government believes drug offences and the negative social impact of drug offences escalate directly in proportion to the age of the person, which means the younger the person, the greater the social and physical harm that occurs as a result of the use of drugs.

These approaches to the control of drugs reflect the spirit of the red book "Creating Opportunity". A principal objective of this book is to strengthen Canadian society by protecting individuals from crime and violence on the streets and in the playgrounds.

Bill C-7 works to achieve this end. It clearly identifies a need for extra protection against crimes around schools where young people are involved. However, it goes further in creating opportunity. It creates opportunity for offenders to get treatment. It creates opportunity for enforcement to be more effective. It creates opportunity for the justice system to deal more even handedly with the various substances and offences that are the subject of the bill.

Bill C-7 is more than a housekeeping bill. It achieves a balance between the need for compassionate health and social components of drug use and the need to punish and deal with the criminal and violent aspects of drug use.

True to this purpose, we have brought the Narcotic Control Act and parts of the Food and Drugs Act together to deal with controlled substances and narcotic preparations. It modernizes procedure to a certain extent. It expands control over a wider range of substances, but it is more comprehensive than that.

In the case of one substance that has caused major concern for policy makers and the public over many years, it incorporates a revised and more current understanding of how Canadians want to deal with marijuana. Cannabis and its derivatives from now on will have a distinct schedule in the bill, schedule I(i). Cannabis has been set apart from other hard drugs. It is being treated separately.

As we will see from this amended bill, government has taken very seriously the concerns expressed by witnesses of committee hearings and also by members of the House who have come together to tell us what they think of the bill. I am therefore pleased to say changes and measures have been instituted in order to reflect a more Liberal policy with regard to harm reduction, rehabilitation and the societal aspects of drug use.

Hon. members know the consultative process is inherent and very important in the parliamentary committee system. Committees collect the views of people on the street. One of the strengths of the process is that it brings forward a range of opinions and perspectives not necessarily obvious to those who prepare the original drafts of legislation. On this note I congratulate all members of the subcommittee from all parties and thank all witnesses who provided testimony on this legislation.

When we start talking about illicit substances such as marijuana and cocaine people want to broaden the horizons. Many of the witnesses who came to the subcommittee on health were not really addressing Bill C-7 specifically. They wanted to put broader issues on the agenda such as a more socially responsible approach to dealing with cannabis. It is argued there may be times when people are guilty of simple possession by aberration. They have been to a party, accepted a gift and have been caught. In such a circumstance the criminal mark should not be on record for the rest of their lives.

It cannot be denied that a large number of Canadians are at least tolerant of soft drug use. They have heard a former Prime Minister and the President of the United States admit to experimenting with

marijuana. They see courts routinely granting absolute or conditional discharges for simple possession charges while imposing fines for simple traffic violations.

Some people in subcommittee were even saying we should decriminalize marijuana. However, by international law we cannot decriminalize it. We have to consider it a criminal offence but we can deal with the consequences associated with marijuana. That is one of the changes that has come through in this newly amended bill.

Specifically for possession of marijuana, 30 grams or less, we have reduced the seriousness of the offence. The negative impact on someone charged with this offence will be changed. No fingerprints or photographs will be taken by police officers. No traceable record will appear in national criminal databases. The law has been modified.

This does not mean that the penalties have been reduced. They have not. The penalty for possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis continues to be a $1,000 fine or six months or both. It is the ancillary impacts that will change. A conviction on this charge will not curb one's ability to travel internationally, for instance. It will not interfere with getting a job.

Another concern raised in subcommittee was to put something in the bill to ask the courts to move toward rehabilitation and treatment instead of automatically treating all users as hardened criminals. Therefore, the introduction of section 11, which deals with sentencing, addresses this concern. Judges are encouraged to order rehabilitation and treatment in appropriate circumstances.

This said, it was not the government's intention that the bill would alter or review existing drug policy. It was meant to bring aspects of administration up to date from existing legislation that dates back to the 1960s, and it gives effect to Canada's commitments on the various international agreements dealing with narcotics and psychotropic substances.

There is a change in penalties for trafficking in three kilograms of cannabis or less. Here the maximum penalty is lowered from 14 years down to five years less a day. The reason for this is not because the gravity of the offence has been diminished. In fact, the subcommittee wanted to deal with trafficking as harshly. However, the lesser sentence achieves another goal: it leads to a streamlining of the judicial process. It hastens cases through the courts by eliminating requirements for preliminary hearings and trials by jury. It is not expected to change actual sentencing patterns. Even though the courts have been able to go to 14 years, they have not really been giving sentences anywhere near that length.

From now on drug charges will represent the true offences. Until now, when trafficking has been the issue prosecutors would often reduce it to a possession charge, rather than proceed through a full pre-trial and trial by jury. Now prosecutors will be more likely to lay the charges they should have been laying. In fact there is no intention to give any signal that the penalties that are currently being given for the offence are not appropriate. This is not getting soft on traffickers. Streamlining the prosecution of these offences would be a net gain for the criminal justice process but would not mean an actual reduction in sentences, given current practice.

I alluded to the approach this bill takes to discouraging violence and any drug dealings involving youth. The approach is simply the following. Offences under Bill C-7 have penalties attached to them, including imprisonment. Judges have discretion in sentencing and may choose not to impose a prison sentence in any particular case. However, if an offence is accompanied by violence or the threat of violence, or if it takes place in or near the grounds of a school, or if it involves dealing with someone under the age of 18, the court is to consider any of these circumstances an aggravating factor. If it decides in such a case not to impose a prison sentence, then the bill requires that the court give reasons for such a decision.

There are very substantive changes between the current Bill C-7 we are discussing and its original version. I have mentioned the instructions to the court to consider rehabilitation and treatment at sentencing and the reduction in the impact of a conviction for simple possession of cannabis. The following is a representative sample of a dozen or more other changes to the bill.

The previous subsection 3(1), which dealt with controlling unlisted substances that have an effect similar to scheduled drugs, has been completely removed. It has been deleted. It had been objected that the conduct subject to criminal sanction in this subsection had not been specified enough and that herbs or natural extracts might be captured. Removing this subsection should remove all doubts on that score to those who sell herbs and have been concerned about this. It is no longer going to affect an individual even if they thought it might have. Now they need not worry on that count.

Subsection 30(1) has been amended to ensure that inspectors have reasonable grounds to believe that a place is used for an illicit purpose mentioned in the bill before entering the place.

Paragraph 30(1)(c) is amended to exclude the possibility that inspectors can examine a person's medical record and therefore infringe on the confidentiality between physician and patient.

Paragraph 54(1)(h) is amended to eliminate any risk that regulations made under the act could apply to medical practitioners or other professionals who are not targeted. That was a concern from those professionals who under the act were licensed to give prescription drugs. However, the definition of trafficking has been

broadened to include the sale by a licensed practitioner of a prescription to obtain drugs.

Every one of the concerns raised in subcommittee has been carefully examined in the reconstruction of this bill. This is not to say that every concern that was expressed has led to an amendment. Some were felt to be without foundation, such as the fear that the bill would threaten the viability of the existing needle exchange program. It was decided after examination that there was no such threat and there needed to be no amendment.

Other observations or criticisms will be more properly addressed in a general drug policy review rather than in Bill C-7. In fact that was a recommendation from the committee.

It has been suggested by some that this is not a health bill. Many of the issues that have come up deal with justice and enforcement. It should be made abundantly clear that controlled substances are not all bad substances. Many of them indeed are very good when used as prescribed. They are important to the health of the nation. They are major tools in the medical kit. Drugs and drug abuse are basically social and health problems. They find their way, however, into the criminal justice system not because they naturally and necessarily belong there, but because we have yet to devise a better method of control.

Prohibition has had very limited success and very high cost. Many believe that programs to increase awareness, education, and treatment would be more successful for less money and less violence in drug enforcement. In fact the main thrust of Bill C-7 is that it allows for these controlled substances to be used for medical and scientific purposes. We need codeine and morphine and similar drugs to treat patients. Unfortunately, they are also subject to abuse. Therefore, we need to build into the law how we deal with their diversion to non-medical purposes and their abuse potential. That is where most of the justice issues come into play in this bill.

The bill facilitates the placing of safeguards at all levels of production and distribution of high-risk drugs and allows them to be used as prescription drugs. This reduces the risk that drugs produced for legitimate purposes would be diverted into the illegal street market.

Canadians will have access, as before, to physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and other licensed health care providers for whatever drug they need to treat their illnesses. They need not be concerned about that. Bill C-7 is not a catch-all for pharmaceutical preparations. It does not affect antibiotics, for example. It names clearly the drugs it would control, which are generally those used to treat pain and many psychotrophic or mood-modifying drugs.

By including the concepts of treatment and rehabilitation, this bill also acknowledges the important health dimensions of drug abuse. It begins to rebalance that emphasis on substance over user and coercion over persuasion. It is not a new policy and it is not even a big change, but it is an important shift in perspective. It opens the way to alternate approaches and choices in addressing a disease that afflicts hundreds of thousands of Canadians and the social well-being of Canada.

Bill C-7 is meant to control dangerous substances. We want to control these substances because in the wrong hands and used in the wrong way they can cause great harm to Canadians and to the social fabric of this country.

I say this even though I recognize that drug use is not a major concern for Canadians in general. In fact an Environics poll that focused on justice and crime issues last year found that only two per cent of respondents said that illicit drug use personally troubled them far more than other crimes. This was far behind phenomena such as domestic violence, youth gangs, breaking and entering, and crimes against children.

There is another reason to control these drugs, and I believe it is a far more important reason. Many substances we are dealing with here have strong medical components. This bill aims to make them available to health professionals and their patients for legitimate medical purposes. These substances, as I said before, are an essential part of our armaments against human suffering. We need painkillers, tranquillizers, and similar drugs to treat patients suffering from pain, anxiety, stress, depression, and other illnesses that in fact are born of our age of worry and anxiety. These are substances for medical use.

Because Bill C-7 sharpens the tools we use to control the production and distribution of high-risk preparations that can be made available safely for prescription drugs does not mean that we are condemning those drugs. Patients will continue to have access to prescriptions through their doctors and pharmacists. Patients will always have what they need to treat illness and the medical records of patients will not be violated.

Health Canada's goals and priorities have repeatedly found support from the Canadian public, who rate the performance of health care in the current system at the very top of government activities. This is from Ekos Research.

Side by side with medicare on Health Canada's priority list is the protection against risks to Canadians' health. Therefore, illegally obtained and unsafe drugs are among those risks. Drug dependence is not only a criminal issue, it is very much a health and social issue. With some of these amendments we have tried to bring a positive approach to treatment programs for those who are afflicted by drug addictions. We support the help and appropriate treatment

for those who want to get back their health and resume a normal life. We will continue to authorize methadone treatment for those who have a drug dependence. Methadone, as members will know, is a controlled substance that assists many opiate users to re-establish a constructive life. I want to assure the House that is not changing.

The department is also responsible for the national program to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS. We will not be affecting the needle exchange programs, which in many communities have had massive positive results and have been so successful in curbing the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users. Medical devices such as needles were deliberately excluded from criminal sanctions in Bill C-7. So this effective public health program in fact will continue its good work.

The bill protects the rational use of some controlled substances as medicines while acting against the illicit distribution of these same substances. It recognizes that controlled drugs are indispensable and that their availability should not be restricted or compromised. It promotes the judicious use of medications by indicating ways in which controlled drugs can be handled, distributed, and used. These substances are included in the legislation, as I said, to protect the health and safety of the public.

For example, Bill C-7 makes it possible for cancer patients and those who are terminally ill to obtain pain relief from prescribed medications such as morphine. In a hospital setting or for out-patients under strict medical supervision, even heroin is available for the treatment of pain and suffering. This legislation ensures that cocaine can be safely used in examination and in surgical procedures. Other medications aimed at treating less severe but still incapacitating conditions such as migraines are contained in the schedule of substances we are dealing with here. These will continue to be made accessible under this bill.

Some of these drugs are also used on the street and therefore are subject to trafficking. While these substances all have the opportunity to create good and help patients who are ill, they have a strong potential for abuse. It is not surprising that the enforcement aspect of Bill C-7 has therefore attracted attention. But we must not forget that access to these substances must be preserved for the benefit of all those who are afflicted, which may include a majority of Canadians at some time in their lives. These substances are powerful. They have the power to do good, but also the power to do harm. If a drug is prescribed by a physician and if you use it more than is prescribed by a physician, the addictive properties of these drugs could be forgotten. We do not want that harm to occur to patients.

As legislators, our task is to find a balance that will maximize good and minimize harm. I believe we have struck the appropriate balance in this legislation. I urge hon. members of the House to support it, as I will.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, good old Bill C-7 has been with us since my arrival in the House and I have followed it with fascination. It was of course a Tory bill introduced before this Parliament sat and was opposed then by my Liberal colleagues. I watched as it became a Liberal bill and was embraced with some degree of enthusiasm.

I invite people listening today to reflect on the parliamentary secretary's words during her original speech on this bill. I am sure they will find that the parliamentary secretary wholeheartedly supported Bill C-7 in its unmodified form. To be kind, that wholehearted support was somewhat enthusiastic.

This bill has gone through such a dramatic change in the committee process. That is what I am going to spend my time on today. Can the public influence a bill? The general perception in Canada is that the public cannot influence a bill. The fact is that the public can influence a bill, not only its tone but its actual final outcome.

What actually happened during the process of modifying this bill? I found, as did many people in Canada, that clause 3(1) and (2) could have significant potential harm to the health food industry. This clause stated that substances could be deemed to have a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect. It was plunked into the bill. Individuals across the country said it was too broad, too vague and not specific enough.

I received a host of requests for information. As an opposition health critic people said to me: "This seems to us to be a point where an opposition critic should step up to the plate". What did we do? We formed a very specific newsletter, which I have with me today. It states: "C-7 threatens choice in health care". It also mentioned areas of this bill that could have a profound effect on health care.

The newsletters went out along with a request for petitions to health food stores and to individuals who wrote asking for more information. To me, the outpouring of support for this position of choice in health care was profound. I wish I could touch that nerve in other areas. I wish I could touch the nerve of the health food industry in other areas.

People contacted the subcommittee on health. I am convinced the committee members could not believe the outpouring. People contacted the minister, their MPs and me. Did I have a big role in this? I was only able to provide a small vehicle for the outpouring of personal sentiment. I do not put myself as a great individual in this debate at all, but the focus of the input was fascinating to me. The whole issue was choice in health care. Those individuals said: "Deny us that choice and you are treading on our toes".

The result and specific part of the bill I found so offensive was the ability for legislators to deem substances such as stimulants,

depressants and hallucinogens to be stricken completely. There has not been a great deal of fanfare about that.

I want to tell the Canadian public that this was a huge victory for those who wanted to choose what they take. There are those who say that people could make mistakes in their lives and I agree with that. However, when should regulators be involved in someone's personal decision making? When there is proven harm, when there are potential side effects, and when there is fraud in claims, doses, source or contents. Otherwise the public tells the legislators to step aside. No one knows better than the individual how they feel and what works for them when it comes to things they take into their body.

There is a price for this freedom. The price for the freedom is to be informed. The public says: "Government stand aside; we have spoken". I finally say to those who would regulate and legislate in this area, no one can be better informed than the citizen who has a need which is not met by bureaucrats and legislators, driven by internal pain, anxiety or wants. They want to seek out time honoured remedies. They said loudly and clearly: "You will never usurp this right".

People find that interesting coming from a physician and surgeon, someone who occasionally is criticized for being too narrow in focus. I have seen individuals not helped by my profession. I have seen individuals seek alternative therapies. I have seen individuals beg for the ability to do that. I believe they have and need the right to do exactly that.

Why did we bring an amendment to this bill, a bill that frankly has dramatically improved over the way it first came to this House? We brought an amendment because there is still a regulatory mechanism, the power to make regulations which still gives the government the power it had in clause 3, to deem something to be included in the bill without broad public debate.

Is the mechanism of public consultation sufficient? In my view it is not. When something is put into The Canada Gazette for 30 days, it can be missed. Things have been missed in the past. There needs to be a greater flag. I would have preferred to have had those amendments come to the parliamentary committee studying health related issues. That would have been a better step. My basic premise is that legislators should at least be involved. It should not be an almost behind the doors process.

I will strongly state to anyone who will listen that the power to make regulations can be passed with virtually no public scrutiny. Powers delegated to the governor in council are broad, vague and border on dictatorial. Our subcommittee recommended that this be reviewed. I would like to hark back to the parliamentary secretary's comments when she said that the public scrutiny which is present today is just fine. Why would the government which controls this subcommittee agree to review if those powers are just fine? Those arguments are inconsistent.

I am also very sceptical of the committee recommendation. I think that recommendation is going to fall into a black hole. I am going to give an example of why I think that will happen.

The first duty in the health committee was to look at order in council appointments. I ask a question in the health committee that if we were going to review these order in council appointments, how many of them had been turned down in history. The answer was that members looked at me as if I were crazy. Surely the committee would not have the power to turn down an order in council appointment. I asked: "Why are we doing it then? Strike a subcommittee on order in council appointments".

My premise was that the committee should review appointments at the appointment stage rather than at the nomination stage. Sure enough we have gone through a whole host of witnesses and the recommendation of the subcommittee was that order in council appointments, if they were to be reviewed by the committee, should be done at the appointment stage. There would be no power taken away from the government. If everyone on the list were up to snuff, there would be a checkmark beside each name. It would be a good time to review. Then the government could choose which individuals it wanted from those.

I asked the question in high school class after high school class: If you were asked to review something, would you want to have that review be meaningful? The kids nod to me. We would think it was nonsense to do it any other way. Where has that recommendation that order in council appointments be referred to to the health committee gone? It has gone into a black hole somewhere, into government reorganization.

That indicates to me how cynical the government process sometimes can be. If a group of high school kids can see that it makes sense, it surely must make sense to the legislators. I will watch with profound interest the recommendation from the committee to review this power to make regulations. If it falls into the black hole as well, I will be greatly disappointed.

Bill C-7 has come a long way. If the power to make regulations were righted, I would support it. On the basis it is not righted, I will not support it.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of 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.

This bill received first reading in February 1994 and passed second reading in April 1994. At that time it was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health which in turn struck an all-party subcommittee. I was appointed as the chair to study that bill, to receive witnesses from all parts of Canada representing major interest groups and to receive and consider submissions from major interest groups and Canadians from all walks of life. The committee received dozens of submissions and literally thousands of letters for its consideration.

As a consequence of our consultation and discussions, a number of questions and concerns were raised. The committee took the interventions very seriously and requested answers and explanations from officials. The bill is the responsibility of the Minister of Health but numerous aspects relating to enforcement and justice matters necessarily involve the solicitor general's office and the Ministry of Justice.

Officials from all of the ministries were very actively involved in the review of this bill after second reading and co-operated fully throughout the process. I want to give special thanks to them, particularly to Mr. Bruce Rowsell, director of dangerous drugs, health protection branch, Health Canada; Carol Langlois, project manager, bureau of dangerous drugs, health protection branch, Health Canada; Gérard Normand, counsel, national security group, Department of Justice; Mr. Paul Saint-Denis, senior counsel, criminal law policy section, Department of Justice; and Ron Dykeman, senior policy analyst, policing and law enforcement in the solicitor general's office.

The role of parliamentarians and their powers of influence as members of Parliament and members of standing committees of this House has changed dramatically in this Parliament. The subcommittee charged with the responsibility to study Bill C-7 demonstrated that the proposed legislation is subject to change. Indeed Bill C-7 has been changed in many important ways to address the legitimate concerns of Canadians.

As a result of our work, the committee has sought amendments on a number of critical elements of the bill. I am pleased to inform the House that the government through its relevant ministries has brought forward substantive-I emphasize substantive-amendments which fully satisfy the concerns raised by the committee. Some of the areas relate to the whole aspect of rehabilitation and treatment: the issues raised by practitioners, particularly by the Canadian Medical Association; the integrity of needle exchange programs; confidentiality and access to information; the scheduling and particularly the criteria for scheduling of products; the aspect of criminal records; the issue of fortified drug houses.

I could tell members that one of my colleagues from Edmonton came before the committee and made a plea on behalf of the law

enforcement agencies of Edmonton to advise us of what is called fortified drug houses.

Very briefly, fortified drug houses are dwellings that have been altered substantially to ensure that enforcement agencies would not get ready access in the event that they have determined that there were illegal or illicit activities transpiring within that dwelling.

Initially, the bill could not address that. Reasons were given but the committee did not accept them. Thanks to the intervention of our colleague and member for Edmonton West, this bill now provides the mechanism necessary for our law enforcement agencies to deal with the serious problem of fortified drug houses.

We also dealt with some complex matters to do with hybrid trafficking offences. I can tell members that the bill has changed significantly since second reading with regard to the amounts and the penalties.

As has been mentioned, we dealt with the deeming provisions under section 3.1 which I will speak to more fully a little later. We also dealt with section 59, the administration procedure for adjudication, a very important section.

Very briefly, the work of the committee was quite extensive, quite broad on a number of fronts. I am pleased to inform the House that the bill, as amended, received the support of all parties.

Some 69 amendments were made to a bill that contains 56 pages, 94 clauses and a large number of schedules listing drugs and various other aspects. We believe that we have returned to the House a better piece of legislation which effectively meets the intended objectives of Bill C-7.

The subcommittee actually went beyond its mandate to address Bill C-7. Not only did we discharge our responsibilities with regard to the bill as was directed by the Standing Committee on Health, but we also made a further report to the Standing Committee on Health putting forward certain recommendations flowing from the work we did in considering the provisions of Bill C-7.

In brief, I would like to outline what those additional recommendations were. The first recommendation was that an expert task force be formed to devise rational criteria for schedules 1 to 7 of the control of drugs and substances act.

We would like to see this task force include the assistance and the consultation from organizations such as the Addiction Research Foundation, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy, not to mention the Canadian Medical Association, particularly, and any other relevant bodies. We would like them to form a special task force

with a mandate to establish precise criteria for the scheduling of substances under this act.

As a number of speakers will mention in speaking to the bill today, it deals with a large number of drugs. As was dealt with in the report stage motion with regard to governor in council changes to regulations, as members will see, it is quite an onerous task to deal with the changes that would have to occur to scheduling if we have to go through committee every time a certain drug arises.

The second recommendation has to do with Canada's drug policy. I am going to talk quite a bit about drug policy because I believe that Canadians should understand more fully the intent and the rationale for Bill C-7 and how it relates to Canada's drug policy, indeed the Canadian drug strategy.

The subcommittee on Bill C-7 recommends that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health undertake a comprehensive review of the existing drug policy. I am pleased to report that the Minister of Health has already informally given her concurrence that a comprehensive review of our drug policy should be conducted.

The final recommendation has to do with the motion that was moved at report stage by the member for Macleod. It deals with the scrutiny of regulations and orders made by governor in council. This motion, in fact an amendment, was dealt with at subcommittee. Based on the conversations we had with all members and the debate that was held, it was clear that the question being raised was not generally relevant only to Bill C-7, but rather a matter of principle. A number of the previous speakers have referred to that principle: what can this place do and what authorities can it second in terms of amendments to legislation.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health outlined very clearly that there is a mechanism in place for the exposure of changes proposed, whether they be regulations or other changes.

More important, those changes are not substantive changes to the legislation and to the intent of the legislation. It is more important that those governor in council authorities be available so that changes can be made which are consequential to other changes that occur and that things can happen quickly. I will comment a little later, particularly with regard to section 3.1, the deeming provision, on new drugs and the reason why we have to pursue avenues to be able to address new drugs as they come on line. It has to do with technology and it has to do with the sophistication of those that produce illicit drugs.

We have asked the Standing Committee on Health to direct a question to the government House leader whether the House of Commons standing committees could have the authority to approve or at least to review all relevant regulations or orders made by the governor in council prior to coming in force. I believe that recommendation satisfies the member for Macleod. He withdrew the amendment at subcommittee and supported the principle of assessing whether or not governor in council orders are being abused.

It is a valid question and that is why the committee agreed with the member for Macleod to pose the question to the government House leader, so that all members of Parliament could more fully understand the mechanics and the rationale for governor in council orders.

We believe that all committees should make appropriate recommendations consequential to the work they have done in studying legislation on what they have heard from the people of Canada. I am very proud that this committee took on itself to produce a supplementary report to the bill, which I feel is going to add substantially to the role of parliamentarians.

I wish to move more specifically to the bill. The parliamentary secretary very eloquently outlined a number of the technical aspects of the bill. I want to go back to the genesis because I know that for many members on all sides of the House their first exposure to this bill was the old Bill C-85 from the former government. It is a draconian Mulroney bill.

It is time for us to move away from the partisan apprehension about certain legislation because there are important reasons for Bill C-7 to be before this place and to be passed by this House.

Bill C-7 forms part of the national drug strategy. It is a multi-year program set up to combat the illicit drug trade within our boundaries. The bill consolidates and supplements the provisions found in the Narcotics Control Act and Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act.

The supplementary provisions are necessary for a very important reason and that is because Canada must pass certain changes to its drug legislation so that we can be in conformity with certain international obligations to which we are a party.

Those treaties are three. The first is the Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. That treaty dealt with things such as the cultivation of the coca bush.

The second treaty was the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, dated 1971. Among other things, it dealt with the expanded control over amphetamines.

Finally, the so-called Vienna convention, is the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotro-

pic Substances, dated 1988. Among other things, it deals with the import and export control over precursors.

Why is Bill C-7 so important? That is a question which members of Parliament must understand for their own edification because of the concerns which have been raised at second reading and throughout the genesis of the bill.

Because Bill C-7 provides for the scheduling of drugs which are controlled or restricted, it attracted substantial attention from groups and individuals who wanted to address Canada's drug policy with a view to taking a softer stance on drug possession and use and to treat it as a health problem rather than a criminal problem. This was the argument.

Our drug policy is reflected in Canada's drug strategy. Seventy per cent of our spending is directed at rehabilitation and treatment alternatives. Bill C-7 is part of Canada's drug strategy and addresses the enforcement aspects of our drug policy.

Many of the witnesses and interveners were critical of Bill C-7 because they wanted the opportunity to fully debate the overall drug policy, of which Bill C-7 is simply a part. Their interests were beyond the purview of our subcommittee but their concerns were noted in our recommendations which I referred to earlier.

The most important rationale for Bill C-7 was to bring our drug laws into compliance with the international conventions to which we are a party. It is this aspect on which I would like to elaborate.

Canada has been in violation of its treaty obligations for many years. As such, it has increasingly come under criticism by its treaty partners and the International Narcotics Control Board. This is the first time that a jurisdictional body has mentioned, so I would like to highlight the International Narcotics Control Board.

Over the past 80 years a worldwide system to control drugs subject to abuse has developed gradually through adoption of a series of international treaties. The key multilateral conventions concurrently in effect are, as I mentioned: the 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs which was modified by the 1972 protocol; the 1971 convention on psychotropic substances; and the United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which was adopted in 1988. Each of these treaties has built on regulations already in place and has advanced international law.

From the beginning the principal objective of drug control treaties has been to restrict the use of these drugs to medical and scientific purposes.

The International Narcotics Control Board, known as the INCB, is an independent and quasi-judiciary body mandated to apply the United Nations conventions on drugs. It was created in 1968 by the 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs. Its predecessors were created by previous conventions on drugs, dating back to the League of Nations. The board is responsible for promoting the application of drug control treaties by government. These treaties set out its tasks, which are essentially of two types.

First, with respect to the legal manufacture, trade and sale of drugs, the board ensures that there are sufficient quantities available for medical and scientific purposes and that none are misdirected from legal sources to illegal trafficking. To that end, it administers a narcotics evaluation system and a system of voluntary evaluation of psychotropic substances and monitors international drug trading through a statistical reporting system. Moreover, it monitors the measures taken by governments to control chemical products that can be used in illicit manufacture of drugs, assisting them in preventing their being channelled toward illicit trafficking.

The second area of the mandate is with respect to the illicit manufacture and trafficking of drugs. In this regard, the board detects weaknesses in national and international control systems and helps to improve the situation. As well, it is responsible for assessing what chemical products used for illicit drug manufacturing might be placed under international control.

Our failure to comply, particularly in the area of control of benzodiazepines, was clearly singled out in the 1994 report of the International Narcotics Control Board presented to the United Nations on February 27, 1995. I would like to refer to that report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1994 to the United Nations. I want to quote from this report because I want for once and for all to demonstrate clearly to all members why it is so important that Bill C-7 is passed by this House.

Paragraph 89 states: "A few parties to the 1971 convention, including Canada, Luxembourg, and New Zealand, do not yet control international trade in all benzodiazepines. This represents a violation of the treaty obligations under the 1971 convention. The board has been in communication with those countries for a number of years, but their response has thus far been insufficient. The board reiterates its request to those countries to begin controlling without further delay their imports and exports of all benzodiazipines listed in the 1971 convention."

The report further states in paragraph 180: "Although Canada ratified the 1971 convention in 1988 and the 1988 conventions in 1990, national legislation is not yet in conformity with some of the provisions of those conventions and the Canadian authorities have not been fully implementing those provisions. There are indications that Canada is a source of benzodiazepines entering the rest of North America."

Paragraph 182 states: "In Canada, organized gangs trafficking in metamphetimines, PCPs, and lysergic acid diethlamide, known as LSD, are increasingly becoming involved in illicit trafficking in precursors and other chemicals."

The final reference comes in the appending news release issued in conjunction with the INCB report. It states: "The black market in the United States is another main target for diversion and smuggling of benzodiazepines. Canada, where imports and exports of these substances are not yet controlled, appears to be the main source of benzodiazepines diverted in the region. In one such case a broker company in the Bahamas established as a front by drug traffickers obtained from 1992 to 1994 large quantities of diazepam tablets from a Canadian origin to a local wholesaler. The company claimed that the tablets were to be exported to other countries in the Caribbean. In fact they were smuggled into the United States."

There are a number of other references. I think all members would understand clearly that Canada has been embarrassed in front of the United Nations, through the World Health Organization, through the International Narcotics Control Board, because we have not met our obligations under the international treaties to which we are a party.

Bill C-7, once passed, will in fact bring Canada's laws up to date and in fact satisfy all the provisions of those treaties to which we are a party.

In March 1995 I had an opportunity, along with the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Health, to meet with representatives of the INCB to discuss our deficiencies and to review the progress of Bill C-7. I am pleased to advise that they were satisfied that Canada had finally developed a piece of legislation that was going to address those concerns. We are looking forward very much to advising our treaty partners that our laws are now in order with regard to those treaties. That is the most important reason for this piece of legislation.

Finally, I would like to make some brief comments about certain issues that attracted substantial attention throughout the subcommittee's work. The first issue, which I think has been on the minds of a number of members on all sides of this House, is our approach to illicit drugs. Many criticized Bill C-7 initially because they alleged that it reaffirms a criminalization and interdiction approach to illicit drugs instead of a public health approach.

As I mentioned, Bill C-7 forms only part of Canada's drug strategy, under which 70 per cent of our efforts are indeed directed at rehabilitation and treatment as alternatives. Bill C-7 also now includes, which it did not at second reading, a specific section addressing and promoting a rehabilitation and treatment approach to illicit drugs. Bill C-41, the omnibus sentencing bill, also makes reference and encouragement to the courts and provides that alternative to the court system to ensure that wherever possible and appropriate, rehabilitation and treatment are desirable.

Some also argue that a softer approach should be taken on illicit drugs because they cause fewer health problems than alcohol and tobacco, which were omitted from the bill. Alcohol and tobacco are no longer omitted from Bill C-7. If we are to be successful in taking a hard line on their use under our laws, we cannot get soft on drugs. Health impacts are not the only consideration. Far too many lives have been ruined by drugs, which costs our system billions of dollars annually in health, social, and justice programs. We will continue to work with our treaty partners in the World Health Organization, the UN, and the INCB to fight the war on drugs.

An awful lot has been said today with regard to subclause 3(1), which has to do with a deeming provision. In simple terms, it basically states that if a drug or a substance is the same as or similar to an illicit substance, it would be deemed to be covered by the act. The member for Macleod and some other speakers tended to paint one picture. I would like to provide a different version of the realities having to do with subclause 3(1).

The subcommittee and members of Parliament were literally swamped with letters and petitions from the distributors and users of natural and herbal remedies, as was stated by the member for Macleod. Industry leaders were alarmed because the bill referred to substances that had a similar stimulant or depressant effect to listed substances but were not themselves listed.

All products sold to the public through natural and herbal remedy outlets have been approved for use in Canada under our existing laws and jurisdictional authorities. The effect of these substances we are talking about is so minuscule relative to the potency of the drugs covered by this bill that there was never any interest or intent to even mention herbal remedies and products such as camomile tea or ma huang. These are very mild stimulants or depressants, many of which are included in everyday cough syrup. There was never intent in the bill. In fact, there is a very important reason why the bill initially attempted to deal with unnamed or unknown substances.

For those who have a need and a desire to use natural and herbal remedies, I say that if they can be obtained legally before Bill C-7, they will still be obtainable after Bill C-7 passes. The bill does not affect those.

I do want to comment on the misinformation that was generated by certain parties with regard to subclause 3(1). We have received some 4,000 letters and petitions from people with regard to this. I saw the trade magazines, which stated and showed very clearly that if the bill passes stores will be closed and remedies will only be available from a doctor. They stated that these remedies will all be illegal and will never be available again. With 4,000 Canadians being driven to write to the committee, and I do not know how

many wrote to other members of Parliament, imagine the alarm that was raised because of this misinformation.

I wonder how much the industry had to do with trying to raise this concern simply for business reasons so that people would go out and stock up on these products. There was absolutely no basis for concern. I believe that kind of approach to political opportunism is totally inappropriate when we are dealing with the people of Canada on matters that are important to them.

Subclause 3(1) was intended to cover substances that were chemically very similar to listed substances and produce the same or similar effect but were not themselves listed. The rapid changes in the technology of drug production makes it necessary for us to respond quickly to new drugs. If new drugs are to be developed and they are chemically very close and not on the schedule, it will take a long time to get them on the schedule and covered by the legislation.

Governor in council orders allow at least a period of approximately 30 days to get something on a schedule. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, if there were international implications or feedback or input had to be received from outside the country, that I believe would be extended to 75 days. Those are the reasons we need this.

Although the provisions of subclause 3(1) would have been helpful, there was sufficient concern within the committee about the violation of a fundamental legal principle that requires that conduct that is subject to criminal sanction must be specified clearly in the act. This is the reason why subclause 3(1) had to be removed. Deeming a provision and saying it was the same or similar did not name a substance, and it was potentially going to cause a problem. The provision was dropped from the current bill, although I suspect it will have to be reconsidered should problems arise with new drugs arriving on the streets of Canada.

Very briefly, the commercial production of hemp was raised with the committee. Substantial lobbying was done to have Bill C-7 permit the commercial production of hemp. Given the time I have, I would simply indicate to those who are interested that this particular bill does not at present permit the commercial production of hemp. There is a window whereby if it were deemed appropriate a mechanism could be triggered. However, this process could take years. I would simply say with regard to the commercial production of hemp that it is a long way off, if indeed it is appropriate at all.

Finally, I want to comment on the subject of marijuana. Not surprisingly, a number of Canadians urged the committee to decriminalize marijuana. They argued that the penalties were too harsh and did not reflect the attitudes of most Canadians or the lenient practices of the courts or the police.

No evidence was presented to us on the attitudes of Canadians. Not dealing with the drug policy in our committee, none was asked for as well.

However, there is no disputing the courts were clogged. This bill deals with that by changing the process for simple summary convictions for simple or first time possession. There is fast tracking for dealing with those offences.

The bill, passed by the House at second reading, included a provision that simple possession of cannabis was a criminal offence. As such, any proposal to decriminalize marijuana would have been ruled out of order.

The committee could not even have dealt with the question because it was a change in drug policy. This committee had no mandate to deal with drug policy.

The issue is one of drug policy. More important, under the provisions of the various international treaties to which Canada is a party marijuana possession must be a criminal offence. As such it is very unlikely Canada will consider such a change.

A recent article in the Telegraph Journal in New Brunswick reported: ``For possession of small amounts of cannabis, the amended sentence is six months and a $1,000 fine instead of seven years and a $2,000 fine''. That simply is not true. It is misinformation and may lead the reader to believe the bill proposes the law to be more lenient on simple possession.

Under the existing Narcotic Control Act the maximum penalty for simple possession of marijuana on first offence and by summary conviction is $1,000 and six months imprisonment. That is the existing law. Under Bill C-7 the penalty is identical, no change. We did not deal with drug policy.

Attitudes of many Canadians toward marijuana were developed many years ago when many failed to realize the technology of breeding plants has allowed producers to drastically increase the potency of marijuana by increasing its THC content, tetrahydrocannabinol.

Marijuana is about 15 times more potent today than it was 10 years ago. Marijuana today is as potent as cocaine was 10 years ago. Let there be no confusion, marijuana is a dangerous drug which can have serious health impacts. Its possession or use even in small amounts continues to constitute a criminal offence in Bill C-7 and in the laws of Canada.

I thank the members of the subcommittee for their due care and diligence in addressing Bill C-7. I believe we have made a better

piece of legislation and demonstrated once again that all members have the opportunity to significantly influence the development of effective legislation for Canada, which as we all know includes Quebec.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We will now proceed to the next stage of debate in which members will be entitled to a 20-minute maximum subject to 10 minutes of questions or comments.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of this bill. Like its predecessor, Bill C-85, this bill is intended to improve and modernize the drug abuse provisions currently contained in the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

I believe all of us here recognize the need for some reform in this area. Parts of the legislation are more than three decades old. It is obvious we cannot fight the drug problems of the 1990s with 30-year old legislation.

Some members have raised concerns about various aspects of the bill, particularly the health provisions which constitute the major part of the bill. Maybe those members are not aware that many of the concerns they have expressed have already been addressed by changes incorporated in Bill C-85 last year.

Although it is for the Minister of Health to respond to those concerns which have not yet been addressed, it is necessary to emphasize two points regarding the health provisions before I turn to the smaller but important law enforcement component of this bill.

This bill must not be looked at in isolation. It is not a standalone piece of legislation. It is the last and most important in a series of pieces of legislation designed to support the Canada drug strategy.

This federal program is a ten-year, $480 million campaign launched back in 1987 to fight substance abuse and drug trafficking in Canada. As part of that strategy Bill C-7 is an important element of the government's overall campaign to curb substance abuse.

Some members have raised alarming images of innocent doctors and pharmacists unable to practise their professions, of violations of doctor-patient confidentiality and of the potential for law abiding citizens to be prosecuted for the use of everyday substances such as caffeine. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that even the members who mouth that kind of fear know they are engaging more in fear mongering than in fact dissemination.

The initial health regulations to be proposed under this new bill will be identical in effect to those which currently exist under the Narcotic Control Act and parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act. Further, all of these existing regulations were developed in close co-operation with the people they most affect, the doctors, the pharmacists and the veterinarians. We are not reinventing the wheel, we are simply building on a solid and proven foundation with the advice of the people most directly concerned.

The bill would eliminate ambiguity and broaden the scope of existing legislation so that governments and police services can respond effectively to the Canadian drug scene of the nineties. Undoubtedly new health regulations will eventually be promulgated but not before they have been developed in full consultation with the people most directly involved. That can hardly be described as acting in haste or with lack of forethought. This is simply acting with common sense.

The same common sense has been applied to the police enforcement aspect of the bill. Any police officer on the street will tell us that drug traffickers today use increasingly sophisticated methods to evade police efforts aimed at halting their deadly trade. To keep up with the traffickers the police need equally sophisticated investigative techniques such as reverse sting or sell-bust operations.

I hope my friend from Edmonton is getting all of this.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Reform

Hugh Hanrahan Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

You are going slow enough, Roger.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Good to see you. We meet here every day at the same time.

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1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I certainly do not want to diminish the friendliness that arises in the Chamber through debate but I urge members to please direct their interventions through the Chair.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

I thought I had done so, Mr. Speaker. If I did not, I apologize. I believe I was referring to my friend from Edmonton in the third person.

During this type of sting operation it is frequently necessary for the police to sell small quantities of drugs to traffickers to establish credibility and further investigations. These techniques already exist but at present have no specific legislative basis and consequently are open to legal challenge. The bill would ensure the police have an appropriate statutory basis on which to mount operations against drug traffickers in a manner consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I know an hon. member has argued such authority already exists for all police services under section 18 of the RCMP act and he asked why we need this new provision. The answer is simple. First, section 18 of the RCMP act applies only to the RCMP and not to any other police service. Second, section 18 of the act does not provide a clear statutory authority to the RCMP for mounting undercover drug operations.

It only imposes a duty on the RCMP alone to enforce the law using powers that already exist under other statutes such as the Narcotic Control Act. Clearly there is a world of difference

between this broad statutory obligation and similar obligations in provincial police acts and the specific authority needed by all police services, federal, provincial and municipal, to carry out sting operations, an authority provided for in this bill.

It is also important to note that the police enforcement regulations contemplated in this bill build on the existing narcotic control regulations and the food and drugs regulations. Both sets of regulations authorize police officers to possess narcotic and restricted drugs when directly related to police work.

What is new is that the bill removes ambiguity that exists in the current legislation and gives police services a firm and clear statutory base for carrying out undercover drug operations.

Again, we are not acting in haste here. The text of new police enforcement regulations have been published in the Canada Gazette, part I, to allow time for consultation and comment from all interested parties. Consistent with this, I am also pleased to announce that the solicitor general has provided to his provincial and territorial colleagues a discussion paper on the enforcement provisions of Bill C-7. This paper was also made public to members of the House and to the public. The paper outlines the policy underlying the new police enforcement regulations that will be made pursuant to this act.

Again, this is an example of a government committed to consultation and the careful and methodical development of legislation that answers the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. That is how the government does business and how it should do business.

There have also been concerns that Bill C-7 may permit an unwarranted intrusion by the federal government into provincial areas of jurisdiction, in this case the conduct of provincial and municipal police anti-drug operations. That concern is without foundation. Bill C-7 expressly recognizes that both the federal and provincial governments have clearly defined jurisdictions in the area of drug enforcement. The authority of the provincial ministers responsible for policing over provincial and municipal police services is expressly stated in the bill.

Domestic issues aside, the bill is also important in that it will allow us to fulfil our international obligations. Canada is, after all, a signatory to three UN international conventions designed to counter substance abuse and drug trafficking: the single convention on narcotics drugs, a convention on psychotropic substances and the convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs substances. These international conventions are crucial in the fight against drug traffickers.

Drug trafficking is an international problem requiring international action. We need only look at reports such as the RCMP national drug intelligence estimate to realize how true that statement is. Money laundering through international banking systems, illegal drug routes criss-crossing the entire world and drug production centres ranging from South America to the Middle East all emphasize that international co-operation and co-ordination are necessary to effectively fight drug trafficking. That is why it is important Canada fulfil its international obligations to the best of its ability.

The bill will give our police services the tools they need to do their jobs properly and to ensure they are at least as effective in their anti-drug operations as their counterparts in other countries.

Aside from providing the police with a statutory basis for carrying out undercover drug operations, the bill also provides three other measures that will assist the police in their anti-drug activities. First, the bill will provide for controls on the import, export, production and distribution of controlled substances while at the same time allowing for the use of substances for medical, scientific and industrial purposes.

Second, the bill will provide a control on the import and export of precursors, which are chemical substances used to produce controlled substances.

Third, the bill will provide for the forfeiture of any property used to commit such offences and for a comprehensive search and seizure mechanism consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I hope in my remarks during the past few minutes that I have made it clear the police enforcement provisions of Bill C-7 are a carefully considered set of measures designed to give police the powers they need to do their job properly. The provisions do not embody any new and exceptional powers, contrary to what has been suggested in the Chamber. The provisions do not infringe on provincial jurisdiction, contrary to what has been suggested during the course of the debate. The provisions are subject to consultation and review. They balance the needs of the police against the interest of the community as a whole.

In short, it is modern legislation designed to respond to the demands of a modern world. Our police services deserve all the support we can give them, particularly when it comes to fighting drug traffickers. In the past we have shown our support through the passage of the proceeds of crime amendment and the Seized and Restrained Assets Management Act. Speedy passage of Bill C-7, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, would both complement the previous two pieces of legislation I have mentioned and be a further demonstration of our commitment to support the police in their fight against the drug trade.

Therefore I have much pleasure in inviting my colleagues on all sides of the Chamber to give their unfettered support to this excellent piece of legislation as expeditiously as possible.

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to address Bill C-7. The problem of addiction and those who profit from addiction troubles the nation, my constituents in Lambton-Middlesex and people throughout Canada. Speaking as one who was elected to represent the same constituents, it troubles me.

The illicit drug trade and those who live off its avail exact a heavy toll, especially on that segment of our population at the greatest risk: our youngsters, a prime and favourite target of those dealing in illicit drugs. Drugs destroy families. They destroy careers and they destroy futures. They also destroy young lives. Perhaps most of all, whilst doing so they put cash into the hands of criminals.

In the early eighties there were more casual drug users among young people. While we see today a steady decline of casual drug use, there remains a hard core group of heavy drug users. What is worse is that those who make up the majority of the group are the youngsters hardest to reach.

Street youth today are consuming far more drugs than frequent drug users who are still in school. The battle against illicit drug use is being waged in our cities, where the problem is most visible, through programs and high profile media campaigns. It has also been carried out in smaller communities across the country.

Do we need more compelling reasons to advance the case against drug abuse? These people, the young, the abused, school dropouts, street kids, the unemployed and off reserve aboriginal youth are hard to reach.

It therefore follows that the critical path to addressing the issues of substance abuse lies in education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. We must also strike at the root of the problem. We must equip law enforcement professionals with the tools needed to deal effectively with those who prey on the addicted. This bill provides the tool. We must promote sound law enforcement if we are ever to advance in the broader social goal of maintaining safe and peaceful communities. The bill provides the means of accomplishing this goal.

We have also heard how the bill looks to the future. First, it provides for flexible framework for controlling the import, export, production, distribution and use of controlled substances.

Second, it provides a mechanism that will allow us to implement our international obligations and to restrict the production or trade of regulated substances to the medical, scientific and industrial purposes.

Third, it enhances enforcement of the law by the police and the courts as it provides the police with the necessary tools to enforce the law and provides for the seizure and forfeiture of property used in offences involving controlled substances.

Additionally, by reaching a broader range of controlled substances, the new legislation will help make it more difficult for drug dealers to reach children and will strengthen sentences handed down by the courts. It will make it easier for the police to arrest people who deal in illegal drugs.

Drug dealing in and around schools and in or near public places usually frequented by minors will constitute an aggravated factor at the time of sentencing. This means that judges will have to justify their decision when not imposing a jail sentence.

The new bill also places safeguards at all levels of production and distribution of controlled substances. This should ensure that they are not diverted from medical, scientific and industrial channels to the illegal street market.

Right now as we debate the bill designer drugs are being produced in some clandestine laboratory and cannot be subjected to prosecution until they are included in the schedules. These designer drugs have the same basic properties as more familiar substances such as stimulants, tranquillizers and painkillers. However their chemical properties have been slightly altered. The result is that these substances are not covered by existing legislation and can be sold with impunity.

Under the bill law enforcement officials will no longer have to wait for the drugs to appear on statutory schedules to stop criminals from selling them. So-called precursors, legal substances used in the manufacture of illicit substances, can also be obtained in large enough quantities through devious means.

The bill contains enhanced controls for anabolic steroids. Studies in the United States and Canada have shown clearly that the problem of steroids is not confined to the high stake arenas of international competition. This was confirmed by Justice Dubin's findings. High school and college athletes use steroids in hopes of winning athletic scholarships or to shape up more quickly. Recreational athletes, adolescents and adults alike use steroids to improve their physique.

It is no secret that even taken in limited doses for legitimate medical purposes steroids can cause serious side effects. Information from law enforcement agencies suggest that most steroids used by athletes are not prescribed by physicians. The mixture sold on the street may be of inferior quality or could pose unknown health risks.

Under the proposed act not only will it be easier to arrest and convict traffickers but it will enable governments to seize and forfeit the proceeds of crime and property used or intended for the purpose of committing a drug related crime.

It is only through the adoption of the measures of education, prevention and law enforcement that we will have the necessary means to foster healthy communities free of addiction, degradation and criminal oppression.

Children are entitled to grow up and develop in a supportive and caring environment, one which spawns honest, healthy and productive lifestyles. The bill before us is one way we can help to promote such a climate for the children of Canada.

At this point I stress three particular concerns brought to the attention of the subcommittee during its study of Bill C-7 with respect to the definition of practitioner. A number of witnesses appearing before the subcommittee, in particular the Canadian Medical Association, had grave concerns. We have addressed those concerns by setting out the definition of practitioner in clause 2 and by specifying that a practitioner be a registered and licensed individual. We have removed any possibility of the regulated activities of professionals being equated with trafficking.

The next issue is subclause 3(1) as originally drafted in the bill that deals with the effect similarity of substances not covered in any of the bill's schedules. Concerns over the particular subclause were raised by many groups and individuals. Their perception was that certain herbal products might be inadvertently covered by it.

Because of these concerns the subcommittee agreed to delete subclauses 3(1)(a) and (b) entirely. Essentially the effect similarity provisions have disappeared and we believe this would definitely erase all concerns regarding herbal products.

I will respond to some criticisms raised by members of the opposition during debate at second reading. Both the official opposition and Reform members identified the absence of regulations as a fundamental impediment to obtaining a full understanding of the impact of the legislation. The activities of pharmacists, physicians, dentists and veterinarians are currently subject to the regulations under the Narcotic Control Act and parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act.

Controlled Drugs And Substances ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The member will have time left in the debate after question period. However, it being 2 p.m., we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

National UnityStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, over the last 128 years Canadians have built a country that is the envy of the world. We have built a land that is prosperous and a country based on shared values such as peace, compassion and tolerance.

We are also a nation profoundly attached to remaining a united country, a nation that includes Quebec. The mutual social, economic and political benefits of a united country or a united Canada have been clearly stated by the leaders of the no campaign.

All Canadians from coast to coast have spoken from their hearts. They have reached out to say loud and clear that we want Quebec to stay. Now is the time for Quebec to look at the facts. When it does so, I believe Quebec will reject confusion, uncertainty and separation.

On this important day I believe Quebec will clearly express its intention to remain in a united Canada.

Quebec ReferendumStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, today the people of Quebec are making a decision that will affect not only Canadians living in Quebec but all Canadians. Our country will be profoundly changed regardless of the outcome of the Quebec referendum.

There are two ways to confront change: first, to resist at every opportunity, drawing comfort from that which is familiar; and, second and more difficult but potentially much more rewarding, to accept the inevitability of change, to embrace change and thereby have the opportunity to manage it.

Our country is poised at the precipice of such change. We have an opportunity to put aside past partisanship, past bias, and to look to the future with an open mind.

We have an historic opportunity to fashion a new federation that is flexible enough to accommodate our different visions, strong enough to weather life's storms, and gentle enough to be a beacon of hope to the world.

Health CareStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

Mr. Speaker, the health minister has repeatedly stated her government's commitment to maintain the quality of health care. However, with federal government programs cut by a staggering $7 billion over three years and more to come after, the government's commitment to equal and quality health care for all Canadians is simply unbelievable.

The Reform Party wants a two-tier health system, a good one for the rich and a poor one for everyone else. Both will lead to the end of the health care system we all treasure.

The minister should show some leadership on the question of health promotion, which the World Health Organization defines as the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health.

The province of Saskatchewan leads the field in Canada on the front of health promotion and health prevention. Even American insurance companies are more committed to health prevention than the minister is. It is not anything new; we have been hearing this for years.

With the continuing federal cuts, the challenge to continue to provide equal access to quality health care is a serious one. It is surely time for the government to begin looking at concrete methods of saving money and improving health care through a concerted initiative toward preventative health care.

It is time for the minister to show some real leadership and work with provincial ministers, health care professionals and-

Health CareStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka.

National UnityStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide an example of how much constituents in my riding believe in maintaining the unity of Canada.

Last week in the Parry Sound council chamber, the Canadian flag, flanked by the flags of Ontario and Quebec joined that of the town of Parry Sound. Mayor Cunningham pointed out the inclusion of the Quebec flag, noting its special significance at this point in history. She went on to say: "It represents our tie to Quebec and our wish and hope that Quebec remain a part of Canada, our appreciation of its differences and what it adds to the nation".

The mayor went on to quote a local columnist who had noted that many individuals would feel as if they had lost a substantial part of their identity and their sense of Canadianism if Quebec were to separate.

Mayor Cunningham reflects the vast majority of constituents in my riding who believe in the unity of Canada. They know that Confederation has worked for all parts of our nation and recognize that our unity and prosperity depends on a no vote today.