Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-7, a bill in which many in Etobicoke-Lakeshore have an interest. I am talking about individuals who work in the areas of education, prevention, rehabilitation, treatment, enforcement and control. Those individuals are very interested in the general types of control substances outlined in Bill C-7.
Narcotics are covered under the Narcotic Control Act, as well as some from the 1961 single convention. Examples of drugs in this group are cocaine, opium, codeine, morphine and marijuana. Controlled drugs, as defined under the Food and Drugs Act, are stimulants such as amphetamines and sedatives such as barbituric acid. Restricted drugs come under the Food and Drugs Act, the so-called designer drugs, as well as the anabolic steroids, the precursors and the drugs from the 1971 convention on psychotropic substances.
The majority of the substances are diverted from legitimate manufacturers and then illegally imported and sold. Until recently dealers have been able to sell the steroids at up to 20 times their prescription value with little risk of getting caught.
The amendments to the Food and Drugs Act and its appended regulations contained in the bill have resulted in 42 androgenic-anabolic steroids and their derivatives being classified as controlled drugs.
In the grim world of the effects of illicit drugs on the lives of abusers can be severe. This is the crux of my argument. If the effects on the lives of the abusers can be severe, the penalties proposed for convicted dealers in the most dangerous drugs should be severe. Sentences for the most serious offences of trafficking, importing or exporting narcotics remain life imprisonment in the bill.
We know that the specific provisions of the bill have been given the close scrutiny they deserve by a subcommittee on Bill C-7 of the Standing Committee on Health. I will comment on the work of that committee. Members heard from many national groups and associations representing a community of thousands of people, as well as officials from the departments of health and justice.
I will quickly list some of the groups that made representations before the committee: the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the Department of Public Health, the city of Toronto, the Addiction Research Foundation, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, Lambton Families in Action for Drug Education, the Quebec Bar Association and the Criminal Lawyers Association, et cetera. Many groups appeared before the subcommittee.
The subcommittee fully addressed each and every concern with the intent of improving the bill before us today. Several amendments were made at committee stage. Some particular issues of discussion resulted in amendment. The main amendments to Bill C-7 are the ones in which my constituents are interested.
The amendments create a new offence for possession of marijuana and hashish involving certain quantities. They create a new offence for trafficking in marijuana and hashish in certain quantities. They provide for a purpose clause dealing with sentences and, more particular, they encourage rehabilitation and treatment in appropriate circumstances.
The aggravated circumstances section has been expanded to cover in or near public places usually frequented by minors. This means that when an offender has been convicted in those circumstances a judge will have to give reasons for not imposing a jail term.
The amendments will delete subsection 3(1), which was meant to cover non-scheduled substances having or presented as having the same effect as scheduled substances. There were some apprehensions among other things that it might cover herbal products.
At the same time there is a limit on the ability of inspectors to examine the records so that they may not examine the records pertaining to the medical condition of patients.
The bill clarifies those situations where a practitioner would be considered to be trafficking by providing that unless authorized by the regulations it will be illegal to sell a prescription to obtain a scheduled substance. Several things have been done and several amendments have been made to the original Bill C-7.
I am confident that the current situation facing Canada today as it relates to drug abuse will prompt each member of this place to consider the facts in his or her own constituency, to reflect on the implications for the future, and to respond accordingly by supporting this bill.
Through education and prevention we must continue to inform our young people, alerting them to the seductive snares of addiction. Through rehabilitation and treatment we must reach out and free those already trapped in the nightmare of dependence and desolation. Through enforcement and control we must strive to disinter the roots of those criminal enterprises that prey on the young and defenceless, those who otherwise risk being enticed into a never-ending cycle of addiction and deprivation.
The bill gives the police new authority without giving them sweeping authority. It gives us greater power to prevent dangerous substances from entering the country. It gives us the tools to help ensure that justly prosecuted criminals do not benefit from their crimes.
I submit that passage of the controlled drugs and substances bill is but one step toward a healthier and safer tomorrow. It is nonetheless a very important step in the right direction. I urge all members from all sides of this House to give this bill the scrutiny it richly deserves. Anything less would be an abdication of our responsibility.
Let us pass this bill so the government can get on with its mandate to protect and promote the health of Canadians in a way consistent with what we have a right to expect. I call on everyone to support this.