Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on this bill today. This bill concerns controlling drugs and substances and addresses one of the most compelling issues with which society is faced today, the issue of drug abuse. Constituents in Erie riding have demanded action and this government has responded.
As each member of the House is only too aware, drug abuse and the untold suffering it causes knows no geography, no socioeconomic class, no social graces. The problem is widespread. It strikes hard and with devastation. It destroys families, careers and lives. We must stop this waste.
According to a United Nations survey, trade in illegal drugs is second only to world trade in arms. This is a very sobering fact. The incidence of drug abuse rises considerably among teenagers and young adults who are school drop outs, unemployed, or homeless. Do not be fooled. This disease, this cancer is in our schools as well. Ask your children. Ask your grandchildren. It is truly frightening.
While recognizing that there is a need to emphasize demand reduction, it is important that the Government of Canada complement these efforts with drug law enforcement and crime prevention.
This bill is intended to consolidate, modernize, enhance and streamline the government's drug control policy underlying two current acts of Parliament and to fulfil Canada's obligations under three international conventions.
In 1961 the government of the day enacted the Narcotic Control Act as a follow-up to the single convention on narcotic drugs. In anticipation of the 1971 convention on psychotropic substances, in 1961 and 1969, Parliament passed parts III and IV respectively of the Food and Drug Act. In essence, much of our existing legislation framework is now more than 30 years old and must be reviewed. It is for this reason among others that this legislation is necessary.
Furthermore, as a signatory to three international agreements on the illegal drug trade, Canada is obligated to the terms of the single convention on narcotic drugs of 1961, the 1971 convention on psychotropic substances and the relevant parts of the 1988 United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances.
Consequently, the controlled drugs and substances bill is designed to achieve three prime objectives. First is to provide the government with the flexibility required to better control the import, production, export, distribution and use of controlled substances. Second is to provide the mechanisms needed to implement our obligations under international agreements. This relates to the restricted production or trade of internationally regulated substances destined for medical, scientific and/or industrial purposes. Third is to enhance the ability of the police and the courts to enforce our laws.
The bill provides for the seizure and forfeiture of property used in offences involving controlled substances. It also allows for the restraint and forfeiture of fortified drug houses. The use of fortified drug houses for the purposes of drug trafficking is an increasing problem.
The houses are generally family dwellings that have been modified for use as centres for drug trafficking. They are veritable fortresses of crime. The houses are fortified by adding steel doors, boarding up windows and adding cement walls. In some instances, trap doors are used to exchange money and drugs so that there is no contact between the trafficker and the purchaser. The purpose for building such houses is to delay or prevent entry by police. During the extra time it takes the police to gain entry, any evidence of drug dealing is destroyed.
The existing Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act do not effectively deal with emerging trends in drug abuse. We must be able to adapt to rapidly changing criminal activity. These trends see the appearance of new illicit or new designer drugs which can escape effective control under current law. Their methods, their tactics and their products are forever undergoing change. We must respond and quickly. We need flexible legislation which
allows those on the front lines of enforcement to adapt quickly to these new developments as they occur.
For example, one of the more recent developments in the drug underworld is the production and illicit sale of so-called designer drugs. Designer drugs are potent substances with chemical structures slightly different from substances presently controlled by the Food and Drugs Act and the Narcotic Control Act, substances such as stimulants, tranquillizers and pain killers. Yet these drugs affect abusers in similar ways and can lead to the same health and social problems produced by more conventional drugs. Much harm can result from the abuse of these drugs. Primary targets are often school age children.
The manufacture and sale of the designer drugs can be a very profitable business. Under the current Food and Drugs Act and the Narcotic Control Act drugs must first be listed on a schedule to the act. This regulates the conditions for the sale of that particular substance in Canada.
Only once a given substance is listed can it become an offence to sell it. To correct this deficiency the controlled drugs and substances bill proposes the inclusion of analogues to cover these substances. Analogues are non-listed substances that have highly similar chemical structures to those of listed substances. Under the proposed act new illicit drugs appearing on the street which fit this description will be covered automatically.
The bill also permits the control of precursors. Precursors are chemical substances used to produce controlled substances. New provisions contained in the bill will enable authorities to regulate the import and export of these substances.
Other sources of drugs sold on the street are substances intended for medical or scientific use. They may be stolen from a hospital, obtained through illegal prescriptions, secured by obtaining numerous prescriptions from different doctors for the same ailment or via a forged prescription.
People who deal in diverted pharmaceutical drugs are collecting very large profits. This bill enhances present controls that deal with this issue. Under this bill the monitoring of the distribution of drugs will continue.
We know there exists a criminal element which is using more and more sophisticated networks to illegally produce, sell, export and import controlled substances in Canada. These people buy property and consumer goods to further their criminal activities and bolster their personal wealth. As I see it such people should be prevented from retaining illegally obtained capital and goods.
The bill before us today in tandem with the proceeds of crime legislation strikes at the heart of criminal enterprises. Together the legislation will enable the courts to strip criminals of profits and property illegally amassed through drug dealing. Traffickers will no longer be able to flaunt their Rolex watches, fancy cars and mansions, flashy boats and planes, and rightfully so.
Trends in illegal production, distribution and use of controlled substances change frequently and quickly. This bill is designed to deal with current problems and to anticipate future needs. This bill proposes a significant strengthening of our current legislative framework.
Nonetheless I believe this bill merits the support of all members on all sides of the House. Given what is at stake, I submit Canadians expect no less of us.