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.