That a special committee of the House be appointed to consider the factors underlying or relating to the non-medical use of drugs in Canada and make recommendations with respect to the ways or means by which the government can act, alone or in its relations with governments at other levels, in the reduction of the dimensions of the problem involved in such use;
That the membership of the committee be established by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs;
That the Standing Committee report the membership of the special committee to the House within five sitting days after the adoption of this motion;
That substitutions may be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
That the committee shall have all of the powers granted to Standing Committees in Standing Order 108; and
That the committee shall present its final report no later that June 1, 2002.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak today to the motion and to get it to the floor of the House of Commons. It has been about eight years, since 1993, that I have been very close to this issue and have wanted to get it to the House.
When I look back at the record of the House of Commons I find there actually has not been a debate in the House on drugs for decades. That concerns me, particularly because of the advance stage of concern from parents and virtually everyone in the country about drugs.
The reason we are asking for a special committee is that it is time the House of Commons, on a non-partisan basis, organized itself to go across the country to the small towns, villages and cities and to hold hearings here in the House of Commons to get people together and assess how difficult the situation is today.
I can assure members that I will let them know just how difficult it is from my perspective. As I say, I have been involved with this for some time.
Some have said that there is a Senate committee looking at this issue, but it is actually only looking at the issue of cannabis. What I am talking about here is assessing the non-medical use of drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, the kinds of drugs that are addicting our young people.
The important thing I want to emphasize is this committee and its make-up. The committee should be made up of members of all parties of the House. They should be members who want to consistently be involved in the committee on a longer term basis with other members who have an avid interest in the issue. They should be individuals who are somewhat compatible, regardless of philosophical beliefs or politics. They should be compatible on the issues and the understanding of drugs themselves.
I do not doubt that this will take a lot of time and work but we have to deal with the issue, and I will show the House why.
I want to relate how drug use is growing in our country. The results were astonishing in a particular study I was recently looking at, the Ontario student drug use survey that has been done biannually since 1977. It indicated that between 1997 and 1999 the use of some drugs almost tripled. The percentage of students who said they could not stop using drugs soared from 2.9% to 6.5%. That was in Ontario schools.
With cannabis the percentage peaked at 31.7% in 1979 and then fell for the next six surveys to 11% in 1991. Since then usage has soared, reaching 24.9% in 1997. We can see that is increasing.
Cocaine use has been tracked since 1977 and crack cocaine has been tracked since 1987. While cocaine peaked in 1979 at 5.1% and then fell, only to rise again, crack cocaine usage has increased steadily. Cocaine usage rose sharply in 1999 to 3.7% in Ontario schools. That is concerning.
I can tell the House that 36% of students in 1999 said that someone had tried to sell them drugs in the last year and 32% said they observed someone selling drugs. That is in our schools.
I was in a school not too long ago where three students in one behavioural class admitted to being heroin users. That is concerning. It is such an addictive drug that these young people will end up stealing, robbing, prostituting or doing whatever they can to get the drug. Those are our children. That is why the motion is important.
I have here Canada's drug strategy. It was produced by the current government. I looked at the particular strategy and I compared it with the strategy done by the previous Progressive Conservative government. I think both governments, in all fairness, tried their very best to assess the drug situation at the time and perhaps had the bureaucracy write the strategy.
I actually took this strategy to the streets, to people working with drug addicts and to drug addicts themselves. I asked them about the strategy. They had no idea what I was talking about and quite frankly told me that it did not affect their daily lives.
When we compare the strategies it is really interesting. I ask all colleagues who are interested in this subject to compare the strategy produced in 1987 by the Progressive Conservative government with the strategy produced by the Liberal government. I am not trying in any way to discredit either government. I am just relating that perhaps the bureaucracy has this idea about drug strategy.
In 1987 the goal or the overall objective of the drug strategy of the government of the day was to reduce harm to individuals. In 1998 this strategy by a different government but by the same bureaucracy said that the long term goal of Canada's drug strategy was to reduce the harm associated with alcohol and drugs.
Between 1987 and 1998 a whole bunch of things happened regarding drug use. It became worse and there were more manufactured drugs in the country, but virtually the same document has been produced by the same bureaucracy but by different governments. I do not think this is getting to the bottom of the issue.
Let me talk about the comprehensive framework. In 1987 the bureaucracy of the day said this was a multifaceted response to a complex issue. It said that the most important things were education and prevention. In 1998 the government and its bureaucracy said that it was a comprehensive framework and that the most important things were prevention and education.
In 1987 they said we needed enforcement and control. In 1998 they said we needed legislation, enforcement and control. In 1987 they said we needed treatment and rehabilitation. In 1998 they said we needed treatment and rehabilitation, and on it goes.
It is an overlay, an absolute overlay from 1987 to 1998. Yet the problem is probably three to four times worse. What I am getting at is that I do not see improvement. We have to put together a committee in the House and we to get on the streets where the problem is. We have to come back here on a non-partisan basis and say that we have to take the following action. It is not to write a drug strategy like the one that has been the same for 10 years with a poor outcome.
I have been many places in my day. One of the worst times in my life since I have been a member of parliament is when I was on the streets watching a young 13 or 14 year old shooting heroin between her toes because there was no other place on her arms or elsewhere to put the needle. That kid is likely dead today. That child was somebody's child. We forgot her.
There are many other children like her out there. Today we are arresting prostitutes one after another, treating them like criminals rather than victims of a very harsh drug trade where the profiteers at the top are making a lot at the expense of the young kids at the bottom.
One night I was on shift with a police force when we arrested four prostitutes. The oldest was 16. They were arrested, booked and let back out on the streets. Before I finished my shift one of them was back out on the street, on the corner. She stayed there because there was no consequence to just being arrested. These kids need a shot of heroin. This cannot continue.
I have a lot of police reports. The police give me a lot of reports on things that go on. I want to give a few examples of efforts to smuggle drugs into Canada. These are from intelligence bulletins and, no, I will not tell anybody where I got them. Ecstasy was seized from a female body packer at Vancouver international airport. Inspectors seized 10,212 ecstasy tablets from a young woman arriving from Amsterdam. That was on Friday, December 3, 1999.
On November 30, 1999, 23,057 tablets of ecstasy were hidden in socks at Vancouver international airport. On November 4, 1999, 104,000 tablets of ecstasy were seized at Vancouver international airport from two Israeli nationals arriving on KLM flight 681 from Amsterdam. On August 18, 1999, 33 kilos of cocaine were seized on the Pacific coast highway commercial corridor from people from California.
I have pages and books of this stuff. Surely everybody listening gets the point. It is out of control. I am not talking about catching everybody involved in drugs, locking them up, throwing away the key and starting a war on drugs. To some extent the Americans are on the wrong track by doing this.
I am talking about assessing the state of drug use in the nation, the state of our children in schools, the state of prostitution on the streets, and the state of parents from whom I receive calls practically on a daily basis. They ask if I can help them get their child out of a crack house or out of a province and into another province, into a facility for drug rehabilitation and detox.
We do not even have enough detox facilities to look after a small percentage of the addicts in our country. For goodness' sake, there are almost 8,000 heroin addicts in Vancouver alone who shoot up every day at $20 a cap. Every one of them has to earn the money to get heroin five to eight times a day. They are stealing and robbing from people. They are prostituting themselves. That is only one city.
There have been 147 deaths from overdoses this year in Vancouver alone. These were someone's children or someone's parents. If they were raped and murdered there would be a sex offender registry in two seconds. If they were shot with a gun or driven over by a drunk driver this place would be erupting with new legislation.
We are pleading for all parties to look at the issue on a non-partisan basis now and not over the next five years. Let us give it a year but study it thoroughly and come back to the House to take some concrete action.
The reality is that the drug strategies appear to be a failure. There is no point coming here and ragging on any government about drug strategies. The people who really need help are not interested in reading a drug strategy that does not go to the streets.
I have been involved in a needle exchange that gives out needles to some addicts, not all of them. It gave out 1.5 million needles last year to drug addicts in one facility. I have seen the needle exchange in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Who would have ever thought this could happen in a small place such as Sydney?
Right now my community of Abbotsford is debating the issue of whether there should be a needle exchange. We can reserve opinion on the effectiveness of a needle exchange and safe shoot up sites. They were talking about that in Vancouver yesterday. We do not have to get into whether it is right or wrong right now, but we have to get into how Sydney, Nova Scotia, and small towns in the country are into these exchanges. Why is it? How big will it get?
My colleague tells me there are about 4,000 to 5,000 people in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Recent information highlighting a growing drug problem among Stellarton's youth is prompting the town's police commission to seek government funding to help pay for a new drug enforcement officer. The town's drug problems came to the fore following a recent news report highlighting an incident involving an 11 year old Stellarton girl who was discovered by police to be carrying 140 tablets of a street drug.
This is happening with an 11 year old kid, and we sit in the House debating some legislation that the average person on the street does not give two hoots about. It is not just Stellarton. It is all over the country and we are closing our eyes to it.
There are a lot of things this committee has to look at. I believe we will get, if not unanimous consent, majority consent to establish this committee. I am begging the House to have the committee, on a non-partisan basis, get down to looking at the issue on the streets. We should forget the bureaucrats who sit in high buildings. Let us get down on the streets and figure out how to fix this thing.
I have a litany of problems here with regard to the judicial system. I have here case upon case of individuals trafficking in $300,000 to $400,000 worth of drugs who get caught and get suspended sentences or conditional sentences. There are individuals with better than 60 convictions. They go into our courts and they come out of our courts. They sell drugs, they buy drugs, they trade drugs, they make money and they go into our courts and come out of our courts. Meanwhile our children become addicted and these individuals get rich. The justice system just drags along real slowly and the police say “What do you want us to do?”
I have stood by with police and talked to people who are in this country illegally. One was smoking a marijuana joint while he was talking to us because he knew nothing would happen to him. I am not here to debate whether marijuana is a good thing or a bad thing. I am here to try to establish some action. I sincerely hope that if we establish the committee we will have people on the committee who truly care about the issue and will truly do something.
Finally, I want to thank all of those people listening and watching who have some concern for this matter. I hope that they too will write to members of parliament in the House of Commons and say that we have to take some action in this country. I say please, on behalf of our children, on behalf of the tens of thousands who are addicted in this country, let us take some action and do something positive for a change.