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House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak yet again to a bill that would reform our laws governing marijuana.

I will begin by echoing the comments made by my friend from the Bloc. The bill has been before us twice. This is the third time around. It was only because the former finance minister, now the Prime Minister, was afraid to take this on before an election that we are now back in a position of redebating a bill that already went to a committee, already had some amendments made to it and is now back in the House. I think that needed to be said.

This issue has been kicking around for more than 30 years. We can go all the way back to the LeDain commission and the recommendations that were made around decriminalization and legalization. It seems to me that there is a reality out in the broader community around this issue but it is the elected representatives who have failed to catch up and be realistic about what we need to do when it comes to drug policy and law reform.

I am proud to say that the federal NDP has long advocated for the decriminalization of marijuana. I believe we are the only party in the House that actually at our party convention had a resolution and a policy for decriminalization.

In advocating that position, we understand that we need a drug policy that does not primarily rely only on the police and the criminal justice system. I think there is a growing consensus across the country that our current marijuana laws are not working and that the drug laws themselves now cause enormous harm. Decriminalization, we believe, is a first step, but it is not the only step. It is a first step to what needs to be an open and honest debate and dialogue about the failure of the current practices.

The policy toward marijuana has too often been approached from the point of view, and I think an incorrect perspective, of focusing on the misguided belief that the illegal status of the drug is the primary factor in preventing use. This is a very important point. I listened to the Conservative member reading out some of the concerns people have about drug use and people who were in treatment.

What the Conservatives cannot deal with and the reality that they continue to deny is that by relying on criminal enforcement as the primary tool for preventing use we have actually made the situation worse. By denying reality and proper education and treatment to people, particularly young people, they are actually making the situation worse by driving the problem underground.

We understand what that contradiction is about. We believe that Canada must build a workable policy on marijuana that recognizes the failure of criminalizing people for their drug use. These policies must be part of a broader drug strategy that focuses on a health based approach, as recommended by the Special Committee on the Non-medical Use of Drugs on which I was a member.

In fact, the introduction of the former bill on marijuana in June 2003 was accompanied by an announcement of a renewal of Canada's drug strategy providing $245 million over five years. I want to point out that that commitment fell far short of what was recommended by the special committee and is barely half of what was promised by the Liberals in the 2000 election.

I would also point out that in the Auditor General's report of 2001, the report on illicit drugs sharply questioned the reliance on enforcement and pointed out that 95% of federal funds spent on the illicit drug use in Canada were used toward enforcement and interdiction.

We have barely put anything toward treatment and with the money that we do put into enforcement, what have we solved? Does anyone believe that we have actually solved this issue?

We believe that Canada should take steps to move marijuana out of the criminal legal framework and eliminate punitive measures for responsible adult marijuana use. We believe that we must move forward to a discussion on the best system of rules based on public health education.

For instance, there should be rules about age, rules about impaired driving and rules to tackle commercial grow ops. The federal NDP believe that the federal government must move beyond decriminalization and examine and introduce a non-punitive rules based approach to adult marijuana use, with an emphasis on prevention, education and health promotion.

Marijuana policy needs to eliminate the criminalization of users and focus on reducing the harms and preventing crime. What the federal government should be doing is putting resources behind public education rather than on criminal prosecution. We only have to look at the examples of tobacco and alcohol to know that consistent and strong messaging on the health risks associated with tobacco and alcohol have actually helped to reduce consumption, particularly with tobacco. It was not by making that substance illegal. It was by providing people with real honest options and a health based approach and rules around use.

It is not necessary to use criminal law to discourage harmful forms of drug use. In fact in many cases, as we have seen over the last few decades, it actually can be counterproductive.

We also believe that policy objectives need to pay special attention to keeping cannabis and other drugs out of the hands of minors. Again, this is where we need to focus on rules and enforcement that is targeted, based on rules to prevent use by minors. Recent studies have shown that consumption among youth has actually risen. The reality is that kids are choosing to opt for marijuana over tobacco.

The issue of driving under the influence of marijuana also needs to be addressed. There is another bill on that and we will be speaking to it as well.

Public policy must also recognize that the prohibitionist laws continue to fuel organized crime and other violent organizations in our society. Prohibiting drugs creates a huge black market that greatly inflates the value of drugs and the profits to be made by selling them. Even the extensive law enforcement resources used by countries such as the United States to enforce prohibition clearly show that they cannot make any appreciable dent in the drug trade as long as prohibition continues. The economic incentive created by prohibition to sell drugs is so powerful that law enforcement really has no chance of stopping the trade.

We need to look beyond our closest neighbour and come up with a comprehensive and safe marijuana policy. The U.S. driven war on drugs is not a Canadian made solution. I do not believe we should be intimidated by some of the rhetoric we have heard from the United States that somehow we have no right to develop our own policies that are rational and intelligent. Canada should look instead to the United States as an example of a country with a disastrously failed drug policy, a failed policy because of its perennial reliance on prohibition.

When this bill last came forward, the NDP members on the committee sought various improvements and we did get some changes in the bill. We will continue to seek improvements to the bill this time around.

We want to ensure that there is an amnesty provision for those who have had a conviction for the simple possession of marijuana. About 600,000 Canadians have a record for that reason. We want to ensure that the records of fines for possession are sealed and not shared with Interpol or other foreign jurisdictions.

We want to put in measures for non-commercial transfers of marijuana to prevent passing a joint from a friend being considered as trafficking. This is what happened to Mr. Emery. He is now in jail as a result of that particular aspect of the law in terms of passing a joint.

We also want to ensure that reasonable grounds are required for searches. For example, for a warrant to be issued, police should have reasonable grounds to suspect that more than 30 grams are in a home.

We also want to see changes to the fine regime. We want to see non-punitive measures for personal cultivation of up to five plants.

Basically, we need to ensure that there is a distinction between private and public use of marijuana.

We look forward to the bill going to committee. We will have very serious amendments for consideration to improve the bill.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-17 which is a far-reaching, innovative bill.

Years ago I introduced in the House of Commons a bill to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. I was pleased to have input across party lines as to how to ensure we had more rational drug laws in this country. Bill C-17 is a strong step in that direction and I will tell the House why.

Bill C-17 seeks to disarticulate two groups: the individual user and those involved in commercial grow operations which are connected to organized crime. Bill C-17 seeks to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana and also possession of a small number of plants.

The first is important because it would remove the individual from being made a criminal. Making an individual a criminal for being in possession of a small amount of marijuana is an unethical, harmful objective. The Canadian Medical Association, church groups and some police associations have also said that this is a punitive effort that harms an individual and harms Canada at large. The individual who is charged and convicted of possession of a small amount of marijuana is stuck with that conviction forever. It significantly impedes the person's ability to work and travel for a good chunk of his or her life. That is an inhumane act.

Someone in possession of a small number of plants for individual use would not be considered as somebody involved in commercial grow operations. Bill C-17 separates that individual from those individuals involved in commercial operations that are connected to organized crime. The latter part of the bill increases penalties for those involved in commercial grow operations.

In my province of British Columbia that is a very important thing. In my province between $3 billion and $7 billion a year comes from the commercial cultivation of marijuana. Why is this important? It is important because, make no mistake about it, the people involved in commercial grow ops are involved in organized crime. For example, a hockey bag of marijuana that goes south across the border often comes back filled with cocaine and heroine. It is sad to say that British Columbia has become a major conduit for cocaine, white heroine and marijuana coming into North America.

The commercial grow operations are directly connected to organized crime. Bill C-17 seeks to substantially increase the penalties for those individuals who are involved in the nefarious activity of commercial grow operations and who, by extension, support organized crime in Canada, across North America and the world.

This is also important because the trafficking of drugs is connected to organized crime and terrorism. Terrorist organizations in the Middle East are connected to the heroine trade. For example, in Afghanistan right now there is one of the largest productions of opium in the world, and it will be harvested very soon. This has far-ranging implications for international security and the security of Canadians. Furthermore, FARC, the major terrorist group in Colombia, is directly connected to and is working with terrorist groups in the Middle East.

I want to say to those who are watching today that if they use drugs, they are supporting terrorism and they are harming all of us. That message is not well known but it needs to get out to not only people in Canada but people all over the world. Security is of paramount importance to all of us. People may think it may be harmless to use cocaine, heroine or marijuana, that it is their personal business, but when they buy those drugs, they are actually supporting commercial operations which in turn are often connected to terrorist groups in other parts of the world.

That is why Bill C-17 is extremely important. It dramatically increases penalties for those involved in commercial grow operations. The bill separates the small time user from those individuals involved in commercial grow operations. This is very humane. Individuals will want to make changes and they will have the opportunity to do so.

It would also be wise for us to look at the situation south of the border because individuals have said that the Americans will like this. The situation in the United States is very interesting. Some 70% of Americans do not support the marijuana laws in their country. They think the marijuana laws in the United States are punitive and grossly unfair. That is very important to know.

The United States and Canada have similar concerns over security. Both countries want to reduce harm. One thing that has been mentioned in the House is how to do it.

One of the things that is being done right now by the government is the early learning program. The former minister of labour was involved as an innovative individual in New Brunswick who worked on the head start program. It dramatically reduced a whole range of social parameters including drug use. Kids are staying in school longer. There is less criminal use by juveniles. We are going to employ that program through our early learning program to ensure that we have the most effective preventive model. We have to get to kids early on if we are going to have a substantial impact upon them in terms of drug use. This is particularly important in the first seven to eight years of life.

That is why the investment the government has made into early childhood education and early learning is exceedingly important in terms of addressing social problems such as drug use.

In the United States 70% of Americans do not support their own government's punitive drug laws. On comparing the United States to Europe, or indeed to us, we find that with the higher rates of punitive drug laws there is an increased drug use of both hard and soft drugs, increased incarceration rates, higher rates of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other problems associated with drug use. Overall there is a much higher cost to society.

Said another way, those punitive drug laws that the United States is imposing do not help. They actually harm the situation and detract from our objective, which is to reduce drug use and increase the penalties on organized crime.

As has been said before in the House, part of the problem is the high profit margin for producing something that is essentially a weed. Because the profit margin is so high, organized crime gets involved. It will capitalize on anything where a profit exists. This law is going to disarticulate small time, individual users from those who are involved in the commercial grow operations. That is important.

In the context of the bill, some have suggested that by passing this bill, it is somehow going to fall outside the international laws that we have signed. International laws that govern these illicit substances allow individual countries to engage in those programs and initiatives they feel are going to better address small time users. We have the flexibility within the context of the international laws that we have signed to do what we think is the right thing to reduce use in Canada.

The justice minister is putting this forward because he knows and we have seen from looking at the European experience the results when drug laws are a little more flexible, when there are not those punitive drug laws. The difference between a place such as the U.S. with punitive drug laws and Europe is quite stark. In Europe there is lower drug use, less hard drug use, less soft drug use, less crime and fewer diseases associated with this problem.

In closing, it is safe to say that our objectives and the objectives of most members in the House are clearly the same. We want to reduce substance abuse, particularly in youth, because it is not good to use these drugs. However, we also have to accept the reality in which we live. We are taking the balanced approach with this bill by being punitive with the commercial grow operations while enabling flexibility with the individual users and enabling them not to be harmed by our justice system. This is a fair, effective and a much wiser use of the limited resources we have. It is a good use of our justice system.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member opposite. Although his overriding message is one of protecting young people, and certainly his efforts were to highlight the health aspect of the debate and the condemnation of the use of drugs, I find much of his argument contradictory, inconsistent, and he undercuts some of his own argument in discussion, because what we essentially will see at the end of the day with the passage of this legislation is the Government of Canada condoning further drug use. That is the interpretation that will be put forward.

I also want to debunk some of the myth that is constantly put forward on this argument. When a young person or anyone in this country today goes before a court of law as a first-time offender for possession of a small amount of marijuana, the idea that they will be barred forever from entering the United States, saddled with a criminal record, and limited in their future employment prospects is absolute unadulterated nonsense. There is available in the criminal justice system today very clearly the option for a sentencing judge to mete out a sentence that will allow for a conditional or absolute discharge. It happens each and every day in courts across this country. That is the reality. This suggestion that somehow people's lives are marred forever by simple possession is pure fearmongering and an attempt by the Liberal government to soft-peddle their position on this issue.

My friend is a medical doctor. Before he drank the Kool-Aid and swallowed himself whole by joining the Liberal government, he used to very strongly advocate the health aspect of this. Marijuana taken into a system is no different. In fact I would suggest it is worse, according to some of the material that I have seen. Ingesting marijuana is very damaging; it's carcinogenic, THC.

I do not profess to be a medical doctor, as is the member opposite, but by condoning this and saying it's okay, it's fine, we accept that marijuana use is widespread in this country and therefore we should not put greater deterrents in place to try to eliminate drug use and try to at least control it in such a way that young people are given the proper message, that the Government of Canada is not becoming a pusher, in effect, I find very troubling. Victims groups, police, advocates, and many others who work with drug addiction are extremely concerned by this message, this soft-on-drug-use approach that underlies this particular bill.

We know that the legislation is a reincarnation of a previous bill that came before the House. We know as well in the official opposition that attempts were made to amend the legislation, to bring forward what we thought were meaningful amendments that would accept some of the realities that exist around drug use in this country. We accept very clearly that there is a need to facilitate the elimination of criminal records in some cases for those who were charged and convicted of minor possession in the past.

I would suggest as well that the amount that is before the House through this legislation is 30 grams, which is a significant amount. Thirty grams is a significant amount of marijuana--30 to 60 joints, depending on how big you roll them. This type of amount indicates very clearly that a person can carry that around and sell it in schoolyards to children. This runs completely contradictory to a strategy.

Speaking of strategies, what is the overall drug strategy of the government? It certainly does not appear clear, and it certainly seems that we are rushing headlong by bringing the legislation forward without that drug strategy in place.

I also have to go on record as saying again that it is perverse and contradictory beyond belief to be introducing a strategy that is empowering police with the knowledge of how to detect drugs in an impaired driving situation--a drug driving bill, if you will--at the same time as legislation that will make it easier to access drugs. This type of approach again I find completely contradictory on the part of the government.

The bill itself I find still seriously flawed in the schedule of amounts and the fine system that has been set out. We have a lesser fine if it is a young person, again suggesting that a young person will be treated differently by virtue of this bill by doing the same offence: being in possession of drugs.

The suggestion that we are somehow making it tougher on those who cultivate marijuana is again contradicted by the reality that there is no minimum fine in place.

What we have here is a maximum, which we very seldom, if ever, see meted out by a sentencing judge. It is fine to peg the high amount as the potential fine that one could face and the potential period of incarceration, yet there is no minimum sentence to reflect society's condemnation and to be a deterrent element in the criminal justice system.

The legislation is riddled with inconsistencies. The legislation is such that we will be proposing amendments at the committee stage as well.

This bill is welcome in the sense that there is clearly a need to modernize drug legislation in the country. However, the way in which these mixed messages are being brought forward by the government does little to provide confidence. It does little to do away with some of the cynicism that exists in having seen this bill come before the Parliament of Canada time and time again and then be sloughed off, put on the side burner, put aside to let it languish there, giving the public the opinion that yes, the government cares, yes, this is a top priority among the other hundred top priorities we hear about from the Prime Minister almost on a daily basis, and yet it never makes it to fruition. It never actually passes through both houses and becomes the law of the land. This is part of the continued shell game that we see the government perpetrating on an unsuspecting public. Well, the public is cottoning on; they're getting used to that approach.

We are hopeful that in a minority Parliament we will see a more efficacious use of legislation, a greater attempt to actually bring forward bills that will bring about necessary change that we in the Conservative Party do support.

We hope to have significant input into this bill when it gets to the committee stage. It is a bill that, although seriously flawed, has potential to improve upon the current state of affairs. We do support the intent of the other bill, Bill C-16, which will be coming before the House. Certainly we support the intent to arm police officers with greater capacity, training, and ability to detect the use of drugs in impaired cases, because there is still far too high an incidence of impaired driving related accidents on the roads and highways of the country today. There are far too many deaths. We fervently support the work of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other advocates who are pushing to educate Canadians on this problem.

With respect to Bill C-17, the critic for our party, the member for Abbotsford, has put forward our position. We will be looking to improve and amend the legislation. In particular, we will be looking to address some of the shortcomings around the amounts and the fine structure that has been set up.

The underlying theme, again for emphasis, is not that we in the country are relaxing our drug law to the point where it causes great consternation in the United States. There is real concern on the part of the American administration, be it Republican or Democrat. We are not going to tread into that quagmire, as we have seen the Liberal government do on far too many occasions, by offering our opinion on the outcome. Suffice it to say that the Americans are concerned. There are trade implications when we soften our drug laws. We see far too much drug trafficking at the border. Sadly for the Americans, it is in large part travelling their way, and they have concerns about it. This bill does nothing to ameliorate this or to cause the Americans to have any greater degree of confidence in the Canadian laws.

We hope the government will be open to accepting amendments on this bill. In a minority Parliament, by its very nature, we are going to see a greater degree of cooperation, whether the government likes it or not.

We will make our voice heard at the committee level. We hope to take greater action on the seizure of material as well, the material that is used in hydroponics for those illegal grow ops. That will allow us to have stronger drug legislation, not weaker drug legislation, which is the way I would characterize the current bill.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for pronouncing the name of my riding so well. I know why you can say it so well: your ancestors, your grandfather and great-grandfather were members of parliament for the riding I now represent.

I am pleased to rise and speak in this debate. I can describe myself as an old-fashioned person, a grandfather, and all that. Nonetheless, I intend to tell you today why I am in favour of this bill.

First, I do not think the existing law is adequate. I am not in agreement with the hon. member for Central Nova who told the House that the bill is bad and the existing legislation is somewhat reasonable. In effect, offenders in one village will be punished but in another they will not. In order to be just, the law must be applied equitably and universally, under identical conditions. At present, that is not at all what happens.

Furthermore, even though I am not a lawyer—and I make no apologies for that—I think there must be a principle that the punishment should not be more serious than the crime. Philosophers have been writing about this for millennia.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes, the hon. member opposite can talk about prison and all that. We will get back to these topics later. At the moment, we are discussing this bill and its impact on our young people, among other things.

I was talking about punishment that is more serious than the crime. Is it right to tarnish the reputation of a young person, as the current law does, for a minor offence? In my opinion, no. Is it right to tarnish the reputation of that person for the duration of the sentence, if that person is found guilty?

The member opposite was saying that, in some cases, the legislation will probably not be enforced anyway. This way, a person would not be found guilty, and this person's reputation would not be tarnished. I am sorry, but I totally fail to see the logic in that. That is not how legislation is drafted. It is drafted on the assumption that it will be enforced. If it is not, something is wrong, generally speaking, of course.

In some cases, the law tarnishes the reputation of our young people; in others, under identical circumstances, it exonerates them entirely. We agree that there is no difference between these two cases, that they are identical. It is immediately clear that something is wrong.

The other principle I just mentioned is that of the punishment sometimes being disproportionate to the offence. I think that this might be a case in point. I say this although I am extremely intolerant of the use of such substances; it does not mean that I condone it.

On this topic, I totally disagree with the hon. member for Vancouver East, who said that this was a good first step and that, later, we should legalize all sorts of drugs, or something to that effect. I disagree. It is not the same thing at all. I would certainly not want people to think that I support this bill because I think like she does. I do not. It is not the same thing.

I have no notes, so I am just speaking of how I see these things applying. I believe it was a Greek philosopher who said that extreme law is extreme injury, and the rigour of law applied without temperance is not justice but the denial of it, or some such thing. If that is the case, as I believe it is, then the law does not protect anybody in that regard.

At the same time, I for one am very intolerant toward any measure that will make it such that our young people will be victims of those who perpetrate the crimes of selling drugs at the present time. There the penalities have to be increased, perhaps.

We need to hit those people hard. We must ensure that they do not commit these crimes. That is the real crime and the one we should be focusing on, not throwing a 19 year old in jail or by punishing the person in some other way for having smoked one joint. What on earth does that accomplish? How are we making society better by tying up the time of the courts for the more important offences and so on? That is where I disagree with what I heard from the hon. member from the Conservative Party a little earlier today.

To pretend that at the same time that means that I or anyone else automatically thinks there should be legalization of these drugs is not true. That is not the same thing at all. I do not see why it should mean the same thing, except perhaps that one member of the House in a speech today seemed to suggest herself that the decriminalization of one was a logical first step to the legalization of the other. Maybe one member thinks that way but that does not mean that I do.

The hon. member for Wild Rose asked if we had ever heard of the slippery slope. I think the existing condition is that slippery slope, not the new one that would be created by the bill. We have people now who are found guilty of an offence and the penalty does more damage than the offence itself, while there are people who disobey the law in some parts of our country with impugnity. What makes it worse is that the identical offence elsewhere is punished differently. That is worse than the slippery slope. That encourages total disrespect for the law and it makes for uneven application of that law in addition to that. Both of these concepts are wrong.

A member talked to us about the quantity an individual could possess before being found guilty. Is 30 grams, 25 grams or 24 grams the right amount? This is something that should be settled by parliamentary committee, not at second reading in the House.

As we know, at second reading, we are talking about the principle of the bill. Are we in favour of what the bill basically sets out to accomplish? I am willing to accept that the quantity should be 32, 26, 24 or 16, or whatever quantity established by people who know more about this and will advise us in committee.

In my view, we have parliamentary committees that work very well. We always listen to witnesses, who share their knowledge and inform us on a given subject. In committee, we will be able to adjust the quantity, if necessary. I am not saying that the quantity even needs to be adjusted. However, if the member for Central Nova is worried about it—which he seemed to be earlier—this could be resolved in committee. However, this will in no way compromise the bill. In other words, it is not an excuse to vote against it. That is the argument I wish to make to this House.

That said, I must say I am old-fashioned about this and very intolerant—

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

At least you admit it.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I not only admit it, I am proud of it. I am very intolerant of people who abuse substances. It is true. I am even more intolerant of people of who sell drugs, especially to our children and—as a grandfather—our grandchildren.

Nonetheless, the current law is unfair. The punishment is worse than the crime.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

It is excessive.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is excessive, as my colleague says. We must move forward with this bill, refer it to committee, make changes if necessary and pass it as quickly as possible. We will have more respect for a law that works instead of a lack of respect for a law that has not worked for a long time.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-17, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana. I will begin my comments by discussing some of the health consequences of this drug in particular.

First, let us be very clear that there is demonstrable harm with the use of marijuana. It is far worse than smoking. It is an activity that we are officially, as a House, trying to discourage. For example, emphysema and lung cancer are both consequences of smoking and drug use.

The New England Journal of Medicine says that smoking five joints a week is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Clearly there is a link to health consequences.

The Neurotoxicity and Teratology journal reports that a baby exposed to marijuana while in the womb has an increased chance of hyperactivity and social problems. The National Academy of Sciences says that marijuana can cause cancer, lung damage and babies with low birth weights. Another journal, Circulation Research of the American Heart Association reported a five-fold increase in heart attacks among people who smoke marijuana. The British Medical Journal revealed an increased incidence in schizophrenia and depression. Lastly, a Dutch study shows that cannabis smokers are seven times more likely than other people to have psychotic symptoms.

Clearly there is a host of health problems associated with this particular activity and we as a House should be doing everything we can to discourage it.

Let us be very clear from the very beginning. We are not talking about the marijuana of the 1960s and the 1970s, which was in a completely different category. In the 1960s the THC levels in marijuana was about .5% to 2%. What we see today coming out of British Columbia, what is known as B.C. bud, has THC levels of 35%. That is an enormous increase in the toxicity and the potency of this particular drug. What is also clear is that this is like the crack cocaine of marijuana. It is a natural step to harder drug usage. I know this from my experience, which I will refer to later, as an attorney having talked to young people who have been addicted to these drugs.

Finally, as the Canadian Medical Association acknowledges that cannabis is an addictive substance, why do we want to make it more accessible to young people instead of less accessible? I personally think it is a huge act of hypocrisy on the part of the government to have this legislation alongside Bill C-16, the drugged driving bill, because under Bill C-16 the government seems to acknowledge that driving while under the influence of marijuana is a serious concern and one we need to discourage, under Bill C-17 it makes it more accessible.

This morning I was talking to Sergeant Paul Mulvihill of the Surrey RCMP detachment in my riding. He was telling me that this approach was very short-sighted.

While I generally support the notion of Bill C-16 and the idea of a drugged driving bill, I want to comment briefly on some of my concerns. It probably needs a lot more funding to ensure that the officers are properly trained to administer that legislation and so the convictions will stick.

Health is not the only concern that I have with this particular legislation. I am also concerned about the economic consequences. We know these people have higher rates of absenteeism from work. There is a greater increase of family breakdown, a greater use of the medical system, such as addiction treatments and rehab centres, and of course there is the cost of incarceration. The more accessible these drugs become to Canadians, the more chances they will have to suffer the consequences of that. We need to consider this from an economic perspective.

I find it striking that just a few weeks ago the first ministers came to an agreement on health where they are handing out stacks of cash to the provinces to deal with health care and here we are encouraging, by reducing the consequences, behaviour that will cost our health care system enormous amounts of money. It will be a huge drain on the system.

From an economic perspective we cannot forget that we live next to our largest trading partner, one of the largest in the world, and that is the U.S. I can tell members that the Americans take a dim view of what the Canadian government is considering with this legislation.

The U.S. drug czar has recently indicated that there will be repercussions if we push ahead with this plan because 95% of the drugs, particularly those grown in British Columbia, do not stay in B.C. They go straight across the border, and they send us cocaine in exchange. It is a horrible problem. In light of the delays we are currently experiencing at the border, do we want to instigate further problems?

As a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, we already face higher scrutiny at the borders. The second busiest border crossing in the country is in my riding. Truckers are waiting six to seven hours to cross the border with their products and we are proposing legislation that would increase the level of scrutiny and make it even harder for people to make a living as they move trade to and fro across the border.

We are not just talking about the economy. Those are general statements. We are talking about truckers with families in my riding who cannot make a living when their trucks are sitting at the border and not moving. This is a serious problem and we are bringing forward legislation that would poke another stick in the eye of the Americans. It is not the right thing to do.

I want to briefly address some of the criminal concerns related to the legislation.

The government claims that this is not about giving kids criminal records for smoking a joint. I beg to differ. The bill suggests that a fine be given for the possession of 30 grams of marijuana, which puts this whole theme that it is pushing to the lie that it is. Thirty grams of pot is enough pot to make 30 to 60 marijuana cigarettes. Let me say that if people are walking around with 30 to 60 joints in their pockets it is not about personal possession, it is about trafficking.

What do we do here? We fine these people a $150 for trafficking. However, to a drug pusher who is making tens of thousands of dollars a month, paying a $150 fine is the cost of doing business and it is not a very big cost at all. In fact it is a small price to pay.

While I appreciate the fact that there are increased sentences for grow ops when 25 plants or more are at stake, what the legislation would actually do is decrease the consequences for grow ops with less than 25 plants. That just does not make any sense. Why would we be more lenient on people than we have been in the past as a result of this?

At the end of the day, without mandatory minimum sentences for these crimes, nothing will change. There will be no practical consequence.

The reality is that the lenient Liberal appointed judges are part of the problem. Because there are no deterrents under the existing system, the problem is getting worse. For example, in 1992, in the Vancouver area, 29% of the charges laid were drug related charges. In 2000 it had dropped to 4%. Clearly being lenient is not solving the problem.

I have spoken to enforcement officers in my riding who are tremendously frustrated with all the time and effort they have put into collecting evidence and having their cases dismissed in court or the sentences being of no real consequence to the criminals.

Let us make no mistake, grow ops are a serious problem. They cost us hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In fact, electricity utilities alone lose about $200 million per year from theft.

Where are the escalating sentences? The legislation equates the possession of pot to a parking fine. It is not even as serious as a speeding ticket where with subsequent speeding tickets the cost of the fine goes up. That is not so here.

As a lawyer who has dealt with criminals, I am all too aware of the dangers of gateway drugs like marijuana. I have spoken with far too many young adults who as teens experimented with marijuana and have now spent a decade hooked on hard drugs like heroin.

Here we are doing everything we can to help people stop smoking but we are about to legalize marijuana, a drug far more dangerous to society and especially vulnerable youth. It does not make sense. I will do everything in my power to ensure that drug dealers will not have legal access to our children, and that includes amending the legislation.

Visually ImpairedStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, three million people or 10% of the population cannot access regular print due to a disability and therefore require alternative formats. Only 3% of what is available in print is actually available in audio, electronic text or large print.

Microsoft, in my riding of Mississauga--Brampton South, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind are working together to change this. They have been recognized for developing the CNIB digital library benefiting more than three million print disabled Canadians. The library provides access to tens of thousands of new books, over 40 newspapers and hundreds of magazines.

On behalf of all print disabled Canadians, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Microsoft and CNIB for their efforts and congratulate them on being presented with the award from the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy for the second consecutive year. Congratulations on a job well done.

AgricultureStatements By Members

November 2nd, 2004 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, with the Canada-U.S. border closed to cattle exports, farmers can no longer afford to either sell or keep their livestock.

The government has provided little help politically or financially. While producers struggle, the government promises loan guarantees for the construction of Canadian packing plants. Guarantees alone will not build even one packing plant. The government stands by while this industry dies.

The Canada-U.S. border must be opened. The Liberal government must immediately start a WTO proceeding just as we have done to protect other Canadian industries. A successful challenge would oblige the U.S. to open its borders.

What is the government waiting for? When will it act? It is time that the Liberal government stood up for our cattle producers at the WTO. Canada's producers deserve a government that will support them in their time of need.

Athens Olympic GamesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate athletes Alexandre Despatie, Christopher Kalec, Philippe Comtois, Julie Leprohon, Jean Pascal, Nicolas Macrozonaris and Achraf Tadili, as well as coaches Jean-Paul Girard, Michel Larouche and Stéphane Larouche, all of whom took part in the Athens Olympic Games.

They all deserve to be honoured for representing us in their respective sports disciplines.

I have had the good fortune to witness all the sports talent in our region, even in groups of young people who participate in sports just for fun. I support all action aimed at helping our local athletes to achieve their goals. We in Laval are proud of our athletes, and I thank them.

WritersStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, On Saturday, October 16, for the fourth year in a row, local writers left their usual haunts and set out to bring literature to the people, in the heart of downtown Joliette.

Again this year, some fifty writers from the Lanaudière region and all over Quebec, among them the three I accompanied, Élise Turcotte, Stanley Pean and Louis Caron, gave their time and their words in particular to anyone wanting to write a poem, a greeting card, a love letter, even a political speech.

The public scribe locations were provided by various downtown Joliette businesses, thereby continuing the great partnership of our region's business and cultural communities.

My congratulations to the man behind this project, Jean-Pierre Girard, and this brave group of writers who make this unique event possible. It hearkens back to the era of public scribes, when writers made their talents and knowledge available to others. Certainly no one in Joliette was suffering from writer's block that day. Congratulations to all who took part.

Dairy IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the attention of the House that representatives of Canada's dairy producers from every province are in Ottawa today to meet with members of Parliament on important issues related to this vital agricultural sector.

Dairy producers are here to discuss clear rules regarding the use of dairy terms and images which are not misleading to consumers. They are also here to discuss the impact of BSE on dairy producers' income. Since the discovery of a single case of BSE, dairy producers have suffered many losses due to the decreased market value of veal calves, replacement heifers, and cull cows resulting in the loss of an estimated total of $419 million on an annual basis. As the House knows, the dairy supply management system is based on three pillars. Each of these three pillars are equally important; weakening one would compromise the entire system.

It is most encouraging knowing that so many members of Parliament have taken the time to meet with the dairy farmers to discuss the current issues affecting this important industry.

Riding of OxfordStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, as one of the first members of the 38th Parliament to be sworn into office, I am extremely honoured to stand before this House today as the member of Parliament for Oxford.

The riding of Oxford is a prime example of the fabric that makes up this great nation of Canada. It is filled with urban centres like Woodstock, Ingersoll, Norwich, Tavistock, and Stompin' Tom Connors' favourite, Tillsonburg.

During the election campaign and since then I have travelled to every corner of the riding. I can assure the House that the people of Oxford share many of the same values and concerns as those of their fellow Canadians.

I am pleased to report that the following mayors are present in Ottawa today taking part in the Ontario auto industry meetings: Mr. Paul Holbrough, Mayor of the Town of Ingersoll; Mr. Michael Harding, Mayor of the City of Woodstock; and Mr. Steven Molnar, Mayor of the Town of Tillsonburg.

I urge my fellow colleagues to welcome their presence here with us today.

ADISQ GalaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, October 31, the Félix awards were presented at the 26th gala of the Quebec recording, performance and video industry association. This event, broadcast live from St. Denis Theatre on the French network of the CBC, celebrated the outstanding contribution of francophone music.

The ADISQ showcases the exceptional talent of our artists and the expertise of professionals in the Quebec music industry. The vitality of the industry is obvious. It is reflected in the diversity and quality of its artists.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank ADISQ, a key stakeholder in the Canadian music industry, for organizing this event every year, and to congratulate all the music artists who took part.

The government is proud to support artists and the Canadian recording industry through various Canada music fund programs. In four years this fund will have invested approximately $95 million in this industry in order to strengthen all of its sectors from creators to audience.

Congratulations to all the winners at ADISQ.

Jean LemireStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society will be presenting Jean Lemire from Drummondville with its gold medal for his mission and his five documentaries on the impact of climate change on the wildlife and the inhabitants of the Arctic. Since their first screening in 2003, these documentaries have been seen by more than 10 million people.

Trained as a biologist, Jean Lemire makes us realize that the thawing permafrost is distressing proof that the Arctic is suffering the effects of global warming.

In September 2005, he will head out for the Antarctic, one of regions most seriously affected by climate change. He and his team will spend one year aboard their sailboat and produce a series of movies for the International Polar Year, in 2007.

Congratulations to Jean Lemire and all his team. May his movies encourage us all to take aggressive action to save our planet.

Canadian Automobile AssociationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the Canadian Automobile Association, CAA, for the important work it does on behalf of Canadians. I also want to welcome its 11 clubs to Parliament Hill who are visiting us today from across the country.

The CAA is a federation of automobile clubs which represents the rights and interests of more than 4.5 million Canadian motorists. Through public awareness campaigns and government advocacy, CAA is working with public policy makers to improve roadway safety, reduce accident related injuries, and assist government to meet its climate change goals.

This year the CAA's focus is on roadway infrastructure and the urgent need for additional funding. While supportive of the government's recent commitment to infrastructure redevelopment, it urges us not to forget the important role roads and highways play in the Canadian economy.

I want to thank the CAA for its efforts and for the important work it does on behalf of Canadian motorists and the travelling public.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, since 1998 the official opposition has urged the government to compensate all hepatitis C victims of tainted blood.

We accepted Justice Krever's recommendation to compensate all victims, not just those inside an artificial window. However, year after year the Liberal government has denied fair treatment to thousands of Canadians and their families. On October 21 the Commons health committee passed a motion urging this government to compensate all who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood. The motion passed unanimously.

I have given notice to move concurrence in this House for this motion. During tonight's debate we will be looking for clear support from this government and a timetable for action, not more studies. We cannot erase the wrongs of years past, but we can do something for the remaining victims and their families before it is too late.

Compensation was the right thing to do in 1998 and it is the right thing to do today. The funds are in place; the excuses are getting weak. Canadians are watching. Victims are waiting. Let us do the right thing.

Dan MacPhersonStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to note before the House the passing of a valued member of our community, Mr. Dan MacPherson. Dan, as stated by a friend, walked the talk in being an active member of his community, his industry, his province and his country. He touched many lives.

I will name just a few of his achievements. He was president of the Prince Edward Island Branch of Holstein Canada, founding member of the Dairy Producers Association, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, founding chair of the Farm Centre, 4-H Club leader, founding member of the P.E.I. 4-H Council and its president, Sunday school teacher and superintendent for 30 years, elder and clerk of session, trustee for the Charlottetown Rural High School, chairman of the Second Queens PC Association, funeral director, and founding member of the Central Queens Funeral Coop.

Dan was a kind and supportive family man who was a good neighbour, a successful businessman, and a man of faith who lived true to his convictions.

SudanStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Darfur region of Sudan is the site of the worst humanitarian crisis in today's world. There are 1.5 million displaced Sudanese, hundreds of thousands of starving and diseased, and tens of thousands killed, raped and tortured.

Yesterday the Sudan Liberation Army walked away from peace talks conducted under the auspices of the African Union because the government army conducted new raids on refugee camps in Darfur, denying humanitarian agencies access to refugees.

The Prime Minister must unequivocally condemn these raids. He must not use his trip to Sudan later this month as an excuse for remaining silent in the wake of these latest atrocities. Canada's peacebuilding leadership is desperately needed. We have a moral obligation to show that leadership in this desperate crisis.

Canadian Automobile AssociationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Conservative Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to welcome representatives of the Canadian Automobile Association. The CAA is a traffic safety advocate that works with public officials, media, motorists and the general public on such important issues as school safety patrols, the safety of child car seats and seat belts, and of course safer roads and highways.

Much of our daily routine and economic activity involves the use of vehicles travelling on a network of roads and highways that need to be maintained and upgraded for the safety of the travelling public. The CAA remains committed to these traffic safety goals and is here to remind us of the need for appropriate funding of our highway infrastructure on which so much of our lives depend.

Better roads and highways will provide Canadians with economic, environmental and safety benefits. I congratulate the CAA for its continued diligence on behalf of drivers, motorists and the travelling public.

Dairy ProductionStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, dairy farmers from all regions of Quebec and Canada are meeting today with members of this House.

These dairy farmers of Canada represent thousands of families working on dairy farms that generate agricultural revenues of around $4 billion. Considering direct sales for milk processing and the economic activity derived from the provision of goods and services to dairy producers and processors, the industry's economic activity adds up to $26 billion and provides employment for 142,505 Quebeckers and Canadians.

In addition, survey results show that Quebeckers and Canadians pay less for dairy products than do their neighbours to the south. Stable and competitive prices for consumers, a steady supply of high-quality milk for dairies, and the ability of producers to earn fair market returns; these are the advantages of a supply management system.

I want to thank all those who feed us.