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House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was use.

Topics

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am a little surprised that Bill C-10 has come forward. Under its previous number, Bill C-38, it went through a very interesting process, a parliamentary subcommittee of members of Parliament who, certainly on my side, spent a considerable amount of time on this issue.

I have a number of concerns about the bill. I should say from the outset that if the bill does not have sufficient amendments, it will not enjoy the support of the people of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, the riding I represent.

I want to quantify my concerns as to why I believe this bill is not sending the appropriate message at the right time. Clearly if one wants to include themselves in a national drug strategy, one ought to consider putting the strategy in place first and foremost. To have decriminalization come in at the same time almost defeats the purpose of trying to educate young people as to how this ought to work and to give them, if you will, a proverbial heads up as to the dangers of marijuana.

We have seen more recently the scourge of marijuana grow operations right across my region. We have seen it in the greater Toronto area. We have seen it in Barrie, Ontario, certainly in terms of the sophistication of some of the marijuana grow operations. It is no longer about a few people growing this recreationally, Cheech and Chong style. It is in fact a very serious matter.

It confirms the report that I tabled in the House earlier in the year about operation green tide, which of course is not about what is happening in Atlantic Canada, but is about the serious nature of the economic impact that marijuana growth is having across the country. It is so much so that as confirmed by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, this product is becoming the product of choice for members of organized crime, who I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, are not, and I repeat not, marijuana enthusiasts. Instead they see opportunities of renting or buying a house and for $25,000 they can make a $600,000 return on investment.

I believe notwithstanding the provisions here and the penalties the government has put forward of doubling the sentence, that in fact the courts will treat it the same way. Currently seven years is yielding an average of about 35 days for every marijuana grow operation that is out there. Does that now mean it will be 70 days for people who effectively provide a product that will wind up with the students in many of our schools?

We all understand it is a product which many people will try from time to time. Frankly, I probably do not care a whole lot if Johnny or Josephine wants to have a joint in the basement of his or her house. Frankly the concern I have is much greater than that and it deals specifically with a number of very serious flaws in the bill.

Number one, there is no protocol to take roadside sampling for individuals who have imbibed the product. We now know through studies in Ontario, through various organizations, and I am not just talking about MADD Canada, that young people are choosing marijuana as a means of evading detection. They want to get high and rather than taking a bit of alcohol, they smoke a joint. The effect is that their responses are affected and they should not be operating a motor vehicle. Yet there is no means under which we can take a sample.

The bill calls for a series of fines for possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis and one gram of resin. However the fines for each offence are not uniformly applied. Adult fines are higher than those for youth. As well, the fact that the fines are not high is hardly a deterrent. A concern also exists for reducing the fines applicable to youth, especially if the federal government is actively trying to educate young people not to take up cigarette smoking. They are contradictory messages.

There is no provision for repeat offenders. In other words we are dealing with simply a ticketing offence, much in the same way one would get a parking ticket. The court system will be clogged. Let us be honest about this. We will effectively render a situation which will be impossible to enforce and which will undermine the very credibility of what the bill is trying to accomplish, and that is to get this thing away and unclutter our court system.

The aggravated provisions have a maximum of $1,000 or six months of imprisonment. However, there are only three aggravated provisions: possession while operating a vehicle; possession while committing an indictable offence; and possession in or near a school. More aggravated provisions in my view could have been added, for example, possession in or near a sports or community centre.

The $1,000 or six month penalty are maximum fine sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences would have been more productive, as courts rarely, as I have just explained, impose sentences, and they are really far from it.

Section 253 of the Criminal Code prohibits operation or control of a motor vehicle while impaired by either alcohol or a drug. However there is no mandatory blood, saliva or urine testing roadside protocol in the bill that could determine the level of impairment from marijuana use. It is serious when organizations have pointed this out and the bill is deficient in that. The question is why? Perhaps that is not a question that I can answer at this stage.

To try to rush a bill through because we are concerned about young people having a criminal record for the rest of their lives is a noble point but we have the Youth Criminal Justice Act. At 19 years of age their criminal records are removed any way. If we want to deal specifically with removing the opprobrium on individuals who are caught with possession, I suggest we begin to look more seriously at reducing the amount of time it takes, for instance, a pardon.

Much has been said about the United States, and I am glad we have used it as an example. While it is true that 12 states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is not true that the U.S. government has abandoned its discretion to impose penalties and to continue to enforce the national criminal code as it exists with respect to possession. That argument is a non-starter.

A sliding scale of increased penalties, summary, hybrid and indictable, are introduced based on the number of plants involved in the grow operations. The maximum penalties in terms of fines and incarceration appear sufficient at first view but that is not the case.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to put yourself in the position of a police officer or a peace officer who has to look at the prospect of determining the 15 grams and how many tokes or how many joints a person needs to have in order to make a determination between the criminal provisions or the decriminalized civil provision for giving the person a ticket.

It is conceivable that if people were able to get 15 or 20 young people to move these things around for them at any given time then they would be able to avoid the sting of trafficking. In the rush to push this legislation forward, this was obviously missed in the bill. I think that would do an injustice and would only increase the appetite of traffickers to get around the law.

The mandatory direction to the courts, in my view, should not have been limited to only those examples on the list. Grow ops are the product of organized crime and over 90% of the marijuana in this country derives from those operations. We know that they are exported in many respects to the United States.

After attending several conferences there is no doubt in my mind that there is concern about the damaging effect this could have on Canada's image around the world. There have been concerns that as a result of this and the massive amount of exportation to the United States and other jurisdictions, Canada is gaining the unfavourable moniker of being somehow a drug centre for other nations, particularly as it relates to marijuana.

I would not be so concerned about that except for the fact that the THC level in the product has increased dramatically so we are no longer dealing with a soft drug. No one on the committee and none of the proponents of the bill have bothered to look at the medical implications for individuals who may suffer long term psychosis and other effects that in many respects lead to the potential for this being a gateway drug. I am speaking of individuals who will never see an opportunity, through a national drug strategy, to know that there are real implications.

Why would other countries be concerned about what we are selling to the United States? According to the national institutes of health in the United States, over the past few years a greater number of people are being admitted to emergency wards because they have not been able to accept the high potency of the Canadian marijuana product. This certainly is not helpful in terms of our image. I can assure the House that there is more concern for all of us here to ensure that we get this legislation right and that we get it right from the beginning.

I think it is clear to all of us that, if we are to take this issue seriously, in order to correct the problem of possession, the perception that we are giving young people a criminal record for the rest of their lives, we are in effect opening the door to a greater perception that it is acceptable to do these things, whether we like it or not.

Parliamentarians know full well that they cannot control what happens beyond here. It would be simply irresponsible for us to pass the legislation at a time when Statistics Canada has pointed out that there is an increased use in drugs across the country. The last thing we need to do is to give a green light. It is time to step back, understand this product and, for the goodness of our society, stop the legislation, vote against it and have a second look before we leap.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but sit here in almost total agreement with my colleague from Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge in his very eloquent remarks on the subject matter of the legislation for which I know he is quite familiar.

He outlined in particular the messaging that comes from the passage of the legislation. It completely undermines in my opinion the entire sentencing principle of deterrence and denunciation where in effect there is legislation being presented that would condone small amounts of marijuana being in the possession of both youth and adults alike.

The legislation sends entirely the wrong message as far as the public perception is concerned. It indicates a government that is not only out of touch with reality on drug strategy but, as my friend alerted us, on health care issues as well.

There is a great deal of physical harm, mental harm and anguish that can come from this type of drug use. Even small amounts of cannabis have been linked to an altered state in a person's brain. MADD Canada, in particular, has made the point numerous times in its appearances before the justice committee of the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana, cannabis and drugs generally and the difficulty that police officers have in detecting traces of those substances.

There is mounting evidence that if we were to pass this legislation we would be moving in the polar opposite direction than where we should be headed.

I would suggest that the Statistics Canada report that was released today further undermines the intent and objectives of the legislation. It, in essence, points out that drug use and crimes related to drug use have increased substantially in recent years. In police reported drug crimes the rate has gone up an estimated 42% since the early 1990s and now stands at a 20 year high. Three in four drug related incidents in the year 2002 involved cannabis. About 72% in fact were related to the possession of cannabis.

Obviously the government's drug awareness strategy is not working. I would say, with tongue in cheek, that it has gone up in smoke. Its joint strategy has not worked.

The government has made a token attempt to do the right thing, and I do not mean to make light of this because it is very serious, but this bill would, I suggest, add even more problems in terms of the government's estimated $245 million national drug strategy campaign. According to Statistics Canada, its strategy has been an abysmal failure. I suggest that this bill would cause even greater harm.

The overall drug related crime rate has been on an upward trend since 1993 driven by increases in cannabis possession as well as the production and importation offences.

The cannabis offence rate has risen approximately 80% in the last 10 years, largely as a result of increased numbers of possession offences and trafficking offences declining over the same period of time.

What my friend across the way also pointed out was the discretion and flexibility that already exists within the sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code. To suggest, as many have on the government benches, and the howls that a young person is saddled for life with a criminal record is simply not borne out by the facts. In many, if not most instances, a first time possession offence will result in a conditional discharge or an absolute discharge wherein a young person will be required to perform community service, to give something back to the community as a punishment rather than a fine. In very rare instances would jail or incarceration ever be contemplated for even a second time offence depending, of course, on other aggravating circumstances and the amount of the drug and type of drug involved.

Therefore there is enormous discretion available to judges under the current provisions of the code. For these and other reasons, the Conservative Party of Canada is adamantly opposed to the passage of the legislation. We believe there is far more that can be done: to have a drug prevention strategy, a public education strategy and to give the police the tools and resources they need to combat the rise in more serious drug offences.

My friend also referred, to borrow his phrase, to the gateway drug phenomenon, where a person, whether they are youth or otherwise, uses marijuana, cannabis or hashish and then goes on to use harder, more mind altering drugs than that.

Police reported in Canada almost 39,000 incidents related to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in the year 2002 alone. Of these, two-thirds were for possession, 22% for trafficking and the remainder were offences involving importation. Clearly, the drug strategy has failed and this legislation would make it worse.

In 1992 to 2002, both British Columbia and Quebec accounted for 29% of drug related homicides, the highest proportions. They were followed by Ontario with 24%. Heroin and cocaine involvement were highest in British Columbia where about 58% of its homicides were heroin related.

I underline the fact that a gateway drug or drugs leading to the use of harder drugs often add to the phenomenon of violence. Whether it be home invasion, assaults or actual homicides related to drug activity, there is a clear linkage, a continuity. There is a string that attaches increased drug use to these other types of societal harm, these other types of serious offences against a person.

The bill seeks to increase the penalties in some instances and yet, in the same breath literally, fines are being dropped considerably, which undermines the principles of sentencing as they refer to deterrence and denunciation. Many on the Liberal-dominated committee were loathe to use the words deterrence and denunciation.

My colleague from Manitoba, a former attorney general and crown prosecutor, will tell us that these words are used daily by prosecuting attorneys, lawyers and judges alike, yet we somehow want to pretend that deterrence and denunciation are not proper considerations in the courts.

Implementing this drug strategy is supposed to discourage drug use, yet this very perverse mixed message is what results: the legalizing, or in essence decriminalizing, drugs and making them more readily available and more acceptable while at the same time telling the public that we will educate them more on why they should not use drugs. It is bizarre.

There are initiatives, certainly on the education side, that need to be embraced fully and implemented but there should be an effort to send the message through the sentencing provisions. Mandatory minimums were mentioned. Decriminalization sends a very poor message to young people in particular. The provisions of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, or the YJCA as it is referred to in colloquial terms--and many in the criminal justice system are now basically saying that this acronym equates to You Can't Jail Anyone--are for diversionary purposes. In principle, I could not agree more, but what we are seeing is that the programming does not exist. In fact, those diversionary programs, those mythical ideals that we all embrace that are aimed at prevention and at keeping a young person from going down that road or further embarking on a life of crime, are not there.

There has been lengthy discussion that carrying small quantities of marijuana should not result in a criminal record. I have spoken to how the courts have been dealing with small amounts of marijuana for years. There is always as well the discretion of the police officer at the scene, who in many instances will simply seize the substance in question, take the kids home, give them a tongue lashing and alert their parents. This is the type of street justice in which many police officers are already engaging. It is already condoned and available under the Criminal Code provisions.

The people who implement and enforce our laws, the front line police, the Canadian Police Association, municipal police and RCMP officers everywhere, are shuddering at the passage of this bill, just as many are now waking up to the realization of the flawed gun registry and how they were sold a bill of goods to get their support in that first instance.

To top it off, this talk of a national drug strategy is really a myth. There is nothing to back up these words other than the fact that this is somehow in the works. Like so many other policies, there is very little substance behind those words.

We in the Conservative Party do not support the legislation. We feel that Canadians would be best served to review the drug policies with a mind to protecting citizens and educating them on the harms that flow from drug use in Canada today.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk about Bill C-10 at report stage, the legislation to modernize the marijuana laws. I appreciate the support of the Bloc and NDP on the motion.

I had a speech ready, but I am more interested in replying to the last two members who spoke because it will make a far more interesting debate to rebut the points they made as opposed to dryly giving out the facts on this.

First, I want to talk about some of the points that my close colleague, the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, made. I want to commend him. We work very closely together on a number of things. He has done an excellent job on the drug patents to help reduce drug prices in Canada. We are partners on a lot of things, but on this bill we disagree on a number of points.

The member suggested that, without amendment, the bill would not enjoy the support of the people of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge. I would contend that a majority of people in Canada are in favour of changing the marijuana laws. Therefore, I cannot see that some of people in his riding would not be in support of changes. I know in my own riding people are mixed on this. They have made some of the points the last two members made, and there are some people who are definitely in favour of this.

I have to agree with both the members on the sentencing. If seven years results in an only 35 day sentence then obviously that is a problem, but that is not what we are dealing with here today.

The member talked about there being no means to take a sample in relation to driving. This has been raised a number of times in the debate at the various readings we have had.

First, people are working on this intensively. I think people became aware of that in committee and at other readings. I do not think it is too far off in the distant future. More important, impaired driving is an offence and there are hundreds, probably thousands of substances and activities that can make a person impaired. There are tests and mechanisms that police use to determine impairment. It would be fallacious if people were getting the impression through this debate that impaired driving through marijuana was not a crime and that police did not find it.

There is a message that the bill is contradictory to the message we are giving on cigarette smoking. I would argue that it is not true. We have very large, well funded public campaigns. I know I announced the funding in my own riding about cigarette smoking, and we have a large funded campaign to convince people about the dangers of marijuana, some of which were so eloquently outlined by my colleague.

One point was made that we should not use the argument, on which I will probably elaborate more at the end, that we would give a person a criminal record for life at the age 19. That is actually one of the strongest motivations, certainly it is for me. For a small amount of possession, which has occurred for many people in North America, the penalty throughout the rest of their lives can be immense.

The member suggested that we should perhaps reduce the time for those convicted to get a pardon. I agree with that, and I have no problem with it. However, the problem is that a Canadian pardon does not help one overseas. Having worked in a constituency office and having seen these problems a lot, it does not help one in the United States. Once people have a record, another country does not erase it just because we do.

I have all sorts of people who have come up against this problem in other countries. While they have their pardon here, their access to the rest of the world is restricted. I think many people could make the mistake of having a small amount in their possession, and we really should not allow that to make such a drastic effect on the rest of their lives.

We have talked about the medical implications of marijuana. I do not think anyone disagrees with that. This bill puts tougher penalties on those who provide the drugs or on growers of the drug. It works to reduce the ability to get it, and therefore there is less ability of people to harm themselves by using it.

I agree with many of the speakers, including the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge about perception. I am not sure that Parliament has done a good job in getting the message across of what Bill C-10 is about. The bill to a large extent is being tougher on drugs. It is being tougher on the people who grow marijuana, who sell it, who promote the use of it and who traffic in it, and on organized crime. To some extent members are right that the message is not getting out properly. The government will have to work on that aspect.

I will now move on to the remarks of the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I enjoy debating with the hon. member, and we have a great relationship. He talked about driving while impaired. I have said that there is work being done on that aspect of the bill.

The member also talked about a criminal record. He said that many people only received a conditional or an absolute discharge. However, later on in the member's speech he said that there should be a deterrent in sentencing as well. What is the deterrent in sentencing if, as he also has said, everyone is receiving a conditional or an absolute discharge?

The member went on to say that the police officer could take the person home and give him or her a tongue lashing. What kind of sentencing deterrent is that? What the government is proposing is a $100 fine. This is definitely a deterrent to a young person, especially because this is a summary conviction or a type of ticket offence which can be quite easily imposed, and many people could end up with this type of sentence. This may have the effect of tougher sentences than are being allocated, if they are being allocated at all, which is the evidence that the member opposite just provided.

It is encouraging that the member supported our promotion strategy. The government is doing a large public relations campaign to ensure that people understand the dangers of drugs and the harm marijuana has on their health. The member said that the strategy was not real. However, it will cost $245 million. I consider that amount of money over five years quite real and an excellent beginning.

Concern was expressed with some of the amendments proposed and that this was an amorphous timeframe. However, the government has stated in the amendments that the strategy should be in place within a year.

It also has been mentioned that marijuana is a gateway drug. This is another major argument that has been raised against Bill C-10. However, science does not prove that. There is no science which indicates that because people use marijuana that they will go on to other drugs.

I believe it would benefit the opposition speakers, when they speak to Bill C-10, if they could provide some of the detailed scientific, educational and statistical information on the use of a gateway drug.

The United States will be happy that Canada is being tougher on grow operations. There are a number of states that have no imprisonment at all for a first offence and small fines ranging from $100 to $500. These states include, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and West Virginia.

A lot of these places have $100 fines. When we compare that to our present first penalty of six months in jail or up to a $2,000 fine, we are moving more in line with reality and more in line with what a lot of Canadians think. We also are sending a message to the growers and those in organized crime who are using drugs for illegal purposes.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Public Services.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Liberal Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for Yukon for clarifying some of what I will call the misconceptions that have been put forward to the House this afternoon. It is important that we stick to the facts that are in front of us, that we look at the legislation as it appears in front of us and that we look at the facts that have occurred throughout history to get us to this point in time.

I have heard some hon. members say today that we are rushing this bill through. It has been over 30 years since the last change in legislation with regard to the possession of marijuana and changes to the criminal issues around that.

We also have heard today we are legalizing marijuana. It is absolutely not true. Very clearly under the proposals included in the bill, cannabis possession and production will remain illegal in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. What is going to change is the approach to enforcement. Let us be very clear with Canadians on what exactly is happening and why we are doing it.

It also is important that we talk about fairness and about all Canadians because that is something that Canadians expect from Parliament, their legislators, law enforcement officers and the laws of the country.

I want to clarify and continue on the point the member for Malpeque explained earlier. In about half of all incidents in which law enforcement officers encounter individuals in possession of cannabis, no charge is laid. In large urban centres, police are much less likely to lay a charge for possession of small amounts of cannabis than in other parts of the country. Where a charge is laid in large urban centres or in other parts of the country, the accused is more likely to receive a discharge, particularly in large urban centres. We know that large urban centres and smaller rural communities are being treated differently under the current law.

We also know that heavy use of cannabis is linked to serious health problems, like respiratory damage and the impairment of physical coordination. The government believes that in the interests of health, cannabis use must remain illegal. When we put those together, how do we make this work for all Canadians?

We have to ensure that all Canadians are being treated fairly and equally under the law. What is in front of us is a proposal that would create different offences.

First, we begin with the offence of a fine for small quantities of possession. Why is that? It is to ensure that Canadians are treated fairly and equally. It is to ensure that when people are charged, they do not receive a criminal record for a small quantity, as was raised by the hon. member for Yukon and the hon. member for Malpeque, so they can continue on in their lives with their educations and careers. Therefore, someone who takes the opportunity to try marijuana or smokes one joint, as it is called, or takes a toke is not faced with a lifetime of prohibition against certain job activities or with problems as they cross the border into the United States because they have made that mistake one time.

We recognize there are other types of laws, and I correlate it to speeding. We recognize that speeding is illegal. Yet I guarantee that a large majority of members of the House have often gone over that maximum speed limit posted on the side of the road. It graduates into different offences as well and at some point it becomes reckless. At the point when it becomes reckless, people then suffer criminal consequences. Otherwise, people are faced with fines.

Who are we really after? We are really after the growers. We are really after those large grow ops. I heard the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge say that over 90% comes from farm grow ops. We know the marijuana problem in our country stems from the grow ops. What are we doing in this legislation? We are addressing the problem. We are increasing the penalties. We are changing the law from a single offence to four separate offence categories. To me, we are dealing with the issue.

Let us take a look at those four new separate offences are. Before there was a single offence punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment, whereas today, under the law in front of us, an individual found growing one to three plants would face a summary conviction with a fine of up to $5,000 and/or 12 months in jail; four to 25 plants would constitute an offence punishable by up to $25,000 or 18 months in jail; 26 to 50 plants would result in a jail sentence of up to 10 years; and the penalty for growing more than 50 plants would be up to 14 years, which is double the current maximum term of imprisonment.

That to me goes to the heart of the problem, as recognized by those who have just spoken against the bill. Some 90% of the marijuana that is produced in this country is by grow ops. We are doubling the punishment those growers can receive to prohibit, stop and deter those types of operations.

We found those operations in small towns and in large communities. We know we must have better enforcement and deterrents. What else are we doing? We are providing those resources. Let us remember that not only do we want to be tougher on grow ops and be consistent in how we apply the law, we also want to ensure that this is in coordination with the national drug strategy, which it is.

That strategy aims to reduce the demand for and supply of drugs by addressing a number of underlying factors that are associated with substance use and abuse. Specifically, the strategy aims to: decrease the prevalence of harmful drug use; decrease the number of young Canadians who experiment with drug use; decrease the incidence of communicable diseases related to substance abuse; increase the use of alternative justice measures like drug treatment centres and courts; decrease the illicit drug supply, and address new and emerging drug trends; and decrease avoidable health, social and economic costs that are related to substance abuse.

The strategy goes further because it will be implemented in partnership with the provinces, territories, communities and stakeholders. The strategy would include education, prevention and health promotion initiatives, as well as enhanced enforcement measures. It addresses the concerns that have just been raised by members who are opposed. The government is doing exactly what people are suggesting we should be doing.

Activities to be undertaken would include community based initiatives that would focus on prevention, health promotion, treatment and rehabilitation. Public education campaigns would consist of and deal with substance abuse, with a specific focus on youth, with the issue of illegality, as well as educating our youth so they understand that the laws in Canada are different than the laws in other countries.

It is particularly important in a community like mine that borders on the largest international border crossing in the world. It is important that the youth in Windsor and Essex county understand that it is illegal to possess marijuana and that they understand that in Canada they will receive a fine for small possession, and they will go to jail for trafficking and growing large quantities of growing. If they cross the border with marijuana into the state of Michigan, they will suffer serious penalties and serious consequences.

It is important that we educate our youth so that they understand the differences between the countries, and that they understand what the law is about and why Canada has laws. It is important that they understand why the Americans have different laws. That is part of the plan, to educate.

We also want to have new funding for research activities on drug trends to enable more informed decision making to take place; a bi-annual national conference with all stakeholders to set research, promotion and prevention agendas; as well as new resources such as funding for increased enforcement efforts against marijuana grow operations and clandestine drug laboratories. That is exactly what I heard members on the opposite side telling us.

We had two committees that travelled across the country, a Senate committee and a House committee. Members of Parliament and Senate listened to Canadians. The House committee came back with a unanimous recommendation. There was no objection other than that the quantity should be smaller. Recommendation 41 stated:

The Committee recommends that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health establish a comprehensive strategy for decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of not more than thirty grams of cannabis for personal use.

This strategy should include: Prevention and education programs-- [which I just outlined].

The government is responding to the work of the members of Parliament and Senate. I hope that we are able to come together and recognize that we have a law that is 30 years old. Problems are being created for young people in the country, and older people as they are trying to go on in careers as we are changing the rules to cross borders. We need to change our laws. We need to react. We need to be proactive and we need to ensure that we go after the people who are responsible for 90% of the growing of marijuana in the country, which are the grow ops.

Contraventions ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Aboriginal Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to applaud the government on finally coming out with a piece of legislation that in some ways goes back as far as the Le Dain Commission report which was 30 years ago. For all the people who are critics of the concept of decriminalization, this issue has been debated for far too long. I wish to congratulate the government for finally moving on this issue.

Let me go back 30 years when people who were charged with possession of marijuana would end up being incarcerated. They would end up losing their jobs and would have a criminal record that would follow them for the rest of their lives. This is a heavy price to pay for a young person trying to start out in life.

We have had hypocrisy around this issue. All we have to do is look at the former Prime Minister of this country who acknowledged having smoked marijuana, a former minister of justice who said that he has, in the past as a young individual, smoked marijuana, a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, acknowledged having used marijuana and the present President of the United States has also had some indulgence with drugs.

It is critical that we as a legislative body who want to have credibility with the young people in our country modernize the law. We should finally act on something that goes back 30 years and was put forward by the Le Dain Commission.

If I go back 40 years, and I hate dating myself, one of the favourite programs that we used to watch was The Untouchables with Eliot Ness. The reason I mention it is because at that time the Americans were dealing with a prohibition on alcohol. That prohibition on alcohol ended up spawning organized crime in the United States to the extent that it had not been spawned before. There were all sorts of organized cells right across the country involved in criminal activity. They were producing illegal alcohol which gave a tremendous boost to organized crime.

I believe that in any drug strategy that we undertake, one of the underlying pillars must be to ensure that organized crime is not in a position to profit from it. We know of the kind of destabilization when organized criminals get involved in the trafficking of drugs. I only have to point to what is happening in Colombia where the government is actually destabilized. I only have to point to Afghanistan and how drug activity ended up funding the Taliban. Often drug trafficking funds not only organized crime but terrorism as well.

By updating our legislation on the possession of marijuana, are we saying, as the opposition would have us say, that we are recommending its use, and that we are promoting it? No, we are not saying that any more than by having control on alcohol are we saying that we are promoting its use.

One thing we have learned as a society is that for our laws to be respected, they must have legitimacy in the population to which they apply. For too long and too many elections politicians have ignored what happened with the Le Dain Commission report and every other report that followed it. We have in place a law which criminalizes many young people. We have a law that is, in many cases, unevenly enforced across this country. Clearly, that is wrong. The law should be equal whether it is on the west coast, the east coast, central Canada, or in urban or rural areas.

The government must expand its involvement in the whole area of education through the national drug strategy. We have learned one thing in the last couple of decades and I will use tobacco as an example. Education on the harmful effects of cigarettes has resulted in a real reduction of tobacco products.

I believe that this law does not go far enough. I would like to see it go further. I would like to see government being responsible for quality control. If we do not have quality control, then we might be passing that on and allowing criminal elements to decide on the quality of the product.

The way we regulate alcohol could be a good model. There is no question that alcohol consumption has some negative social impacts. We all know that. We have people who end up in detox centres. We have people who become alcoholics. At least we have some resources, when we collect taxes, to deal with some of those problems. We can fund those problems along with some of the fallout from those problems. Unfortunately, that does not exist in the current bill.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that we have moved in the right direction. We have done something that will decrease much of the clogging that we have in the courts, and where police resources, which are scarce and stretched, could be put to better use.

It is time we had this piece of legislation. We must commit ourselves as a federal government to work with the provinces to put in place an education program for people who use marijuana so that they may understand the possible negative impacts and that we as a society also move in that direction.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members

Question.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members

Yea.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members

Nay.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred.

The next question is on Motion No. 4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare Motion No. 4 carried.

(Motion No. 4 agreed to)

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions at the report stage of the bill.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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February 23rd, 2004 / 4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the division stand deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

As requested by the deputy government whip, the recorded division stands deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow afternoon.

The House resumed from February 20 consideration of the motion.

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting point we get to in Bill C-19 on the issues in there. One of the particular issues I want to talk about is victims' rights. I find it interesting that we are still dawdling with victims' rights in this country.

One of the rights we find is that we are going to recognize the right of victims to present statements at National Parole Board hearings. It is now the year 2004. I can recall talking about this in the House of Commons in 1994. It took four years before we even got an acknowledgement from the government that there should be victims' rights in this country. That was in 1998, after many victims' groups and police and we ourselves got involved with the movement of victims' rights and tried to get some changes.

I want to refresh the memory of the government as to just what we were looking for in victims' rights from 1994 through 1998. I will ask the particular question: Why is it taking so desperately long to get victims' rights entrenched in the Criminal Code of Canada?

These are the kinds of rights we were looking for and will continue to look for throughout the next year or so, or even less if we can get rid of this government and implement the victims' rights legislation ourselves.

We were looking for a definition of victim, which does not exist, and there is a problem because it does not exist. In many cases, victims are not treated as victims. In particular, when an individual is killed, or murdered, the family is not necessarily considered to be a victim for any compensation or other things. The dead person is considered to be the victim. We went about trying to describe what a victim was, which is yet to be acknowledged by the government.

We said that a victim is anyone who suffers, as a result of an offence, physical or mental injury or economic loss, or any spouse, sibling, child or parent of the individual against whom the offence was perpetrated, or anyone who had an equivalent relationship, not necessarily a blood relative.

Why such a long definition? Because in this country there is no definition of victim. The definition of victim, quite frankly, is at the discretion of those in a courtroom. Heaven forbid we keep allowing that, because nothing is consistent in a courtroom these days. We need to provide some assurance to those who have been wronged through criminal acts that they will be treated as victims.

I wrote this legislation in 1994 and we got some of it in 1998. That was so long ago, almost a decade now, and we are still fighting for victims' rights. It really is quite unbelievable. We still need a definition of what a victim is.

Let us go on further. Victims should have the right to be informed of their rights at every stage of the process, including those rights involving compensation from the offender. They must also be made aware of any victims' services available.

People would not believe how often it is after a crime is perpetrated in this country that immediately somebody reads the rights to the criminal. I have witnessed victims sitting on the street, holding their heads, or trying to keep blood from emanating from their body, who sit there until someone decides to remove them because they are in the way. They never have a right read to them and never have a right explained to them at all.

But the criminals' rights are looked after. They are escorted somewhere. Everything is done for them. They are asked, “Can I get you a lawyer? Can I do this? Can I do that?” The poor victims are left by themselves. We need to give assurances that they have rights too and that they are told their rights at the scene of a crime. What is wrong with that? Why am I, a decade after writing these rights, still asking for them in the House of Commons?

Is there something wrong on the other side that this is such an onerous task, something that is too difficult to implement? I just find it so hard to believe.

The folks who are listening out there have been listening to me talk about this stuff for a decade. I just cannot for the life of me understand why we have to suffer intolerably because of the people on the other side who will not listen to common sense.

Let us talk about the other rights victims should have, which we wrote about. Victims should have the right to be informed of the offender's status throughout the process, including but not restricted to notification of any arrests, upcoming court dates, sentencing dates, plans to release the offender from custody, including notification of what community a parolee is being released to, conditions of release, parole dates, et cetera.

By and large that one has improved. We got that into legislation to some extent in 1998, but still today I deal with victims from all across the nation who are coming to me and saying, “I did not know this person was out. Nobody told me. Nobody told me he was in the community. Nobody told me he changed his name”.

In fact, I have frequently found, particularly among sex offenders, that they change their names while in prison. When they get out, they appear in the same community. With the name change, nobody knows who they are except that the victims ultimately run across them and find out to their surprise that it is the same person with another name. Victims should have the right to know these things at all times. It should not be considered an imposition to individuals who have suffered through crime.

So once again I am in the House after a decade asking for some legitimacy to be given to victims of crime. Victims should have the right to choose between giving oral and written victim impact statements before sentencing, at any parole hearings and at judicial reviews.

This bill is dealing with that. What I am reading from is the victims' bill of rights that we wrote in 1994. Today in 2004 we are dealing with this very one. If we can imagine that, it takes these guys a decade to get around to dealing with it. That is far too slow and it is far too low a priority that is given to victims of crime.

I apologize to all the victims out there. It is a sad state of affairs, but I can assure them that with the stealing that has been going on with the government, and all these other issues we are dealing with today, it looks like it could very well be a change of government. I will give great assurances that these kinds of victims' rights will be put into law within very short order, with no committees, thank you very much.

Victims also should have the right to be informed in a timely fashion of the details of the Crown's intention to offer a plea bargain before it is presented to the defence. This has not yet been tabled by the government in the House of Commons, but it is one of the issues that is a terrible imposition to victims of crime. What happens is that plea bargaining takes place, usually unbeknownst to the victims. The lawyers get behind closed doors and make a deal with the judge. Suddenly the victim is standing there asking why the person got a lesser sentence and is told that a sort of a deal was made.

We can see that today within the gun law. Heaven forbid I even talk about that. In many cases within the gun laws, the crime of possessing a firearm is plea bargained out for a lesser crime. That is why the statistical data says there are not as many gun crimes. In fact there are, except that they are plea bargained out of the system.

The very least we should be giving victims of crime is the knowledge that a particular offence is being bargained for. They are not there to bargain. They are there to see justice. It is wrong and inappropriate to go away from the victims without their knowledge and make a deal on behalf of a sentence. It is absolutely wrong.

I do not have the time to finish the rest of the victims' rights here, which I have read to everybody, but people can get in touch with me or any of us if they like and they can be sure that we are going to continue fighting for victims' rights. I apologize to all the victims that it has taken a decade to even get to this level. Unfortunately, that is far too long.