Madam Speaker, the hon. member's comments on Bill C-17, the cannabis reform bill and its effects, show a profound misunderstanding of the legislation.
Bill C-17 reflects a balanced approach to the laws on cannabis. The proposed legislation would allow for a ticketing regime for the possession of 15 grams of marijuana, and a ticketing option for the possession of more than 15 grams, up to 30 grams. At the same time, new offences under this proposed legislation will provide tougher penalties for those involved in the large marijuana growing operations about which the member is concerned.
The bill proposes that the cultivation of one to three plants be punishable by a fine of $500, or $250 for a young person. If a person grows 4 to 25 plants, the bill proposes a maximum penalty on indictment of five years less a day and 18 months and/or up to a $25,000 fine on summary conviction. In the case of 26 to 50 plants, the offender faces a maximum of 10 years. Where a person cultivates more than 50 plants, the maximum sentence would be 14 years, double the current maximum.
The hon. member for Surrey South—White Rock—Cloverdale wants this bill to include minimum sentences. This would run counter to the sentencing principles set out in sections 718 and 718.2 of the Criminal Code. More specifically, minimum sentences run counter to the principle of proportionality and restraint with respect to sentencing.
Research into the effectiveness of minimum sentences has shown that these have no dissuasive or educational effect and are no more effective than lighter sentences as far as crime prevention is concerned.
This was confirmed in 2001 by a study commissioned by Justice Canada. It concluded that there was no correlation whatsoever between the crime rate and the severity of sentences.
Moreover, the presence of minimum sentences encourages plea bargaining. For example, a study of section 85 of the Criminal Code reached the conclusion that two-thirds of charges with a minimum one-year prison sentence were withdrawn, rejected or cancelled. Not only do American statistics illustrate similar results, they also show a transfer of discretionary powers from the court room to its corridors or to prosecutor's offices.
Experience shows us that minimum sentences are treated as maximum thresholds in sentencing rather than being seen as minimal thresholds, and this type of sentence creates substantial costs for provincial and territorial correctional services and for Correctional Services Canada.
The undesired effects of using minimum sentences are felt not just in Canada. American research shows that minimum sentences do not incite the accused to plead guilty, and so increase the number, duration and accumulation of trials.