I commend my Alberta caucus colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, for his efforts on behalf of young Canadians in our province and indeed all across the country. He has worked very hard on this file and, may I add, for a considerable amount of time, and finally has reached the point of presenting legislation before the House. I urge all members of the House to pay close attention to what he is proposing in the bill, as it will help youth at risk.
It is a pleasure to stand with former colleagues who served on the non-medical drug committee with me. We have heard two or three of them speak here today. They have voiced some of their concerns.
The Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party are disappointed that this bill does not give free needles to youth. The Bloc Québécois and the NDP are somewhat disappointed that it does not talk about safe injection sites for our youth. They are disappointed that it does not speak to providing clean drugs for youth because sometimes the drugs on the street are dirty. Those are the kinds of policy initiatives they looked at and considered and for which in some cases they were advocates during the time of that committee.
However, what Bill C-423 does is propose to provide Canada's police with the option of referring a young person to an addiction specialist for assessment and, if warranted, treatment recommendations. This would provide our front line police officers with another tool for dealing with youths alleged to have committed one or more crimes.
Very often it becomes obvious to front line police officers who respond to a crime that the perpetrator, possibly a young offender, is actually a victim of substance abuse. The officer may realize that the substance abuse is the reason for the alleged crime and the young person's possible involvement in the commission of that crime.
Rather than shuffling the youngster off into the judicial system or possibly into the penal system, my colleague from Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, with this private member's bill, is providing us with an alternative measure. He is suggesting that we, as a government and indeed as a society, seize the opportunity to try to rescue the young person from the chains, the bondage and the horrors of substance abuse.
My colleague wants to save as many young Canadians as possible. My constituents and I commend him for this very noble attempt. We support him in that attempt.
I regularly have the opportunity to speak with front line police officers in all corners of the constituency of Crowfoot. They want to help protect the young people they encounter who have a substance abuse problem. Some drugs are so powerful that even trying the drugs once or twice can lead to an addiction. In fact, many of these young Canadians can become addicted with one use of drugs such as crystal meth.
Sometimes the young person has never had real access to an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program. They do not even know that there is real help available for them. When it comes to kicking a habit, they just realize that they have an addiction.
If the young person enters into a treatment program because of a referral under this process and the young person fails to complete the program, then in most cases the youth will have to deal with that very same judicial process. Where I come from, we can support that.
We agree that we should try to save our youth from the ravages of substance abuse. We also agree that there should be consequences for the youth who fails to take advantage of the opportunities the bill would provide him, the opportunities for help.
Bill C-423 is consistent with our government's national drug strategy. Canada faces some very serious drug problems. One of the most troubling is the growing number of our youths who are becoming involved in drugs. What is more disturbing is that this appears to be happening at a younger and younger age.
For the members from the Bloc and the NDP, I know that we were all united as a committee when we saw that this was becoming almost an elementary school problem in some cases, or a young people's problem. Not only youth but all age groups have addiction problems.
Communities across Canada have identified youth drug use as a priority concern. For some communities, the lure of highly addictive drugs such as crystal meth presents a real challenge for their youth. Our government is listening to those concerns and we are working actively to respond to them.
My colleague from Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont is using the powers that his constituents have elected him to use to combat this complicated drug problem. He has drafted Bill C-423 to help communities in his riding, communities in my riding and communities all across the country and in the ridings of every member of Parliament. The member has recommended a targeted approach with Bill C-423.
Our government's drug strategy establishes goals and priorities that are both clear and measurable. We are investing $64 million in new funding for a national anti-drug strategy. This strategy provides a focused approach to address illicit drug issues.
It is based on three clear action plans: first, preventing illicit drug use, with $10 million over two years; second, treating illicit drug dependency, with $32 million over two years; and third, combating illicit drug production and distribution, with $22 million over two years. Our government strategy is in the areas of prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Our efforts in the area of prevention will focus on youth. As well as a public awareness campaign, this will include community based drug use and crime prevention initiatives. We could spend our entire time speaking about the opportunities that we have in prevention, but the drug strategy does more than that. It also will target the production of drugs in Canada, including marijuana grow ops and clandestine labs. We will target those organized criminals who exploit for profit and attack our youth and other vulnerable citizens through drug dependency.
The plan does more. The public often views the police role as one of enforcement only. Our government recognizes their excellent work in the area of drug prevention, but as well we pay attention to their broader contribution to dealing with community problems. With Bill C-423, we are encouraging our front line police officers to assist the Canadian youth they encounter in the course of their crime-fighting duties. Sometimes our police officers are the first citizens who have to deal with a youth in conflict. They sometimes are keenly aware that what the young person really needs is some form of substance abuse treatment.
The measures in Bill C-423 will give them that treatment, but they will do more than that. These measures can be carried out within the budget resources of our government's national anti-drug strategy. We will be providing funding to the Department of Justice to support extrajudicial measures and treatment programs for young people in Canada who get into a conflict with the law and have a drug related problem.
We are working with all those concerned about Canada's youth, people from both the private and the public sector and across different disciplines, including health, education and the justice system. As the government, we are also interested in working with my colleague to get the job done. Bill C-423 does that. This member is standing up for our drug addicted or drug afflicted youth. Again, I am pleased to stand up with him in an attempt to save the lives of young Canadians who have trouble with substance abuse.
My colleague recognizes that our police officers have already for a long time been a key resource in dealing with the drug problems facing our communities. We will continue to rely upon their contribution. Bill C-423 recognizes the whole role that the police can play in linking youth with drug and addiction problems to those who can help on the treatment front.
There is a particular element to this bill which we need to ensure is consistent with the purpose and principles governing the use by police of the extrajudicial measures set out in section 6 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, namely, the requirement in Bill C-423 that police take into account whether the youth has complied with the treatment program when considering whether to charge the youth for the original offence.
This bill provides a valuable and additional tool to help young people overcome their problems and make our communities safer. I wish my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, every success with the positive change that Bill C-423 provides.