moved that Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as you have mentioned, on my private member's bill, which moves to address the terrible problem of methamphetamines, or crystal meth, in many of our communities.
The devastation this drug inflicts on communities, families and others across this nation is horrific. The war is on. Quite frankly, we are losing the battle. Too many of our young, healthy citizens are losing years of their life to its devastation and some are dying in the grips of its horror.
Crystal meth is one of the biggest threats to some of our communities. Unfortunately, its popularity is increasing dramatically. Crystal meth has a hold on too many of our young citizens and we have a responsibility to do something about it.
This bill addresses the precursors of the production and trafficking of methamphetamines by amending the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This will give the police the tools they need to combat the spread and the production of this drug. This is a vital change to the current legislation. It is my prayer that this will turn the tide on the war against this drug.
However, before we go any further, let us not forget what is at the core of this issue. This issue is about people. This bill is about people. I am going to begin by talking about a heartbreaking account from my riding of the devastating consequences of this drug.
I would like to start by relating the story of a victim of this drug in my riding of Peace River. She lives near my community. For now, I am going to call her Sally. There is nothing sadder than meeting a person I once knew as a strong and upstanding member of the community who was a successful businesswoman, a mother, and a wife for 15 years, but who is now a prostitute addicted to crystal meth.
She did not become a prostitute by choice. She was forced into prostitution to pay the debts that she incurred as a meth user. Sally never set out to become a drug-addicted prostitute, but that is the way that things have lined up for her.
It only took one use, one hit, and as well, her husband was an addict. “Her husband?”, one might ask. We might have thought that Sally was the addict. She is, but this drug destroys entire families, and Sally's husband is the one who brought it home.
Who knows why she started? It seems that many partners, spouses, siblings, children, neighbours, classmates, colleagues and acquaintances cannot say no when someone close to them is a user. In a moment of weakness Sally got high and now her life is a mess. Even if she cleans up this mess, the sacrifices that she has made are already too high.
It only takes once. One use, and many people are hooked for life. The addictive qualities of methamphetamine make it a dangerous drug for any person to experiment with. To quote a participant from my home province in a consultation on this drug, “No human being should be putting fertilizer, iodine, Drano and battery acid, all mixed together with a little ephedrine, into their system”. But that is in fact what people are doing.
People who have used this drug says that it gives them an overwhelming sense of euphoria, lasting up to 24 hours. It allows them to stay awake for hours on end. Some people claim that it helps them concentrate and gives them confidence and supernatural power. Unfortunately, the reality is that this drug offers only short term satisfaction, but long term destruction.
Unlike other drugs, methamphetamines do not need to be imported or grown. They can be produced relatively easily, and unfortunately relatively cheaply, right here in our communities in undercover labs that are often hard to detect.
I would like to commend the work that was recently done in my home province of Alberta by the premier's task force on crystal meth. It was chaired by Dr. Colleen Klein and Dr. Bob Westbury. The task force oversaw the development of a province-wide holistic strategy to find solutions to stop the abuse and the negative impacts of crystal meth and methamphetamines on Alberta families, young people, communities and workplaces. I will be quoting from that report tonight, among other sources.
Unfortunately, no province in Canada is safe from crystal meth, be it Alberta or on the east coast as well. Crystal meth is a highly addictive drug with a long-lasting high and it produces a sense of overwhelming euphoria. Those who use it quickly become addicted and, compared to other drugs, experience more intense effects from prolonged use.
The use and abuse of crystal meth is on the rise throughout Canada. Its prevalence is growing as dealers find new ways to target potential users and new ways to sell this drug. It is in our communities and our schools, our families are being affected by it, and it is in our workplaces.
This drug can affect anybody. It can affect the rich, the poor, the young and the old. It affects men and women equally. However, its use unfortunately is growing most quickly among young people and groups that are already at high risk.
The menace of crystal meth in our communities from coast to coast to coast is real and acute. Our nation must fight back.
Before we understand how to fight back against crystal meth, it is important that we understand what it is. I know that one of my colleagues plans to outline this as well, so I will be brief.
I think it is important to know that methamphetamine is a stimulant. It is a derivative of a synthetic stimulant first produced in 1919. It is sold on the street as jib, crank, meth, speed, glass, fire, and ice and has other street names as well.
Meth is available as a powder. It can be taken orally, snorted or injected. Typically the drug is heated and vaporized and the fumes are inhaled, allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream very rapidly. It only takes about eight seconds for the drug to enter a person's brain. Crystal meth is smokable and this makes it the most potent form of the drug. For that reason, many young people are tending to gravitate towards it.
Methamphetamines are not legally available in Canada, but the drug can be produced virtually anywhere, including in small sheds, in basements and even in mobile labs in the back of a car or a trailer. These makeshift laboratories are extremely dangerous due to the presence of highly flammable liquids and corrosive chemicals, usually mixed by people with no experience or expertise in handling such dangerous goods.
The majority of meth sold on the streets is produced in undercover super-labs, which can produce 10 pounds or more, and the mid-level labs, which produce less than nine pounds at a time. These labs are often referred to by police as clandestine labs.
While there is a large number of small scale labs, they produce only 5% of the meth available on the streets. The small scale or home based labs, often operated by meth users themselves, produce one ounce at a time, often just enough for the user with just a small amount available that they can sell to cover the cost of their addiction.
Meth is relatively easy and inexpensive to make using commonly available ingredients called precursor chemicals. The recipe for meth includes products such as over the counter cold medications, paint thinners, household products like drain cleaner, and agricultural chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia.
Relative to other drugs, crystal meth is cheap to buy, making it more accessible to children and youth. Meth is not always the drug of choice for youth addicted to drugs, but if it is available they often will choose it. Meth is referred to as the poor man's cocaine.
The effects of crystal meth on the user include: rapid, unhealthy weight loss; brain damage; insomnia and restlessness; skin sores caused by repetitive scratching and picking; major dental problems; memory problems and an inability to focus; severe depression and suicidal thoughts; strong physiological withdrawal; a greatly increased risk of HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases if the drug is injected; long term damage to nerve endings; and a risk of severe injury or death in the case of an overdose.
The damage caused by meth is rampant and far-reaching. It is not isolated to the user. It extends to family members, friends and, quite frankly, the broader community. The impacts on the users are well known and include: significant family disruption; mistrust; difficulty for family members coping with other members' addictions; conflict with schoolmates, teachers, colleagues and bosses that may result in school expulsion and/or loss of employment; and harm to the community through violence, property crimes and environmental damage.
Producing crystal meth has potentially serious and deadly consequences for the community. The hazards of meth labs include: exposure to precursor chemicals, toxic fumes, poisonous gas, fires and explosives, and property damage caused by contamination.
Crystal meth production also poses a significant risk to the environment. Production of crystal meth is dangerous for the individuals who make it, for the people who try to shut down those labs, for the innocent neighbours of the labs, for the users, and for our natural environment as well.
Because of the various chemicals used to make crystal meth and the rudimentary processes that are used, the result is a tremendous amount of toxic waste. Half a kilogram of meth produces four kilograms of toxic chemical waste. In most cases, the waste and residue from meth labs end up in the surrounding environment, leading to major environmental damage and significant cleanup costs.
The chemical waste can also cause severe damage to the ecosystem and serious health problems if it is inhaled or ingested by people or animals. Since meth labs can produce drugs in relatively short periods of time, production labs can easily materialize in unexpected places such as hotel rooms, abandoned rural buildings or anyone's home.
As quickly as a lab is constructed, the drugs can be removed, leaving the lab and the waste to be discovered by somebody who comes by later. Unfortunately, the landowners, and often the municipal districts, are left shouldering the cleanup costs. In fact, one Alberta county was recently caught off guard with a significant cleanup bill from methamphetamine waste that was dumped on county lands.
Individuals who become meth users are addicted more quickly and experience much worse effects, compared to other drugs, after prolonged use. The negative impacts kick in quickly and are devastating.
I will read for members another account of a person who was addicted to methamphetamine. That user wrote: “Meth addiction is cunning and baffling. It starts out as a harmless and fun thing to do, and then, before you know it, your whole life becomes centred on it and it gets to the point where you can't imagine life without it. But you're unable to live with it”.
We must ask this question: who is using crystal meth? This drug is particularly alarming because it is highly addictive, easily accessible and cheap to buy. These factors make it very attractive to young people.
Most meth users tend to use other drugs as well. They may also use ecstasy, marijuana or other drugs at the same time. The burden of mental and physical illness associated with drug use rises when multiple drugs are taken.
Meth users tend to between the ages of 10 and 25. However, meth is also used by adults over the age of 25. That is quite common.
Not all meth users are street youth and homeless adults. Many users start out living at home, attending school or holding down a job, but end up living on the street and in all kinds of places as the addiction progresses. Some, like Sally, are far from the typical image of a drug addict that most of us have in our minds.
One frightening fact is that some children, youth and young adults are being exposed to meth and they do not even know it. More and more drug producers are adding meth to other drugs because it is inexpensive and it gives other drugs greater addictive qualities. Police in Alberta estimate that about 70% to 75% of the ecstasy sold on the street contains methamphetamine.
The expansion of more clandestine and large scale production labs has the potential to increase availability and lower prices, which could ultimately result in a larger number of users.
Not only does meth affect individual lives, relationships and families, but it also has a dramatic impact on the communities in which it is produced and used.
Meth has followed a somewhat fractured path in invading Alberta communities. I know it is the same across the country. Some communities in the province have yet to witness the impact of meth on their streets and in their schools, but other communities have been hit hard and are being forced to join together to fight back.
It is time to get tough on crystal meth. That is what this bill does. We need to take steps to keep this drug off the streets by making it more difficult to produce and more difficult to sell. We need to get tough on drug dealers and drug producers by supporting police, law enforcement, and first responders.
Law enforcement has two important roles in addressing drug crimes: enforcing current laws and reducing the demand for drugs. It needs to have the resources and the tools to deter manufacturers and dealers while mobilizing communities, allies and young people to stop the spread of drugs and the drug culture in our communities.
Unfortunately, crystal meth is already available on our streets.
Most precursors, the chemicals necessary to make crystal meth, are available to anybody in small quantities in local stores. We also know that meth culture is quite closed and it is difficult for police to trace a dealer on the streets back to the person making the meth, known as the cook.
The government must get tough on drug producers and dealers to put an end to the pain and injury they cause children, youth, young adults, families and communities.