House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.


Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remember the various objections that were raised about this bill as written when it was introduced. People were concerned that drivers and passengers in vehicles travelling between the United States and Canada would not have to comply with the requirements of the bill to declare that they were carrying an infectious disease.

However, we have changed things. The parliamentary secretary made an amendment. For example, instead of talking about watercraft, aircraft or conveyances prescribed by regulation, the bill now talks about conveyances. The scope of the bill has been broadened to include any conveyance used commercially or otherwise. That broadens the scope of the bill.

I should say that we were very aware that we would not be able to cover all conveyances, but it is clear that we cannot have a quarantine officer at each border crossing or customs office. Those who raised objections wondered what would happen if someone felt ill or reported illness to customs. There is the obligation to report to customs, and it is actually much easier to comply with than when a sick person is travelling by air or water, because it is much harder to stop an aircraft or watercraft that is already underway.

We took the objections raised by committee members into account. That is why we decided to include an amendment to more fully address the issue of protecting Canadians.

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4:15 p.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, this was a particularly interesting exercise. We must always put the health of Canadians first. It is important that Canadians are not only safe but that they feel safe.

One of the very important lessons from the exercise that the whole committee has been through is the importance of being vigilant regarding reading the wording very carefully.

The bill was put forward as a housekeeping change and as we hear from members who have spoken, it has turned out to be more than a housekeeping change.

I certainly support the act and I thank my colleagues from the Bloc, the Liberal Party, the parliamentary secretary and the minister for acting very quickly when, as critics, we brought up our concerns about the fact that lands would be removed as a condition of the Quarantine Act.

I can understand updating the bill because we would naturally add air. That did not exist in the Quarantine Act when it was written. However, regarding the removal of lands, when the other critics and myself as the NDP health critic looked at the bill more closely, we realized it probably had a number of other consequences to which we needed to pay attention.

I want to give a brief overview of that. I will use TB as an example because in that particular one many things went wrong. They would not be fixed necessarily by the act because it broke down in many places.

If a noticeably ill person were to fly into Canada, as the individual would have been, get on a bus or a train with very noticeable symptoms, there would have been no responsibility on the part of any staff to report the individual. They would have carried on for some length of time with the other passengers on the train, the bus or whatever, exposing all of these individuals to a potentially communicable disease. That presented for us a great dilemma.

While we did hear from many public health officials that in the space of time it takes to take a flight from London, England to Ottawa, symptoms are unlikely to present themselves. That may be true. However, if a person got on a train in Florida and travelled all the way to Vancouver, there indeed would be time for symptoms to present themselves.

If a person contracted the disease but was not showing symptoms, a week later this person certainly would be. Therefore this person would have exposed a large number of people in a very small contained space to a communicable disease.

I would mention that we see a lot of cross-border traffic between the United States and Canada. We are always glad to have American tourists visit. I assume they are always glad to have Canadian tourists visit. I think we would all agree to that.

We found it unusual at committee that whenever we asked anybody whether this had any connection to the security-prosperity partnership, we were told that none of those people were available to come to talk with us. The health witnesses we spoke to said they did not know anything about it. We became more and more puzzled as this went on.

Getting back to the example of TB, people think of tuberculosis as a disease we do not hear about very much any more. Anybody who grew up in my generation would have seen TB sanatoriums. When I went into nursing in 1961-2, they were just closing, at least in Ontario, because we thought we had beaten it.

Now we are seeing an increase in tuberculosis, particularly in urban areas, perhaps from people from overseas who come from the very tightly packed urban areas which do not have all of the hygienic advantages.

In my own community, the lower mainland or other cities around the country and in the United States, we are seeing an increase in a disease that we once thought had virtually disappeared.

Anything we can do to protect that from spreading is absolutely critical. That is what people elect us for, to ensure that the health committee and people responsible for health, and indeed all parliamentarians, put people's health as a top priority. We make no concessions to that whatsoever.

We did have some discussions. My Liberal colleague raised the question that we have already lowered pesticide, or raised pesticide, a proposal to allow more pesticide because it will make our trade more even with the United States. So we did have to ask ourselves about whether this was related to the security-prosperity partnership which would make it easier for people to cross the border and, therefore, was related to that.

That would be the worst light to put on it. The best light to put on it would be that people simply did not understand when it came out what that really meant. To give credit to the parliamentary secretary and the minister, when it was brought to their attention it was changed very quickly. I absolutely want to acknowledge that.

We are pleased as long as we are clear that land is back in. I was very pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health who spoke, although he frequently mentioned airports and water, but he did mention land, trains, buses, cars, anything that is crossing the border. If we are crossing on a cart, a tricycle with something behind it, whatever it is, it is a conveyance and therefore there is a responsibility. If someone believes someone is ill and sees symptoms, but none of us are diagnosticians, except diagnosticians, we can all I think recognize when somebody appears very ill.

I think we recently had a circumstance where a person appeared very ill. If land had not been in there and the United States had not acted, although obviously it did not work in that case, but I am sure the Americans are reviewing why that all slipped through the cracks with them. However, we are all much more comfortable with this.

I rise to support this amendment and be very clear that I think it was all the critics who brought this to the parliamentary secretary's attention. The parliamentary secretary did take that to the minister and the fact that land is back in there makes us able to support this, knowing that we have put the health of Canadians first, but we will always very carefully read something that says it is only a housekeeping amendment.

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4:25 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am looking at the minutes of the health committee meeting. I note that the parliamentary secretary, on the issue of conveyances other or beyond watercraft and aircraft, had somehow explained and he said:

When Bill C-42 was developed, a decision was taken to remove the requirement for advance notification by land conveyance operators, such as buses and trains, and to focus only on air and marine conveyances. This decision was based on an assessment that land conveyances posed a limited threat to Canada.

Even at the time when the issue was first raised, I believe it was raised in debate during second reading, the exemption for trains and buses and trucks, et cetera, seemed to be questionable decisions to have taken.

It goes so far as to say that maybe there was some method in the exemption and whether or not there was a trade off between economic considerations and public safety and health considerations certainly was an issue.

I raise it for the member that the parliamentary secretary himself simply sloughed it off as having a limited threat to Canada. It just does not seem to be a very substantive answer to a significant question. Has the member received from the witnesses some indication to a greater extent that the exemption in fact was an error rather than a decided situation to be put in the bill?

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we had two witnesses with different opinions. My question was, “Will people be healthier as a result of this?” and one person said yes, that there was no risk and the other said, eventually, no.

Again, the argument was put forward that symptoms would not show themselves that quickly. They might not on a plane, but I am quite certain, from my personal health experience and from seeing tuberculosis when it is active, that indeed we may very well see that or another serious communicable disease show itself over the course of five days, or seven days, or the length of time that a person might be on a bus or a train with someone to be infected.

I think that it again shows the importance when someone says it is a housekeeping change. I cannot say whether it was an error or whether it was an economic decision. I can only present the member, as I did, with my experiences and the fact that we were unable to interview anybody from SPP.

However, to point again to my experience, even if someone says it is a housekeeping change, we must always read everything carefully and not treat any document either more lightly or more seriously than any other one.

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4:30 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member got up and made suggestions in regard to the act. He originally got up and incorrectly stated that the amendments to Bill C-42 did not include land conveyances. However, he continued to suggest otherwise. I wonder if the member could comment on the bill and confirm that it includes land, marine and air.

Before the member comments, let me just say I am quite disappointed in the previous questioner. He had his facts wrong when he first asked his questions, and that is fair enough, sometimes that happens. However, to continue on in that vein time and time again when the Minister of Health has demonstrated leadership on the health of Canadians is very disappointing and I wish the member would not be so partisan.

I wonder if this member could just confirm for everyone that marine, air and land is included in the amendment to Bill C-42.

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4:30 p.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes, it does. I would not be standing here to support it if it did not.

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4:30 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-42. Since the parliamentary secretary is here and just posed a question to me, I will try to deal with that first.

For the first time in thirteen and a half years, when I asked for a bill from the Table so I could look at it, the bill that was delivered to me and other members who had asked for it was a first reading bill. Unless you have seen, Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Health, in its ninth report, reported back to the House two amendments to the bill, which was debated at second reading.

I looked at the minutes of that meeting, which I believe was June 4, and noted that the chair of the committee had asked for the vote on the two amendments and then asked whether the bill should be reported back to the House, and it. However, there was no question on whether the bill should be reprinted. Therefore, we get into this difficulty where there might be a misunderstanding by members in this place, who were not on the committee, when they assume the bill they receive for debate purposes is the bill as amended. There is an opportunity for the committee to ask if the bill should the bill be reprinted, and in this case it was not.

In answer to the member's question, my question was based on the best information available to me by the House. It certainly was not partisan to continue to suggest that land buses, trains and trucks were still exempted. According to a copy of the bill I received, that was the case. However, the committee had made changes to it.

Maybe the member understands now why I asked that question earlier. For future purposes, should a bill not be reprinted after committee where changes have been made, maybe somewhere it should be stamped “amended” or have an addendum that says what the changes are. Sometimes it may be important.

In any event, I think that clears it up for the parliamentary secretary as to why I still thought that subclause 34(1)(a), dealing with the Quarantine Act, still had watercraft and aircraft and now is replaced by the words “a conveyance”.

It does raise an interesting question though. I am not sure whether the bill has a definition section where “conveyance” is a defined term. However, the bill does say that the minister may make regulations. I assume the regulations will proscribe conveyances from time to time, or be amended, and the minister can do that. The amendments made at committee were appropriate and were supported by all parties at the committee.

If we look at the three meetings, we have a bill that makes very modest amendments to the Quarantine Act in terms of their volume, but their impact is much more important because we are talking about health and safety issues.

We have the recent case of Mr. Andrew Speaker, who has a very contagious form of tuberculosis. He travelled from Europe to Canada and then by land conveyance, a car, or a cab or something, and crossed the border into the United States. During that trip, a number of people, particularly those on the aircraft, were exposed to this very dangerous strain of tuberculosis. This enhances the reasons why dealing with this matter was very important. Of course, the bill came forward before that event took place.

Events in our past have taken place which would have some impact on this. Probably the most significant was the SARS experience. Interestingly enough, if we were to look back at some of the detail, we had taken a number of steps to try to address it. Not many of them were very successful because we did not know very much about the disease itself in the first place.

One of the things we did know was it was an imported situation. In fact, it came from a province in China. It also raised an ancillary issue, which was transborder point to Canada turned out to be Taiwan.

As we know, we do not have diplomatic relations with China. Taiwan has been seeking, for a very long time, to at least obtain observer status at the World Health Organization. Its knowledge and technology would have been of significant help had that occurred at a much earlier time. I know there are still efforts being made to do that. However, one of the most significant threats to the Canadian public's health and safety was imported from China, through Taiwan, to Canada.

If we look at the meetings held by the health committee, one of the things I found fascinating was some of the witnesses in committee were representing public safety and security. There was a substantial amount of discussion about the security and prosperity partnership. This is might surprise some members. All of a sudden we were getting involved in an agreement between the United States and Canada, and Mexico was added, with regard to security and prosperity issues.

In fact, it is much broader than that. I understand that at the Cancun meetings in March of last year, some 300 to 400 bilateral activities were identified as being of interest to the security and prosperity partnership, but that it would be very difficult to prioritize them.

I raise this because at second reading the issue of the exemption given for cars, buses, trucks and trains was brought up in debate, but in the bill it was not explicit. It was by exclusion because the bill itself says:

This section applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances:

(a) a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying persons or cargo; and

(b) a prescribed conveyance.

A prescribed conveyance is not defined, but I assume this is in a schedule or regulations that may provide other details, which normally are not available to members when they are in debate. The fact that it was specifically watercraft or aircraft led to the question about all the activity of conveyances, not only of persons but of products, fruits, vegetables, meat products and other things. It is a very important area.

I know a number of the members of border communities have been extremely concerned about the economic impact of having delays at the border, what it causes in terms of the backup for people trying to get across the border when trucks are lined up for many reasons.

I talked to a couple of members and raised the question about whether there were conflicting objectives taken into account when Bill C-42 was tabled in the House at first reading, for debate second reading, by the fact that the other conveyances were not named. The conflict is an economic objective pitted against the objective of health and safety.

I noted this in an early question in the House that this matter had been raised at second reading. It was the amendment to change the bill in subclause 34(1)(a) from a watercraft or aircraft and to replace that with a conveyance, which would cover any conveyance of persons or cargo.

I must admit I was taken aback when the parliamentary secretary made an attempt at an explanation. The explanation, as I read into the record, was it was determined, when the bill was done, that land conveyances “posed a limited threat to Canada” and that it was a conscious decision. I quote from the June 4 meeting of the Standing Committee on Health. The parliamentary secretary said:

When Bill C-42 was developed, a decision was taken to remove the requirement for advance notification by land conveyance operators, such as buses and trains, and to focus only on air and marine conveyances. This decision was based on an assessment that land conveyances posed a limited threat to Canada.

When we think about, it is a significant decision to have taken. Consider the volume of activity that goes across the borders between Canada and the U.S., certainly between the U.S and Mexico. If we read the media reports about products, fruit and vegetables, which have been produced in other countries and imported, the produce has been grown with chemicals that have been banned in Canada for a good reason.

In the last report I saw, Canada today imports fruit and vegetables from other countries. The produce has been produced with 10 or 12 chemicals, chemicals that have been banned in Canada, but not in the country of production. The question is an issue of food safety.

With regard to the United States, in the same report it indicated there were fruit and vegetables imported from other countries, which used some 17 chemicals that were banned in the United States.

In terms of using chemicals to treat fruit, vegetable, meat products and anything else, they may not be present in their pure form. The reason they would be banned by a country in the first instance is that the trace elements in those foods may be harmful to the health and safety of Canadians or those who will consume them. That is where a very large number of our imports come by rail and truck.

They are major distribution conveyances other than air or water. I have to question why the decision was taken that there was a limited risk to Canadians when there was some knowledge that there were some serious threats to the health and safety of Canadians by the importation of products which may have come by truck or rail. We have to ask ourselves whether or not those decisions were motivated by some objective other than health or safety.

Those are the reasons I have raised this issue.

I have looked at the evidence given at the health committee. Representatives appeared from the Department of Public Safety and Security as well as the department responsible for trade and the security and prosperity partnership.

The Quarantine Act is a very modest act. It is so small that it was not even reprinted after being amended.

We had some fairly substantive discussions at the Standing Committee on Health on some significant issues of which Canadians probably have very little knowledge.

I have seen some articles on the security and prosperity partnership, often referred to as deep integration with the United States. The Hill Times published a couple of substantial articles on it. For many people it raises a lot more questions than it gives answers.

We now, I believe, as a consequence have amended this bill in section 34(1)(a) to include “a conveyance”, putting that in and replacing “aircraft and watercraft”, and now includes all conveyances that are transporting or conveying persons, cargo or other things which may be a risk to Canadians.

I wanted to raise that because often things happen in committee which have very little to do with a bill. This is a case in point. If members are interested, they may want to look at the proceedings of the June 4 meeting of the Standing Committee on Health. The witnesses gave a detailed history of NAFTA and of the security and prosperity partnership. I am not sure why the primer was given, but I must admit it was very interesting.

The bill is important. I discussed much earlier public health threats such as SARS, but we also know that West Nile virus and the avian influenza are significant risks. There have been discussions about pandemics. Some experts have said it is inevitable that Canada will experience a pandemic. There have been discussions and public pronouncements that there may not be sufficient medications to treat Canadians and that there will be rules about who will have access to these medications. These issues need to be continually looked at.

Canadians need the assurance that public health and safety will not be compromised by economic expediency or by the objectives of another nation. Canadians need to know that Canada's objectives will be firm. We look to the government to give us assurance that when matters come up, public health and safety will not be compromised for economic objectives.

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4:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, when the member first asked me his questions, he had his facts completely wrong in respect to section 34. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and explain to him that the act was amended and land conveyances were included in what has been presented.

However, since then the member has continued to suggest things that are simply incorrect. He has admitted to reading the minutes from the health committee's meeting of June 4, 2007. If the member actually had read the minutes, as he has claimed, he would see the amendments presented. The amendments go on for pages in the minutes. Even a brief overview of the minutes would show the amendments presented. Yet, the member claims that he was unaware of the amendments because the minutes were not printed in accordance with his expectations.

He cannot have it both ways. If the member has indeed read the minutes, he will know the amendment was presented and unanimously passed by committee. In fact, I presented the amendments as parliamentary secretary.

Due to the leadership of the health minister, it is abundantly clear that this government takes the health of Canadians very seriously.

And I see the member is looking through the minutes.

Even in the previous version of the act the option of land conveyances was always there; it just was not explicit. The minister had the ability to include conveyances in paragraph 34(1)(b) in the previous act where it just stated “conveyances”.

Dr. David Butler-Jones, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, is quoted extensively in the June 4 committee meeting and in previous meetings as stating that the risk profile for land conveyances from the United States was very low, and that is why it was excluded.

In the interest of absolute clarity and to make sure there are no ifs, ands or buts, as parliamentary secretary on behalf of the minister I made those amendments.

The member spoke of the SPP. He will also see in the minutes from June 4 that the director general of the innovation partnerships branch of the Department of Industry, on page 2 of the minutes, made an extensive presentation dealing with the government's priorities and concerns in regard to this. In every case health is first and foremost.

The member has taken quotes out of context. Obviously, the member has not read the entire minutes. If he had, he would have seen there were amendments. The member should be more careful in taking selective quotes out of what was an extensive consultation.

Would the member agree—

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4:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Mississauga South.

The hon. member had four minutes out of ten.

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4:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the member, he should know that when I was advised that Bill C-42 was coming forward for debate, I asked one of the pages to bring me the bill. The bill that the pages have available for members in fact is the most recent printing of the bill. It is the bill that was debated at second reading. It was in fact the one that has the exemption.

I wanted to understand why there was not another bill, the bill as amended by committee. When I asked the question of the parliamentary secretary, he pointed out to me there were amendments.

Then I went into the lobby and called up the minutes of the June 4 committee meeting, maybe about 20 minutes ago, and that is the first time I saw it, to see that in fact when the amendments were made, after the second amendment was agreed to, the chair asked, “Shall the bill as amended carry? Agreed. Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House? Agreed”. It was reported back with the amendments in the report of the committee.

The committee chair did not ask the members whether they should reprint the bill. Therefore, there was no reprint. I have explained this twice now to the parliamentary secretary. I do not think it has quite sunk in, but I will keep doing it.

The minutes I have read are the minutes I have read because I wanted to understand why members were not getting the bill.

I raised his quote. The reason they excluded trucks, trains and buses, and I quote him, is that they “posed a limited threat to Canada”. That is what he said to this place. Then he said in his question here and I quote him again, “for absolute clarity we made the amendment to say a conveyance covering all conveyances”.

Including all conveyances, including buses, trucks and trains is not a clarification. It is not a clarification of aircraft and watercraft. It is in fact a very substantial change to the bill. The member again has misled the House. The Conservatives did not want to have those other items in there. They were caught by the member for Oakville for not having included the major conveyance of fruits and vegetables. The member wants to slough it off that for absolute clarity they made the change.

This is not a clarification. This is a substantive change involving the safety, security and health of Canadians. I do not accept for a moment that this is a clarification. It was a change that the government was embarrassed to have to make because it got caught.

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5 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate. It was going along quite quietly and nicely, but it suddenly heated up. The member for Mississauga South obviously feels very passionate about what is taking place here.

His speech was very thoughtful and reflective about the importance of this bill and what it is that needs to be done. He actually brought some clarity to the history of this bill and why it needed to be brought forward in the first place in 2006 and why we are now dealing with these amendments today.

I am not a member of the health committee. I have not followed all of the detailed business on this bill. Certainly our member on the committee who spoke earlier has done a great job. She herself has a background in public health. She has a very strong sense of advocacy about what needs to be done to improve public health.

Certainly this issue of transmitted diseases, pandemics and what is the response of a public health authority is a very important matter.

The comment I wanted to put to the member for Mississauga South is that it seems to me while we are dealing with some particular amendments in this bill and because we do have an opportunity to debate the bill today, it does raise the larger question that probably the most important aspect of the work that needs to be done on an ongoing basis--

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5 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I do have to allow the hon. member for Mississauga South enough time to reply.

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5 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her input. I always look forward to her commentary because she has a very good grasp of how to bring things back to the important issues.

I would just simply indicate to her that my concern was raised by the testimony of Mr. Paul Haddow, director general of the international affairs departments of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, in which he said, with regard to establishing the priorities for the security-prosperity partnership, that they included developing a pandemic plan for North America for strengthening the cooperation and coordination in the area of emergency preparedness and response and to continue to work on making borders within North America smarter in the sense of achieving the same level of security, but in a way which included the flow of trusted goods and travellers.

It does not include health. It bothered me, it concerns me and we will watch it.

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5 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act. This is an opportunity for us to look at a bit of history at the same time, since the Quarantine Act is probably one of the oldest pieces of public health legislation in North America. We are very aware of this in Quebec. In 2008, we will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. Today, we have a sign: our health critic is in fact the member for Quebec City, and I want to recognize her. Her work on the Standing Committee on Health is outstanding.

This is an opportunity to see the work that we can do in this House: today we are dealing with the text of a law that was first enacted in 1872—and it is important that we remember this.

Public health, like health, has changed considerably over the years. I will offer a little history here. You know that health is a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. Over the decades, the federal government has encroached on this jurisdiction, as a matter of political choice. Remember that the universal health care system we have today was set up during the 1960s, at the initiative of a premier of Saskatchewan. This produced the health care system we have today, with all its ups and downs. In the 1960s, even though health was still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, the costs were split. So when the universal health care system we have today was created, the federal government was supposed to foot 50% of the bill. That was the agreement in the beginning.

You understand that because this is a privilege of the provinces, or a matter under their exclusive jurisdiction, the federal government made its contribution by way of transfer payments. That has indeed changed over the years, as successive federal governments, particularly Conservative governments during the 1990s, built up deficits. The Liberals in Pierre Elliott Trudeau's time, however, had also done their bit to increase the deficit.

Consequently, in the beginning, the federal government paid 50% of the bill for our universal health care system, which is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. This federal-provincial agreement, with the transfer payments, had been properly negotiated. In 1993, in the middle of the big Liberal budget cuts, the federal government's share of health care, through transfer payments, was 13%.

So we have a system, one that was created during the 1960s. In Quebec, it was the time of the Quiet Revolution. It was when the Quebec that we know today emerged. We got on board with the universal health care system, based on one premise: that the federal government, under the agreements signed, would pay for 50% of it. We thought that it was always going to pay 50% of the bill, but as I explained, since this was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, the federal government used that to withdraw gradually from paying the bill, as its deficits rose. Little by little, we arrived at an agreement whereby in 2010 the federal government should be paying the percentage it was paying in the 1990s. That is the hard reality.

The latest agreement negotiated between the provinces and the federal government aims to re-establish or rebalance its percentage of the bill to what it was paying in 1990. This is one reason why Canadian federalism does not always work—at least in Quebec. Quebeckers learned very quickly that, any time we are dealing with Ottawa, Quebeckers are always the big losers. That is what happened with our health care.

Today we are debating Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act. From a health perspective, it is probably the only file that is truly a federal jurisdiction. A few years ago, we suffered a SARS outbreak, that is, severe acute respiratory syndrome. This disease from outside the country made the entire community, both the provincial and federal health networks, aware of the need to intervene.

In 2005, we therefore decided to make an important amendment to the Quarantine Act, in order to adapt it to the risk of epidemics from outside our borders or epidemics that we might export.

This still surprises me. Many decisions are made in this House and many discussions take place, but all the while, certain realities elude us and manage to slip through all the policies adopted here in Parliament or elsewhere.

At the WTO, discussions are currently underway concerning the agriculture file, which is not yet resolved. In this vast, global free trade system, the agriculture file is one of the most recent issues that the WTO is resolving.

The longer we wait, the more we will see that, theoretically, the only way a person can protect their health is by producing themselves what they eat.

I listened to my colleagues talk earlier about chemicals. The best way a person can protect their health is by one day successfully producing at home everything they put on their table. That is how it will be.

I am always shocked when I see the Liberals and the Conservatives trying to set aside the supply management system put in place by farmers in Quebec and the rest of Canada for dairy products, poultry and eggs. This system balances supply and demand within the provinces and Canada. Yet the Liberals and the Conservatives are tempted to set aside this system, which allows us to meet our own needs for products as important as milk, eggs and butter. These are things we eat every day. They are tempted to set aside this system, because some countries would like to sell us their milk and other products over which we have no control. We have no control over what other countries produce.

Today, we are talking about a bill on quarantine, epidemics and freight movement.

At the same time, we are letting our WTO negotiators set aside supply management, which would allow us to provide for our own needs and produce milk, butter, eggs and chicken, things we eat regularly. We need to be able to self-regulate in this area. Yet the system will probably be set aside one day. The Liberals were prepared to set it aside, and the Conservatives are tempted to do so in order to negotiate with other countries that want to sell us their products. One day, we will no longer be able to produce what we need, and we will have to buy consumer products from other countries, products over which we have no control. We do not know how animals are fed or what is used in producing these products.

This concerns me a great deal. Today, we are discussing a bill on quarantine, a public health bill. As I said earlier, it has been in existence since 1872.

Things were simpler back then. I realize that we must make sweeping changes today because, at the time, people and goods travelled by ship. When there was a quarantine, the ship would raise the quarantine flag. A law had to be adopted to deal with the people and goods on the quarantined ship. Thus, a bill was passed in 1872.

Today, over one hundred years later, we must revise the Quarantine Act. Section 34 establishes what kind of transportation will be covered by this Quarantine Act. It has taken us several years and that is understandable.

Today, this section applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances: a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying persons or cargo. We have broadened the scope of the legislation to more than just ships. This had to be done.

In a few centuries from now, we will not be able to accuse the Conservatives of having looked too far into the future. Usually, they look in the rear-view mirror to see what lies ahead. We are recognizing new technologies for transporting goods. That is perfect.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-42, which has the merit of involving operators and, as I was saying, “applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances: a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying...or cargo”. This makes these carriers and operators take responsibility for their obligation to declare possible quarantines, illnesses or all manner of viruses that may be contained in their cargo, if they are carrying merchandise, or among the human beings travelling on board. This allows us to make adjustments.

However, as I was saying, it also requires us to take a look at our collective conscience. It is all well and good to pass quarantine bills. SARS showed us that despite all the good intentions of our health care systems, we are not sheltered from an epidemic or all sorts of unpredictable diseases. These are things that can happen. The severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS epidemic that happened in 2003, was a sad event that showed us the flaws in our health care system. In my opinion, it was time for Canada to adopt a public health policy together with the provinces. I believe that the Standing Committee on Health did good work in implementing a public health coordination service that is able to intervene and help provinces deal with situations like the one Ontario experienced in 2003. This is good for public health and a good investment for our collective environment.

In the meantime, we never wonder what causes these epidemics. There were others that just fizzled out. Avian flu does not affect people, just animals, and we do not know whether it will affect humans one day or not. The same is true for mad cow disease. It affects animals, but we do not know whether it will affect humans one day. We have to be careful what we import and put on our tables. The main thing we have to take from all of this is that we can now be prepared.

In truth, we are reacting after the fact. SARS struck Ontario in 2003, and that is the reason why we have adopted this bill to amend the Quarantine Act. That is the reality. One day we must try to prevent rather than always trying to cure after the fact. To achieve that, we must ensure that we produce what we put on the tables in this country. That is the hard reality. It is a fine thing to do business with all the other countries of the world, to exchange goods and services, but when it comes to food, to what we produce to put on our tables, one day, our representatives at the WTO must stand up and say that is not negotiable.

Indeed, we cannot allow other countries to send us products, if we cannot be assured of the quality of those products. Genetically modified organisms, GMOs, are already being widely discussed around the world. We must be able to regulate what comes to our tables. Until we can do that, we must ensure that every country is capable of producing what goes onto the tables of its citizens, so that if ever there is an epidemic, a virus or something that stems from the food or the animals that we consume, we will be able to control all of that through our own regulation system.

We are not there yet and I find that disappointing. I say that very politely to everyone. I am disappointed in the way the Liberals defended supply management while they were in power, and the Conservatives are doing the same thing: trying to cast aside supply management. That means if dairy products, eggs, poultry and chicken are removed, there will be no more controls and those products will be imported from abroad. Some day we will be inundated with foreign products because those countries, owing to their population, will be into mass production. At that point, we will no longer be competitive.

One day, we will poison our population. That is what will happen. We will make our own people sick. The new way of doing things will bring viruses. If we do not adopt legislation similar to the bill we are discussing today, then some day we will have to adopt other bills to try to counter those plagues.

It would be easy to ensure consistency in everything we do by adopting bills like the one before us today to modernize the Quarantine Act.

We also have to take a stand with the WTO and say that agriculture—the food we put on Canadians' tables—is not negotiable. We must maintain complete control over the quality of the products we eat. That is the way it is.

We are talking about this for all kinds of reasons, one of which is that in order to make a profit, companies are going too far and genetically modifying products. They want things to grow faster, and they put all kinds of things in there to make them stronger and healthier, but in reality, they are making them less healthful by chemically treating them. That is a fact.

The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-42 to implement section 34 as amended. I will read section 34 of the Quarantine Act, which will come into force when this bill is passed. I will then read the amendments. Section 34 reads as follows:

34(1) Before arriving in Canada, the operator of a conveyance used in a business of carrying persons or cargo, or of any prescribed conveyance, shall report to the authority designated under paragraph 63(b) situated at the nearest entry point any reasonable grounds to suspect that (a) any person, cargo or other thing on board the conveyance could cause the spreading of a communicable disease listed in the schedule; (b) a person on board the conveyance has died; or (c) any prescribed circumstances exist.

(2) Before departing from Canada throug h a departure point, the operator shall report to the authority designated under paragraph 63(b) situated at the departure point any circumstance referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) to (c) that exists.

(3) If it is not possible for the operator to report before their arrival in or departure from Canada, the report shall be made at the entry or departure point, as the case may be.

(4) The authority shall notify a quarantine officer or an environmental health officer without delay of any report received under this section.

These are the operator's responsibilities, which are to be carried out upon entering or leaving the country.

The amendment introduced today in Bill C-42 completes section 34, which I read earlier.

34 (1) This section applies to the operator of any of the following conveyances:

(a) a watercraft or aircraft that is used in the business of carrying persons or cargo;


(2) As soon as possible before a conveyance arrives at its destination in Canada, the operator shall inform a quarantine officer or cause a quarantine officer to be informed of any reasonable grounds to suspect that

(a) any person, cargo or other thing on board the conveyance could cause the spreading of a communicable disease listed in the schedule;

(b) a person on board the conveyance has died;

(c) any prescribed circumstances exist.


The original section talked about the operator of a conveyance without specifying the type of conveyance. Now it mentions transportation by watercraft or aircraft. Furthermore, the original section talked about reporting at the entry point and now reporting is done beforehand, as soon as possible, so that quarantine officers are informed before arrival. The situation does not need to be reported upon arrival at the border, it needs to be reported beforehand, as soon as possible.

I want to acknowledge the work of my colleagues in the Standing Committee on Health, the hon. member for Québec, among others, and to say that it is good that we are updating legislation from 1872 to deal with reality.

These are diseases that can be transmitted by virus, epidemic or otherwise. However, it is also important to realize that this bill is a reaction to the SARS epidemic in Ontario in 2003.

I hope the WTO will make good decisions to ensure that our agriculture will be protected, so that the food we put on our tables will protect our constituents and that we will not have to pass another bill one day because we should have realized that what we put on our tables should be produced here, according to our standards, to ensure that food safety and public health are protected.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that XDR-TB is a form of TB that is fatal in roughly 50% of regular cases, and about 90% of the people with HIV-AIDS will also die because of the disease.

We know that a gentleman boarded a flight to Montreal through the CSA and at that time the Czech authorities did not notify the Montreal airport or Canadian authorities prior to this person landing. It seems to me that the report states that the Czech authorities and the Czech airlines knew, because at that time, even though the flight was in the air, they knew that this gentleman had this serious case of XDR-TB.

Section 17 of the existing Quarantine Act provides that every person who contravenes certain sections of the act or regulations is guilty of a summary conviction offence. This component is still in this new revised act, even though it updates a reference to certain sections.

The new act does not seem to really say to the airlines that they have to report. They obviously knew about this person. They had the responsibility to tell the airlines and tell the Canadian health authority that this person arriving in Montreal had this disease and therefore should be under quarantine, so obviously they broke the existing Quarantine Act. I do not know whether the new act would fix the loophole. I do not understand why the Canadian authorities or our government did not charge the airlines that failed to report to Canada what had—

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I have to give the hon. member a couple of minutes to reply. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has the floor.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right.

The problem is that the changes to Bill C-42 apply specifically to the operator, therefore the pilot of the aircraft, who will have to make the report. I think we should also ensure that airlines which know about it have to do so. Pilots can always say that they were not informed about the health status of one of their passengers. It is obviously time to ensure, therefore, that airlines are also involved.

As I read Bill C-42, only the operator, that is to say the pilot, is implicated. It could well be, though, that the airline did not tell him. People are always innocent, as we know, until proven guilty. So even if the pilot says that he did not know and was not told, under Bill C-42 he is still responsible. We should ensure that the airlines and all the personnel in charge are also required to follow up.

In clause 71, it says: “Every person who contravenes subsection 6(2), 8(1) or 34(2) or (3) ....” In my view, on the basis of my legal training, “every person” could also include a body corporate, that is to say, the officers of an airline.

This situation is obviously intolerable. I agree completely with my colleague. It is unacceptable for someone who knows that a person has a contagious disease not to inform the people at the destination. At least this bill will require an operator to do so as soon as possible. In this case, he should actually have done so as soon as he found out. I hope that corporations, or the bodies corporate constituted by airlines, can also be included.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said that the federal government promised a few years ago to contribute about 50% of the costs of the provincial health care systems.

I would like to correct him on that point, if I may, because what the federal government promised to do was contribute 50% of the insured health costs. Insured health costs at that time included hospitals and medical services, such as the medical services plan equivalent in the province of Quebec.

What has caused a great increase in health costs in many of the provinces is the cost of prescription drugs, home care and other services that are not insured. That is why the percentage has gone down. The Liberal government topped it up by $41 billion close to the end of our last mandate. The present government is not doing much for health care.

I wanted to correct that point. It was never the intent of the federal government to cover 50% of all health care costs in each province.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would not like to correct my hon. colleague, but when the health care system was established in Canada, the federal government did promise to cover 50% of the costs. It is false to claim that the government continued to cover 50% of the health care costs even up until last year, and the hon. member knows it.

Quarantine ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 30 consideration of the motion 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.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to speak to private member's Bill C-428 presented by the member of Parliament for Peace River.

Bill C-428 amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to “prohibit the production, possession and sale of any substance or any equipment or other material that is intended for use in production of or trafficking in methamphetamine”.

I am supporting this bill at second reading. I am recommending to all members of the Liberal caucus to support it and vote for it at second reading in order that it may be referred to committee for further study.

It is a very short bill. The bill would make it a specific crime to produce, possess or sell substances or equipment intended for use in the production or trafficking of methamphetamine. It does so, as I mentioned, by amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which is Canada's federal drug control statute.

The street name for methamphetamine, because that is essentially what we are talking about, is crystal meth. It is also called ice, crystal, glass, jib and tina, for instance. It is a chemical stimulant that creates a very strong effect on the central nervous system. I would like to give members an example.

There is a study called “Coping with Meth Lab Hazards” by Geoff Betsinger, dated November 2006. It will be presented at a national conference. A DEA study states:

Methamphetamine, like cocaine, is a potent central nervous system stimulant. It can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and rate of breathing; it dilates the pupils; and [it] produces euphoria, increased alertness, a sense of increased energy, and tremors. High doses or chronic use have been associated with increased nervousness, irritability, and paranoia. Withdrawal from high doses produces severe depression. Methamphetamine can be a lethal, dangerous and unpredictable drug.

The study notes that in large doses there can be aggressive behaviour, auditory hallucinations and paranoia, with delusions and psychosis. These are frequent effects. The study states:

Abusers tend to engage in violent behaviour; mood changes are common and the abuser can change from friendly to hostile rapidly. The paranoia produced by methamphetamine use results in suspiciousness, hyperactive behavior, and dramatic mood swings.

Crystal meth is easy to produce in small, clandestine labs set up in any place from homes to hotel rooms by mixing a cocktail of about 15 chemicals that are usually easily available. The main ingredient for producing crystal meth is pseudoephedrine, a cold remedy, and it is cooked with chemicals commonly found at a hardware store, such as red phosphorus, iodine, ammonia, paint thinner, ether, Drano, and the lithium from batteries. The recipe for crystal meth is widely available on the Internet, but I will not mention the sites.

It can also be very profitable. Police say an investment of about $150 can yield up to $10,000 worth of the drug. While the manufacturing process is relatively simple, it is also toxic and dangerous. Each kilogram of crystal meth produces five to seven kilograms of chemical waste, which is often dumped down the drain or in the backyard. Another byproduct is toxic gases that often can lead to fire or explosions in the lab.

When a crystal meth lab is discovered, a special clandestine drug lab team is brought in to investigate it, as is a chemist from Health Canada who advises on the dismantling of the lab. A house that has contained a crystal meth lab needs to be decontaminated and can remain uninhabitable for months.

In fact, this study that I have mentioned talks about how “the greatest risk of long-term exposure” to crystal meth and the toxic waste byproduct is assumed by “unsuspecting inhabitants of buildings formerly used by clandestine drug laboratory operators where residual contamination may exist inside and outside the structure”.

For instance, we know that in many cases insurance companies will refuse to insure a home rented legally to individuals who established within the home a clandestine lab that resulted in damages. The decontamination will not be covered by the insurance policy even though the owners of the property had no involvement and no knowledge that these illegal activities were taking place on their property.

In Canada the problem of crystal meth production and use seems to be growing. For instance, in 1998 four clandestine crystal meth labs were seized in Canada. By 2003 that figure was up to 37. The World Health Organization says that methamphetamine, after marijuana, is the most widely used illicit drug in the world.

I would like to talk about the previous government, our Liberal government, because it did recognize the growing problem of crystal meth. In August 2005 our government increased the maximum penalties for possession, trafficking, importation, exportation and production of methamphetamine. Our Liberal government moved methamphetamine to schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which is reserved for the most dangerous drugs. We also added four substances used in the production of methamphetamine to the list of controlled chemicals under the precursor control regulations.

We learned at the end of May that the current minority Conservative government will be unveiling a new national drug strategy. We would hope that it will also deal with the issue of crystal meth. We do not know what its national drug strategy will be, but we hope that the Conservative government will take the issue as seriously as did the previous government.

There are a few issues surrounding the way in which Bill C-428 is drafted. While I have not had an opportunity to have extensive discussions with the member for Peace River, who presented the bill to the House, assistants in his office have assured us that he worked with the Library of Parliament and with the office of the Minister of Justice to ensure that the bill would be effective while not leading to undue criminalization.

However, there is no concrete evidence reflecting the statement. That is one of the reasons why we Liberals would support referring the bill at second reading to committee so that we can have further information and further assurances based on fact and science from the member for Peace River.

I will end by stating that the Liberals, the official opposition, do recognize the seriousness and gravity of the difficulties that crystal meth presents to our society. We also recognize the difficulties that it presents to our law enforcement and to the safety of our communities and Canadians.

That is why, as I explained several minutes previously, the Liberal government took serious action to deal with crystal meth, with its production, manufacture, trafficking, possession, et cetera, and it was also part of our national drug strategy. We would hope that it will be part of the Conservatives' national drug strategy, which they say they will be announcing shortly. We hope that after 16 months “shortly” will not be another 16 months.

We look forward to seeing all members of the House support sending the bill presented by the member for Peace River, Bill C-428, to committee at second reading.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my hon. friend, the member for Peace River. I am fully aware of his deep concern for the problems that crystal meth inflicts on Canadians. I commend him for drawing the attention of this House, through this private member's bill, to the complex difficulties created by meth.

Crystal meth is a substance that can alter and damage the brain. It is a drug that is incredibly addictive, and the potential for abuse is very high.

Meth abuse can result in serious behavioural problems, psychotic symptoms and dangerous medical complications, such as cardiovascular problems, strokes and even death. Meth addiction is a chronic relapse disease that is notoriously tough to treat.

The illegal production and sale of this drug are wreaking havoc for thousands of Canadians.

Meth and other synthetic drugs have cost us millions of dollars in direct health expenses. They have cost us tens of millions of dollars in law enforcement activities. Worst of all, they have cost many lives and great heartbreak to families and friends.

Today, I would like to briefly talk about the magnitude of the problem with crystal meth and to give an overview of what the federal government is doing to fight the scourge of illegal drugs in general. I will conclude by talking about the measures taken by the government with respect to crystal meth and its abuse.

Why is crystal meth so insidious? First is the extent of the problem.

I have already touched on some of the serious health related issues, the harm caused by abuse, addiction and other problems. It is also easy to produce illegally. Recipes for producing meth abound on the Web, and books about how to make meth are readily available from popular online bookstores. The dozen or so ingredients and the manufacturing equipment are relatively easy to find.

I believe that regardless of our party affiliations, we can all agree that none of us would want a meth lab in our neighbourhood. None of us would want a meth lab to be produced near our schools, recreational areas or on the farm down the road. I am also sure none of us would want this relatively inexpensive, easy to produce, yet deadly drug in the hands of our children or anyone else's child.

A further difficulty is the hazardous nature of meth production. The ingredients can cause chemical burns and they are prone to explode in amateur hands. First responders called to the scene of an illicit lab face serious dangers, as do nearby residents. The environmental hazards associated with meth production are also very real.

Moreover, we have to consider the actual social costs in dollars of illicit drug abuse. Thanks to a groundbreaking study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse released just last year, we have a much clearer picture of the direct and indirect costs to Canadians and the economy.

The harm from illegal drugs, including meth, accounted for more than $1.1 billion in direct health care costs and more than double that, $2.3 billion, for law enforcement. Productivity losses, because of illness and premature death, reached an appalling $4.7 billion. That is more than $8 billion in one year and the costs are rising.

Information on the specific costs associated with meth abuse alone is a bit harder to track down but, nevertheless, we know that the social costs are substantial and that meth use is very common.

For all those reasons, the insidious nature of harmful meth production and use and the costs to the economy, I want to emphasize that this government takes the problem very seriously.

The government is committed to fighting the production and abuse of illegal drugs.

Over the past decades, the core aim of Canada's effort to combat drug abuse has been a constant fight to see Canadians live in a society that is increasingly free from the harm associated with substance abuse. We must not underestimate the complexities of dealing with this deep-rooted problem.

Illegal drug use must be fought on several fronts. It must be challenged as a social phenomenon and it must be confronted directly as a health issue, an issue for the justice system and, in some cases, as with meth, an environmental issue.

This is why Health Canada and many other federal departments and agencies work closely with their counterparts in provinces and territories in supporting a range of prevention, treatment and enforcement initiatives. A comprehensive approach is vital and the provinces and territories are essential partners in the integrated nationwide campaign.

We undertake and sponsor research to understand substance abuse as a basis for effective decision making. Federal, provincial and territorial governments support a wide array of community based education and prevention programs to discourage and treat harmful substance use and to root out laboratories that manufacture synthetic drugs such as meth.

Health Canada will continue to work with its partners in the Department of Justice and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada to keep legislation, regulations and policies current and relevant.

Progress is, of course, incremental and, since there are no simple answers to this issue nor any magic solution to changing the behaviour of people abusing drugs, I believe that slowly, and sometimes very slowly, we are gaining ground.

Now I would like to discuss some measures taken recently by the government to fight crystal meth and its abuse.

First, we announced a national anti-drug strategy in the March budget with specific funding for an array of prevention, treatment and enforcement measures.

Second, in 2005, meth was moved up to schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This means that the courts can impose a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of importing, exporting, possessing for the purpose of exporting, producing and trafficking meth. Simple possession can draw a sentence of up to seven years.

Third, the precursor control regulations have been amended to include, and thus regulate the activities with, four additional substances that can be used in the illicit production of meth.

My hon. friend has given this a considerable amount of consideration and I think we can all support the member's intention. However, one of our concerns is with the penalties that would be applied when the bill's prohibitions are contravened. The bill does not establish any specific penalties and, therefore, the act's general, and much less onerous, penalty section would apply, for instance, a maximum of three years instead of five to seven years.

Perhaps more significantly, legitimate business and law-abiding Canadians would suffer immediately and seriously because, as I mentioned earlier, the same chemicals and equipment used to produce meth are also used to produce or are found in a large number of industrial, consumer and health products, ranging from cold medications to fabric dyes.

As such, an amendment would be required to make sure that businesses and people will not be caught by the offences imposed by the bill.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, I applaud the intentions of the member for Peace River, and I support the principle of the bill to stop the production and trafficking of crystal meth.

As per the amendment or as per—

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this very timely topic and I commend the hon. member for Peace River for introducing Bill C-428. I am fully aware of the member's interest in this area and of his concern for the problems that illegal drugs inflict on Canadians.

I know the member and I have spoken about his concern about his constituency and the fact that crystal meth is something that is growing in our country and something that has to be addressed. I want to congratulate him especially for drawing the attention of the House to the complex difficulties created by methamphetamine.

We know that methamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamine but its effects last longer and are more toxic. Methamphetamine has a similar chemical structure to that of amphetamine but it is has a stronger effect on the central nervous system. The appearance and euphoric effects vary with the method of administration but they are nearly immediate and can last for 12 hours or even more.

Novice users can obtain a high by ingesting only an eighth of a gram of methamphetamine, while a regular user ingests more to get this effect, up to 250 milligrams. On a runner binge lasting several days, the user may take multiple grams of methamphetamine.

Unlike many other drugs of abuse, methamphetamine not only affects the release of certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine, but also damages the neural tissue within the brain itself.

Methamphetamine exposure can damage the areas of the brain related to both cognition and memory. In some cases, even years after discontinuation of use, some brain functioning may not be fully restored to pre-methamphetamine levels. For this reason, methamphetamine addiction places an individual at heightened risk of long term cognitive and psychological problems, including episodes of violent behaviour, paranoia, anxiety, confusion and insomnia.

The acute effects of methamphetamine include increased heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure and alertness. Methamphetamine consumption induces a strong feeling of euphoria and is highly psychologically addictive. This potent central nervous system stimulant affects the brain by acting on the mechanisms responsible for regulating heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, appetite, attention and responses associated with alertness or alarm conditions.

The effects of meth, such as increased attention, decreased fatigue, increased activity and decreased appetite, together with its low cost and variety of administration routes, make methamphetamine a drug of choice for street youth and partygoers.

This is very unfortunate because often young people have a misconception of the addictive nature of this very dangerous drug. Often they can get hooked on it very easily and very quickly.

It is a common belief that methamphetamine gives people super human strength. Methamphetamine users often become heavily immersed in what they are doing and are prone to violent outbreaks. Chronic methamphetamine use attacks the immune system and users are often prone to various types of infections. There are also short and long term health effects, which the parliamentary secretary talked about earlier in his speech. They include paranoia, liver damage, brain damage and depression.

The rate at which methamphetamine takes effect depends on the method of administration. Taken orally in pill form or as tea, methamphetamine takes effect in 20 to 30 minutes. When snorted, its effects can be felt in three to five minutes. Injection and inhalation by smoking produce effects more quickly, in seven to fifteen seconds. They only last for a few minutes, but are extremely pleasant to the user. The half life of methamphetamine, the time it takes for 50% of the drug to be removed from the body, is 12 hours.

Methamphetamine use has a number of impacts on users, our communities and on society generally. The quality of life among users of methamphetamine is typically greatly diminished. Furthermore, individuals may be unmotivated to seek help as methamphetamine use can create seemingly high levels of energy and productivity. Communities can become vulnerable to petty crime, social disorder, associated risks to health and increases in violence, large scale labs and drug trafficking. When a user is addicted to this drug, it not only affects the user but the families and communities around the user.

Methamphetamine production operations also pose serious public safety and health hazards to those in and around production operations. These operations can result in serious physical injury, from explosions, fires, chemical burns and toxic fumes. They produce environmental hazards, pose cleanup problems and endanger the lives and health of community residents. In addition, first responders are also placed in extraordinarily dangerous situations when responding to calls where clandestine labs exist.

The collateral damage of methamphetamine includes effects on families, school staff and students, law enforcers, fire departments, paramedics, health care practitioners, businesses and property owners. These individuals experience second-hand symptoms of methamphetamine use.

First responders may experience exposure to production byproducts, fire or explosion hazards and may be subject to the violence and aggression from addicts or frustration and stress from inadequate resources or judicial restraints preventing them from taking action.

Parents may also experience emotional and financial stress as a child goes through treatment, strain from missing work, fear, embarrassment, shame and guilt. The family may also encounter gang related crime, contamination, violence and disciplinary problems as the child continues to abuse the drug.

Staff and students in the schools may face users with behavioural problems, classroom disruption, absenteeism and negative peer influence.

There are also significant health risks and costs associated with dismantling labs and removing processing agents from these locations. Currently certain expenses are borne by the responding police services, property owners and insurers.

The bill put forward by member for Peace River proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so as to prohibit the production, possession and sale of any substance, equipment or other material that is intended for use in production of or in trafficking in methamphetamine.

I support the bill. However, I note that it does not contain a specific penalty attached to the new prohibitions. We have spoken about this and I know the intent is to deal with this. The bill would be improved if it contained such a penalty. As well, the bill could impact on numerous retailers selling common articles for legitimate purposes.

I believe the bill could be improved if the criminal intent was clarified, as the member for Peace River has discussed with members on this side of the House, such that innocent or legitimate activities would not get caught.

The bill could very well provide us with further tools to counter and combat the methamphetamine problem. I urge all hon. members to support this bill.

I again thank the member for Peace River for his insightful dialogue and hard work on this bill toward ensuring that crystal meth is no longer on the streets of Canada.