Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to begin the debate at third reading of Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
I am pleased to note that this bill was adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of which I am a member. I would like to point out to the House that the bill was amended in committee and that most of the amendments were proposed by members of the Bloc Québécois and members of the NDP. I am pleased to see that these members worked hard and were able to submit constructive amendments to the bill, amendments which were adopted by the committee.
The Government of Canada recognizes that serious drug crimes including marijuana grow operations and clandestine methamphetamine labs continue to pose a threat to the safety of our streets and our communities. Bill C-15 is part of our strategy to address this problem. The bill proposes amendments to strengthen the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act provisions regarding penalties for serious drug offences by ensuring that these types of offences are punished by an imposition of mandatory minimum penalties. With these amendments we are demonstrating our commitment to improving the safety and security of communities across Canada from coast to coast to coast.
During its review of the bill, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard from the Minister of Justice, government officials, including officials from the Department of Justice, and a range of stakeholders, including representatives from law enforcement. The bill was supported by law enforcement representatives who testified and by various other stakeholders, although the bill was not supported universally, as I am sure my friends from the opposition will point out.
As has been mentioned before, the government acknowledges that not all drug offenders and drug trades pose the same risk of danger and violence. Bill C-15 recognizes this. That is why what is being proposed in this bill is a focused and targeted approach. Accordingly, the new penalties will not apply to possession offences, nor will they apply to offences involving all types of drugs. The bill focuses on the more serious drug offences and the most serious drugs are targeted. Overall, the proposals represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug offences, such as trafficking, importation, exportation and production.
For schedule 1 drugs, that is, for drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, the bill proposes a one year minimum for the offence of trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking in the presence of certain aggravating factors.
The aggravating factors would be that the offence is committed for the benefit of, or at the direction of, or in association with organized crime; or the offence involved violence or threat of violence, or weapons or threat of use of weapons; or the offence is committed by someone who was convicted in the previous 10 years of a designated drug offence. Moreover, if youth are present or the offence occurs in a prison, the minimum sentence is increased to two years' imprisonment.
In the case of importing, exporting and possession for the purposes of exporting, the minimum penalty is one year if these offences are committed for the purposes of trafficking.
I should point out that this part of the bill was amended in committee by the government so that an offender who commits one of these offences and abuses his authority or his position, or if the offender has access to a restricted area and uses that access to commit a crime, a one year minimum penalty will be imposed. Moreover, the penalty will be raised to two years if these offences involve more than one kilogram of a schedule 1 drug.
A minimum of two years is provided for a production offence involving a schedule 1 drug. The minimum sentence for production of a schedule 1 drug increases to three years where aggravating factors relating to health and safety are present. These factors are: if the individual used real property that belonged to a third person to commit the offence; or if the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who are in the location where the offence was committed, or in the immediate area thereof; or if the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or if the individual placed or set a trap.
For schedule 2 drugs, somewhat softer drugs such as marijuana and cannabis resin, the proposed mandatory minimum penalty for trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking is one year if certain aggravating factors such as violence, recidivism, or organized crime are present. If factors such as trafficking to youth are present, the minimum sentence, quite appropriately, is increased to two years.
For the offence of importing or exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting marijuana, the minimum penalty would be one year imprisonment if the offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking. The government amendment mentioned above would also apply for an offender who abuses his authority, position or access to a restricted area in committing the offence, and he would also receive the minimum one-year penalty.
For the offence of marijuana production, the bill as amended proposes mandatory penalties based on the number of plants involved. For the production of 5 to 200 plants, if the plants are cultivated for the purposes of trafficking, the penalty would be 6 months. The minimum number of plants was raised to five plants from one plant as a result of an amendment that was proposed and vigorously debated at committee.
For the production of 201 to 500 plants, the minimum mandatory sentence would be one year; for the production of more than 500 plants, it would be two years; and, finally, for the production of cannabis resin for the purpose of trafficking, it would be a minimum jail sentence of one year.
The minimum sentences for the production of Schedule II drugs would be increased by 50% where any of the aggravating factors relating to health and safety that I have just described are present.
The maximum penalty for producing marijuana would be doubled from 7 to 14 years' imprisonment.
Amphetamines, as well as the so-called date rape drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol, would be transferred from Schedule III to Schedule I, and would thereby allow the courts to impose higher maximum penalties for offences involving these all too common drugs where unsuspecting victims are subjected to date rape.
The bill, as further amended in committee, would give the courts the discretion to impose a penalty other than the mandatory minimum on a serious drug offender who has successfully completed a court treatment program. I submit that this diversionary tactic is one of the strengths of the bill, and I know this is universally supported by the members of the committee.
Last, I should point out that the bill was amended to add a new section to the act. Proposed section 8.1 would require that a parliamentary committee undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the bill two years after it comes into force.
To conclude, I am pleased that Bill C-15 has been thoroughly examined and rigorously debated by the justice committee and that we are rapidly approaching our goal of seeing this legislation passed into law. The bill was amended in committee, both by government members and by members of the opposition, and in my view these amendments are in keeping with the spirit of this bill and consistent with its objectives.
Bill C-15 is part of the government's continued commitment to take steps to protect Canadians and to make our streets and communities safer. We hear time and time again from our constituents that Canadians want a justice system with clear and strong laws that denounce and deter serious crimes, including serious drug offences. They want laws that impose penalties that adequately reflect the serious nature of these crimes. This bill would accomplish that lofty goal.