House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an excellent question. One of the things to be regulated is pill compression machines. In fact, many of the precursors and the things that are to be regulated by this new law, if it is enacted, includes things that are legal in and of themselves. However, if they are collected together with the purpose of manufacturing the drugs, crystal meth and ecstasy, then it becomes illegal.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that no one here doubts the danger posed by the substances targeted in the bill introduced by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

I am extremely surprised that this government has not yet realized it, especially since two government members are themselves convinced. I am surprised that it has not already included these substances in the schedule of prohibited substances.

I appreciate the response I received. Sometimes, if we can approach legislation in a non-partisan manner, we can work more intelligently. I already understood there was a small difference between the offence set out in the legislation currently before us, which was introduced by the hon. member, and the offences set out concerning other substances that are considered dangerous.

As for other substances, basically, here is what is prohibited: the possession, manufacture, import and above all, possession for the purpose of trafficking—a more serious offence than simple possession. This corresponds to the philosophy of all Canadian legislation that prohibits substances, including narcotics and other kinds of drugs considered dangerous.

This bill has one new aspect, and I would like to elaborate on that part of it. The new aspect is the creation of an offence regarding the possession of certain substances with the intention of manufacturing methamphetamine or ecstasy. The essence of the crime is therefore the intention. I understand that intentions are proven based on circumstances, but one must be familiar with the substances used to manufacture methamphetamine, also known as “ice”, and ecstasy.

The ingredients for methamphetamine include a surprising number of substances. These substances are found in over the counter preparations such as remedies for coughs, colds and allergies. These remedies contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Other substances are found in acetone, rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, iodine, ether-based starting fluid, gas additives such as methanol, drain cleaners (sulphuric acid) and lithium batteries. I do not think that people are going to open batteries to extract the lithium and then use it in the recipe for “ice”. It is also found in rock salt, matchbooks (red phosphorus), sodium hydroxide, paint thinner, aluminum foil, glassware, coffee filters and propane tanks. These items can be found in almost any home in varying quantities. That is what increases the danger of selling these substances. You do not need specialized knowledge to make them; these substances are easy to find.

In this case, not only do you have to find these substances in someone's home but there must be circumstances that establish that these substances were collected with the intention of manufacturing drugs. Obviously, the intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the case of possession for the purposes of trafficking, you must prove that there were two intentions: the manufacture and the trafficking of the substance. The intention of a person who has collected all these substances surely is not just to use them but also to deal in them.

Does this offence, which is slightly different from others already set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, make a significant contribution to the fight against the use of these two substances?

Why has the government not yet amended the schedules, which, I believe, could be done by order in council or by regulation? Why have these substances not yet been listed in the schedules?

I am not just a father anymore. Eight and a half months ago, I became a grandfather to twin girls. Every day, I understand that Bernard Landry was speaking the truth when he so often said that becoming a parent makes one wise, but becoming a grandparent makes one mad. If I do crazy things now and then, it is because I have reached that stage. All the same, the greatest happiness we can experience is to see our children feel the joy we felt when they were born.

I heard my children talk about these drugs well before they were ready to get engaged and married, which they both did eventually. These drugs have been on the market for a long time.

I do not think that the member's proposed measures are the best way to make these drugs illegal. I realize that he is proposing a nuance that might apply to existing offences, such as possessing anything intended for use in the production of dangerous substances. This nuance may apply to other substances listed in the act that the member wishes to amend.

I know that a private member faces a lot of obstacles when trying to do something he feels is important. I want to give him a chance to defend his bill before the committees in the hope that someday, the government will understand the problem and do what it should have done years ago.

All the same, this bill enables the member to add an important nuance to this kind of offence by specifying that it is not the distinct use of harmless substances such as lighters, gasoline additives and exhaust pipe cleaners that is prohibited, but the accumulation of such things with the intent to produce something dangerous.

I will certainly offer my support and that of my party to further his bill. I think that we should applaud and thank him.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-475. I would like to thank the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for introducing the bill. It is very similar to a bill that was introduced awhile ago. I spoke to that bill and it went to committee. The fact that it is back before the House is evidence of the hon. member's serious intent to bring forward this issue. We certainly appreciate that.

I want to make a few general points about the bill as it relates to the larger issue of drug policy and what we have seen from the government. While on the one hand the bill deals very specifically with substances that are involved in the selling, production or import of amphetamines and ecstasy, as it relates to the larger issue, we have to be aware that reliance on an enforcement strategy and an approach that is focused on the Criminal Code is not going to solve the very major issues we are facing with drug addiction and substance use in our society.

Because the hon. member is from the metro Vancouver area, I am sure he is familiar with what the city of Vancouver is calling the four pillar approach. It is an approach that is more comprehensive. It focuses on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

One thing that really concerns us is that we have seen from the current government an overemphasis on enforcement. This bill would very much be a part of that. For example, we know that Canada spends about 73% of its drug policy budget on enforcement; only about 14% goes to treatment, 7% to research, 2.6% to prevention and 2.6% to harm reduction.

When we look at the real picture of what is going on in Canadian society, based on reports that have been produced, we know that in 1994, 28% of Canadians reported to have used illicit drugs, but by 2004 that number had gone up to 45%. That is pretty staggering. I would say that even the United Nations now recognizes that a broader approach including harm reduction is a very important component in a comprehensive drug policy.

While on the one hand there is this bill which has a very narrow spectrum, I would hope that the hon. member would also advocate for a broader approach and that we would not see the kind of penalization on things around harm reduction. I am sure the hon. member is familiar with Insite in Vancouver, the only safe injection facility in North America. To me the real issue is about prevention and about approaching this as a health issue.

We see that the Conservative government relies heavily on the enforcement mechanism. In fact, in 2007 the government dropped harm reduction from Canada's drug strategy. I really feel that the statistics are only going to get worse.

One real problem we are facing is this illusion, this political stance being put forward of continually seeking tougher laws on enforcement. Of course, there was Bill C-15 in the last session of Parliament, which called for mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. The political stance that somehow this is going to solve very complex issues in our society is an illusion. It is just a political stance because the reality, research, and scientific work that is being done shows us that only when all of the components are present do we begin to actually make changes.

For example, I would point to the National Framework for Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances in Canada 2008 working group. The working group is made up of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, first nations, the Canadian Executive Council on Addictions, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services. It is a very professional body. It points out in its national framework for action that research findings suggest that providing appropriate services and supports across a range of systems not only reduces substance use problems, but also improves a wide range of outcomes related to health, social functioning and criminal justice.

I use this information because it is further evidence that unless we have some kind of equilibrium and common sense approach to drug policy in this country, we are actually not going to change anything. If we continue along a path of criminalizing drug users, which is what Bill C-15 would do, an over-emphasis on an enforcement strategy, and somehow fooling people into believing that we are going to deal with this issue by having more cops or tougher enforcement, the evidence in this country shows us that is not the case. I wanted to paint that slightly bigger picture because it is very relevant in this debate.

As my hon. colleague from the Bloc has pointed out, the fact that the bill does not name the products and that the various substances that go into making these drugs are so readily available makes enforcement very challenging. That is all the more reason, particularly when talking about drug use by young people, it is very critical to emphasize the prevention and education, particularly realistic education about drug use.

I have had a lot of concerns and qualms about sending police officers into schools regarding drug education. I ask myself whether we would send police officers into schools to provide sex education. No, we would not, so why would we do it for drug use? It is because these substances are illegal and I do not think kids get a very realistic and honest education about what these substances are, that they need to be aware of their own health and what they need to take care of.

I hope the member and other members of the Conservative caucus would focus on some of those issues and bring them forward in bills as well. We in the NDP will certainly support the bill going to committee because it requires examination, but I want to emphasize that this is just a tiny piece of a much bigger issue that is not being dealt with in any kind of appropriate way by the Conservative government, and that is what we need to focus on.

We will certainly support it going to committee. We want witnesses to be heard. We would like to look at the details of the bill and examine some of the issues about what the products are and why it is that the existing Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is not adequate to deal with this issue that the member has brought forward.

Let us not lose sight of the bigger picture. Let us not get so caught up in the spin, political manoeuvring, and the stance that takes place that we have seen with the Conservatives, that they see this as somehow the be-all and end-all because it is not. It is quite shameful that in this country we would have a drug policy that is now so unbalanced, over-focused on enforcement, and under-supported in terms of treatment, research, prevention and harm reduction. Those are very critical elements.

If we are really genuine about supporting local communities and helping the kids who need to go into treatment, then federal dollars have to go there, too. I appreciate the member reading some of the comments by people who are involved in treatment, but let us listen to what they are really saying. One of the things they are really saying is that there is not enough treatment available. We do not have treatment on demand in this country and we need to have it.

We in the NDP will support the bill going to committee, but let us also focus on the much bigger picture.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand in the House this evening and debate Bill C-475. It is a bill that is close to my heart. I had the opportunity to bring forward a bill that was very similar to it in the last Parliament. I appreciate the support I received from members of all parties. It demonstrates that we recognize this issue affects communities regardless of where they are located in the country. This is not just an issue that results in harm to young people. Every community is harmed when young people, or people of any age, become addicted to drugs.

I want to thank the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for bringing Bill C-475 forward.

Before I go on, I thought I would take a moment to thank both the member and his constituents. I am hopeful that some of them are listening to us tonight. Of course many of them are still involved in the efforts they have been involved in over the last number of years, preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics.

The people in my colleague's community made us proud in their willingness and their hospitality as they hosted the Olympics. They are now getting ready to host some of the venues for the Paralympic Games as well. We appreciate those people for putting their best foot forward, for demonstrating what it is to be Canadian in terms of hospitality and truly demonstrating to the participants, the people who were covering the games as well as those who watched the games, just truly what it is to be Canadian.

We thank the people of the member's constituency and the people in surrounding communities for their great efforts in hosting the world over the last couple of weeks and for hosting the world over the next couple of weeks.

It is truly a wonderful opportunity for me to support the bill. Again, I would reiterate the fact that I brought forward a similar bill. This is an issue about which I continue to be passionate. My bill went all the way to the Senate, but unfortunately it stalled there. An election happened and my bill was not brought into force. However, I believe this is an issue that members of Parliament of all stripes can get behind and support.

We had an opportunity to listen to members of the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois as they talked about some of the issues surrounding drugs and how they affected communities from coast to coast.

The national drug strategy is of importance to our government. We have put a lot of resources into it. We have provided millions of dollars toward educating young people about the harm and effects of drug use.

Our government has put additional resources into treatment and toward helping those people who are addicted. We also put in place supports for people who combat drug proliferation in communities. We have given more resources to the RCMP as well as to police forces across the country. These are partnerships that are essential in combating the proliferation of drugs in our communities.

The thing about crystal meth, or methamphetamines, and ecstasy is they have a characteristic that is different than some other drugs in their addictive quality. All of us in the House need to recognize crystal meth and ecstasy are not drugs that can easily be considered to recreational drugs and that they do not have consequences or harm.

One of the reasons I became involved in the cause to try to rid our communities of methamphetamines was because of the addictive nature of these drugs and the impact they were having in my constituency, on people of all demographics, disproportionately harming first nations communities and also harming people in all walks of life. Young students in high school, college and university were being impacted by this. I saw how this impacted professional people, those who had experimented with the drugs and were struggling with addiction as a result of it.

As I looked into the issue more, what was alarming to me was Canada had kind of stalled in its efforts to get a hold on the issue of methamphetamines. We had moved from being an importing nation of methamphetamines to being an exporting nation of these drugs. It really was of concern to me, so I started to look into it more and more.

What I saw was that what made us different from other countries that had moved from being exporting nations to importing nations was the legislation surrounding the issues that we are talking about today and the issues that are actually combined in this bill in terms of giving police forces the opportunity and the mechanisms to go into especially organized crime that proliferate these clandestine labs and just put huge amounts of these harmful drugs out into our communities.

Most recently, the United Nations has commented on Canada's place in terms of the fight regarding the proliferation of methamphetamines. We are not doing a great job. It is something that I felt was important for us to address as parliamentarians. I see members of all parties supporting this, and I appreciate that. I commend them for that. I am hoping that they will give speedy passage to this bill in committee.

What we do not want to see happen again is this bill being stalled out in some other place and then not have it come into force. I think Canadians from coast to coast would come together in support of this measure. I think we as members of Parliament representing Canadians coast to coast need to represent that alarm and those concerns.

Every time I go into classrooms, of which I make a regular policy of doing, I talk about my job and I talk about the harm of methamphetamines, crystal meth, the addictive qualities and the destruction that these drugs can cause in the lives of young people, and I get an education. I often hear from students who are in grades 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 telling me that they are fully aware of where to get methamphetamines, crystal meth and ecstasy in their communities. I am also learning about some of the marketing tactics of the organized criminals who are actually selling this stuff.

What I found interesting, and when I say interesting, I find it very alarming, was that they are now actually putting this highly addictive drug into a candy form to sell to young people. That is one of the most despicable, most startling things that I as a parent have come to learn, that we have one of the most addictive drugs being marketed by organized crime and directed at young kids.

What I am also learning from people who are involved in combating organized crime is that crystal meth and methamphetamines are actually being cut into other drugs because of the addictive qualities of methamphetamines, making other drugs more addictive by putting in the methamphetamines.

I sometimes hear the suggestion that there are certain strategies that should be employed in terms of addressing this. I just want to warn those people who would promote the idea of harm reduction that this is one of those drugs that we should have a zero tolerance for in our communities. Because of the addictive quality, because of the harm that it does to young people and in terms of the destruction that it does to the human body, especially the young human body, this is one of those drugs that we should have a zero tolerance for in our communities.

We should do everything that we can to remove the possibility of people, especially young people, getting their hands on this drug.

I would implore all members to consider becoming fully educated about this particular drug, the ramifications, the characteristics, the addictive qualities of this drug, and the impacts that it is having in our communities from coast to coast.

There are several things that are interesting about this bill. I know they have been highlighted. This bill is actually unique in its approach to combating a particular drug. There are a number of reasons that we need to do that. One of the things that we have to recognize is that methamphetamines are in fact a synthesized drug. It is something that is manufactured in the place and oftentimes in the communities where it will be sold. So it takes a different approach.

It is not something that has to be grown and it is not something that can be imported, so police forces do not have opportunities to intervene in the transfer or creation of this particular drug. From its production point to its sale point is often a matter of hours, especially in highly organized criminal organizations. That is something that is important for us to recognize and for us to realize as we approach the bill.

I commend the hon. member for his work on this. I thank him for taking up the cause and continuing to advocate to protect our young families and young children, as well as people of all ages. I support him in this and hope that all members will support him.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for his address on this particular bill.

While I agree with a lot of what he had to say and a lot of his sentiments, I have to take exception to one or two of his points, the first one being that the bill has been slowed down in the House and can be obstructed by members of the opposition.

I want to point out to the hon. member that he admitted where the logjam was, which was when the Prime Minister called an election one year ahead of his own fixed election date. His problems with the bill really started with the procedural process. As long as the member recognizes that, we will do on our side what we can to move the bill along.

I think the Liberal Party member who spoke earlier made a very good point when he suggested that the bill should have been introduced by the government. This is not the only bill in that category. Another one is by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul dealing with trafficking of children. That too is an example of a bill that the government itself should have introduced.

I admire the members who are doing this because, having been around this business for a long time, I know how hard it is at times to take on one's own government. I admire them for making the effort to bring ideas into the House as private members' bills, which the government will not necessarily accept. It is a longer and more tortuous process but I do not think they should give up on those ideas. If there any other ideas that members have that they cannot get through their caucuses or through their government, they should do what the member did. Bring them in as private members' bills and let us debate them here. The members might be surprised to find that those bills might actually become law at the end of the day.

I want to deal with several issues. One of them is the whole business of the pill compression machine issue. Even though the member tells me it will more or less be covered by the bill, I really do not see where that is automatic.

I see there is a provision for a schedule and the schedule will deal with substances. I note that proposed section 7.1 states that, “No person shall possess, produce, sell or import anything knowing that it will be used to produce or traffic in a substance referred to in” these schedules.

Whether the member thinks that pill-making compression machines are going to be covered by that, I am just not sure. It seems to me that perhaps it might be dealt with by a special measure, perhaps through Health Canada regulations. I am just not sure how the member would proceed, but I think it maybe should be dealt with in addition to what the member is referring to.

When we track this through, the whole issue becomes one of money. There is a saying, follow the money. I think that is the way the government should be looking at this. When we follow the money we find out this is a problem that involves big business, that this is really a big organized business.

The member in his speech has pointed out there are big organized gangs operating this business. As a matter of fact, the Americans who spoke to me about the pill compression machines pointed out to me, as was also indicated by one of the members tonight, that this has now turned into a problem where Canada is a big exporter of these pills. The Americans say there are labs in Toronto that are producing huge quantities for the American market.

The Americans have identified the pill compression machines as the reason for this and say that in the United States they are controlling the inputs, the pill making machines, so the bad guys have simply moved their operation up to Toronto and into Canada to get around the rules that they have there on the pill compression machines. I am not sure that is entirely the full part of the problem but certainly some of them think that it is.

I want to get back to the whole area of the money and big business. Our party and our critic has pointed out this issue that the Conservative government tends to focus a lot on enforcement. We have been through this story before with the United States, with Ronald Reagan and his mandatory minimums and the “three strikes you're out”. What have we seen after 25 years? We have seen prisons filled to capacity. Many more prisons are being built by private persons. At the end of the day, however, the crime rate is even higher than it was before. So once again, let us do things that work.

Clearly, we need to chase small time drug dealers and put them in jail, but we should not be measuring our success by how many of those people we pick up, prosecute and put in jail when the problem just keeps expanding. We need to look at what else is going on.

When we look behind the veils we see that there is organized crime. It is not motorcycle guys driving around behind this. The men in suits who live in fancy houses are funding this business. It costs money to buy these ingredients, to set up these houses, to buy pill compression machines and hire the expertise to make these drugs. Based on what I have read, the average person cannot cook up this stuff on a stove. The person needs to have some sort of a background in chemistry in order to do that. Otherwise they would be blowing themselves up and taking the neighbourhood with it.

I have to admit that I never heard of these drugs until mid-age. When we grew up we never knew about drugs until we hit the end of high school into university and then they were simply the common drugs that we know, such as marijuana and so on. However, we never contemplated what we see going on here. The member in his speech talked about these pills being made with smiley faces mixed in with terrible and dangerous chemicals that are basically being pushed by essentially big business corporations onto the street to little street dealers to go out and entice kids in school to take them.

At the end of the day, the big businesses have money so they hire lawyers. The lawyers tell them how to protect themselves. The reason law enforcement is catching just the little fish is that the big guys are never at the scene of the crime. However, they are funding and controlling the operation, which is what we need to address here.

I have been highly supportive of the white collar criminal legislation. The member is suggesting that the bill should have a million dollar limit but I am saying that is way too high. It should maybe be $100,000 or only $50,000. When white collar criminals steal from people they should know they will be going to jail for a minimum sentence of a couple of years and maybe that will stop them.

Controlled Drugs and Substances ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 6:57 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 6:57 p.m.)