moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, I take great pleasure to rise on the last sitting day before Mother's Day to speak to Bill C-475.
The bill would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by creating a new offence for possessing, producing, selling or importing anything knowing it will be used to produce or traffic in crystal meth or ecstasy.
Targeted ingredients include the drug's precursor chemicals, such as pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and Sudafed, which are commonly found in over-the-counter cold medications. Other targeted ingredients are legal but certainly not intended for human consumption, such as acetone, rubbing alcohol and iodine.
The bill would give our law enforcement community a powerful new tool with which to confront the growing menace of two drugs which are attacking the health and welfare of Canadians.
The passage of this bill would mark a new era in our fight to protect Canadians, especially our children, from the devastating effects of these drugs. In the battle to protect our communities, we would be providing new tools to combat the methamphetamine epidemic that has swept our country.
I believe this House stands united today in one noble purpose as we rise together and speak on behalf of Canadians who seek to escape the grip of these harmful substances.
We know an idea is one whose time has come when three things come together: first, a consensus surrounds and supports the idea; second, the idea meets an obvious need; and third, in one sense or another, the stars seem to align and the idea's progress seems preordained and unstoppable. In this case, all these conditions have come to pass, and I look forward to elaborating now.
First, we have a large nationwide consensus of people who support passage of the bill. The consensus is most evident in this House where all parties support it. On April 14, for the first time in this session of Parliament, all members voted in favour of a private member's bill. The stage was second reading and the bill was Bill C-475, the one to which I speak today.
The member for Peace River also received unanimous support for a previous version of this bill when he introduced it in a prior session of Parliament, but it died on the order paper when an election intervened.
Broad and growing support for this bill extends throughout the Canadian public as well, starting with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Other endorsers include the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, the Crystal Meth Prevention Society of BC, the Baldy Hughes Addiction Treatment Centre, the North Shore Substance Abuse Working Group, the Town of Gibsons, the City of Powell River, the District of Squamish, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Bowen Island Municipality, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the Solicitor General of British Columbia, as well as Chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish First Nation.
The broad array of rehabilitation centres, law enforcement officials, former addicts and ordinary citizens who support this bill speak to the need for it, highlighting the fact that we in this chamber are not the only people who say that this is an idea whose time has come.
The chief of the West Vancouver Police Department, speaking on behalf of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, Chief Constable Peter Lepine, wrote me earlier this week. I would like to quote from his message. He said:
As the voice of British Columbia's 5,000+ sworn police officers, the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police, BCACP, is proud to support the legislation and would like to thank [the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country] and his staff for their efforts to reduce the impact of illicit drugs on families and communities across Canada.
Every day police officers and our colleagues in the justice system and fields like health care and social work experience firsthand the terrible toll that the production, trade and use of methamphetamine takes: From lives lost and families torn apart by addiction, to the fear and cost of drug-related crime, to the risk of fires and explosions related to meth labs. The public safety risks of methamphetamine are real, substantial, and growing all the time.
This legislation, which prohibits the possession of methamphetamine precursor materials, will provide police across Canada with a way to help reduce the supply of methamphetamine rather than being forced to simply deal with its consequences.The BCACP is confident that the benefits of early interdiction will include not only a marked reduction in the addiction-related human tragedies that we are all so aware of, but also a mitigation of the growing cost of methamphetamines for our health care and other social services.
Bill C-475 complements other criminal justice reforms initiated by our government, such as toughening the laws against drug trafficking and illegal firearms. I am pleased, therefore, that the Minister of Justice and the Conservative government also support the bill.
While a large consensus in support of Bill C-475 suggests it is an idea whose time has come, the increasing need for it is an even stronger indication. The need is simply to stop the destruction of the lives of young Canadians.
The more clearly I examine the problems associated with crystal meth and ecstasy, the more people I meet who have been affected themselves, directly or indirectly, by crystal meth addicts who suffer psychosis, physical addiction, unemployment and an inescapable draw toward criminal conduct. We need to eliminate the use of crystal meth and ecstasy from Canadian society.
These drugs are affecting an increasing number of Canadians. Serious health implications resulting from chronic use of these drugs include dependence, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and drug use, and a phenomenon known as amphetamine or methamphetamine psychosis, which includes strong hallucinations and delusions. Crystal meth and ecstasy use can translate over the longer term into schizophrenia, a side effect with lasting consequences. Trauma experienced by users includes great physical, psychological and emotional harm.
According to Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey, approximately 50,000 people aged 15 and over report having used methamphetamine at least once in the previous year.
In 2003, British Columbia's Ministry of Health estimated that 4% of school-aged children had used methamphetamine stimulants. Around the same time, the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission found that 5.3% of school-aged children had tried methamphetamine stimulants. That is a lot.
On a personal note, I know that many of us know someone battling drug addiction. Let us not forget that meth is an insidious drug that can affect anyone in any segment of society.
Meth use is not confined to homeless people. Other users include professionals, doctors, lawyers and first responders. These people are mothers and fathers and tragically, in too many cases, they pay with their lives.
The crystal meth and ecstasy industry is linked to various forms of criminal activity. The most obvious form of such activity is the pattern of offences committed by people whose lives are ruined by these drugs.
As I have previously discussed in this House, the methamphetamine industry is increasingly controlled by gangs. For example, Marshall Smith at the Baldy Hughes Treatment Centre in Prince George has informed me that crystal meth addiction is increasingly linked to the multi-billion dollar per year fraud and identity theft problem which is devastating to Canadian families and our economy.
Some who can see the need for this bill have expressed concern about the possibility of wrongful conviction should the bill become law. As in all offences included among Canada's criminal laws, the prosecution must prove an element of mental intention to achieve a conviction under the proposed bill. The bill states explicitly what would have been assumed by the courts, that the accused must be shown to know that the product possessed, produced, sold or imported was to have been used to produce or traffic in crystal meth or ecstasy. The emphasis is on the word “know”. The necessity to prove intent, as stated in the bill, and the general presumption of innocence are two definite responses to anyone concerned about wrongful convictions under Bill C-475, once it is enacted.
This bill gives a new opportunity for law enforcement officials to tackle the production of these drugs before they reach our streets. In particular, this will give judges a new tool to use against chronic producers and allow police to arrest these people earlier, thus reducing the supply of crystal meth and ecstasy on the streets.
I have made the case that Bill C-475 is an idea whose time has come based on the broad support it enjoys and the need it satisfies, but many good ideas are well supported and many ideas could satisfy an important need, but are still not ideas whose time has come.
A third factor which crowns an idea whose time has come is an aligning of the stars, a coming together of people and forces in a way that suggests the idea in question is truly meant to be. People and forces have assembled almost magically to bless the passage of Bill C-475.
The parade began with the member for Peace River whose efforts in introducing a previous version of the bill must never be forgotten. We who appear to personify success in fact stand on the shoulders of giants.
The bill was introduced only six months ago. It could never have reached third reading this quickly without the close co-operation of people such as the Minister of Justice, the government whip, the member for Abbotsford, who chairs the justice committee, the members for Edmonton East and Elgin—Middlesex—London for their willingness to exchange positions with me to expedite the bill through the order of precedence, and the three opposition justice critics, each of whom graciously consulted with me before I introduced the bill.
A moment ago I recited a list of endorsers of the bill. Let me single out one, the Baldy Hughes Addiction Treatment Centre in Prince George, B.C., for purposes of illustrating how the stars have aligned to ensure the passage of the bill. I was on a flight from Ottawa to Vancouver when I chanced to sit next to a board member for the treatment centre, Kevin England, who proceeded to add to and encourage the efforts of the great team of people who support the bill.
When we meet strangers on flights who provide informed support for a legislative initiative, we know the stars are aligned and the idea is one whose time has come.