moved that Bill C-338, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (punishment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address a serious issue that is destroying lives and causing thousands of deaths in Canada each year. The importing and exporting of dangerous drugs and substances is a serious threat to Canadians. While the Liberal government has taken some constructive steps to combat the threat posed by the trafficking of lethal drugs and substances, little has been done to deter or to punish criminals. I therefore have introduced Bill C-338, which would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to increase sentences for offences related to the importing and exporting of controlled drugs and substances.
Bill C-338 indicates that if the subject matter of the offence is a substance included in schedule I and in an amount that is not more than one kilogram, or is in schedule II, the offender is guilty of an indictable offence and liable for imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of two years.
The proposed bill also specifies that if the subject matter of the offence is a substance included in schedule I and is in an amount that is more than one kilogram, the offender is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable for imprisonment for life and a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of three years.
At present, minimum sentences stand at one year for less than one kilogram and two years for more than one kilogram. This is unacceptable. Such light punishment does not deter drug traffickers from continuing to import and export and profit at the expense of society's most vulnerable. The reality is that criminals who import and export deadly drugs and substances are responsible for thousands of lost lives.
Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. Canadians are especially concerned about crime, which is why our previous Conservative government introduced and passed more than 30 measures aiming at the strengthening of our justice system and standing up for victims and keeping our streets safe. We also specifically targeted gangs and other criminal organizations by introducing tougher sentences for drug traffickers who exploit the addictions of others for personal profit.
Canadians lose faith in the criminal justice system when they feel that the punishment does not fit the crime. Elected representatives can and should provide guidance on sentences to reflect the view of all Canadians. The Conservatives make no apologies for strengthening penalties for drug traffickers or other crimes. All parliamentarians must ensure that sentencing reflects Canadians' desire to get tough on drug dealers and on other criminals.
Over the past five years, we have seen a deeply disturbing spike in overdoses involving the synthetic opioid painkiller fentanyl. It is so strong that exposure to a microgram is often fatal. Just to put that into perspective, a microgram is what one would get who took a standard 400-milligram pill of ibuprofen and cut it into 4,000 pieces. That tiny grain of drug may kill someone who comes in contact with it. Prescription-grade fentanyl is up to 100 times more toxic than morphine. It is often used as a last-resort painkiller to treat terminally ill cancer patients. It is especially dangerous if one has never been exposed to opiates before.
In Canada, drug dealers can order the illegal substances for drug production online from overseas suppliers, many of whom will guarantee reshipment in the event that the package is intercepted. The drug is then produced in basement labs and kitchens, but in such conditions that it is impossible to predict the strength of each dose. Earlier this year, in my riding of Markham—Unionville, a drug lab was discovered in the heart of an upper-middle-class residential neighbourhood, forcing residents to evacuate their homes.
For people who are looking to abuse the drug, fentanyl creates a blissful feeling similar to the effects of heroin, but an overdose shuts down the area of the brain that controls breathing. This generally results in brain damage or death.
Many people end up taking fentanyl accidentally. Drug producers are lacing other drugs with fentanyl, and the users have no idea that what they are buying will kill them. Unsuspecting drug addicts might buy what they think is OxyContin, but it is actually fentanyl, or a young student who may be experimenting at a party may end up overdosing on fentanyl. The user is not expecting difficulty in breathing and a slowed heartbeat.
It is not only hard-core drug addicts and junkies who are victims of this epidemic. It is regular people, such as Jack Bodie, a 17-year-old Vancouverite, who died in a park after taking fake OxyContin pills with his younger friend. It is 33-year-old Szymon Kalich from Edmonton, who was found dead in the hallway of a residential building and whose mother received the news when the police showed up on her doorstep two days later. It is a nine-month-old baby in Winnipeg, who was rushed to the hospital by paramedics after being exposed to residue of the opiate in his parents' home.
From coast to coast to coast, no community in any member's riding is immune to this epidemic. According to the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, 734 people died of opiate-related causes in Ontario in 2015, averaging two people every day. This number totals far more than the 481 people who died in motor vehicle accidents in 2014.
Over 80% of all opiate-related deaths in 2015 were accidental. Almost 60% of accidental deaths occurred among youth and younger adults between the ages of 15 to 44 years. Fentanyl use increased by 548% between 2006 and 2015, and fentanyl is now the opiate most commonly involved in opiate-related deaths.
British Columbia and Alberta have been hit the hardest. According to the Coroners Service of British Columbia, overdoses of illicit drugs claimed the lives of 922 people in B.C. in 2016, making it the deadliest overdose year on record and representing an increase of 80% from the previous year. In B.C., from January through February of 2017 there were 139 illicit drug overdose deaths in which fentanyl was detected. This is a 90% increase over the number of deaths, 73, occurring during the same period in 2016. From January to February of 2017, fentanyl was detected in 61% of illicit drug overdose deaths, 139 of 227.
Vancouver Coastal Health had the highest number, 48, of illicit drug overdose deaths in which fentanyl was detected in January and February 2017, followed by Fraser Health with 39 and Vancouver Island Health Authority with 29. The health service delivery areas with the highest number of fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdose deaths in January and February of 2017 were Vancouver with 43, Fraser South with 24, and the Okanagan with 15.
When looking at individual townships over the same time period, the highest numbers of deaths were seen in Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria. In 2016, a review of toxicological findings of 325 fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdoses deaths was conducted. In 96% of these deaths, at least one substance other than fentanyl was detected. The other most frequently detected drugs leading to death were cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, and heroin. Parliamentary data in January 2017 suggested that the proportion of illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected, alone or in combination with other drugs, is approximately 61%.
According to Alberta Health, 343 people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016 in Alberta. The province showed a 33% increase in the rate of overdose deaths linked to the drug from 2015, and a dizzying 110% rise from just two years ago. Calgary saw the lion's share of the death toll, with 149 deaths in 2016. Of those 343 deaths, 22 were linked to carfentanil, an opioid that is100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
Alberta's fatality numbers have not reached the level of B.C.'s, but the toll has been devastating, claiming 717 lives since 2014, 261 of those in Calgary. According to the report from Alberta Health, 80% of those who died last year were male, nearly half between the ages of 25 and 39. In most fentanyl overdoses, multiple substances were also involved, primarily cocaine, methamphetamine, and alcohol.
I would like to give more standardized statistics for each province and each year, but this epidemic has exploded so quickly that many provinces do not yet have a system for organizing information. It has been called a Canada-wide disaster.
In Ottawa, the director of the city's drug treatment program has stated that the fentanyl being sold in the streets is too strong to even be treated by overdose antidote kits. In late April, The Ottawa Hospital reported 15 fentanyl overdoses over a period of 72 hours. However, there are other new synthetic opioid painkillers similar to fentanyl on our streets. W-18 is similar to fentanyl, but 100 times as toxic. It is 10,000 times stronger than morphine. In 2015, it was detected in three drug seizures. By October 2016, it was detected in 30 drug seizures.
I truly understand the need for robust prevention and treatment options for addicts, but you cannot rehabilitate dead people. The criminals who import and export deadly drugs and substances do not care about the effects they are having on people's lives. They do not care if they will be responsible for the deaths of many Canadians. They are not deterred by the current punishment for the crimes they are committing. What they know is that they can take $10 worth of fentanyl and make $5,000 selling it on the streets.
As it stands, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act provides inadequate and unintimidating punishment for criminals who import and export lethal drugs and substances. Those who import and export these drugs and substances must be brought to justice and must face increased mandatory minimum sentences. Our constituents expect us to do more to keep their children and communities safe.