Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the bill put forward by my hon. friend from Peace River.
I believe the member for Peace River has introduced this bill in a very timely fashion as many of the items that are coming forward, when it comes to meth, are coming to the attention of the police and the lawmakers. It is unfortunate that on one side it takes a while to catch up with what is happening out on the street with a lot of drug pushers and the criminal element. However, I think we have an opportunity here to actually curb the growth of this particular drug. It is of great concern because of how it affects Canadians and I commend him for drawing this particular issue to the attention of this House.
Unlike other better known drugs of abuse, such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana, methamphetamine presents some unique challenges. It is a synthetic drug. It is not dependent on cultivation of a crop. Its production requires no specialized skill or training. Its precursor chemicals are relatively easy to obtain and inexpensive to purchase. These factors make production attractive to both the criminal trafficker and to the addicted user.
I should clarify when I specified that it requires no specified skill. In many of the smaller labs, it does not, but many super labs have suddenly popped up all over the country. It appears that some areas of the country are more subject to their growth than others and the chemicals are ordered in bulk container loads at a time. That, of course, poses another problem. Not only has this particular drug proliferated some areas of North America, it is being packaged in a way that is attractive to youngsters. A new sort of designer element to this particular drug, which is called strawberry quick, is that it is strawberry coloured and flavoured, and it is packaged in a way that youngsters might want to try it. It is a dangerous way to go but it is actually out there and it is happening in that fashion.
I know that this legislation may fall a bit short, as the member from Windsor has pointed out, but he is also very supportive of seeing something move ahead, which is the key issue.
Any piece of federal legislation needs to permit the domestic seizure and forfeiture of methamphetamine precursor chemicals. Therefore, the precursors, the stuff that this chemical is made up of, must come under a clear direction from legislation for the police to be able to seize it. The legislation should also direct the police and the attorney general to cooperate with international drug enforcement agencies to interdict such chemicals.
When I say that these chemicals come from all over, they come from all over the world actually and they land on our shores, sometimes not even noted in bulk form but they are destined for, now, these super labs. Therefore, there is a need for this international cooperation to take place.
The bill also should increase penalties for the possession of equipment used to make controlled substances and for trafficking in certain precursor chemicals.
What kind of equipment is used? We could go to any lab that produces any kind of pharmaceutical actually and we would find equipment there that could be easily employed in these super labs. In fact some of them are almost like that. It would have to include anything that would go into lab work, whether it is a beaker or glass containers. Some of the smaller ones use makeshift equipment, glass tubing or plastic tubing and they need a lot of it.
Some of these labs are popping up in high-rise apartment buildings or the house next door. They pose a considerable hazard to the neighbourhood. If it is in an apartment, sometimes depending on what chemicals are used, toxic vapours are emitted. Those vapours can kill. After hearing from concerned neighbours, there have been labs that have been discovered in apartment buildings by police officers and all the occupants inside were dead. It is very, very dangerous. It could ignite and create an explosion, almost like a bomb, that damages neighbours and certainly injures those inside.
There is a need for law enforcement. The public should be made aware too. Herein lies the need for education. The public should be aware of what is happening around them as well. They should be the eyes and ears of the police. What should they look for? They should look for quantities of equipment like I have just described, or large barrels of chemicals going into a residence. These are items that are often used by organized criminals to create crystal meth.
Above all, because the distribution of crystal meth is such an international scourge, it requires a very strong link to other agencies worldwide. There has to be an agreement to interdict any such chemicals and any such equipment if they are destined for certain places. Of course, agencies need to educate people and other countries. There is a growing need for an international approach to law enforcement.
If people think there is a crystal meth lab in their neighbourhood, the first thing to do is to approach the police, advise them that this could be a very toxic area and stay away from it. Police officers are now being trained to look after these situations.
We can talk about a lot of issues. I had the privilege of attending a crystal meth conference in the United States. I just came back last week. Mexico, Canada and the United States are coming together to combat this huge problem and they have certain successes. There are concerns about what is happening in Canada. There are concerns about what is happening in Mexico and of course in their own nation as well. They seek our cooperation as much as we seek theirs.
The human misery attached to the use of this drug is beyond words. For the young people who use it, one of the side effects is rapid tooth decay. They call it “meth mouth”. They can have heart failure, kidney failure, brain damage, neurotoxicity, paranoia and depression. Some of these things are lasting. They cannot be fixed.
We have an obligation in the House to support this kind of an initiative, to make sure that it is workable in our courts, in our society, that police officers are directed to place this as a priority. I am pleased to hear there are a number of members in the House who will support this bill. We all do indeed look forward to seeing the bill in committee.