Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was life.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 5% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 17th, 2001

Madam Speaker, one of the values I hope would come from such a report would be the opportunity for us to address some of the gaps in legislation. During my speech I did not have enough time to give the list that I received from the Toronto drug court crown prosecutor. He indicated a number of gaps in the legislation that needed to be amended in order to properly operate such an alternative court system.

There needs to be a willingness to make some adjustments in the legislation. I hope that as the report comes out it would make adjustments at every level to what we are doing. The report cannot sit on somebody's shelf to get stale after two or three years. I hope it would be a report that would stir parliament to action.

Supply May 17th, 2001

Madam Speaker, that was exactly what I was referring to when I spoke about the decline of a community. It goes from tolerance to apathy to defence. I believe we could demonstrate that it has happened in terms of drug usage, not in an overall total way but in a very spotted way. We have those who would now defend, who do not care and who tolerate, but I believe the committee would really need to take a strong look in order to give us the actual truth as to the dangers of these drugs.

Supply May 17th, 2001

Madam Speaker, that too is hard for me to live with. Again it is one of the lesser evils for which I am trying to learn the advantages. I ask the member to bear with me.

Supply May 17th, 2001

Madam Speaker, those are two more things that make me angry because they put me in a position of having to choose between the lesser evil. I have been slow to adjust my thinking. I have come to the conclusion that a number of medically prescribed drugs are also addictive and if misused can be totally out of place in a person's life. I am not an enthusiastic supporter of cannabis for medical purposes but I understand the wisdom of it and can live with it.

I am sorry but I forgot the other question.

Supply May 17th, 2001

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this very important issue. I want to thank my hon. colleague from Langley—Abbotsford for having the foresight to bring this motion forward to the Canadian Alliance caucus and I thank my colleagues there for understanding its importance and choosing it for today's supply day motion.

I speak to this with sincerity and with the earnest concern that we move forward on this. I am very pleased to hear the comments in support of the motion from the government side of the House. It makes me very happy to feel that we can work together on some things and move forward.

I entered the political arena last fall in the election campaign. One thing I addressed in my campaign was the idea of public safety in regard to crime, young offenders and those kinds of things, so I speak to this in an effort to respond to my constituents in Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

I would like to share a couple of stories because when we talk about drugs and the use of illicit drugs we are talking about the impacts on lives. I am thinking of a friend of my youngest son who played on the same sports teams. They were both quite talented in their pursuit of sports. That young lad became entangled in drug usage before completing high school. It went on for a number of years. Now in his early twenties, he is hopefully just beginning to come out of the problem he has had with illicit drugs. I spent time talking with his parents. Their hearts ached when they saw their young son going through that.

I think of other families in my town with whom I have spent time, families with children of high school age who would lie in bed for hours and hours on end refusing to get up because of the drugs they had been on. I think of another friend who was a very special friend to me. I had the pleasure of uniting him and his wife in marriage, working with his family and seeing it grow. However, as time went on I saw the drug habit he could not shake finally destroy the family. He is one of those who ended up in prison because of his efforts to support his drug habit.

It has been almost 28 years since the Commission of Inquiry into Non-Medical Use of Drugs tabled the Le Dain report. It addressed many good issues and contained many good recommendations, but we all know that times have changed drastically since 1973. The proliferation of drugs in our society and the ease with which they can be obtained is not news to any of us. We see it wherever we go.

Recently the United Nations' International Narcotics Control Board tabled its annual report. The report found a disturbing increase in the production and abuse of synthetic drugs in Canada. The report found that the illicit manufacturing of methamphetamine has increased in the past year. Law enforcement agencies have uncovered a record number of production laboratories throughout our own country.

It is clear that Canada does need an updated, comprehensive strategy to deal with the significant problem we have in our country today. Our supply day motion asks the government to deal comprehensively with this complex issue by establishing the committee. I say again that I am thrilled to hear that the government agrees with this.

There are few things that make me angry and there are times when it is okay to be angry. Members may have heard the story that it is okay to be angry if we are angry in the right way at the right or the wrong things. I am angry because of the tragedies I have referred to that are being brought about in our families in Canada.

It makes me angry that there are people out there who make their living by selling drugs and destroying lives. It also makes me angry to see people willingly or for some unknown reason become so involved in drug use that they are a burden to society.

It makes me angry to have to spend the money we do on prevention. It makes me angry that society must do so for a relatively few people. It makes me angry to spend money to enforce regulations that are for these people's own good.

The costs, manpower, time and facilities required for rehab and treatment attempts make me angry. However getting angry about a situation means it is time to do all one can to remedy it.

In the year 1997-98, in Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, just under 4,000 people were treated in the drug and alcohol treatment centres of Regina. A recent report looked at alcohol and drug abuse in the Regina health district. It found that the most commonly abused drugs in North American cities are readily obtained on the streets of little old Regina, in the middle of the prairies where it is supposed to be safe to live. The drugs most often used are a combination of both Talwin and Ritalin, sometimes referred to as the poor man's heroin.

The report stated that injection drug usage is quite common, methadone is available on the streets and illicit drug use is a considerable factor in many violent and property crimes in Regina. The figures would go higher but we cannot include those that relate to young offenders.

I will read from an article that appeared in the Regina Leader Post in February. It stated:

Recently, a United Nations agency has criticized Canada for its lax attitude toward illegal growers of cannabis and failure to control illicit production of drugs such as “ice” and “ecstasy”.

The report finds a disturbing increase in the production and abuse of synthetic drugs in Canada.

The illicit manufacture of methamphetamine—or ice—has increased, it says. In the past year, law enforcement agencies have uncovered a record number of clandestine laboratories.

Some labs producing MDMA—or ecstasy—were found in middle-class suburban neighbourhoods, especially in central Canada. The laboratories were run by people with no criminal records or connections.

In its annual report Herbert Schaepe, the board's secretary, said: “The board is not happy with the controls established in Canada; the Canadian government is not yet controlling, for example, one of the main precursors of methamphetamine—ice”.

Precursors are substances used in the processing or manufacture of narcotic drugs.

The board is calling on Canada to make greater efforts to comply with its obligations, under the 1988 UN convention against illicit drugs, to prevent “Canadian territory from being used to divert chemicals for the illicit manufacture of drugs in other countries”.

The UN report says there has been an increase in the amount of cocaine and heroin smuggled into Canada from countries such as Mexico. Last year, Canadian law enforcement agencies intercepted 156 kilograms of heroin.

I am happy to stand and speak to the supply day motion brought forth by my Alliance colleagues. The hon. parliamentary secretary some moments ago mentioned the Canadian Alliance policy on drugs and crime.

I will point out a couple of things from our policy paper. It mentions that one of every two federal inmates in Canada were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they committed the crime for which they were incarcerated. Fifty per cent were on drugs or alcohol.

We need a national strategy to reduce drug usage, one that works in partnership with provincial and municipal governments and incorporates strategies at the community level. This proposal comes directly out of the Canadian Alliance policy paper. The Alliance favours working with the provinces to develop and implement a national drug strategy that will work effectively at the street level. The street level is where a lot of work needs to be done.

Recently I was privileged to hear a police chief from the United States of America outline what happens in the downward spiral of a community. He pointed out that when a criminal or drug element goes into a community the community at first tolerates and lives with it, although not with pleasure or willingness, but after a period of tolerance it tends to become apathetic.

Tolerance is one thing but apathy is another. It is a downward step where the community stops caring about what is going on. It begins to trust the criminal element as much as it does the law enforcement element. It becomes apathetic to what is going on.

In the next downward step the community begins to defend the criminal activity. We see that over and over again. Communities begin to defend not only the criminal element but the use of drugs. This needs to be addressed by the committee so that it can deal with community attitudes and help create a more unfriendly environment for those who do hard core drugs and traffic drugs to our youth.

The Alliance policy paper points out our desire to work in partnership with the provinces to promote the use of drug courts. A number of members opposite have mentioned the Toronto drug court and I will say a little about that in a moment. However, parliament needs to address these concerns.

The Toronto drug court is the first of its kind in Canada. I understand it is patterned after similar things in the United States. It is a joint venture involving the Ontario court of justice, the Department of Justice, the Government of Canada's national strategy on community safety and crime prevention, the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto based representatives of the criminal justice system, the Toronto police service, Toronto public health, and various city and community based services and agencies. It is funded by the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention as a pilot project.

This does not relate to the committee we are talking about establishing. However, I have visited the drug court and it seems to have been very successful. I hope the hon. Minister of Health is aware that funding for the project is nearing the end. If funding is not extended before the end of the trial period it will have to stop admitting patients.

I would encourage the extension of the drug court because it seems a helpful and pleasant program. The drug court brings together elements within the community. I was amazed when the Toronto drug court told us the number of agencies and people that have worked together to assist it.

Let us get back to our job here as members of parliament. We need to view the work of the committee as something very important. I hope the committee will be given the freedom to look at all aspects of the issue and at legislation. We are sometimes hesitant to move and do things differently but the committee needs that freedom. It needs to look at strategy and determine if there are better approaches.

It was mentioned a moment ago that the war on drugs in the United States has not worked very well. However the answer is not to simply throw it away and legalize everything. The answer is somewhere in between. It is my hope that the proposed committee will examine all possibilities and develop better approaches for enforcing or adjusting drug laws as needed.

Penalties, treatments and all these things need to be worked through but they need to be worked through with a sense of responsibility, urgency and co-operation.

In closing I will say a bit more about the Toronto drug treatment court. It is my hope, as I mentioned earlier, that this model will be extended to a broader range of things than simply drug treatment courts. We could apply it to young offenders and some elements of the criminal code.

It was my privilege to sit in on a healing circle in Wilcox, Saskatchewan a few weeks ago which has taken this approach with young offenders. Young offenders are brought into the presence of their peers, teachers and those in authority, and each person is given the opportunity to state how the crime affected them. It was very positive to see that.

I will skip a full description of the drug court but let me say that after being in the drug court a couple of weeks ago it was not like being in court. It is like the difference between a funeral and a wedding. This was more like a wedding. There was celebration. One young lady came in very excited because she had gotten through another week without succumbing to the temptation of drugs. The judge commended her. The other offenders who were sitting awaiting their turn all cheered and clapped. It was a real joy to see them celebrate that victory with her.

I then saw one who had failed. He came before the judge and had to admit his failures. The judge had to address his failures. There was no defiance or anger when the offender received his warning. He went out of there determined to try again to do what he needed to do.

I commend the government for these kinds of projects. This type of committee needs to look at these solutions and extend them as much as it can. We put too many people in jail who simply come out madder. I would love to pursue these kinds of things through this type of committee.

Correctional Service Canada May 11th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, nearly a thousand convicted criminals are at large in Canada. These offenders, murderers, rapists and drug traffickers, were in the custody of Correctional Service Canada but are now outside without serving the sentences handed down by the courts. They are back on the streets putting our citizens in danger.

We can see by the incident involving Keith Lawrence that it can happen for decades. Would the solicitor general tell the House what he plans to do in order to put these offenders back where they belong?

Correctional Service Canada May 11th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Keith Lawrence escaped from prison in Ontario a long time ago. Since 1972 he has lived in Ontario under an alias and was recently rearrested, but it took nearly three decades and a tip from a family member to bring it to pass.

Would the solicitor general tell the House why he is doing so little toward finding the hundreds of offenders at large in Canada?

Criminal Code May 3rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I wish to compliment my hon. colleague, the member for Surrey North, for his work on this non-partisan bill and for his presentation to us today. The bill is meant to add to the protection of Canadians.

As individuals, certain things that come under special categories are perhaps more personal to us than other things. If I were to start down the list, my family would be number one in importance, my home would be next and my car would follow. I am only one of many individuals who would say that we do love our cars.

I remember the first car I bought after joining the workforce and being able to spend more than a couple of hundred dollars on it. One day I came out of my house and noticed that my car had been smashed by a hit and run driver. I was thankful that it was not stolen. It was not a car in the category of cars we are talking about today, but I will never forget the agonizing feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I saw what had happened to my car. We need to recognize that a car may be in a special category.

I realize minimum sentences are something that we have been reluctant to put into Canadian law in many cases. However there are quite a number of cases where there are minimum sentences. I do not think this is something that would be put forward only by hardliners or those who would be considered extremists in one way or another.

Canadians want protection from crime and from risk of injury, especially protection from fear associated with the different crimes committed in Canadian cities. Canadians expect and desire this from their government. Therefore, many of my constituents seem to be quite prepared to be a little more tough on crime, if that is what this would be, especially on theft.

There are a number of instances where minimum sentencing is used, for instance in the firearms, bookmaking, living on the avails of a person, wounding with intent and some impaired driving conditions.

I also want to again reiterate that the Canadian Police Association has listed car theft as one of the main avails of organized crime. I also read the comments of the RCMP member from Calgary. He stated that that place was perhaps a hub for organized crime and car theft. He agreed that many other police groups across the country would see this as a very important problem which needs to be addressed.

The costs associated with auto theft are staggering and rising. It is a waste of our personal resources. We have a major problem that is simply not going to go away, as just business as usual. Without penalties that would increase enough to exceed the benefits of crime, it is hard for us to think about deterring it.

My city of Regina is notorious for auto theft and vandalism. This again is a little different category. Just this week my executive assistant was shot at in Regina. We are becoming famous for shootings in Regina. A couple of weeks ago several vehicles were shot at. We were lucky that my assistant's car was not hit with a real bullet. It was a paint gun.

The problem illustrated here is the fact that there is such little respect for personal property belonging to others. This causes fear, loss of work, police costs associated with this, the removal of the paint from the car and all the effort and energy that went into dealing with this sort of misdemeanour.

This kind of disrespect springs out of the lack of accountability in so many areas of those who would be involved in the life of crime. Auto theft in Canada is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and is rising. I would ask at what point would we as parliamentarians be prepared to act.

Province-wide, Saskatchewan shows that the number of claims have moved from 2,700 in 1999, at a cost of $8.7 million to 2,944 in the year 2000, at a cost of $9.3 million. By March 1 we had 563 claims at a cost of $1.9 million. Breaking that down to the city of Regina, in 1999 there were 1,437 claims costing $3.9 million. In the year 2000 there were 1,574 claims costing $4.4 million. This year's bill to March 1 is already up to $900,000.

It is important to note that these costs do not even include the articles taken from vehicles. They do not include the damage to vehicles that were eventually recovered and then repaired at cost less than the $700 or so deductible that we have in our insurance plan in the province of Saskatchewan.

Police costs also must figure into the cost of car thefts. One of our goals should be to curb auto theft to the point that perhaps we could divert some of those police funds and associated costs to crime prevention of other types.

Cost of courts is also an ingredient. Auto thefts place a burden on our court system and they will be a demand for more judges and court officials to deal with an ever increasing crime load in this area, if something is not done.

Then of course there are always rehabilitation and detention costs for those who have offended and those who are apprehended.

Canadians are tired of having to pay for all of this over and over. They expect that we would be sensitive enough to adjust the penalties imposed in order to be a little stronger deterrent to crime, especially as it relates to organized crime.

Insurance costs to individuals are something that we need to really remember. Insurance rates rise. When we consider the $600 million that auto theft costs the country each year, it costs us as individuals even more than that because our rates rise. We also have to pay the deductibles and those kinds of things. It becomes very important economically. It is the inconvenience of it as well.

In Saskatchewan, if we do not lock our cars when we are out, even if we hop out for a moment for a cup of coffee at Robin's, then there is a question as to whether or not the insurance will even cover that. There are all kinds of minor inconveniences from security at home to security when we are on the road or whatever that must be taken into account simply because we do not get serious enough with those who would steal our vehicles.

The council also reported that there were 165,000 vehicles stolen across Canada in 1999. It is unacceptable to have 450 vehicles stolen each day in Canada.

The bill is targeted at organized crime and does not increase the punishment for a young offender who steals the vehicle for a joyride. That is another important issue which needs to be dealt with. I am glad the hon. parliamentary secretary pointed out that the bill does not address the crimes committed, the joy rides, by young offenders. May I add, unfortunately neither does the new young offenders bill. The new youth criminal justice act also fails to address this problem. I am glad the parliamentary secretary noted that. It would be wonderful if we could make some changes in the young offenders bill perhaps to address that.

However this bill targets a certain level of car theft, that which would be carried out by organized crime, so we need not cross the two.

The bill seeks to increase the penalties and drive back organized crime related to auto thefts to make it more of an infraction, to give a little encouragement to the courts to be stronger when these offences are repeated and repeated. There is no issue respecting judicial discretion, but parliament must determine the penalties and the judiciary must honour and respect the wishes of parliament. If not, who speaks for Canadians?

Criminal Code May 1st, 2001

Madam Speaker, I want to say something about the consequences of our actions and the importance that we recognize consequences.

Consequences, as we would address them through our justice system, are at least in part meant to be a deterrent. A consequence to be a deterrent must be serious enough to provoke some thought. It surprises me today to hear that one could be imprisoned for life for a break and enter. I am one of those who did not know that.

I dare say the government of the day would never vote for life imprisonment for break and enter unless it had the full confidence that the likelihood of that happening was so very slim that it would never be the case. Therefore, it is not a serious enough threat to the offenders to even consider.

I will speak from the perspective of being a father of four children. When I came to the point of needing to discipline them, the consequences needed to be serious enough that they really considered them ahead of the offence. I wanted to make them think. Do members know what I did? I did exactly what the government pointed out it was doing. I had a son who was a repeat offender in my house. He knew I was not serious. I cannot say the number of times that I would say to him “Son, you are grounded for life”. I always paroled him before the week was over.

That is the kind of threat we are hearing from the government, that if offenders break and enter they will be liable to be put in jail for life. I hardly think so. The threat is not really serious and therefore is not a deterrent. A consequence to be a deterrent also needs to be not only serious but needs to be consistent enough to be taken seriously. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not.

We know in our justice system today that there is a huge discrepancy between what judges do. On a bad day maybe they give a few more years. On a good day maybe they do not give more than a few minutes. I cannot believe that we would leave it totally to the discretion of the judge to determine from zero to life imprisonment and shirk our responsibility as legislators to give the judiciary some sort of guideline a little narrower than from zero to life imprisonment for break and enter. We need to be a little more consistent.

A consequence that will be a deterrent also needs to be fair. It needs to be fair as it relates to the offended and to the offender. This is hardly fair to the offended. In a sense it is not even fair to the offender because he did not really take it very seriously and offended again.

A consequence to be a deterrent comes from a respected, responsible authority. I worked hard at that as a father. I wanted to know that I had the respect of my children. To have that, I had to be serious, I had to be consistent and I had to be fair to have them really respect me and understand that I was being responsible.

I am disappointed that we as a parliament so often want to take the easy way out and not be responsible. It hardly seems harsh to me that we would consider a two year minimum sentence to give a little more direction for a repeat offence of break and enter. I support the bill wholeheartedly.

Youth Criminal Justice Act March 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the hon. member across understands. I certainly am not a vengeful person. I am a grandfather and a father. I have worked with youth in the community for years. My wife is two years away from retirement as a school teacher. Many of her friends and my friends are school teachers. I hear what they say. I hear what is going on in the school grounds and the school systems as they deal with young people. I am friends with RCMP people and many others in my community.

It is the consensus of the people I know that young people are not being done a favour by being allowed to operate under a veil of secrecy. Peer pressure is very powerful in the life of a young person. If we do this properly we will allow some positive community pressure to come to bear on the young person and on the family.

As for the statistics, who is to say what the crime rates really are? In our town if there is a near riot of young people outside my window, which happens many times, or there is fighting going on and an exchange of drugs, if we call the police they do not come because they know there is no use dealing with young people under the Young Offenders Act.

Last summer I was approached by four young people in my own front yard and threatened simply because I wrote down a licence number. Night after night in that park there are drug exchanges and the police will not even bother because they know it involves young people and there is no use dealing with them.