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.