February 18, 1994

BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Duceppe

Mr. Speaker, insofar as the Government House leader gives us his word that we will adjourn at 2.30 p.m., we agree to give unanimous consent to have the vote on the prayer. We are more than willing to do so.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is there unanimous consent?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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Some hon, members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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The House resumed consideration of the motion.


BQ

Pierre De Savoye

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre de Savoye (Portneuf)

Mr. Speaker, drug trafficking, possession and intoxication is a very serious problem that modern society must face. We all know that adults, teenagers and even children get intoxicated with and addicted to drugs.

This is why I ask all those who are watching to listen carefully to what I say. If you have a videotape recorder, I advise you to record what I am about to say.

What we are going to talk about should interest everyone. People may think there is nothing exciting in the new bill. That is not so today.

As a matter of fact, during the next 40 minutes we will be dealing with issues that are of interest to everyone, honest people, sick people, health professionals, law enforcement people but also those who produce, distribute, possess and use drugs. We will be talking about Bill C-7.

This bill deals with certain drugs, their precursors and other substances. It was tabled in the House of Commons and passed the first reading stage on February 2. The passing of this bill at third reading would result in the Narcotic Control Act, and certain sections of parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act, being repealed.

It is important to note that Bill C-7 is, for all intents and purposes, identical to Bill C-85, an Act respecting the control of psychoactive substances, which was tabled by the Conservative government on June 11, 1992. That bill passed the first and second reading stages on June 11, 1992 and May 6, 1993. The committee tabled its report on June 3, 1993. Bill C-85 died on the Order Paper when the elections were called.

Bill C-7 is part of the national drug strategy. It consolidates and adds to the provisions of the Narcotic Control Act, and of Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act. Last but not least, Bill C-7 would enact certain provisions of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, dating back to 1961, and of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Both international conventions were ratified by Canada.

The Bloc Quebecois believes it is necessary for Canada and Quebec to be able to adequately and efficiently control narcotic drugs on their territories. Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois recognizes that legislating to that end is an obvious necessity.

Let us quickly review the situation as it is presently in Canada. At the present time, under the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act, drugs must be listed in a schedule to the act for their sale on the streets to become an offense. Consequently, new drugs are not considered illegal as long as they have not been analysed and added to a schedule. This process takes a lot of time. Meanwhile, people who use these substances, and society in general, may and do suffer grave prejudices.

It should be noted that Bill C-7 includes the provisions of the present legislation. Under clause 2 we find the same definition of the word "sale" as including distribution, whether it is made for consideration or not, that is to say free of charge.

Certain provisions, however, have been added. For example, besides manufacturing, synthesizing, cultivating, propagating and harvesting, "produce" also includes offer to produce, as mentioned in clause 2.

Moreover, according to clause 3(1), a substance included in the schedules is deemed to include not only any substance capable of producing an effect similar to that of a substance included in these schedules, but also any substance represented or held out as such by the purchaser, whether acting in good faith or not.

Thus, every person who, whether acting in good faith or not, traffics in a substance represented or held out as a substance included in the schedules, is guilty of an indictable offence or of a punishable offence, pursuant to clause 6(1), (3) and (5).

The mere act of possessing, for the purpose of trafficking, even if no money is involved, a substance included in the schedules, is an indictable offence or an offence punishable under clause 6(2) and (3). The bill provides for harsher penalties for substances included in schedule I and the severity decreases from one schedule to another. It should be noted that cannabis is listed in schedule I. Every person producing cannabis, no matter to what extent, is guilty of an indictable offence liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, under clause 8(2)(b).

This being said, is Bill C-7 substantially different from actual laws in regard to unlawful drug distribution? No, not at all.

It is important to make this statement to correct any other perception which some may have had following the recent comments made by the Solicitor General.

Indeed, on February 15, the Solicitor General said to journalists that Bill C-7 was the best way to curb cocaine smuggling activities by warriors on aboriginal territories. These comments tend to imply that current laws are not sufficient to adequately fight this traffic.

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. Like Bill C-7, the existing Narcotic Control Act makes the smuggling, importation and exportation of drugs a criminal activity. That act also says that it is illegal to have goods directly or indirectly linked to the commission of an offence, in or outside Canada.

Bill C-7 only adds the notions of conspiracy and attempt to commit an offence. The same is true in the case of laundering proceeds of certain offences. The powers to search, seize and detain are very clearly defined in the existing act.

Therefore, it appears that the legislation already provides the Solicitor General with all the necessary tools to intervene now on aboriginal territories to stop cocaine smuggling by warriors.

As for the Solicitor General's statement to the effect that Bill C-7 will allow police to make controlled sales, thereby allowing undercover agents to infiltrate smuggling rings and catch criminals by proposing deals, I wonder if that is anything new. Indeed, the power to investigate already allows police to conduct undercover activities and make controlled sales.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the Solicitor General would try to use Bill C-7 to buy time and delay any action against smugglers who use aboriginal territories for their operations. The fact is that current laws contain all the necessary provisions to allow the Solicitor General to make a move. To claim anything else would only confirm that there is no political will to act, which cannot decently be true, naturally.

Having said this, I think we should question how effective Bill C-7 will be once it comes into force.

For instance, how many more people are expected to be arrested and convicted thanks to this bill? Who do we expect to arrest and convict? What kind of a reduction in trafficking and use is expected? Finally, will the judicial system be able to absorb the extra caseload? And what is provided in this law for the unfortunate people who have become addicted to drugs? Answers to these questions are either non-existent or unsatisfactory, as we will demonstrate in this debate.

Indeed, we consider that Bill C-7 has several significant flaws and not only ignores the parameters to be defined in effective drug control strategy but also opens the door to some major adverse effects. In the time at our disposal, my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois and I will try to express our concerns so that this House and the general public can cconsider this bill in the light of accepted modern values.

The flaws that we have identified in Bill C-7 can be grouped under four questions. First, are legitimate activities of physicians, pharmacists, vets and dentists properly protected against abusive application of the legislation and especially against regulations the scope of which we do not know at the moment?

Second, will the significant powers granted to inspectors, to be designated directly by the minister, not possibly lead to some errors which could unduly penalize health professionals and their patients? Will Canadians be able to take on the added responsibilities arising from this bill? And is this bill in line with the rights and privileges of provincial governments, especially Quebec?

Third, how will the confidentiality of medical records be ensured when the bill allows absolutely anyone designated as an inspector by the minister to reproduce documents found in a physician's office or in a pharmacy and to seize electronic data.

Fourth and foremost, why are drug-dependent persons who need to be treated and not jailed considered criminals in this bill?

I will now address each one of these issues in order to determine the provisions which need to be improved and which are, in our opinion, crucial for the purpose of this Act and for avoiding disastrous secondary consequences.

Let us begin with our first concern. Are legitimate activities of physicians, pharmacists, vets and dentists properly protected against an abusive application of this act and especially against regulations the scope of which we do not know at the moment?

I would like to remind hon. members that the Canadian Medical Association expressed its concerns, last May, before the legislative committee on Bill C-85, because physicians will have no way of knowing which activities are legal or illegal before the regulations have been promulgated. Hence, they do not have all the information they need to properly examine this bill. In fact, since regulations can be amended by the bureaucracy, how can physicians and their patients be informed of such changes? The lack of information in the bill on which medication will be controlled also added to their feeling of uncertainty.

For example, the Canadian Medical Association was concerned about the definition of practitioner in clause 2, which is left to the regulations, especially for the purpose of the definition "provide" in section 54 z .1.

We understand that the purpose of Bill C-7 is not to cause problems for health care professionals or their patients. However, it has recently come to our attention that the Canadian Medical Association clearly indicated that the bill requires some clarification so as not to cause undue prejudice to medical practitioners.

Dr. Barry Adams, chairman of the Council on Health Care and Promotion of the Canadian Medical Association, had this to say when he appeared before the legislative committee last May, and I quote:

The Canadian Medical Association is extremely concerned about the changes brought about by this legislation, because some seem to be directed at legitimate patient and physician activities. Our concerns are twofold. First, the changed definitions of some offences will have direct and undesirable consequences for physicians in their daily practices, and also for their patients. Second, the new regulatory powers will inappropriately and ineffectively regulate the prescribing practices of physicians, and will give increased access to confidential patient information.

We share those important concerns expressed by the Canadian Medical Association. In particular, we are seriously concerned by the important modifications that will affect all individuals treated by two or more doctors.

Is indeed guilty of an indictable offence or of a punishable offence a person who, having obtained within the preceding thirty days a substance included in the schedules or an authorization to obtain such a substance, neglects to mention that fact to a practitioner from whom that person obtains or seeks to obtain any substance included in the schedules or an authorization to obtain it.

The Canadian Medical Association points out that this new provision applies not only to patients who consult two doctors within a period of thirty days but also to any person obtaining or seeking to obtain a drug from a person authorized to provide it. This would include doctors who are obtaining or seeking to obtain drugs for legitimate medical reasons as well as every patient wanting to treat real symptoms.

The Canadian Medical Association stresses that the law does not clearly define what is unlawful. Consequently an individual would have to know if he or she is authorized to request drugs and who is an authorized drug supplier.

This creates an unacceptable uncertainty for the doctors as well as for their patients.

Does that mean, for instance, Mr. Speaker, that you and I and everyone will have to memorize the schedules to the act in order to avoid committing an offence unwittingly? If such a substance was legitimately injected while unconscious in a hospital, would it be a crime to neglect to mention that to the pharmacist you are asking to fill a prescription for that substance or any other substance included in the schedules?

Does that mean that every one of us, in Quebec as well as in Canada, will have to ask our doctor or pharmacist for a list of everything that is prescribed, sold or administered to us, and a list of the drugs a third party has been authorized to sell or to administer to us, whether or not that sale or administration happened? If clause 5(2) of the bill was to be taken literally, the nightmare I just outlined would become a definite possibility.

To those who think that no one in his right mind would apply the law so strictly and so foolishly, my answer is we should know better.

Unfortunately, there is no doubt somebody will choose to enforce the act rigidly and blindly, if given the opportunity to do so. The only thing that remains to be seen is where and when and, above all, who the unfortunate victim will be! It is our responsibility in this House to have a bill that is crystal clear and deals with the true goals to be achieved and leaves law-abiding citizens and pharmacists alone. The House should legislate and not leave it to well-intentioned bureaucrats to regulate.

There is another concern due to the fact that patients are included in the definitions given in the bill. In this context, we should consider the case of pain-relieving drugs used to spare unnecessary pain to the sick, the chronically ill and terminally ill cancer patients. If, under this bill, the physician must ask himself each and every time he writes a prescription whether he is breaking the law or not, then Mr. Speaker, I ask you: How many sick persons will be denied the drugs they really need?

The bill must be explicit and make a clear-cut distinction between an unlawful behaviour on the part of a physician and a questionable way of prescribing drugs.

The medical association emphasized also that it was not sure the federal government could legitimately regulate the prescription and administration of drugs by physicians to their patients. Moreover, it is far from certain that the enforcement mechanism will be effective. It thinks that the use of penal law to regulate quality in health care is counterproductive and inconsistent with modern management theory.

Mr. Speaker, I notice I still have a lot more notes to go through. How much time do I have left?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

In my opinion, you still have 15 to 18 minutes, that is until 1.20 p.m.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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BQ

Pierre De Savoye

Bloc Québécois

Mr. de Savoye

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to tell you about the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, which also testified last May. The president of that association, Mr. Leroy Fevang, said: "We have four concerns: the uncertainty about the type of substances which will be affected by the bill; the extent of the administration and enforcement powers provided by the bill; the possibility that the bill will force pharmacists to give information in such a way as to almost incriminate themselves; and the uncertainty caused by the lack of information on the nature of the regulations and the lack of any mention of medication in the bill. The Canadian Pharmaceutical Association wants the act to specify clearly what substances a pharmacist can legally handle".

The association also wondered how we should define "stimulant effect". Do we even have a standard to measure it? If one definition could cover everything, would there be exemptions for people who can have unusual reactions? Who would decide what is a so-called psychotropic substance? How would this information be given to pharmacists in order to help them to start exercising some control over those substances?

The association mentioned, for example, the risk which a pharmacist would incur in selling or packaging over-the-counter drugs that are not listed in the act and have minor or unexpected effects that can be associated with psychotropic properties.

I will now discuss the second aspect, and I am referring to the wide-ranging powers given to inspectors appointed directly by the minister, powers which I think will perhaps not encourage but at least open the door to errors that would unduly penalize health professionals and their patients. Will the public be able to deal with the new responsibilities it has under this bill? And how can this legislation co-exist with the prerogatives of Quebec and the provinces for dealing with their respective jurisdictions?

Bill C-7 appears to grant quasi inquisitorial powers to the minister, through inspectors, adjudicators and justices. Last year, the Legislative Committee on Bill C-85 wondered whether the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Rights and Liberties Federation would have something to say

about the compatibility of measures provided in the bill with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially in matters concerning the Criminal Code.

For instance, the committee had some questions about searches without a warrant. It seems that in 1984, in the Hunder and Southam case, the court ruled that a warrant was necessary, except under very special circumstances.

Bill C-7 provides for circumstances in which no warrant is required. It not only does that, but it also says in clause 29(1) that the minister may designate any person, literally any person, as an inspector for the purposes of this Act. These appointees will enjoy quasi inquisitorial powers. These powers are considerable and sufficiently broad to cover any kind of abuse, whether it is accidental, voluntary or the result of a conspiracy.

So the inspector is appointed by the Minister of National Health and Welfare. There are some questions about the minister's discretionary powers in this respect. First of all, this political appointment provides no guarantees that the inspector has the qualifications to perform his duties. Since the minister may designate anyone as an inspector, the appointment may be purely partisan.

The inspector's powers are considerable. According to clause 30(1) of this Act, "an inspector may, to ensure compliance with the regulations, at any reasonable time enter any place used for the purpose of conducting the business or professional practice of any person licensed or otherwise authorized under the regulations to deal in a controlled substance or precursor".

This article means that an inspector can visit and thoroughly search your doctor's office or your drugstore and all this without a warrant.

We understand that the intent of the bill is to give these powers to the inspector so that he can fulfil his administrative duties. But since the evidence that he accumulates could be used in a criminal court and a search warrant is required for any criminal proceedings unless there are very special circumstances provided for by the law, it seems to us that these circumstances should really be exceptional. However, the inspection powers go way beyond the principle that I just mentioned.

Let me explain to the House what we are talking about. We are talking about clause 30 concerning any person authorized or licensed under the regulations, such as the pharmacist, the doctor or the hospital.

Regarding these people, the search powers of the inspector are practically without any limitations, the warrant often being only required for a dwelling-place. The inspector can visit any place at any time that is convenient to him, he can search and examine any thing, including computerized data, he can use any computer or copying equipment in that place, without any compensation to the person in charge of that place, he can take away with him any thing that he wants and he can use force. Moreover, any person present in the place, including the patient, undoubtedly, is required to help the inspector and to give him any information without interfering with his work, even by omission. And I remind this House that the Minister can literally appoint anybody to that job.

I would like to mention also that this bill infringes on the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. According to the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, under the present system, the provincial governments grant pharmacists licences which allow them to sell and package pharmaceuticals. According to that Association, it is not necessary for the federal government to issue new licences for the sale and packaging of controlled drugs, as this could create duplication and even greater confusion.

Consequently, this bill infringes on provincial jurisdiction. For example, Quebec grants inspection power to the Corporation des médecins. The inspector working for the Corporation can, upon prior notice, visit physicians in their offices to make sure that everything is in agreement with common medical practice.

The Government of Quebec, like the governments of the Canadian provinces, also gives the syndic of the Corporation the power to inspect the practice of a physician when it receives a complaint alleging that the physician prescribed harmful drugs to a patient. This is true for physicians and pharmacists everywhere in Quebec and Canada. This part of the bill would allow the federal government to enter areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces.

Bill C-7 gives the Minister of Health and the Governor in Council increased powers. Clause 34, for example, gives the Minister, without prior notice to the person believed to have contravened the regulations, the right to make an interim order prohibiting the person from doing anything he or she would otherwise be permitted to do under their licence, permit or authorization. So, without knowing it, a licensee who has not yet received notice of the order issued and continues to carry on with the normal activities permitted under his licence, permit or authorization, becomes an offender.

Similarly, according to clause 43, the minister can designate any person as an analyst for the purposes of analyzing or examining any substance or sample taken by the inspector. As in the case of the inspector, this analyst can be appointed on purely partisan grounds and his appointment is no guarantee of his qualifications.

Another example is clause 55 of Bill C-7 which says the minister may exempt any person or class of persons or any controlled substance or precursor from the application of all or any of the provisions of this act or regulations, for medical or scientific purposes or if it is in the public interest. This ministerial discretion could have a major impact.

For example, the minister could feel forced to exempt some controlled substances because of the pressure put on him by scientific or medical lobbies, even though these substances could entail a potential threat to public health.

We must not forget that the scientific community can easily carry out research which is contrary to humanistic ethics, all in the name of science and of the sacrosanct well-being of humanity.

This bill also gives the Governor in Council, the cabinet in other words, various powers and authorities with regard to regulations. The Bloc Quebecois and all the stakeholders of the health community should therefore carefully examine the regulations that will be tabled.

Clause 54(1) gives the Governor in Council the power to make regulations for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this act, including the regulation of the medical, scientific and industrial uses and distribution of controlled substances and precursors and the enforcement of this act.

Paragraph h) of this clause provides that the Governor in Council may make regulations:

respecting the qualifications of persons engaged in the production, preservation, testing, packaging, storage, selling, providing or otherwise dealing in any controlled substance or precursor or any class thereof;

Yet, in this clause giving major powers to the Governor in Council, we can see that paragraph c) encroaches on one of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. This paragraph provides that the Governor in Council may make regulations:

respecting the issuance, suspension, cancellation, duration and terms and conditions of any class of licence for the importation into Canada, exportation from Canada, production, packaging, sale, provision or administration of any substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V or any class thereof;

We must recall that pharmacists' sales licences are issued by the Government of Quebec and by the provincial governments. This is another case of federal interference in Quebec's and the provinces' areas of jurisdiction.

And while the bill gives some powers that are not obviously necessary, it does not seem to give the powers that would really be needed. Last May, Scott Neward, general counsel of the Canadian Police Association, told the legislative committee that there could be a potential problem. What would happen, he said, if a court objectively decides after the fact that the force used in locating the drugs was not reasonable? Although he admitted that the police could be liable to prosecution for ripping up a floor, he was concerned that the 10 pounds of heroin found under the floor boards could then be ruled inadmissible evidence. He concluded by suggesting that it should be made clear that any violation relating to that subsection should not affect the admissibility of evidence.

I am sure we all want the law to be without mercy for the so-called druglords, but is Bill C-7 up to that task? I am not so sure. For instance, why is there a double standard concerning cannabis offences? Carefully bear with me.

Mr. Paul Saint-Denis, senior counsel for the criminal law policy section of the Department of Justice, made the following remarks when addressing the committee:

The purpose behind creating a hybrid trafficking offence for cannabis was really not geared towards attacking the leaders of drug trafficking groups but rather to deal with the difficulty of court delays. By creating a hybrid trafficking offence for cannabis, it would be possible for prosecutors to prosecute by way of a summary conviction, and thereby reduce or eliminate access to jury trials and to preliminary hearings, thereby cutting down considerably on court delays. The entire purpose behind creating the hybrid trafficking offence for cannabis was not to attack drug trafficking ringleaders but rather to deal with the fairly complex issue of court delays, part of which is the result of mounting trafficking offences which linger in the courts because of the time it takes for them to get through the court process.

Obviously, this bill has not been properly thought through. It could potentially disturb honest people's peace of mind. We are rightfully questioning its ability to reduce drug use and trafficking.

I will stop for a moment. I voiced my concern earlier and attempted to speed up, but I still have a few pages left to read. I wonder if the House would allow me to go over my allotted time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Members have heard the request of the hon. member for Portneuf who anticipates exceeding his 40-minute time limit on his intervention on Bill C-7. Is there unanimous consent to allow the member to extend his time?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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BQ

Pierre De Savoye

Bloc Québécois

Mr. de Savoye

Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I thank the House.

The House will remember that our third issue was medical file confidentiality. How can medical file confidentiality not be threatened by a law that literally allows an inspector to copy your file in a doctor's office or in a drugstore or even in a hospital and further allows this guy to get at your computerized data?

Allow me to quote once again the Canadian Medical Association. This organization is very concerned about some of the changes proposed in this bill, namely those which seem to take aim at legitimate activities conducted by medical doctors. Among other things, the new regulatory process will ensure easier access to the confidential files of patients.

I am also quite concerned to hear the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association say, again through Dr. Leroy Fevang, that it co-operated with the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs to develop a single electronic standard for computerized prescription delivery, in order to simplify the setting up of a data base on drug consumers.

Such a data base would provide detailed information on the pharmacotherapeutic history of any individual and, consequently, on his or her physiological and mental profiles. Is this really the object of Bill C-7? Of course not! Therefore, this legislation must be redrafted so as to allow what is useful and necessary, while prohibiting what is not and what constitutes undue and unacceptable intrusion into the private lives of honest citizens.

May I now tackle our fourth issue? Although it is the last I believe it to be the most important one. I ask this House: Why does this law make criminals out of addicted people who need to be medically treated rather than jailed?

Indeed, Bill C-7 makes criminals not only of those who are involved in drug smuggling, but also of those who use the drugs. Instead of treating those who suffer from a dependency, the law makes criminals of them. Thus, Bill C-7 is a tool to control and suppress crime rather than to promote health. In fact, prevention and rehabilitation are two concepts on which this bill is absolutely silent.

We all know that the illegal consumption of drugs results in the commission of various offences by those who have developed this kind of dependency. Some must steal and even prostitute themselves to be able to afford the daily dose which their sick body is so dependent upon. What slavery!

Where do they steal? Very often in our homes, where they take electronic appliances and jewellery which they quickly resell at a very low price to receiver networks. These poor people are sick but, because they are afraid to incriminate themselves, they cannot seek medical treatment and are therefore condemned to steal in order to satisfy their drug addiction. They have become the absolute slaves of drug dealers who grow richer with the loot stolen by these unfortunates.

That is the real problem. We must help these people, prisoners of their drug addiction. Once there are no more drug addicts, drug dealers will have to close shop. Alas, this bill does not show any concern about rehabilitating people found in possession of drugs. In particular, this bill aims at suppressing the drug trade. While it provides for the imposition of fines for possession of narcotics, there is no mention of providing access to rehabilitation programs.

The focus of Bill C-7 is controlling supply of drugs. It completely neglects the need to control demand, as well as aspects such as prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

The May 27, 1993 issue of the Globe and Mail contained an article by Professors Usprich and Solomon about the bill now before this House. The article states the following: ``-the new legislation fails to address the vast majority of the problems that stem from the existing legislation and raises many new concerns. The proposed legislation is more complex and impenetrable than previous laws. The bill maintains the punitive nature of the law which is based on preconceptions which the findings of the LeDain Commission should have done away with once and for all twenty years ago. In its present form, the bill makes drug addiction a crime''.

In addition, Dr. Reginald G. Smart, Chief of Social Epidemiology at the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation, has this to say: "Many drug addicts in need of treatment end up in jail for possession of narcotics. We do not have in place a diversion process which would enable judges to give the accused a choice between jail or a treatment program. Our laws do not allow for this kind of choice, whereas such an approach is commonplace in many other countries in the world".

If we put a drug addict in jail, not only will we have a miserable, sick prisoner, but it will cost us an added $70,000 per year for most of his life. A withdrawal treatment and a rehabilitation program would only cost a few thousands dollars and would return to society an individual capable of greatly contributing to his or her community.

Do not tell me that this concern will be addressed in another bill. We have before the House Bill C-7, which can and should legislate in such areas as rehabilitation and withdrawal treatment. Thousands of our young and not so young fellow citizens, who are trapped by their drug habit, cannot wait any longer.

One more thing before I conclude. I want to mention two well-known psychotropic substances which have been left out of this bill. They are, predictably, nicotine and alcohol. Even though Canada and Quebec have always been relatively tolerant about the use of such substances, the population is very aware of the fact that nicotine is harmful, causes serious health problems and reduces the quality of life and life expectancy of people.

As for alcohol, driving a vehicle with .08 per cent or more of that substance in your blood is already a criminal offence. I wonder then if this would not be the right time to recognize the true nature of these substances and include them in Bill C-7 with observations that would reflect our modern tolerance and awareness.

In conclusion, we acknowledge the necessity of legislation like that proposed in Bill C-7 in order to control drug possession and trafficking. However, we strenuously insist that the bill should also deal with rehabilitation and detoxification.

Finally, it is of paramount importance that Bill C-7 be explicit about the legitimate activities of health professionals and patients. We should not rely on regulations to specify what should appear in the act itself. Furthermore the bill we must provide an adequate framework for the powers it confers to individuals and institutions.

Accordingly, we recommend that Bill C-7 be referred to the Standing Committee on Health which should revise its content in view of our concerns.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your kind attention, and I thank the hon. members of this House for theirs.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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REF

Myron Thompson

Reform

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose)

Mr. Speaker, it was my intention when I started to address Bill C-7 to speak to the positives in it. However, I must admit that the best laid plans of this member to find something positive about this bill have gone astray, just like the contents of this bill.

The intent of this bill was a noble enterprise definitely needed in today's society. Instead of taking the time and making the effort to properly research, plan and develop a bill that would fulfil today's needs, this government has simply borrowed Bill C-85 from the previous government, made some cosmetic changes and put this bill forward as its own.

With laziness comes regret and the regret here is that the government was lazy. The only saving grace in this bill is finally a government is addressing the use of weapons, drug dealing near schools, and is requesting judges to offer written reasons for not incarcerating those convicted of using weapons in drug deals or dealing drugs near schools.

I will outline the faults with this bill as I see them. This government would have members of this House pass a bill before the regulations outlining what is permissible are even published.

Those regulations are needed in conjunction with Criminal Code rulings so that Canadians are aware of what is legal process. Ignorance of the law is not an admissible defence in court. Under this bill every Canadian would be denied a legal defence in court. They will be ignorant of the legal process until those regulations are known.

The people of Canada should never be governed by regulations. They should be governed only by law. Passing this bill before the regulations are complete and known will entail giving the regulations superiority over law. I cannot support that.

Further, this bill is so poorly written charter challenges leap off the page every time I turn one. Perhaps this government believes that Canadians have not had their fill of being tied up in courts, criminals being set free and large pay cheques for lawyers because of poorly written legislation.

Let me assure this government that belief is wrong. Let me assure this government Canadians want laws and legislation that will stand the charter test. Bill C-7 will have an extremely difficult time doing that.

The Supreme Court ruled in violation of the charter previous legislation having the same errors in construction as section 12 of this bill pertaining to search and seizure. The Supreme Court ruled in violation of the charter previous legislation having the same errors in construction as section 13 pertaining to the necessary force.

Section 34 of this bill allows the minister to remove a person's right to a livelihood such as a druggist or a doctor and then asks them to present a case before an adjudicator.

This bill allows a minister to presume someone is guilty and then asks that person to prove they are innocent.

Do the words Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms strike any note of familiarity with this government? Nowhere in this bill do I see any reference to rehabilitation. I believe this government thinks this side of the House will support any bill offering jail terms for criminals.

Let me assure Canadians we believe in rehabilitation. We believe society and taxpayers are better served by having first time, small quantity possession addicts sent to cost efficient drug rehabilitation centres, offering them hope that they can return to normal life.

We believe excluding in this bill any option for rehabilitation is a sad oversight and shows Canadians the only understanding this government has for a judicial review is punitive measures.

How can any Canadian who is a slave to drugs or a slave to drug pushers and organized crime make a decision for a better future when the only option is to remove them from society?

This bill shows the true light of this government. This bill not only shows this government has a complete lack of understanding for judicial reform, but this bill also shows this government does not understand the concept of justice. The punishment should meet the crime. According to this government, seeking help for an addiction would be a crime.

No one believes in the right of citizens to feel safe in their homes, in their schools, in their streets and in their communities more than I do. I also believe victims include those who are addicted to these soul-stealing drugs.

Nowhere in this bill do I see where this government allows victims of drug addiction any hope of rehabilitation. I really wanted to support this bill. I really wanted this bill to offer protection to society against designer drugs. What do I see instead? I see a bill that is so poorly written, so broad in language that a charter fight will surely result.

The wording in this bill could cause charges under section 3 for giving someone too much coffee. Caffeine in large amounts creates similar stimulative effects as amphetamines. According to this bill, an attempt to keep a friend awake with several cups of coffee could result in charges.

I do appreciate the intent of this bill and believe legislation must be enacted to address the issues intended, but this bill is not the answer. This bill will create more legal and more social problems than it will ever solve.

It is a shame that this government did not take this issue to the serious extent that is required. This government simply borrowed an inept bill left over from the previous government to address a problem that most Canadians want correctly solved.

This bill confuses regulations with criminal law. It presents far too wide powers for inspectors enforcing regulations, not laws. It offers wide powers that will lead to charter challenges, invalidating any evidence found and letting criminals escape from justice. It offers no hope for rehabilitation. It will force undue hardship on medical practitioners and pharmaceutical corporations.

I must discourage support for this bill. I also must encourage this government to return this ill-conceived and poorly worded bill to the drawing table. Then let the government return to this House with a bill that will stand the test of modern jurisprudence.

At that time I will be more than happy to support a new bill and its intention to bring controlled substances and those who are involved in the trade of controlled substances before the law and to justice.

There are penalty provisions in Bill C-7 for small amounts as severe as large amounts of drugs, except a special provision for cannabis, but sharing cannabis with a friend can equal 14 years, according to this bill.

It could cause prescription problems for doctors. Doctors could be charged with trafficking, especially if a substance is not on one of the schedules.

It allows inspectors access to confidential doctor-patient records. It gives the minister the power to impose sentences for substances not yet on schedule, arbitrary power of imprisonment.

The size of this document amazes me. This document, with all its contents and the way it has been written and all the matters that pertain to judicial matters, is then turned over to the health committee to study and to bring back to this House. If I were on the health committee I would wonder why such a document so full of judicial matters would be before us.

Illegal drugs need to be dealt with.

As many members know, I was the principal of a junior-senior high school for 23 years. I have a colleague who is also a principal in Quebec. We could probably share a lot of stories about illegal drugs and what I have seen them do to youth. I have attended many funerals in those 23 years, some of which were the result of drugs and the way they are handled.

I suppose what bothers me more than anything is that over the last two decades or so we from the educational, community and parent levels have asked and continually ask governments and politicians, those in power, to please take charge of the situation and do something about it. It is out of hand, it is getting out of control and it is serious.

I am really disappointed that over the last 23 years I have seen no such progress. If this 35th Parliament would only get the political will and the intestinal fortitude, the courage and the guts it takes, it could take on illegal drugs in the same manner in which it was so brave to take on cigarettes. When they moved in and did those things in such a harsh manner and told the whole world that they meant business it caused the health practitioners throughout the country to cheer and applaud.

When we continually slide by other drugs that cause many serious problems, Canadians wonder when we are going to take the action. Then again, maybe I should not encourage my colleagues on that side of the House to get too much involved in doing this sort of thing just yet. After all, if they want to continue with a lackadaisical attitude they had when they put this bill together and continue to ignore the wishes and desires of Canadians, that should probably make me happy. If that kind of attitude continues they will be occupying some seats on this side of the House after the next election because Canadians are not going to stand for that any longer.

There are problems out there and we are saying that is too bad.

I remember going to the police and how they agreed with me that one individual, an adult, was responsible for trafficking most of the drugs in the small town I was in. Every time they got close to bringing this person under the thumb of the law, some kind of technicality or charter challenge would prevent that. In frustration we could only talk about how we could overcome that kind of a situation.

Yet what I see today is a document that is full of the opportunity to continually cause more and more charter challenges. Why do we not get away from that? Or, do we all have some kind of stock or interest in a law firm and the busier we keep our lawyers the fatter their wallets get and the less we do for society?

Many members make a mockery of these words. It is too bad they were not at some of the funerals I was talking about. It is too bad they were not there to watch the 14-year old blow his own brains out under the influence of a drug over which he had no control. It is too bad they do not get a little closer to the people as politicians to get a little more feel of what they are trying to tell us. Once they understand and get a feeling for it, they will understand why I desire getting something done.

Things can go right when a 34-year old man is caught and charged for trafficking drugs in a small community in my riding. Everybody cheers because students in the area are the ones who were being supplied by the individual. They are glad he has finally been caught. However, there is something terribly wrong when three weeks later, after going to court and being charged under due process of law, he is out in the same town doing the same thing. It is just one example of thousands: a little tap on the wrist and "don't do that again".

I will repeat. If the government had the political will, the courage and the guts, I guarantee it would have the approval of the Canadian people to take action. The government should get with it. I will join it and be pleased to work with it to come up with documents that will make sense and put an end to this problem. This is not a Liberal problem. This is not a Reform problem or a Bloc problem. This is a Canadian problem affecting our youth. When brain burning drugs are free and easy in our society it is time we started doing something about it.

I had the privilege of going on prison missions once every month for a number of years. The prison where I served my missions was the Bowden Institute in my riding, a federal maximum security prison. I find it amazing that in our penal system it is easier to get access to drugs than it is on the streets. When I went on missions to the prison sometimes it was very difficult to counsel some of the individuals I was scheduled to counsel. They were already high or had come down off of a high because of drugs they had been using while in prison. They are readily available to them.

Sometimes we as politicians continually challenge our penal system to rehabilitate, to fix these fellows up. Instead of turning out rehabilitated people from these prisons we are turning out more addicted individuals into society, saying that they have been in the penal system and should be able to walk out into society and function well. However they are already addicted.

What kind of a system would allow that to continue? It should never be a Canadian system. It can be fixed and we need to fix it. But do we have the courage? Does the government have the will? So far I have not seen an example of it.

I am waiting for somebody to do something other than come down with a massive document that is full of irregularities, full of things that will cause nothing but more grief and more problems. Would it be possible to break this document down so that we have a judicial section and a health section?

I would imagine it would drive the health committee right up the wall when it comes to dealing with the judicial aspect. Being on the judicial committee, I certainly would not be comfortable dealing with this document when it comes to all the health aspects. It is a quick and easy way to brush it aside. They can make sure they take care of it and then go out and brag to everybody in their ridings about the wonderful bill they have passed. It is not worth the paper it is written on. It accomplishes nothing toward long-term drug rehabilitation and putting a stop to illegal selling and trafficking.

When a country has billions of dollars in revenues from activities such as illegal drugs, is it something to be proud of? Do members want to run to another country somewhere and say that they are from Canada and our fourth biggest industry is drugs? Is that wonderful? Wherever it fits in, members can be assured it is very high on the ladder.

Are members going to do their jobs in Parliament as people who have been asked to address these problems on behalf of Canadians throughout the country? Members could do it. For once they could focus on the victims and potential victims out there, waiting to fall into the trap created by the crime that is going on.

I looked at certain areas throughout the world. Singapore was one. I understand from the statistics that it is down to 5 per cent. In my last year of school I was fortunate to have a 17-year old exchange student from Singapore for six weeks. I asked him whether there was a drug problem in Singapore schools. He said: "Not on your life. If you get caught with drugs, bang, you are dead". I said: "Really?" It sounds pretty barbaric, does it not? Singapore has a 5 per cent problem or hardly any problem. There is no problem in the schools. It certainly is not causing a health problem. Traffickers are fearful of being in that country.

However I am afraid trafficking in this country is very inviting. When I visited the prison at Drumheller I was amazed by the numbers of drug traffickers from other countries who were there for short terms. For some of them to open their mouths and say the reason they are in Canada is that it is a haven for traffickers ought to be a message. They believe the easiest and most logical place to work is in a country like Canada that has namby-pamby rules when it comes to catching people like them.

They can do something about it. Do they have the will? Do they have the courage? May God grant it to them because it needs to be done and it needs to be done now.

It has even been suggested to me by a few that the real answer to our problems is that we need to legalize some of these drugs. Hogwash. Who would ever suggest such an idea? They should shake their heads and think again. Then they come back and say: "But prohibition never worked". Maybe it did not, to whatever extent they are talking about, but I can guarantee that when alcohol was finally legalized-and I do not think anybody would have to work too hard to research and verify this-it was one of the problems that caused more divorces than anything else.

What is causing more financial breakups? Alcohol. What is causing more bankruptcies? Alcohol. Why are more people in prison than ever before, 70 to 80 per cent of them? Alcohol. Was it a great and wonderful deal to legalize alcohol? Were we good? Now we want to turn around and consider doing the same kind of thing to these other drugs.

To those who would even suggest that we consider legalizing these kinds of drugs I say: "Move away from me immediately or we will have a serious argument". There is no way, after seeing what I have seen through the experiences I have had with the youth of the country, that I would say for a single second legalization of drugs is what we need.

In Canada we need law and order. We need legislators who will say it is time to make the country safer. We can do it and they are the people to do it. They had better find the courage and guts to do it. If it is not done it will continually get worse and we will regret the day that members of the 35th Parliament sat back in their chairs like all other Parliaments have done and let it go. It does not matter if we are left or right; we can write a common sense bill. We can look at it, think about it and then think of our children.

I doubt seriously if there is one of the 295 members in the House who could stand and say: "It really does not apply to me because drugs have never had an effect on my life". If we look at grandchildren, nephews, nieces, friends and families all around us we will find somebody. I guarantee it. That is how widespread it is. Yet we are making it better and better for those who want to sell, traffic or make a living in bringing these drugs into our country.

I hope the words I have said today do not fall upon deaf ears. I can guarantee that most of the ridings I visited prior to the election and after are worried about the economy, about the deficit, about the jobless, and about many other things. However right behind their first worry is their worry about the safety of their children and their grandchildren, their grandmothers and their grandfathers.

Only last week I appeared on a talk show in Calgary where it was suggested to me that crime was not nearly as bad as it used to be. However the very first phone call was from Catherine, 83 years of age, living in Calgary which really does not have a high rate of crime, violence or things of that nature. She said: "I live alone; I only have my cat. All I want for the rest of my days in this world is to have a little peace and security but I cannot even sleep at night because I am so afraid". She lives in a community where the seniors are totally afraid that any day somebody is going to break in, bash them over the head and steal what they have. Most of the time that is done to support some kind of drug addiction.

In the rural community of Wild Rose, in the smaller communities police service is not available because they are quite far out. These are towns and communities of 200 or 300. I invite members to come and look at the bars on the doors and the windows of the businesses and homes. Behind the bars are law-abiding citizens. That is the only way they can protect their property in that part of the country.

I wonder where have we come to when law-abiding citizens are locked behind bars and the rest are out running around. It does not make sense to me and it is time that we did something about it.

For crying out loud, take a good look at Bill C-7. Do not brag about what a wonderful thing it is until you do so. If you cannot see what I have seen going through that, I suggest that you go to an eye doctor and have the doctor take a good look at your eyes because that piece of paper will not solve the problems that this country needs solved.

I encourage members to vote down this bill and then go back and get serious about addressing these problems. Be prepared to go out into the country and the communities and say to the people that you are going to draft some legislation that is going to stop protecting the criminal. We are going to put a stop to you being a potential victim because we are going to start concentrating on the criminal from another aspect. Instead of seeing what we can do to keep him safe and to make sure his rights are looked after, we are going to see what we can do about putting him away where he belongs so you as a law-abiding citizen can enjoy a little peace and security in your own land.

We can do it. Let us do it. But we are not going to do it with Bill C-7.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time you have given me today. This is serious. Some members may not want to take it so seriously. It is more fun to make noise on that side than it is to get serious, but they had better be serious because this is killing this country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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LIB

Herb Gray

Liberal

Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support the second reading of the controlled drugs and substances act.

This government recognizes the need for legislative reform to modernize and improve the drug abuse provisions currently contained in the Narcotic Control Act and parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act.

In fact some of the present legislation is over 30 years old and is ill suited to deal with law enforcement requirements arising from the dangerous and complex Canadian drug scene of the 1990s. As the Minister of Health has already pointed out, drugs have a devastating impact on our society, particularly our youth.

The health minister has described to this House why this bill is important and how it will help safeguard the health of Canadians.

It is true that drug use has slightly diminished in recent years but that has been countered by the increasing potency of drugs, the new and dangerous ways in which drugs are injected and increasing use of different drugs in lethal combinations.

New emerging trends in drug abuse include hydroponic cultivation of potent strains of marijuana, the clandestine manufacture of designer drugs such as PCP imitations and the sale to children and teenagers alike of so-called look alike drugs.

Obviously, this legislation, which was passed 30 years ago, can no longer keep up with new drug trends today. The new bill will make Canadian drug control legislation meet the needs of the 21st century.

The Minister of Health has already made clear the important health dimensions of this bill. As Solicitor General I want to discuss the equally important aspects of the law enforcement dimensions of the proposed legislation.

The increasing complexity of the drug scene has been matched by the increasing sophistication of drug traffickers and their ability to evade conventional police methods of fighting drug trafficking.

In the past the courts have repeatedly recognized that ordinary police methods are often ineffective in investigating drug offences. They have suggested on more than one occasion that legislation needs to be passed that would expressly authorize our police forces to carry out effective undercover operations against drug traffickers.

The controlled drugs and substances act which we are presenting will meet this need and give police the statutory instruments needed to fight drug traffickers in a way that complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This bill will also help us fulfil our international obligations related to the suppression of drug trafficking. In 1990 for example the United Nations convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances came into force in Canada. This international agreement is currently in force in over 70 countries. It provides for co-operation between nations and is aimed at suppressing the illicit traffic in various psychoactive drugs and the chemicals used in their clandestine manufacture.

This convention also calls for the use of specialized investigative techniques which are often necessary to infiltrate sophisticated trafficking operations and to identify and bring to justice the ring leaders and their helpers.

Techniques such as "reverse sting" or "sell bust" operations have been used by police forces in other countries to excellent effect in the fight against sophisticated drug trafficking organizations. During this type of sting operation it is frequently necessary for the police to sell small quantities of drugs to the traffickers to establish credibility and further the investigation.

Until now, however, such an operation in Canada has had no basis in legislation and has therefore been open to legal challenge. The new bill will confirm that the police have the statutory foundation they need to carry out such operations. This bill will also allow Canada to fulfil its obligations under two other international conventions: a single convention on narcotic drugs and the convention on psychotropic substances. The bill will do this using a four point approach.

First, it will provide for controls on the import, export, production and distribution of psychoactive substances while at the same time allowing for the use of the substances for medical, scientific and industrial purposes.

Second, it will provide a control on the import and export of precursors, which are chemical substances used to produce controlled substances.

Third, it will enhance enforcement measures available to all police services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and provincial and municipal police forces to suppress unlawful import, export, production and distribution of psychoactive substances.

It will provide for the forfeiture of any property used to commit such offences. On the home front this bill will make it easier for the police to deal with those who produce illegal drugs.

Under the old legislation new drugs were not considered to be illegal until they were analysed and identified. Needless to say this process took time. This bill instead uses a broad description to define psychoactive drugs. In the future new drugs appearing on the street that fit this new generic description would automatically be covered by the bill. This would give the police the authority to arrest traffickers dealing in these new illicit drugs.

Last but by no means least, this bill will help us better protect our young people. I do not think anyone in this House would argue with the statement that our children represent our most precious resource and that we must do everything in our power to protect them.

Unfortunately one of the facts of modern life is that our young people are often the most vulnerable to the temptations of drug use. Drug traffickers know this and take full advantage of any opportunity to peddle their deadly products in places where young people congregate. Today's schools and even playgrounds are no longer safe from the attentions of drug traffickers.

To help protect children from this influence, the bill will introduce new criteria known as aggravating factors to assist judges in determining sentences for drug traffickers. Examples of these factors include dealing drugs in a school, near a school or to minors or involving minors in drug trafficking operations.

There are also other aggravating factors, such as previous drug convictions, possession of a weapon or the use of violence while engaged in drug trafficking. These are laid out in the bill.

Generally under these new provisions a convicted drug trafficker can expect to receive a stiffer sentence, particularly a jail term. Judges who do not impose a prison term in such circumstances will be required to give the reasons for their decision.

In conclusion, I believe that the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will give Canadians the tool they need to better protect their health which is threatened by the harmful effects of drugs.

From the Solicitor General's point of view, in terms of enforcement, this bill will give the police the power they need to organize more effective anti-drug operations, especially against major traffickers.

The proposed legislation will broaden the impact of existing proceeds of crime legislation which allows the police and the courts to strip the traffickers of the profits of their criminal enterprises. This bill will also enable the police to deliver a more forceful one-two punch to drug traffickers to severely curtail their deadly trade.

This is the kind of approach that the people, the courts and the police have rightly demanded to deal with this type of criminal justice problem and our government is committed to such an approach.

I ask members on all sides of the House to give early and full support to this bill.

I have listened to the concerns raised by opposition spokespersons about it. I believe those concerns should and will be addressed in committee when the bill is considered in detail following second reading. This is the place to go into the concerns that have been raised about the bill, its purposes, its approach and so on.

Therefore I urge hon. members to give early second reading to the bill to enable it to go quickly to committee so that all the points raised by opposition spokespersons and by other members in the House can be looked at and dealt with in the seriousness with which they were raised in the first place.

I say this because I believe this bill will provide important additional tools to the enforcement community and the courts to fight the drug problem everywhere in this country.

Again, I ask this House to give this bill its early and full support.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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REF

Grant Hill

Reform

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod)

Mr. Speaker, one of the instructive things when one has been on the opposition side of the benches and one moves to the government side allows one to look back at how one referred to a bill when one was in opposition. I encourage the members opposite to do that.

I have taken the opportunity to go back into the committee hearings and look at comments made by the hon. member when he sat over here.

Is it appropriate, Mr. Speaker, for me to refer to one comment made by one member when that member was in the opposition?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I believe so.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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REF

Grant Hill

Reform

Mr. Hill (Macleod)

This comment was made on this bill when the hon. member was in opposition: "As I have told you, the subject has not been given any media attention at all. Yet I understand it was given first reading almost a year ago in June 1992. To rush through it within a couple of months will not speak well of Parliament, to say the least".

When the present government was in opposition a bill was introduced very quickly by the Conservatives, put into committee with a very similar undertaking, not well thought out in this House at all. As the committee comments will show, there were serious problems. I ask the government to listen very carefully in this House to the problems with this bill before it goes to committee.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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LIB

Herb Gray

Liberal

Mr. Gray

Mr. Speaker, we are not asking that the bill be dealt with without debate or without consideration of the concerns that have been raised or are yet to be raised. However, the format of consideration of legislation under the rules is such that the way to respond to these concerns is to do so in the course of committee proceedings and then through the report stage following committee proceedings.

There are a lot of points that have been raised which are quite technical which apply to individual clauses of the bill, for example, and I will not attempt to deal with them now. Second reading debate enables us to discuss these matters broadly but does not enable us to make the kinds of changes which may or may not be required in the light of parliamentary considerations.

That is why I am not saying that there should be no debate but that the best vehicle for examining in depth the kinds of concerns that have been raised and making changes, if they turn out to be changes that are necessary, is in the parliamentary committee. It will look at this bill in the next stage of debate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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LIB

Andrew Telegdi

Liberal

Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Waterloo)

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure almost a year ago of attending a conference on crime prevention and community safety. It was chaired by a member who is no longer with us, Mr. Horner, I believe.

I was very impressed when I went to the conference because it was an all-parliamentary committee that produced a unanimous report. The committee took the approach that crime prevention could be best handled through better enforcement as well as social development.

I bring that up because in this past campaign I tried not to play politics with the whole issue of crime, justice and law enforcement. What impressed me was that there was all-parliamentary agreement. Every member of each political party had the same position in the committee when the report was finally put in place.

I would really hope that approach will continue with this bill. The reason I say that is that the problem of crime is a complex one which the committee report stated very ably.

If we as a country, not just political parties, are going to be able to deal with the issues of crime we cannot look for simplistic solutions. We have to understand the complexity of it. It behoves us all to try to give it the serious consideration it deserves.

If one looks at models in different communities or different countries, when Canada is compared to the United States of America, we are an incredibly good model. Our communities are a lot safer, there is a lot less crime, we have fewer people in prison and we do not execute people. We have a much safer community than they have in the United States of America.

We have to look at the issues as to why that is. It is important that as much as possible we take the politics out of it. Partisan politics are dealing with issues that have such an impact on our nation and our communities. We have to work together to solve the problem.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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LIB

Herb Gray

Liberal

Mr. Gray

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Waterloo has made some very important comments. They reflect his own professional experience working with young people who have had difficulties. I am glad to see him here in this House to provide us with the benefit of not only his experience but also his wisdom.

I look forward to this House approaching these kinds of matters with the same type of constructive and non-partisan approach which reflected the report about which the hon. member spoke and which was published in the last Parliament.

We are dealing with serious matters involving the fabric of our communities. We are dealing with serious matters involving our young people and their future. They are very complex. Certainly no one piece of legislation, whether it is this piece of legislation before us or any piece of legislation, can deal with all the complexities by itself.

Certainly we need to make a serious effort toward crime prevention. That is why this government is working to bring forward a national crime prevention council. Certainly we need measures of rehabilitation. That is why this government is moving to bring forward amendments to the corrections and conditional relief act.

There is also a place for enforcement unfortunately but it has to be addressed and recognized. That is why we are bringing this legislation forward. It is to deal with the enforcement aspect of a very serious part of the concern for the breakdown of law and order in this country, that is traffic in drugs.

I ask the House to approach this and similar legislation on the basis of the very good advice given us by the hon. member for Waterloo. I hope in considering this matter they will recognize

that this piece of legislation is a serious and well intentioned attempt to deal with not all aspects but one aspect and an important one of the very serious problem linked with traffic in drugs.

It is in that context that I invite the House to consider it, to debate it, and to give it relatively prompt second reading so that in committee we can approach it in the spirit urged on us by the hon. member for Waterloo and as a result, come out with the best possible legislation to address a very serious concern.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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REF

Val Meredith

Reform

Ms. Val Meredith (Surrey-White Rock-South Langley)

Mr. Speaker, my concern is precisely the importance of this bill and its emphasis on the justice system that we have heard so many people talk about this afternoon.

It is a very serious area of concern. It confuses me why this bill would be passed on to the health committee to be looked at rather than the justice committee. I and many others would feel more comfortable if this were going before the justice committee to look at those issues that have serious consequences long term rather than it being referred to the health committee.

Perhaps if there was some change in that, more of us would feel more comfortable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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LIB

Herb Gray

Liberal

Mr. Gray

Mr. Speaker, the very same thought has crossed my mind. I intend, after consultation with the Minister of Health, to see if there would be some disposition in the House to amend the motion for second reading to have this bill referred to the justice committee.

Looking over the bill in preparation for taking part in the debate, frankly the very same thoughts went through my mind as were expressed by the hon. member. If we present a motion to amend the motion for second reading to have the justice committee consider this matter, I hope we will have the support of the hon. member and others for the reasons she has mentioned.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
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February 18, 1994