February 8, 2008

CPC

Chris Warkentin

Conservative

Mr. Chris Warkentin

moved that Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine), as amended, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate being recognized this afternoon and allowed to speak on my private member's bill.

My private member's bill seeks to help take care of the growing problem of methamphetamine or crystal meth in our communities.

The devastation that this drug inflicts on our families and communities across this nation is horrific. The war is on and, quite frankly, we are losing the battle. Too many of our young, healthy citizens are losing years of their life to the devastation of this drug and some are even dying in the grips of its horror.

From coast to coast, Canadians are horrified by the devastation that drugs inflict on our communities, our schools and our families. Meth is one of the greatest threats to many of our communities. Unfortunately, its popularity is increasing.

Meth has a hold on too many of our young citizens and we as parliamentarians have a responsibility to do something about it.

My private member's bill seeks to limit the opportunities for criminal organizations and criminally minded people to wilfully and knowingly assist in the accumulation of precursors and the equipment for the purpose of manufacturing or to sell to someone who will manufacture this life devastating drug.

This is a vital change to the current legislation and it is my prayer and my hope that this will turn the tide on this horrific drug.

Let us not forget what is at the core of this issue. What is truly at the core of this issue is that this issue is about the lives of people.

As I have advanced this bill through the House and as it worked through committee, I have heard heart-wrenching stories from people across this country who have come forward to tell me stories about how their friends, their students, their siblings, and even in one case how their parents have had their lives devastated and destroyed by this drug.

It only takes one use of this drug and many people are addicted for life. The addictive qualities of methamphetamine make it a dangerous drug for any person to experiment with. To quote a person that I met with just last week in my office, she actually is a recovering addict and she said, “I was at the lowest point in my life and the pain was so great. Someone convinced me that the pain would just go away if I'd take the drug”.

She said that was the beginning of a five year horror as she fought the addiction from that day forward. She said if the drug had not been available to her that day, she never would have been hooked.

Meth is a highly addictive drug. With a long-lasting high, and a sense of overwhelming euphoria, it produces effects that many people feel are unmanageable without the drug.

The use and abuse of crystal meth is on the rise throughout Canada. Its prevalence is growing as dealers find new ways to target potential users and sell the drug. It is in our communities, our schools, our families, and it is in our workplaces.

This drug can affect anyone, the rich, the poor, the old and the young. It does not matter if the person is a man or a woman. It seems to affect all these people equally.

It is, however, growing among some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Usage among young people and people that are already at high risk seem to be the people that are falling into the trap of this drug most frequently.

The menace of crystal meth on each of our communities from coast to coast is real and acute. As a nation we must fight back.

Unlike other drugs, methamphetamine does not need to be imported or grown. It can be produced relatively easily right here in our communities in undercover labs that are hard to detect.

Methamphetamine is not legal anywhere in Canada. I think all of us know that. However, the drug can be produced virtually anywhere, in small sheds, basements and even in mobile labs such as the back of cars or in trailers. These makeshift laboratories are extremely dangerous due to the presence of highly flammable liquids and corrosive chemicals, usually mixed together by people who have no expertise or experience in dealing with these types of products.

However, the majority of meth that is sold on our streets today is produced in undercover super labs which can produce up to 10 pounds at a time, or it is also being produced in what is called mid-level labs which produce just under nine pounds at a time. These labs are often referred to by police as clandestine labs.

While there are larger numbers of small scale labs, they produce only 5% of the meth available on the streets today. The small scale or home based labs often are operated by meth users themselves and produce only one ounce at a time, just enough for the user and sometimes to cover the cost of that person's addiction.

The issue here is really about the super labs. These are dangerous labs that require a huge amount of precursor material to produce the quantity of meth that they do. By giving the authorities the tools that are included in the bill, I believe there will be additional opportunities to stop the production in Canada.

Like I have said before, unlike other drugs, meth need not be imported or grown in Canada. That is a very important point for us to recognize. It can be synthesized using components that are readily available. This drug can be ready for distribution in a shockingly short period of time as all the legal precursors are available quite easily in Canada. The ability to purchase these commonly available ingredients, coupled with the ability to produce crystal meth virtually anywhere, makes this a very dangerous combination.

With my bill, the possession of these precursors and equipment, along with the proven criminal intent to produce crystal meth or methamphetamines, would allow the police to seize and lay charges relating to the methamphetamine production. The ability to get this material off our street will enhance public safety.

The RCMP testified before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and said that this year marked a dramatic shift in Canada as far as methamphetamine was concerned. We have now gone from a methamphetamine importing nation to a methamphetamine exporting nation. Under the current legislation, it requires that police investigate and maintain an investigation until methamphetamines are at their final stages of chemical synthesis.

The RCMP also stated at the standing committee that this legislation would move the yardstick forward and give it another tool to fight for our communities against this destructive drug.

I will share with the House some other testimony that was provided to the committee. On December 13, 2007, the experts said that if there were a truckload of ephedrine going to a proven crystal meth lab, police officers did not currently have the tools at their disposal to arrest the perpetrators under the current legislation.

Sergeant Doug Culver from the RCMP said explicitly:

So in your scenario of the truckload of chemical A going somewhere, there would be no offence in the current legislation. With the legislation we've seen in front of us today, if we could prove in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver of that vehicle knew he was taking that chemical to a lab [run by criminals] or to someone else with the intent of using it to make methamphetamine, then we would have grounds to stop that vehicle, arrest that person, and seize that quantity of chemicals.

The current legislation measures in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act do not go far enough and are not robust enough to tackle this problem. The full weight of legislation must be enabled so people who willingly produce and traffic its precursors will face the consequences that the legislation would bring.

By making the possession of precursors and equipment with the intent to produce or traffic a criminal offence, it will strengthen our laws and provide for a more forceful consequence for people who willingly and wilfully possess materials that are used in the production of methamphetamine.

The bill would also increase the maximum penalty to 10 years from the current 3 years for possession of precursors with the intent to produce crystal meth or methamphetamine.

If I can quote Ms. Bouchard, director of the Office of Controlled substances from the Department of Health from her testimony, on December 13, 2007, before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, when she said:

If we were to find a person in possession of those substances, and that person were not authorized to possess them, meaning they did not have a licence allowing their possession of those substances, it would not be an offence at the level of the act or statute but a violation of a regulation requiring that the person be in possession of a licence. However, the penalties associated with those offences are not very high. They're related to section 46 of the CDSA act and are for a maximum of up to two years. So they are very low penalties...

This bill would change that.

The impact on our communities is great. Relative to other drugs, crystal meth is cheap to buy, making it more accessible to children and youth. Meth is not always the drug of choice for youth addicted to drugs, but if it is available, it is proven that they will often choose it. Meth is referred to as the “poor man's cocaine”.

Individuals who become meth users are addicted more quickly and experience worse effects from prolonged use than other drugs. The negative impacts kick in quickly and the results are devastating.

Another account of a user reads:

Meth addiction is cunning and baffling. It starts out as a harmless and fun thing to do, and then, before you know it, your whole life becomes centred on it and it gets to the point where you can't imagine your life without it. But you're unable to live with it.

We must ask, who really is using crystal meth? This drug is particularly alarming because it is highly addictive, easily accessible, cheap to buy, and for these factors it is, unfortunately, very popular among young people.

Most meth users tend to use other drugs. In addition to meth, they also may use ecstasy, marijuana or other drugs at the same time. In these cases, the burden of mental and physical illness associated with drugs that are used in combination rises and the possibility for devastating effects increase.

Unfortunately, meth users tend to be between the ages of 10 and 25. If we do not do something, we will increasingly see crystal meth or methamphetamine climb its way into our schools and playgrounds.

One frightening fact is that some children, youth and young adults who are exposed to meth may not even know that they have been exposed. More and more drug producers are adding meth to other drugs because it is inexpensive and it gives other drugs increased addictive qualities. Some police reports estimate that 70% to 75% of the ecstasy sold on streets contains methamphetamine.

The expansion of more clandestine large scale production labs has the potential to increase availability and lower prices, which could ultimately result in a larger number of users. Meth affects not only individual lives, relationships and families, but it also has a direct impact on the communities in which it is produced and used.

Meth has followed a somewhat fractured path in invading communities. Some communities in my province have yet to witness the impact on their streets and in their schools, while other communities have been hit hard by meth, forcing them to join together to fight back.

It is my hope that the bill will be an important part of the overall strategy to combat methamphetamine. I am proud to support our government's national anti-drug strategy that focuses on prevention, treatment and enforcement. Two-thirds of the funding of that program are dedicated to the strategy that is focused on the prevention and treatment portions. I believe wholeheartedly that is very much a necessity, but I also believe the best form of harm reduction is to ensure it does not fall in children's hands.

We must work hard and target people who produce crystal meth. We must do what is in the best interest of young people from coast to coast to coast. Not only do I have the support of members of Parliament in the House, but I have had special talks with the Assembly of First Nations and found it to be supportive. I have also had the opportunity to get the endorsement of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for this private member's bill.

In fact, the federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for justice reported in their report of July 2007, that the contents of the bill would be very helpful in fighting this type of drug production.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Ed Fast

Conservative

Mr. Ed Fast (Abbotsford, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Conservative colleague for his willingness and courage to bring forward a bill that would take us one step closer to ridding our communities of drugs.

He comes from the community of Grande Prairie. He is also familiar with my community of Abbotsford, which is a beautiful community, a community of families. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. It attracts many new residents.

However, there is also a seedy underside, even in my community, and that is the whole issue of drugs, gangs and drug related violence. It is not uncommon in my city now to see drive-by shootings because of drugs. We have seen drug related murders in my community. Crystal meth operations and marijuana grow ops are busted on a regular basis.

That saddens me because Canada is better than that. Abbotsford and Grande Prairie are better than that.

Could the member perhaps share something about the impact crystal meth has had in his community? Has he been able to consult with police officers in his community and do they support his bill, as I do?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Chris Warkentin

Conservative

Mr. Chris Warkentin

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Abbotsford for his support and his work combatting crime not only in his community but throughout Canada as well.

I have to concur that drugs are at the root of many of the social problems that seem to crop up in communities like mine. The city of Grande Prairie is known as a strong family community. It is one where people come to work and raise their families. They have believed for many years that this is a safe place to be.

I have consulted with my RCMP officers. Their concern about drugs coming into the community has become the number one issue in the relationship between the drugs coming in and the problems in the community spilling out.

One reason I brought the bill forward was I had met with a number of realtors in my community. These people go into homes throughout the city. What they saw was alarming. The banks were foreclosing on the houses of families that had become involved in addictive behaviours, including crystal meth. They shared with me the fact that we were not talking about the average Joe Blow. They were talking about families that traditionally had high paying jobs, beautiful homes and they were losing them as a result of the addictions in which members of those families had become involved.

Therefore, I feel the bill will go some distance in addressing this, but it is only part of a larger program. We all have to be part of combatting drugs and the harm they bring to our communities.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Mark Warawa

Conservative

Mr. Mark Warawa (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am a neighbour to the west of Abbotsford and we also have similar issues. In my previous life I was a loss prevention officer with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

Has my colleague had an opportunity to question insurance companies? An addiction to crystal meth is one of the major drivers for auto theft.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Chris Warkentin

Conservative

Mr. Chris Warkentin

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that auto theft is on an increase because of drugs like crystal meth. I have had the opportunity in anecdotal conversations with insurance agents and insurance groups to talk about the importance of reducing this type of social behaviour so we are all better protected as a result of it.

In speaking to RCMP officers in my community, they believe a significant number of the auto thefts and home invasions can directly be tied back to drug activity.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Randy Kamp

Conservative

Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Peace River for the bill. It is very important. Obviously we want to keep children away from taking crystal meth.

Does the member have any statistics on how many children were living in homes that became labs and the danger they were in by being in that environment?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Chris Warkentin

Conservative

Mr. Chris Warkentin

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can provide them to the member.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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LIB

Mario Silva

Liberal

Mr. Mario Silva (Davenport, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine). Simply put, the bill is designed, if passed, “to prohibit the production, possession and sale of any substance or any equipment or other material that is intended for the use in the production of or trafficking in methamphetamine”.

It sounds simple and straightforward. Perhaps at one level it is. However, there is much more to the story.

The bill aims to assist in efforts to stem a new and insidious tide of human misery fuelled by a drug that is being seen in ever increasing quantities across the world. A brief history of media coverage across the planet tells the story of crystal meth.

In New Zealand, $1 million of crystal meth was seized by customs authorities. In the United Kingdom, a 32 year old man was convicted and imprisoned for crashing his car into a crowd of shoppers in London, causing a mother and her daughter to have their legs amputated. He was driving at a high rate of speed under the influence of crystal meth.

Here in Canada, Ontario Provincial Police officials have warned Children's Aid workers of the danger to their health and safety when in search of children if they have to enter homes where crystal meth is manufactured or used.

The manufacture and distribution of crystal meth is a machine that produces human misery, destroys lives and knows no bounds in its quest to rob so many promising young people of their future.

The very nature of addiction is tragic and tremendously sad to witness. The lives of those addicted are of course impacted, with tragic consequences. However, so are the lives of those who love them, live with them and share a community with them.

In my city of Toronto, which is not unlike other major cities and communities across the world, the price of drug addiction is a scourge across our collective human landscape, a scourge that leaves footprints across our lives. Indeed, there are few of us in the House who do not know someone or some family that has wrestled through their tears with the terrible and relentless impact of addiction.

The depths to which those who would profit from such misery can sink know no limits. Recently it was reported that in the case of crystal meth there is a new and even more despicable twist to the manufacture of this illegal drug.

We now hear of the production of so-called strawberry meth, which has flavouring added to it to make it more attractive to potential young addicts. It is beyond the comprehension of most of us here how any person could stoop to such depths as to pull our young people into a world of crystal meth addiction with such reprehensible methods, yet this is in fact what is occurring.

Those who peddle such human misery are unfamiliar with even the most basic concepts of human decency. Theirs is a world fuelled by greed and shrouded in the darkness of the human suffering they create but care little, if anything, about.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens of our country to challenge and to hold to account those who would ravage a generation of young people for no other reason than their desire to feed their greed. It is especially the responsibility of us as legislators to provide our police, our social workers and our justice system with the tools they need to fight the war against this tide. It is a battle we must win if we are to protect our young people, and indeed Canadians, against this terrible reality.

The bill aims to address a very significant aspect of the battle. Stemming the supply of the drug is a major part of dealing with the overall problem of crystal meth.

The reality is that crystal meth is easy to produce in relatively small labs, which take root in regular houses and even hotel rooms. The materials required to manufacture the drug are not overly difficult to obtain.

The profits for those involved in this process can be significant. I understand that an investment of merely $150 can result in up to $10,000 worth of crystal meth.

Those who produce this drug create danger not only for those who become crystal meth users and addicts but also for the community at large. The risks in the manufacturing of this drug include explosions in these labs, the dumping of toxic byproducts in our municipal sewer system, and the contamination of houses, which can prevent occupation for months following the closing of a lab.

The production of crystal meth is a crime that affects the users of the drug and society as a whole.

We should note that the previous Liberal government did take decisive action with respect to crystal meth. In the summer of 2005, penalties for the possession, trafficking, production and importation of crystal meth were increased and it was added to schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which regulates the most dangerous of drugs. These were significant and important actions.

We must continue to take whatever steps we can to confront and address this threat.

Crystal meth robs the user of his or her future. It takes from our society the potential contributions of our young people, who deserve so much more, and it brings to society all the accompanying misery of the criminal activity associated with its manufacture and sale.

If we are to win this battle for our children, we must meet the challenge at every opportunity. The legislation we are debating today helps in the fight against crystal meth.

We must also ensure that there is adequate treatment for those who are addicts. We must work to assist families confronting this challenge. We must provide those on the front lines of this battle with the tools they need to deal effectively with this scourge on society.

It is for these reasons that I intend to vote in favour of this bill. I encourage my colleagues to do the same. We owe it to our children and to future generations.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my hon. friend, the member for Peace River, for drawing the attention of the House, through this private member's bill, to the complex difficulties created by methamphetamine.

I am fully aware of his deep concern for the problems that methamphetamine inflicts on Canadians. His concern is clearly shared by all members of the House and we intend to support the bill.

Methamphetamine presents a threat to law enforcement authorities. They must simultaneously combat both small toxic labs and superlabs, which are primarily controlled by drug trafficking organizations.

The small labs produce relatively small amounts of methamphetamine and are generally not affiliated with major trafficking organizations. A number of factors have served as catalysts for the spread of small labs, too many of which have located in southwestern Ontario.

In particular, widespread use of the Internet has facilitated the dissemination of recipes setting out the ingredients that are required, the technology to be used and the steps to follow to manufacture methamphetamine in small labs.

Aside from marijuana, methamphetamine is the only widely used illegal drug that is capable of easily being produced by the abuser. Given the unsophisticated nature of the production process, it is easy to see why use of this highly addictive drug is spreading.

Another factor which contributes to the increase in the number of small labs is the ready access to ingredients needed to produce methamphetamine. Some ingredients are available in many of the over the counter cold medications and common household products found at retail stores, including such items as rock salt, battery acid, red phosphorus road flares, pool acid and iodine crystals, which can be used as sources of the necessary chemicals.

Moreover, the only other items needed to manufacture meth are relatively common items such as mason jars, coffee filters, hot plates, pressure cookers, pillowcases, plastic tubing, gas cans and the like.

This drug can cause serious health problems. Meth both changes and damages the brain, and it is powerfully addictive to those who use it. Meth abuse can result in serious behavioural problems, psychotic problems and dangerous medical complications such as cardiovascular problems, strokes and even death. Meth addiction is a chronic relapsing condition that is notoriously tough to treat.

The spread of methamphetamine is due to the simple manufacturing process and the availability of its required precursors.

I believe that international cooperation is an important element in combating methamphetamine. Some of the most significant and successful international efforts to combat methamphetamine have involved a series of joint law enforcement initiatives between Canada and the United States from the late 1990s until 2003.

Also, a resolution entitled “Strengthening Systems for the Control of Precursor Chemicals used in the Manufacture of Synthetic Drugs” was adopted in Vienna in 2006.

The hon. member has proposed a bill which extends the operation of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. During second reading debate, concerns were expressed about whether the bill would criminalize those who are innocently using common household products. I am pleased that the standing committee adopted an amendment to the bill, supported by the sponsoring member, to ensure that a person would have to know that the equipment or substance was to be used to manufacture meth.

Another improvement made to the bill by the standing committee was to introduce a specific penalty for the new offence. The maximum sentence will be 10 years, which is the same as the maximum penalty currently provided in the CDSA for trafficking in, importing, exporting or producing meth.

Finally, I want to conclude by stating that I commend the initiative of the member for Peace River, and I am pleased to support the bill as amended by the standing committee.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

I recognize the hon. member for Peace River for his concluding remarks on his right of reply.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Chris Warkentin

Conservative

Mr. Chris Warkentin (Peace River, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members in the House who have supported me through this process of advancing the bill through the House and now here at third reading.

As this will be my last opportunity to speak to my private member's bill in the House, I want to reach out my hand in thanks not only to my Conservative colleagues, but to my colleagues from the Liberal Party, the Bloc and the NDP as well.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

It being 2:06 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:06 p.m.)

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
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February 8, 2008