Mr. Monteith (Perth):
Mr. Speaker, in
moving second reading of the narcotic control act I thought hon. members might be interested in having a short review of the development not only of this particular measure but also of Canada's participation in the field of international narcotic control. The medical use of opium, which until relatively recent times has constituted the most widely known narcotic, can be traced back for many thousands of years. Records dating 7000 B.C. make reference to the use of opium for the relief of pain. Opium is the coagulated juice of the opium poppy which botanically is described as pap aver somniferum. It is distinguishable from the ordinary garden or Flanders variety of poppy which is grown for decorative purposes.
In a number of far eastern countries the opium poppy has traditionally represented an important agricultural crop. Of recent years, however, countries that at one time produced opium have discontinued its cultivation. Indeed, at the moment there are only some 12 to 15 countries that permit the growing of this plant. The major producing countries at the present time are India and Turkey. Several other countries produce small quantities but these are generally for their own consumption. Unfortunately there exists a substantial amount of illicit cultivation and it is from the illicit sources that the underworld criminal traffic in narcotic drugs is supplied.
It is the aim of the international agencies, with international co-operation, to attempt to limit to legitimate medical needs the world's supply of opium. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century opium was the best known and most effective pain killer. At that time morphine, which is a derivative of opium, was produced in Germany. Later on another derivative, namely, codeine, was produced, and in 1898 a further derivative, which became known as heroin, was developed from this natural source.
Ironically, heroin, which is now regarded as the most powerful and the most dangerous of all narcotics, was developed as a miracle pain killer with all of the virtues of an opiate but without any of its recognizable dangers. Within a very few years, however, the real potential of heroin was recognized and today
its use has virtually disappeared from modern medical practice everywhere in the world. Unfortunately it remains as the major narcotic of addiction in North America, and so long as there exists the illicit cultivation of opium there will exist a source from which illicit heroin can be manufactured to support the underworld criminal traffic.
Recognition of this fact is of great importance because of recent years medical reliance on opium has diminished and there have been developed a number of synthetic substances which can meet the therapeutic uses of opium but with less danger to the individuals than its derivatives. The authorities predict that the time may well come in the not too distant future when opium as a source of narcotic medication will substantially disappear and will be replaced wholly by synthetic substances chemically produced.
While opium was for many thousand years recognized and used in medical practice, it was also known and used to produce a state of euphoria or a sense of happiness and wellbeing. The dangers from addiction to opium while known were not legally suppressed until shortly after the turn of the present century when a number of the countries of the world commenced to take steps to control the use of this substance. International recognition of its dangers was first given at the Shanghai conference in 1909 and the principles agreed to at that time were embodied three years later in the narcotic convention signed at The Hague. This document, which is known as The Hague convention, marks the cornerstone in the foundation of international narcotic control. Since then there have been a number of narcotic treaties or conventions developed to deal not only with opium but with other drugs which also have narcotic properties and in particular the synthetic drugs.
Hon. members will, I am sure, be gratified to learn that Canada is one of the very few countries of the world that is a signatory to all existing narcotic conventions. Since the dangers of narcotics became internationally recognized, Canada has taken a leading part in the development of international control and Canadian legislation together with its enforcement have for a long time been regarded as amongst the most far-sighted and far-seeing of its kind by countries recognizing the narcotic problem.
It is with very special pride I now refer to Canadian participation in the recently concluded conference of plenipotentiaries at the United Nations in New York called to adopt a single convention to replace the nine existing multiple and multilateral treaties. This conference was indeed one of historic importance because it followed some 10 years of
deliberation and discussion by narcotic experts in proposing a document which took into account all aspects of narcotic control as presently developed and which, at the same time, made provision for the future. I am happy to be able to say that Canada, which not only played an active and important role in the conference, is now taking the necessary steps to be in a position, subject to the approval of parliament, to ratify that convention. The convention requires ratification by 40 parties to come into force. When this takes place the convention will replace existing narcotic treaties and will mark the commencement of a new era in the field of international narcotic control.
In referring to the active part taken at the conference by the Canadian delegation, it is fitting to mention that the head of our delegation was Mr. Robert Curran, the legal adviser to the Department of National Health and Welfare, who has also been very active in the development of the measure now before the house. As a mark of recognition of Canada's role at the conference, he was elected chairman of the main drafting committee responsible for the production of the text of the convention itself.
As I have mentioned, Canada's domestic legislation and its enforcement have long been regarded as amongst the most effective and realistic of any country in the world. In submitting the measure which is now before hon. members, I am glad to be able to say that it marks still further recognition of the steps which Canada regards as appropriate to take in dealing with the problem of the narcotic traffic and narcotic addiction. Canada, from the outset of its approach to the control of narcotics, has recognized that legislation to be effective must take into account two factors: The first, and the one which is frequently overlooked in referring to narcotics, is the necessity that the legislation must be such as will ensure that narcotics continue to be available for legitimate medical and scientific use. The other, and this has largely overshadowed the importance of the legitimate use of narcotics, relates to effective and vigorous enforcement to eliminate the narcotic traffic and its companion evil, narcotic addiction.
Narcotic legislation in Canada has traditionally been the responsibility of the health ministry, with its criminal enforcement the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In this connection, it is not only timely but appropriate to pay public tribute to the continued efforts of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the war which it has waged on the narcotic traffic. The members of that force who are engaged in narcotic
Narcotic Drugs Control control work have demonstrated their dedication to the elimination of the evil and unwholesome traffic in narcotics. Inasmuch as persons so engaged must work under a cloak of anonymity, it is very fitting that I should, in introducing a measure that has been developed with their support and cooperation, pay public tribute to them.
I should now like to say a word with respect to the development of the measure which is before us. In 1955, an investigation was made by a special committee of the Senate into the narcotic traffic in Canada. In June of that year, the committee handed down its report which contained a number of recommendations relating to special measures for the suppression of the illicit traffic in narcotics. In 1957 a measure described as Bill D was introduced in the Senate which wholly revised the existing narcotic legislation and implemented substantially the recommendations contained in the Senate report. This bill was passed in the Senate and was given first reading in this house before parliament dissolved in the spring of 1957.
The reintroduction of that measure has been delayed pending further study and investigation of the narcotic problem in Canada and particularly of measures which might effectively be proposed for the treatment of narcotic addicts who are undergoing imprisonment for narcotic offences. The measure which is now introduced reflects very substantially the subject matter and content of the former measure but with a number of important changes which, in the light of experience, are considered desirable. In addition, the measure contains in part II special provisions relating to the control of narcotic addicts for the purpose of treatment.
In my explanation of this bill, I will not attempt however, to deal with those portions which are contained in part II because they involve matters which will be wholly within the area of responsibility of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fulton) as relating to the penitentiary system and the national parole service. While these matters will be dealt with in detail by the Minister of Justice, I might say at this time that the provisions in question set out special procedures for the control of narcotic addicts who are convicted of offences under the act and will, therefore, be subject to the jurisdiction of the penitentiary authorities and of the national parole service.
While the control of the misuse or abuse of narcotics is an essential purpose of the legislation, a more important purpose lies in the control provisions which are designed to ensure the availability of narcotics for legitimate medical and scientific use in the
Narcotic Drugs Control alleviation of pain and suffering and the treatment of disease. So well controlled has been the legal use of narcotics in Canada that this most important feature has tended to be overlooked, and the emphasis given to the dramatic aspects of the continual war against the underworld traffic.
I have previously touched upon Canada's role in international narcotic control. I can assure hon. members that this measure implements in every particular all of the obligations and undertakings which are involved in our international relations and, in particular, in the convention which has recently been concluded in this important area.
As I have mentioned, the subject matter of Bill D which was prepared a few years ago has not been overlooked and it has provided a basis for the present bill. In addition, however, we have endeavoured to reflect in it the experience gained since that time, as well as providing a new procedure which it is hoped will cope more effectively with the problem of narcotic addiction than has been attempted in the past.
In preparing this bill, we have examined the laws of other countries to ensure that Canada's narcotic legislation will continue to rank amongst the best in the world and that it will not suffer by comparison with any other narcotic legislation nor lack anything which will lead to a more effective accomplishment of this purpose.
This bill, which completely revises the present law, does not change its basic policy or purpose. Structurally it represents a different approach to the control of the problem. Apart from removing a number of anomalies in the present legislation, and deleting provisions which are now archaic, it separates the criminal enforcement aspects from the legal distributing aspects. The latter will now be covered entirely by the regulations. This is regarded as an important change because it gives to the distribution and availability of narcotic drugs a desirable flexibility and will permit of effective changes being made as time and experience may indicate. This, of course, is apart altogether from the provisions of part II which deal entirely with the control and custody of narcotic addicts for the purpose of treatment. The bill reflects and recognizes the realities of the narcotic situation, not only as it exists today but as it may be expected to develop in the foreseeable future.
Hon. members will note a change in the title of the legislation. I have mentioned the diminishing importance of opium and it was not thought desirable that the use of this particular substance should be perpetuated in the title. The word "narcotic" which is incapable of precise definition does however
have a widely recognized generic meaning and it was therefore thought desirable to reemphasize this in the title of the bill itself.
As I have mentioned, part I, which is the part for which the Minister of National Health and Welfare is responsible, has two aspects, the first being the enforcement and the second the legal distribution of narcotics in accordance with the regulations.
Possession except as authorized by the act or the regulations continues to be an offence. Here an important change is made from the present act which provides for a mandatory minimum penalty of six months for the offence of possession.
The bill provides for a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment, which is the same as the present act but, except as is provided in part II in the case of proven narcotic addicts, does not impose any mandatory minimum. In the case of narcotic addicts, the procedure of part II provides for a sentence of custody for the purpose of treatment for an indeterminate period. This involves matters which will more appropriately be spoken to by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Fulton).
With regard to trafficking, no change is made in the substantive offences which are established. These are of two kinds, the first related to traffic which is defined in the act, and the second to possession for the purpose of trafficking. An important change is, however, made in the penalty provisions.
The report of the Senate committee recommended that trafficking, regardless of its purpose, should be made a costly and hazardous undertaking in terms of a penalty. While the Senate committee did recommend that there be mandatory minimums for second or subsequent offences for trafficking, it was the view of the enforcement authorities that a more effective deterrent would lie in the increase of the maximum penalty and that the courts should be empowered to impose within the framework of a lengthy maximum what might be an appropriate penalty for trafficking.
The sentence which may be imposed has been raised to life imprisonment. In this way parliament will have indicated clearly the seriousness with which it regards trafficking offences and the courts can, therefore, take cognizance of this in fixing appropriate penalties.
This, of course, is again subject to the provisions of part II which make provision for a sentence of preventive detention for subsequent convictions for trafficking and for custody for treatment for an indeterminate period the case of addict traffickers. This, however, is a matter which the Minister of
Justice will more properly deal with in explaining the purposes of part II.
I should like to say a special word with respect to section 5 which establishes a new type of offence. Our experience has shown that with the control measures over the legal importation and distribution of narcotics, there is no diversion from legal sources into illicit traffic. Narcotics used in the illicit traffic are smuggled for that purpose into Canada. If it were not for the illicit importation of narcotics, there would be no trafficking problem and, correspondingly, no problem of narcotic addiction. The Senate committee, recognizing this, recommended the establishment of a special offence of illicit importation with an effective mandatory minimum penalty.
There can be no possible excuse or justification for the illicit smuggling of narcotics into this country and the legislation properly recognizes this evil in establishing a special offence against illicit importation with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment but with a mandatory minimum of seven years.
Unfortunately, in dealing with the illicit importation of narcotics, it is seldom that the enforcement authorities come in contact with the hierarchy of international traffickers. The negotiations are arranged by those persons but the actual carriage of narcotics from abroad into North America is almost invariably entrusted to subordinates or paid hirelings. These people may be addicted but as a rule are not. Usually they are engaged in smuggling purely for financial profit and it is therefore felt that the most effective way of deterring persons from this type of transaction is to make the offence of smuggling a costly one.
The bill contains an additional offence of illicit exportation and it may seem to hon. members that there is a contradiction if narcotics are not produced in Canada. The international trafficker is not as a rule concerned with geography but only with a market. North America is a victim area and, depending upon the individuals engaged, the arrangements to be made and other factors, narcotics may be smuggled into the United States for subsequent transshipment to Canada, or into Canada for subsequent transshipment to the United States. In keeping with the purpose of the recently concluded convention which makes special reference to international trafficking, it was thought appropriate to penalize exportation from Canada in the same way as illicit importation. This provision is therefore wholly in keeping with the fulfilment of our international obligation.
There is one further provision relating to the criminal side of the measure to which
Narcotic Drugs Control I might make brief reference. This relates to cultivation of the opium poppy or of marijuana.
I briefly touched upon the opium poppy in my opening remarks. While the opium poppy is not legally cultivated in Canada, it is considered appropriate to prohibit its cultivation except under licence which, for practical purposes, is never issued. It would, however, permit of a licence being issued for experimental scientific purposes. Similarly in the case of marijuana.
The use of marijuana as a drug of addiction in Canada is fortunately not widespread. It, however, may well provide a stepping stone to addiction to heroin and here again cultivation of marijuana is prohibited except under licence.
The circumstances under which a licence might be issued could well involve experimentation to develop a form of plant for hemp purposes but without a narcotic content. Considerable work in this regard is, I understand, going forward in the United States and the time may well come when it will be possible to produce a source of hemp that is not associated with the dangers currently posed by the cultivation of marijuana.
Before coming to that part of the bill which deals with the legal distribution under the regulations, I should like to say a brief word on the seizure and forfeiture provisions. Here an important change is made from the present act.
The present act provides for the automatic forfeiture of any conveyance containing a narcotic or used in any manner in connection with the commission of an offence. This provision was designed to further impede the mobility of the trafficker by making vehicles subject to forfeiture.
Recognizing that under modern practices innocent persons may frequently have an interest in vehicles which would otherwise be prejudiced, the bill sets out a procedure whereby an innocent person may obtain protection to cover his interest in a vehicle used in trafficking and which is forfeited by the court.
It will be noted, however, that in the case of narcotics or moneys used for their purchase, these are subject to automatic forfeiture because they form part of the commission of the actual offence.
This brings me to the concluding part of the bill which is within my responsibility and which deals with the legal availability and use of narcotics. As I have mentioned, this will be done through the regulations which can be adapted to current needs and purposes.
While strict control over the legal distribution and use of narcotics is necessary, it
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Narcotic Drugs Control would not be in the public interest if in an attempt to accomplish this there were imposed undue restrictions or limitations on the distribution and use of narcotics for medical purposes.
The manufacture, distribution and use of narcotics for these purposes requires supervision and control but with a workable flexibility in its administration. This flexibility could not effectively be obtained if all controls were entrenched in the legislation itself. Even under the present act, a great deal is delegated to regulations and experience has shown that this feature can usefully be extended to provide for all aspects of importation, distribution and use for legitimate purposes.
The availability of narcotics is, of course, primarily of interest to the healing professions and notably in the practice of medicine. It follows, therefore, that any proposals which impose controls should carry the support and understanding of the medical profession.
Regulations have been prepared and, in principle, these have been discussed with the representatives of organized medicine in Canada, as well as with the provincial licensing authorities who are concerned with the control of the practice of medicine. I can assure hon. members, therefore, that the regulations which have been drafted and which will in due course be submitted for enactment, carry with them the support and approval of organized medicine in this country.
Other provisions will be made regarding the licensing of importers, manufacturers and distributors and the control of narcotics by retail distributors and in hospitals, but these regulations do not of themselves incorporate any new or substantial change in the present control system.
May I, therefore, conclude my explanation by commending to hon. members this bill, which I believe marks a further and important advance by Canada in its control of the illicit use of narcotics, but which at the same time makes adequate provision for the legitimate employment by the healing professions of those substances for the relief of pain and suffering.
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR CONTROL OF DISTRIBUTION AND SALE OF NARCOTICS