Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on Bill C-248, introduced by our colleague from Prince George—Peace River.
It will come as no surprise to hear me begin my remarks by saying that the Bloc Québécois opposes drug use. In our opinion, all drug use, particularly that by children, is bad. We also believe that an anti-drug strategy cannot consist solely of amendments to the Criminal Code and tougher penalties. A completely different aspect, meaning prevention, education and awareness, is also extremely important.
This morning in committee, my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh used, in a completely different context, the example of drinking and driving. We can use this same example here. The substantial decrease in drinking and driving—unfortunately, it has not been stamped out entirely—is largely due to our public awareness and education campaigns. We must do the same thing with regard to drug use, and target, in particular, young people in Quebec and Canada.
There is no need for me to go back over the points raised by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. However, it bears repeating that he would like to see a minimum prison sentence of one year for a first offence and two years for a subsequent offence in cases where a person is convicted of trafficking in a controlled or restricted drug or a narcotic within 500 metres of an elementary school or a high school.
As a father of two wonderful seven-year-old boys, I strongly support any initiative to keep drugs away from schools and places that my children may frequent either now or when they are older.
However, we do have some concerns with the bill as introduced by our colleague from Prince George—Peace River. It is not clear that the individual trafficking in narcotics, be it near a school, church, office, police station or fire station, thereby intends to set up shop there. It is possible for someone to sell drugs in a prohibited area without knowing that there is a school nearby.
I have a dandy anecdote to tell here. In 1992 an individual involved in boxing was getting ready to commit armed robbery at a doughnut shop where several police officers were taking a break, which proves that stupidity is universal.
The bill introduced by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River does not clearly establish mens rea , or the intention to commit the crime, in other words, to sell the narcotics within some defined perimeter of a school. In the absence of mens rea , how can anyone be convicted of a criminal offence?
I hope the hon. member is listening to the elements I am raising and that he will take them into account during Bill C-248's legislative progress.
Since we are opposed to substance abuse by children and the sale of narcotics to children, and because the bill is only at second reading stage, I would say to the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River and to all the hon. members in this House that at this stage we have many reservations not only about the absence of mens rea , but also about the imposition of minimum sentences. As I have already said many times, we have nothing against the introduction of minimum sentences in bills before the House.
I introduced some into Bill C-2 on the protection of vulnerable persons. However, in this case, I am not sure this is the appropriate solution. As far as I am concerned, the absence of mens rea also prompts several reservations.
I would suggest to my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois that they nevertheless support Bill C-248 at this stage. We will refer it to committee and hear from various experts and witnesses on the aspects I have just raised and on other issues as well. I am sure my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh will also have something to add.
Let us send the bill to committee and see what can be done to fight drug trafficking—especially when it comes to children. And let us make sure that thanks to the work that will be done in committee—if the bill gets that far, as I hope it will—these problems will be resolved and the bill will be improved. I promise the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River that the Bloc will work with him to improve this bill so that it can be passed.
We will support this bill at second reading stage in order to send it to committee so that we may work on it. Depending on the changes made in committee, I will indicate at third reading whether or not we will continue to support it. I reserve the opinion of the Bloc Québécois for third reading. Nonetheless, let us send it to committee and do a good job on it.
Subtopic: Controlled Drugs and Substances Act