I'm pleased to be back here again. I promised Mr. Ménard yesterday that I would be back again, and I am.
I have the pleasure to introduce two of my officials, Julie Besner and Mr. Donald Piragoff. They will be assisting me on some of the technical issues.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I'm pleased that the committee is beginning its review of , which seeks to protect public safety by tackling the problem of guns and gangs. This bill is part of our government's commitment to take steps to protect Canadians and make our streets safer.
As I've travelled across Canada and discussed these and other criminal justice measures, I've been struck by the call for measures to address gun crime. Mayors, chiefs of police, and attorneys general have been clear that we must take steps to target the gun crime on our streets. Bill C-10 will provide significantly tougher mandatory minimum penalties for serious or repeat firearms offences in a manner that is both measured and specifically tailored to the problem it seeks to address. It will also create two new offences targeting specifically the theft of firearms for robberies and breaking and entering dwellings and other places.
seeks to build upon the existing minimum penalty scheme for certain firearms offences. Currently, four-year minimum mandatory penalties apply for ten specific offences involving the use of firearms. For other indictable offences in which a firearm is used, a one-year consecutive minimum penalty applies on a first offence; three years apply on a second offence. A handful of other offences involving firearms, but not their actual use, such as firearms targeting and smuggling, currently attract minimum penalties of only one year.
is a targeted measure that focuses on gang members who use firearms to commit their crimes and on individuals who would use restricted weapons to threaten Canadians. It is a direct response to the scourge of handgun crime that plagues our country, especially in our cities. It focuses on the limited number of individuals who commit these crimes and will make sure that they face significant penalties for their actions.
seeks to expand the existing law by providing an escalating mandatory minimum penalty scheme. The applicable penalty will increase based on repeat offences, similar to the increased minimum penalty scheme for impaired driving offences. However, because the range of firearms offences is significantly broader than impaired driving offences, different escalating schemes are needed.
proposes three different escalating schemes, which I will describe to you in detail in a moment. But first I'd like to elaborate more on the nature of the problem the government is tackling with this bill.
Over the last thirty years, the types of firearms used in crimes or uncovered in criminal investigations have shifted dramatically. Police, and specifically those involved in weapons enforcement, have told me that they are coming across more illegal handguns, especially in the context of gang violence and the drug trade. This is a dramatic change from the 1970s and 1980s during which the firearms involved in crimes, particularly in homicides, were mostly long guns.
What we are hearing from the police is supported by the available statistics from Statistics Canada, which have been forwarded to the clerk of the committee. The statistics show that in recent years handguns have become the weapon of choice in gun crimes and are used in approximately three-quarters of violent firearms offences.
targets serious and repeat firearms offences. When you look at the offences that are targeted by these mandatory minimum penalty schemes, you will see that they are all serious firearms offences. Firearms offences that typically engage more serious criminal conduct are captured by these proposals. One could say that what we're doing in Bill C-10 is codifying specific aggravating factors that the courts must take into account in sentencing persons convicted of these serious firearms offences. We have proposed higher minimum penalties of five years on a first offence, seven years on a second offence, and ten years on a third offence.
There are eight serious offences involving the use of firearms. These offences are attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent to injure a person or prevent arrest, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery, and extortion. The enhanced penalty scheme for these offences will only apply if one of the two possible aggravating factors is present.
The first aggravating factor is whether the offence is committed in connection with a criminal organization. This would include street gangs if they are composed of three or more persons intent on committing serious offences for material benefit and any class of firearm is used. So it's important to remember that any class of firearm used in the context of a gang activity and the criminal activity involved in that applies.
The second factor is whether a restricted or prohibited firearm is used. As you all know, these weapons are hand guns, automatic weapons, or long guns that have been in some way modified.
I would like to take a moment to clarify a few things about this last point, because I note that it seemed to generate a fair bit of confusion during second reading debate. Bill does not propose to provide higher mandatory minimum penalties only when restricted or prohibited firearms are involved. It is true that this is a specific aggravating factor that will trigger the higher mandatory minimum penalties for the eight serious use crimes targeted by this bill.
However, the other aggravating factor that's applicable to these offences, whether the offence was committed in connection with a criminal organization or gang, does not require that the firearm used in the offence be a restricted or prohibited firearm. It could be any firearm, including a non-restricted long gun where that long gun is used in furtherance of a criminal gang activity. A gang member who uses a firearm of any sort to accomplish their criminal ends will be subject to the mandatory minimum penalties contained in this bill.
I also want to make it clear that the serious so-called non-use offences, which I will describe in a moment, do not make a distinction based on the type of firearm, except in one case where it already exists as an essential element of the offence. We have included the specific aggravating factor of using a restricted or prohibited firearm in serious use offences because it is directly linked to the nature of the crimes we are targeting.
As I have previous explained, this bill is the result of the increasing popularity of hand guns with street gangs and drug traffickers. Bill defines a prior conviction as a conviction that has occurred in the last ten years, excluding time in custody. In other words, if an individual has been convicted of using a firearm in the commission of an offence within ten years of the conviction before the court, it will count as a prior offence. In calculating the ten years, the court will exclude any time spent in custody. If the offender has a prior conviction within the ten-year period, it will trigger the enhanced mandatory minimum penalty.
Therefore, for example, someone who is convicted of a robbery using a hand gun with two prior convictions for robberies with a firearm in the last ten years will face a mandatory ten-year minimum penalty. The prior conviction or convictions could involve another firearms use offence as well, such as attempted murder using a firearm.
Enhanced mandatory minimum penalties are also proposed in Bill for other serious offences involving firearms but in which the firearms are not actually used. The escalating minimum penalties in the case of serious non-use offences are based only on repeat firearms offences. The escalating scheme will be three years for a first offence and five years for a second or subsequent offence for the following serious non-use offences.
First is possession of a loaded, restricted, or prohibited firearm. That's something the police have specifically brought to my attention--the prevalence, especially in big cities like Toronto, and the presence of these loaded firearms in motor vehicles especially.
Then we have firearms trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, making an automatic firearm, firearm smuggling, and a new offence of robbery to steal a firearm. As an example, someone involved in the business of supplying illegal handguns to people and convicted of a firearms trafficking offence would face a mandatory penalty of three years' imprisonment. If the accused had a prior record for illegally possessing a restricted firearm with ammunition, the person would face a five-year mandatory minimum penalty.
A three-step escalating minimum penalty scheme of one year on a first offence, three years on a second offence, and five years on a third or subsequent offence will apply for the following offences: possession of a firearm obtained by a crime, possession of a firearm contrary to court order, a new offence of breaking and entering to steal a firearm, and the offence of using a firearm or imitation firearm in the commission of other indictable offences. As an example, someone who is convicted of breaking and entering into cottages to steal firearms that can subsequently be diverted onto the street would face at least one year in prison, and if that person has a criminal record for firearms trafficking, let's say two counts in the last ten years, then that person faces a five-year mandatory minimum penalty.
These penalties directly target the supply of handguns and restricted weapons to the criminals on our streets. They are a proportionate and necessary response to the handgun problem we face and they target the business of illegally supplying firearms. For the non-use offences, it is important to note that prior convictions in the last ten years, excluding time spent in custody for both use offences and non-use offences, will trigger the higher mandatory minimum penalties applicable in repeat offences.
There are a few reasons why two different penalty schemes are proposed for the non-use offences. First of all, several of these offences can cover quite a broad range of potential conduct with varying degrees of severity. Second, in the case of the offence of possessing a firearm contrary to court order, it does not currently attract a mandatory minimum penalty, but will make an amendment to do so. On the other hand, clause 85, which is the additional charge of having a firearm or imitation firearm in the commission of an indictable offence like robbery, currently has a one-year mandatory minimum penalty on a first offence and three years on a second offence. These mandatory minimum penalties are being maintained in light of the fact that the courts are already required to impose those mandatory penalties consecutively to the penalties imposed for the underlying offence. However, a five-year minimum is being introduced for a third or subsequent offence.
also proposes to create two new offences, one for breaking and entering to steal a firearm and another for robbery to steal a firearm. These amendments, which are firearm-specific, are intended to reflect the more serious nature of these offences where the accused are seeking to obtain illegal firearms, whether for their own use or to feed the illicit gun trade. These proposals also provide tough escalating minimum penalties consistent with the overall penalty scheme for serious firearm offences proposed in this bill.
Before closing, I'd like to speak about constitutional considerations. As addresses the issue of penalties of imprisonment, it raises considerations under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 12 of the charter provides that people have the right not to be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment. The courts in Canada have frequently been called upon to assess the constitutional validity of the mandatory minimum penalties and imprisonment currently set out in the Criminal Code, and in particular many of those that apply to firearms offences. In examining these provisions, the courts have recognized that Parliament is entitled to take appropriate measures to address the pressing problem of firearms-related crimes. In proposing the new range of penalties for certain firearms offences, we have taken under consideration the sentencing principles currently set out in the Criminal Code.
The code provides as a fundamental principle of the Canadian sentencing regime that a sentence should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. It also provides that the purpose of sentencing is to impose sanctions on offenders that are just and that contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful, and safe society.
Accordingly, the objectives in sentencing are to denounce unlawful conduct, deter the offender and others from committing offences, and separate offenders from society where necessary. Sentences must also assist in rehabilitating offenders, cause offenders to accept responsibility for their actions, and repair the harm they have caused to victims or the community.
The manner in which the highest mandatory minimum penalties will apply is intended to ensure they do not result in grossly disproportionate sentences. The highest level of ten years for using a firearm and five years for the non-use offences are reserved only for repeat firearm offenders. If an offender has a relevant and recent history of committing firearms offences, that is, within the past ten years, it's not unreasonable to ensure the specific sentencing goals of deterrence, denunciation, and separation of serious offenders from society are given priority by the sentencing court.
While the overall trend in firearms offences is generally downward, when it comes to guns and gangs, Canada has not yet made meaningful progress in tackling the challenge. With Bill C-10, we are aiming to make a positive dent in the recent trend of illegal firearms use and possession by street gangs. By specifically targeting serious firearms offences and repeat firearms offenders or organized criminals and recognizing the types of firearms they are using, Bill C-10 focuses on the problem it seeks to tackle.
This bill offers police and prosecutors the tools they have said they need to ensure that serious firearms offences are met with serious sanctions, especially when committed by street gangs.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for coming back again today, Minister. You're a bear for punishment.
My first question, so you can prepare while I'm doing my preamble, will be on aboriginal people, and I would like you to answer that particular question.
I'll start out by saying that although we're not against the principle of mandatory offences--we've put in a number related to gun crimes already--we're definitely against this bill for a number of reasons, some of which are from the esteemed previous Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. First of all, we would dramatically increase the incarceration of aboriginal people in this country. The wide evidence provided by experts in previous references already in the House show they don't work. Any media or anyone here who wants details of that should go to the debate of June 12, page 2225 of 2006. I'll make just one quote from there: “The story of the failure of mandatory penalties is at least three centuries old, said Michael Tonry in 'Crime & Justice: A Review of Research', University of Chicago Press 1992.”
My speech on that page goes on to explain that even the evidence brought forward by the minister proves exactly the opposite, that it just doesn't work. And the minister, fortunately--I'm very happy--said in the first ten words that he seeks to protect public safety. But if you look at my speech in the House, I have ten reasons why this would actually reduce public safety.
So my first question is related to aboriginal people. As I said, we all agree that aboriginal people are already disproportionately incarcerated in our system. This would increase it dramatically. It would aggravate the problem, and it may even be contrary to the principle of sentencing, paragraph 718.2(e) of the code, which sets aside special sentencing for aboriginal people now and to take a look at their situations and their conditions.
If you make these sentences mandatory, so that there's no option for the judge to look at those options, that's against the principles of the Criminal Code. I would like to ask the minister for his comments on this. We're removing the judge's ability to act on this principle in the Criminal Code.
What are he and his department doing to reduce this problem--I'm sure all parties agree--of the inordinate proportion of aboriginal people incarcerated in Canada?
The study was conducted by McDowell, Loftin, and Wiersema, and it evaluated the effects of changes in gun laws. It considered the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes. There was a direct correlation, from 1969 to 1979, with the decline in the homicide rate in Detroit by ten per month.
There are a number of other studies of these sorts that are available that go to establishing the proposition that targeted mandatory minimum penalties lead to a direct reduction in the crimes that are targeted.
In respect of the issue of aboriginals, in the development of these proposals, significant consideration was given to the importance of ensuring that the enhanced mandatory minimum penalties would not target or impact aboriginal or other Canadians who use firearms for legitimate purposes, such as hunting. For example, we took the long gun issue but restricted it to the furtherance of a gun crime related to gangs, not to an aboriginal out hunting who might have made a mistake, or even to an aboriginal using a long gun to commit a murder. We're talking specifically about gun crimes.
Much effort was devoted to ensuring that the tougher measures focus specifically on the current pressing nature of the gun crime problem of guns and violence.
I'd like to emphasize, again, that neither the research nor the problem analysis revealed that the nature of the current gun crime problem is in any way aboriginal-specific. The available court data does not provide information on offender demographics, such as ethnic origin. Some of the information received from provincial partners and law enforcement agencies revealed, rather, that the nature of the current gang and gun violence problem that this bill addresses varies considerably in each area where it is being manifested. The response proposed in this bill is therefore general in terms of its application, but it is very specific in terms of its scope and the offences targeted.
It would be important to note that Bill C-10 does not propose to amend the minimum penalty of four years that currently exists for cases in which an ordinary hunting rifle or shotgun is used in an offence, nor does the bill target the offence of simple illegal possession of a firearm, unless the offender is subject to a firearms prohibition order that's been imposed by the court.
So the examples, and the red herring that the member brings forward, simply aren't justified. He's building an entire argument on something that this bill does not address and is trying to use those examples to excuse continued gun violence, especially with handguns, by gangs on the streets of our major urban cities.
I examined the Liberal proposal of imposing a mandatory eight-year prison sentence for a first offence. In my opinion, that was disproportionate. We tried to take the suggestion the NDP made during their election platform, where they said that every firearms offence would be at least a four-year mandatory minimum sentence. We tried to sort out the non-use and use and then do it proportionately.
Instead of the mandatory eight years that the Liberals wanted, we said, all right, raise it on the first offence to five years, on the second offence it will be seven years--again a full year lower than the Liberals--and then only on the third offence will it be a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. Rather than use this bull in the china shop approach that the Liberals used--which, in my opinion, ignores some constitutional issues--we wanted to do it on a proportionate basis that would denounce and deter the conduct but not jeopardize the legislation in the manner the Liberals wanted to.
Similarly, with the NDP, I looked at their four-year mandatory minimum for first offences. Again, they didn't discriminate between non-youth and youth. We said, well, on some of these offences that would be too harsh. So we looked at three years on the smuggling and trafficking, as opposed to the four years the NDP wanted. Again, it was a one-year, a three-year, and a five-year sentence, as opposed to this flat four years the NDP wanted to propose.
If you actually look at the proposed legislation we brought here today, not only isn't it indiscriminate in terms of its application, it's very specific to the problem that was identified, which is gangs using firearms in the context of drug-related and other situations.
We've heard about many serious situations. There was a situation where an officer was shot recently, in very unfortunate circumstances, in Windsor. If you look at the facts that were reported in the newspaper, you'll see that our bill targets exactly that kind of activity--that is if those facts that were provided are true.
Certainly in my discussions not only with the Toronto Police Association but with the Toronto police chief, they've been very supportive, not only of Bill , but of Bill , which was unfortunately gutted by the opposition.
On the issue with respect to the increase in penalties, yes, we believe that is important along with policing. You can't have one without the other. It doesn't help to simply have tough laws on the books without policing. So the policing that we have seen the Toronto police do this summer has been exceptional--very hard work, targeted. I think you should have the chief here to talk about the use of resources to actually apprehend these individuals. The stories they're telling me about the amount of manpower they need--or “person-power”, whatever the politically correct term is--has been incredible.
They're investing all this in police presence, but if they're not getting appropriate sentences, it's a revolving door over and over again. They point out the fact of the numerous killings or shootings in Toronto that were committed by people out on bail. The numbers are simply staggering. So, again, it shows you that having those people incapacitated, even if it's not going to deter them when they're out, is going to save lives in a very real sense.
So what we've tried to do in listening to the police.... For example, the issue of the loaded or restricted firearm inside a motor vehicle, just possession, is a growing problem. Every police officer walking up to a car now has to assume that there is a loaded firearm in that car. That's an intolerable state of affairs, something that would have never occurred....
I remember years ago prosecuting back in 1977. A police officer on highway number 1 at 2 o'clock in the morning stops a car, the door opens, and the handgun falls out. That was such an exceptional circumstance back then. Now they assume it occurs.
The handguns are being kept under the front driver's seat. So there will be three or four gang members in the car, and then it's difficult to prove the possession--so very difficult to prove. We believe that if you're making a practice of carrying this handgun in your car, loaded, there should be significant consequences.
Now, if the NDP say, look, we should move that up to four years, in that kind of circumstance, I would say, yes, let's move it up to four years. We haven't done that; we've said three years.
Again, I disagree with what the Liberals did. For example, a firearm, a long gun...an aboriginal using it and getting eight years doesn't make sense to me either. There has to be a proportionate response. So I would reject the Liberal response as being one that would unnecessarily increase the inmates in prison of a certain type, who can, I believe, be deterred in other ways other than using the Liberal approach.
Focusing on the victims is a really good idea. It's a really unique idea to dealing with crime and what we should do.
When it comes to gangs, before the election last year I did some visiting of penitentiaries and checking the gang numbers in the penitentiaries and what their activities were. After the election I got quite interested in it and I continued that until we finally had to come back here to work in April. But I visited with the SIO officers, I believe they're called, the individuals in the penitentiaries who are responsible for looking after gang activity in the penitentiaries. I also visited with some of the members of these gangs. There was the Posse, the Bandidos, the Warriors, Asian gangs, motorcycle gangs. There were all types of gangs.
One thing that's a bit surprising is that it didn't matter what the gang was, there were all walks of life that belonged to those gangs. The Indian gang, so to speak, was not just aboriginal people. There were actually some other people who were involved in it, because it's all about making money; it's all about getting-rich schemes.
I had some interesting conversations with them, Mr. Minister, in terms of what would it do to stop the kind of activity that's going on. I find it sad for them to say, “Well, there isn't a whole lot for us to worry about right now. There isn't too much that's going to occur. Yes, there are some of us in here for life, but that's what happens when you murder somebody.” But there's much more to the active issue. These are the people who are actually trying to change their lives and want to do something.
I asked, “What about the registry? Did that have any effect?” They laughed and said, “Did nobody tell you about gangs? We don't register our guns.” Well, no, nobody really told me that. I just sort of suspected that was true. They said, “Why don't you toughen up the laws? Why don't you build more prisons if you have to? There are a lot of bad people out there in gangs, and they need to be stored.” These are actual words coming from those who were convicted and are in penitentiaries today, those belonging to gangs, saying, “It is getting out of hand. When I got into it, I didn't think it would go to this severity, but it's getting worse and worse.”
So I commend you on this legislation. It's a step in getting tough on them. I get sick and tired of hearing about the registry, which has not saved one life that I know of--not one. We have to do something about protecting the innocent people, the victims, and I applaud you for that. I think this bill is going to do it.
That's my speech.
I have one question, on Mayerthorpe. I'll never forget the Mayerthorpe tragedy. It's one of the worst we've ever seen in this country, where four officers lost their lives. You know the mastermind behind that activity, the criminal that was involved? If this kind of legislation had been in place, what would be the likelihood of that guy being out where he could commit that kind of crime?
I agree that the Mayerthorpe situation was a terrible tragedy. Indeed it was more than a tragedy, it was a crime. I always like to specifically call things a crime rather than a tragedy. A tragedy somehow indicates to me that it couldn't be averted, and I prefer to see these as cold-blooded crimes.
I don't know what the record was of that individual. I have to agree with Mr. Comartin that some of the repeat offenders here would be fairly rare, but isn't that who we should be targeting, those repeat offenders who keep on coming back and using firearms to injure their fellow citizens and injure the police who are out there every day helping us go about our lives? I don't know whether he had prior offences.
Obviously, had that individual lived he would have faced first degree murder charges. The 25-year mandatory minimum for first degree murder was brought in by a Liberal government, and it's something that I support--life imprisonment for those individuals convicted of first degree murder.
In that particular case, had the individual been left alive and let's say the officers had not been killed, let's say they had been injured, we certainly would have been able to then attack him under the dangerous offender legislation. As a result of the decision in 2003, the number of dangerous offender applications has been halved in this country. It's gone from about 25 a year--because we're talking about the really dangerous individuals--to about 12 as a result of that decision. So what we are trying to do in our dangerous offender legislation is restore the law as it was prior to that Supreme Court of Canada decision in order that the 12 or 13 individuals who are now escaping this dangerous offender net are picked up in that net so that people are protected. That's what we're trying to do.
Are we going to get everyone? No, we're not. But we can do a much better job than we have been doing. Part of it is mandatory minimum prison sentences. Another part of it is policing. Another part of it, which I happen to believe in very strongly, is diversion of youth, opportunities for youth, so that we get them out of the gangs and so that they don't get into the gangs. It's a very important aspect. That's why I'm proud of my government's efforts in that respect.
So you can't look at this bill and say it's going to cure everything. It's not going to cure everything. There has to be a holistic, societal approach to dealing with the issue of crime.
I'm proud that my government is supporting more diversion. I'm proud of the aboriginal justice strategy programs that my department is involved in. But I also want to say that with all of the money we're putting into social programs, educational programs, community programs, if we're leaving the guys with the guns and the drugs out on the street, what chance does that next generation have when they're recruiting these kids at eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years old? When we leave those individuals out on the street, what chance do those young people have to ever get out of that life of crime?
So this is one aspect of giving those younger kids a break, because they're victims too, the individuals who in the early years are tempted into the gang life. I've seen that development over the past 15 years in a place like Winnipeg, especially, which I'm most familiar with. The kind of gang crime that we have going on now didn't exist back in 1990. In 1991 there was an explosion of gang crime. We need to find appropriate tools. Diversion is a good one, but also policing, giving our police the support they need, and thirdly, the mandatory minimum prison sentences for those guys who just won't learn.
Let's deal with this issue of the born-again Department of Justice. When I came to the Department of Justice, a very interesting dialogue occurred. We had a wonderful dialogue about the most effective way of carrying out the election promises our government made.
For example, you'll note in our election promise that it was ten years for firearms offences. So we looked at that particular issue and said, is that a proportionate response? That's something the department says. What can be justified is---and they developed the program for us, so that only on a third offence would it be a mandatory minimum ten-year sentence.
I also heard what the Liberals were saying during the election. So I thought, a Liberal saying eight years, let's see where we can work with that. We heard Mr. Comartin during the election, or his party, at least, say a mandatory four years. So we took all those and said, what's a proportionate response? So I had a very good dialogue with the department.
I can tell you I didn't write the bill you have here. It took a lot of dialogue with the department, with interest groups across the country.
Now the suggestion that we should go to the aboriginals and ask what they think about this particular bill.... This is not targeted at aboriginals. The Canadian Police Association, for example, includes many aboriginal organizations as well--police organizations. The CPA has been very supportive of this type of legislation, and I'm sure they've canvassed the police officers in that context.
What we also want to point out is that the bill itself doesn't target the kinds of concerns Mr. Bagnell raised about an individual with a hunting rifle who injures somebody with that hunting rifle. For example, if you had a duck hunter who was down on his luck, who walked into a store, held it up with a shotgun, that wouldn't attract these mandatory minimum prison sentences, other than the existing ones that were put in place, I believe, by your government--the four-year mandatory minimum.
So the issue here is, we are not targeting, nor does the legislation in any way affect, those types of sentencing principles. What we are doing is targeting gang activity and the use of firearms in the context of gang activity, and therefore we believe it's proportionate. It's a proportionate response to a very serious problem.
I've consulted broadly across the country on the issue, on the aspect of the drug strategy to do mainly with penalties. For example, in a place like Vancouver, we see one in thirteen individuals going to prison for actually trafficking in drugs. In the rest of British Columbia, generally it's one in seven. And it...circumstances change.
People have brought concerns to me on, for example, methamphetamine labs, and the dangers they cause to firefighters who arrive at an explosion, open up the door, and are overwhelmed by toxic fumes. These labs are fire hazards. As I understand it, in the greater Vancouver area one in eight house fires is caused by some kind of drug production lab. That's very dangerous for a neighbourhood.
I've toured these neighbourhoods, and they're not what one would consider to be low-end housing. We're talking about houses that cost half a million to a million dollars. And these individuals are simply given fines, most of them treating the fines as simply licences to do business. If a house burns down, it's a million dollars gone, but they find new houses quite quickly and set that up again.
On one street I went down in the Coquitlam area, eight out of the 25 houses on the street were marijuana grow ops or meth labs or MDMA labs. I'm not exactly sure what the distinction is, but I know they're all serious illegal drugs. The toxic sludge coming out of those houses--eight out of 25 on one street--into the sewage system, into the rivers, is staggering.
What the citizens have been calling for, what the police have been calling for, and what organizations have been calling for is mandatory minimum prison sentences in respect of certain types of drug offences. That's what they've been calling for.
In my department, along with Health Canada and others, we are developing this national drug strategy. Again, I want to emphasize that legislation is only one aspect of a national drug strategy. Some of the things that were brought to my attention--about treatment, about the need to cooperate with provincial authorities in terms of finding appropriate treatment beds and the like--are all part of a broader scheme.
So I can tell you that our departments are working on it and that we will be coming forward with an effective national drug strategy.