moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as you have mentioned, on my private member's bill, which moves to address the terrible problem of methamphetamines, or crystal meth, in many of our communities.
The devastation this drug inflicts on communities, families and others across this nation is horrific. The war is on. Quite frankly, we are losing the battle. Too many of our young, healthy citizens are losing years of their life to its devastation and some are dying in the grips of its horror.
Crystal meth is one of the biggest threats to some of our communities. Unfortunately, its popularity is increasing dramatically. Crystal meth has a hold on too many of our young citizens and we have a responsibility to do something about it.
This bill addresses the precursors of the production and trafficking of methamphetamines by amending the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This will give the police the tools they need to combat the spread and the production of this drug. This is a vital change to the current legislation. It is my prayer that this will turn the tide on the war against this drug.
However, before we go any further, let us not forget what is at the core of this issue. This issue is about people. This bill is about people. I am going to begin by talking about a heartbreaking account from my riding of the devastating consequences of this drug.
I would like to start by relating the story of a victim of this drug in my riding of Peace River. She lives near my community. For now, I am going to call her Sally. There is nothing sadder than meeting a person I once knew as a strong and upstanding member of the community who was a successful businesswoman, a mother, and a wife for 15 years, but who is now a prostitute addicted to crystal meth.
She did not become a prostitute by choice. She was forced into prostitution to pay the debts that she incurred as a meth user. Sally never set out to become a drug-addicted prostitute, but that is the way that things have lined up for her.
It only took one use, one hit, and as well, her husband was an addict. “Her husband?”, one might ask. We might have thought that Sally was the addict. She is, but this drug destroys entire families, and Sally's husband is the one who brought it home.
Who knows why she started? It seems that many partners, spouses, siblings, children, neighbours, classmates, colleagues and acquaintances cannot say no when someone close to them is a user. In a moment of weakness Sally got high and now her life is a mess. Even if she cleans up this mess, the sacrifices that she has made are already too high.
It only takes once. One use, and many people are hooked for life. The addictive qualities of methamphetamine make it a dangerous drug for any person to experiment with. To quote a participant from my home province in a consultation on this drug, “No human being should be putting fertilizer, iodine, Drano and battery acid, all mixed together with a little ephedrine, into their system”. But that is in fact what people are doing.
People who have used this drug says that it gives them an overwhelming sense of euphoria, lasting up to 24 hours. It allows them to stay awake for hours on end. Some people claim that it helps them concentrate and gives them confidence and supernatural power. Unfortunately, the reality is that this drug offers only short term satisfaction, but long term destruction.
Unlike other drugs, methamphetamines do not need to be imported or grown. They can be produced relatively easily, and unfortunately relatively cheaply, right here in our communities in undercover labs that are often hard to detect.
I would like to commend the work that was recently done in my home province of Alberta by the premier's task force on crystal meth. It was chaired by Dr. Colleen Klein and Dr. Bob Westbury. The task force oversaw the development of a province-wide holistic strategy to find solutions to stop the abuse and the negative impacts of crystal meth and methamphetamines on Alberta families, young people, communities and workplaces. I will be quoting from that report tonight, among other sources.
Unfortunately, no province in Canada is safe from crystal meth, be it Alberta or on the east coast as well. Crystal meth is a highly addictive drug with a long-lasting high and it produces a sense of overwhelming euphoria. Those who use it quickly become addicted and, compared to other drugs, experience more intense effects from prolonged use.
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 new ways to sell this drug. It is in our communities and our schools, our families are being affected by it, and it is in our workplaces.
This drug can affect anybody. It can affect the rich, the poor, the young and the old. It affects men and women equally. However, its use unfortunately is growing most quickly among young people and groups that are already at high risk.
The menace of crystal meth in our communities from coast to coast to coast is real and acute. Our nation must fight back.
Before we understand how to fight back against crystal meth, it is important that we understand what it is. I know that one of my colleagues plans to outline this as well, so I will be brief.
I think it is important to know that methamphetamine is a stimulant. It is a derivative of a synthetic stimulant first produced in 1919. It is sold on the street as jib, crank, meth, speed, glass, fire, and ice and has other street names as well.
Meth is available as a powder. It can be taken orally, snorted or injected. Typically the drug is heated and vaporized and the fumes are inhaled, allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream very rapidly. It only takes about eight seconds for the drug to enter a person's brain. Crystal meth is smokable and this makes it the most potent form of the drug. For that reason, many young people are tending to gravitate towards it.
Methamphetamines are not legally available in Canada, but the drug can be produced virtually anywhere, including in small sheds, in basements and even in mobile labs in the back of a car or a trailer. These makeshift laboratories are extremely dangerous due to the presence of highly flammable liquids and corrosive chemicals, usually mixed by people with no experience or expertise in handling such dangerous goods.
The majority of meth sold on the streets is produced in undercover super-labs, which can produce 10 pounds or more, and the mid-level labs, which produce less than nine pounds at a time. These labs are often referred to by police as clandestine labs.
While there is a large number of small scale labs, they produce only 5% of the meth available on the streets. The small scale or home based labs, often operated by meth users themselves, produce one ounce at a time, often just enough for the user with just a small amount available that they can sell to cover the cost of their addiction.
Meth is relatively easy and inexpensive to make using commonly available ingredients called precursor chemicals. The recipe for meth includes products such as over the counter cold medications, paint thinners, household products like drain cleaner, and agricultural chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia.
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 they often will choose it. Meth is referred to as the poor man's cocaine.
The effects of crystal meth on the user include: rapid, unhealthy weight loss; brain damage; insomnia and restlessness; skin sores caused by repetitive scratching and picking; major dental problems; memory problems and an inability to focus; severe depression and suicidal thoughts; strong physiological withdrawal; a greatly increased risk of HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases if the drug is injected; long term damage to nerve endings; and a risk of severe injury or death in the case of an overdose.
The damage caused by meth is rampant and far-reaching. It is not isolated to the user. It extends to family members, friends and, quite frankly, the broader community. The impacts on the users are well known and include: significant family disruption; mistrust; difficulty for family members coping with other members' addictions; conflict with schoolmates, teachers, colleagues and bosses that may result in school expulsion and/or loss of employment; and harm to the community through violence, property crimes and environmental damage.
Producing crystal meth has potentially serious and deadly consequences for the community. The hazards of meth labs include: exposure to precursor chemicals, toxic fumes, poisonous gas, fires and explosives, and property damage caused by contamination.
Crystal meth production also poses a significant risk to the environment. Production of crystal meth is dangerous for the individuals who make it, for the people who try to shut down those labs, for the innocent neighbours of the labs, for the users, and for our natural environment as well.
Because of the various chemicals used to make crystal meth and the rudimentary processes that are used, the result is a tremendous amount of toxic waste. Half a kilogram of meth produces four kilograms of toxic chemical waste. In most cases, the waste and residue from meth labs end up in the surrounding environment, leading to major environmental damage and significant cleanup costs.
The chemical waste can also cause severe damage to the ecosystem and serious health problems if it is inhaled or ingested by people or animals. Since meth labs can produce drugs in relatively short periods of time, production labs can easily materialize in unexpected places such as hotel rooms, abandoned rural buildings or anyone's home.
As quickly as a lab is constructed, the drugs can be removed, leaving the lab and the waste to be discovered by somebody who comes by later. Unfortunately, the landowners, and often the municipal districts, are left shouldering the cleanup costs. In fact, one Alberta county was recently caught off guard with a significant cleanup bill from methamphetamine waste that was dumped on county lands.
Individuals who become meth users are addicted more quickly and experience much worse effects, compared to other drugs, after prolonged use. The negative impacts kick in quickly and are devastating.
I will read for members another account of a person who was addicted to methamphetamine. That user wrote: “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 life without it. But you're unable to live with it”.
We must ask this question: who is using crystal meth? This drug is particularly alarming because it is highly addictive, easily accessible and cheap to buy. These factors make it very attractive to young people.
Most meth users tend to use other drugs as well. They may also use ecstasy, marijuana or other drugs at the same time. The burden of mental and physical illness associated with drug use rises when multiple drugs are taken.
Meth users tend to between the ages of 10 and 25. However, meth is also used by adults over the age of 25. That is quite common.
Not all meth users are street youth and homeless adults. Many users start out living at home, attending school or holding down a job, but end up living on the street and in all kinds of places as the addiction progresses. Some, like Sally, are far from the typical image of a drug addict that most of us have in our minds.
One frightening fact is that some children, youth and young adults are being exposed to meth and they do not even know it. More and more drug producers are adding meth to other drugs because it is inexpensive and it gives other drugs greater addictive qualities. Police in Alberta estimate that about 70% to 75% of the ecstasy sold on the street contains methamphetamine.
The expansion of more clandestine and large scale production labs has the potential to increase availability and lower prices, which could ultimately result in a larger number of users.
Not only does meth affect individual lives, relationships and families, but it also has a dramatic impact on the communities in which it is produced and used.
Meth has followed a somewhat fractured path in invading Alberta communities. I know it is the same across the country. Some communities in the province have yet to witness the impact of meth on their streets and in their schools, but other communities have been hit hard and are being forced to join together to fight back.
It is time to get tough on crystal meth. That is what this bill does. We need to take steps to keep this drug off the streets by making it more difficult to produce and more difficult to sell. We need to get tough on drug dealers and drug producers by supporting police, law enforcement, and first responders.
Law enforcement has two important roles in addressing drug crimes: enforcing current laws and reducing the demand for drugs. It needs to have the resources and the tools to deter manufacturers and dealers while mobilizing communities, allies and young people to stop the spread of drugs and the drug culture in our communities.
Unfortunately, crystal meth is already available on our streets.
Most precursors, the chemicals necessary to make crystal meth, are available to anybody in small quantities in local stores. We also know that meth culture is quite closed and it is difficult for police to trace a dealer on the streets back to the person making the meth, known as the cook.
The government must get tough on drug producers and dealers to put an end to the pain and injury they cause children, youth, young adults, families and communities.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to speak to this bill. While we may differ in our perspective on many issues, I believe my colleague and my batchmate across the floor is on the right track with this legislation.
There are many factors that contribute to drug abuse. These are factors that are only made worse when we tear away at social safety nets and govern by tax reduction, as this government is only all too ready to do. The fact is we have to do something and do something fast to fight the disease of crystal meth in our communities.
It was not that long ago that a study of schools in the Surrey and Delta area revealed that 9% of high school students had used this drug. I have two daughters who are old enough to be exposed to it. There are 13 year olds who are addicted to this drug.
Addiction to crystal meth is devastating. The damage it does to young minds makes recovery a long, hard road back to health. Heart, lung and brain damage are all too common. To watch this happen to our young people and not do all we can to prevent this devastation is to sacrifice their futures and the futures of our communities across this country. I believe it is that serious.
To make things worse, if that is possible, it also has a direct effect on other crimes. In my area, the police estimate that at least 70% of all auto theft is carried out by those who are chronic crystal meth users. That is just auto theft. Who knows how much other crimes can be connected to this terrible drug?
It was just last week that I sat down at an annual breakfast for the Surrey Food Bank, a great community organization which has become an essential service. Although I have all the respect in the world for those who do such great work in Surrey and Delta and such compassionate work in that area, including the executive director of the Surrey Food Bank, Marilyn Hermann, I wish it was not essential.
There are too many people struggling, what we now call the working poor, many who are desperate because they cannot feed their children. One gentleman at this breakfast bravely spoke about considering crime to feed his own. If the working poor are facing these kinds of challenges, the temptation to break the law must be just as great when they are in the grip of a drug that is controlling their lives.
The choice is clear. I believe we have to put aside partisan politics on this one and stand up for our communities and for our children. When we look at the text of this bill, that it proposes to stamp out the substances as well as the equipment and all the materials that go into producing the drug, this may greatly help along an initiative in my riding.
Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis has to be commended for taking the lead on an approach which asks retailers not to sell large quantities of substances and materials that go into creating crystal meth. He also is proposing regular inspections of locations where meth might be produced and instructing garbage crews to look for signs of potential meth labs.
All of these approaches may yield good results. Washington State has cut the number of meth labs in half with the very same methods. However, if these kinds of strategies can be put forth at the municipal level, surely we can look to our federal government for the right kind of leadership and guidance on this urgent issue.
Government can be a force of good here. The federal government can help to make the work of our police forces and our fire departments that much easier by standing with them and by giving them the authority to do the right thing for our communities.
I could easily see a law of this kind being a big help to bolster the Surrey crime prevention strategy. This innovative approach, just introduced this spring in my riding, calls for all three levels of government and community stakeholders to kickstart proactive approaches on crime prevention. It is the only one of its kind in Canada. It will help redefine crime fighting across the country. A law like this will give it the added weight to get things done.
That being said, there are important details to be worked out with this legislation. As I said earlier, we have to make sure that individual rights are protected. We do not want to play fast and loose with charter issues, as the government has done in the past with justice bills.
What we will need to do is develop a real spirit of cooperation with all parties. It is the kind of dialogue and cooperation the government is so unwilling to engage in that it has to write a book on obstructing committee business then distribute it to its caucus. Perhaps Conservatives feel it is not to their advantage to get things done on crime when other parties are involved in the decision making. They would rather stall on legislation and use it for strategic purposes.
Meanwhile, communities like mine are wondering why Ottawa is so ineffective on crime. That is not good enough for my community, as I am sure it is not for my colleague across the floor who introduced this bill.
Beyond the rhetoric by the government of Liberals being “soft on crime”, we have tried to move forward on seven of nine justice bills with the same spirit of cooperation and sense of urgency that I feel this issue deserves. We know that real crime prevention requires all levels of government working together, never mind all parties.
We know that, contrary to how the government works, less federal vision and leadership does not mean more for Canadians. We know that our communities are the very definition of Canada and that we must do all we can to stamp out drug abuse because the effects can be devastating that it will ruin generations to come. So let us do the right thing here.
I only wish this good government would take the same kind of activist role on other issues besides crime. I wish it could speak up for communities on child care, Status of Women funding and the court challenges program. All of these would take real leadership, not a narrow, meanspirited vision of Canada that prefers to govern by tax reduction.
Let us give our communities the support they need, let us say to our police officers, fire departments and schools that we take the problem of crystal meth as seriously as they do and let us work together to get this legislation done right.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that the members will listen to what I have to say and stop shouting while a member is talking in this House. It is the ethical and polite thing to do. It is improper to shout while someone else is talking. I would ask my colleagues to settle down.
I would first like to say that the Bloc Québécois recognizes that methamphetamine use is a serious problem. We are well aware that traffic in methamphetamine poses a danger to adolescents, particularly those between 14 and 16. We are well aware of the problem. Young people are taking drugs that can have very serious consequences for their health. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports Bill in principle. However, the Bloc has some concerns about how this bill fits in with the existing legislation.
The Bloc Québécois believes it would be a good idea to invite submissions from stakeholders such as police officers, front-line workers, pharmacists from Alberta and anyone else who is affected by this scourge. It is very dangerous for people to take these drugs. Certain methamphetamine derivatives are labelled as being extremely hazardous to human health. We would also like to examine further the applicability of certain measures the bill would impose, in order to answer some questions. The question we have is this: can we ask retailers to restrict access to ingredients other than over-the-counter cough, cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine?
It is very easy to produce crystal meth, tina or ice. They are derivatives of methamphetamine. These substances have very serious repercussions on the health of young adolescents. Furthermore, in the United States, 12 million Americans have taken some form of this substance. Users very commonly become addicted to the drug, which has even replaced cocaine. One dose is relatively inexpensive, only $5 or $10, compared to cocaine, which is very expensive. This is why adolescents are so drawn to this euphoria-inducing substance. Some adolescents are less sensitive to the irreversible effects of the drug on their health. Young adolescents seem to think that it is like energy drinks or wake-up pills, which allow the user to stay awake for long periods. These substances are very harmful to one's health.
Thus, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill. We would like to see it studied in committee in order to be able to assess the overall problem in Canada. In the United States, in New York and Illinois, there are clandestine laboratories that produce the substance safely, but it is dangerous to the health of our children. It can also be made at home. One only has to go to the hardware store and purchase some solvent, some Drano, some lithium. All these products are available over the counter.
However, the bill goes perhaps a little too far. Can we prohibit the over-the-counter sale of certain products, such as ephedrine, which is found in cough medicine? We will see how far we want to go with this bill. Controls are used to prevent access to illicit drugs. We are talking about an explosive cocktail that can lead to illnesses such as Parkinson's disease. Tests have also been conducted on certain animals that experienced after-effects after consuming this type of substance.
If it can kill animals, imagine what it can do to human beings. People can become schizophrenic. They might even commit suicide. Some newspapers have reported several cases of suicide among 12- and 13-year-olds. Apparently, crystal meth keeps them high not for 20 minutes, but for hours and hours. Peach is also a much more concentrated derivative of these products.
The Bloc Québécois is aware of this problem. I mentioned the United States, but this is also a problem in Canada, especially in Vancouver. Our colleague who raised the subject in this House today says he is especially concerned about this issue because teenagers in his own province are using these drugs, which are freely available.
We know this problem is affecting Quebec too, in places like Rivière-du-Loup. Young people are not the only ones using, although some start as young as 12 or 13. People who use this stuff for the first time might not think that they can become addicted, and that is the problem. They do not use it just once. They use it several times and develop a strong addiction. Users want to forget reality, which is sometimes tough to cope with, or they want to get through difficult situations. For example, for people who are shy or have trouble expressing themselves, these drugs make them feel big and strong, like Superman, and they lose their inhibitions when they are high. But using has serious consequences.
This bill will probably be referred to committee if my colleagues vote for it. However, as I said, we have concerns about the practicality of this bill. We cannot restrict the sale of the products that are used to make crystal meth.
I therefore invite my colleagues to at least think about this scourge. It is a very serious problem when young people of 12 and 13 have easy access to substances that are hazardous to their health. Users are not just delinquents; often they are adolescents from good families who have been influenced by their friends, kids who use drugs because everyone in their circle is doing it.
Referring the bill to a committee would provide an opportunity to gauge the extent of the problem in different provinces where methamphetamine is freely available and where there are clandestine laboratories. That might lead to further discussion of denunciation. When we know that the problem is all around us and we have adolescents, we all have a role to play in denouncing clandestine labs.
Moreover, this drug appears to be very easy to obtain. You just have to know where to go. I will not say where, but adolescents apparently know where to go. For example, methamphetamine is very easy to come by among skateboarders.
The Bloc Québécois will initially vote in favour of this bill. As for the applicability of the whole bill, we will consider amending it and making more appropriate proposals in connection with what is already in the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, I want to acknowledge the work that has been done by the member for in bringing forth this piece of legislation in the form of a private member's bill. It is one that addresses a current and very serious problem in the country.
As the House knows, as it is a private member's bill all members of the House are entitled to vote as they wish, but as the critic for my party, I will be recommending support for the bill at second reading and that it go to the justice committee. Having said that, I do have some concerns with it, some of which I have discussed with the member for . I feel fairly optimistic that we can resolve them.
Let me address those. They take two forms. One is that the creation of this new offence, which is in proposed section 7.1(a) may capture potentially individuals or even companies that we may not want to. We may have to look closely at that wording where it talks about the intended use of the chemical or the equipment used in the production of methamphetamine.
That is one area. It is a bit technical but I can see a potential abuse of the legislation if it catches the wrong people. It may need to be tightened up because it may produce a defence for individuals guilty of criminal conduct but who would have a defence in that the language is somewhat vague. We will have to spend some time at committee to make sure that it is not the case and if it is, see what we can do to improve the language.
The second concern I have is the lack of a specific penalty in the section. Section 7(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as it is now prohibits the production of many drugs listed in other parts of the legislation. That section does not address the issue of equipment or material that is used in the production of the particular drug, in this case methamphetamine.
Maybe it would have been better to create a whole new section of the act, a section 8. In any event the problem is that the balance of section 7 as it is now in the act deals with penalties, but it does not deal with any penalties with regard to equipment or material used in the production of the drug. It only talks about substances.
The law as it is now would not cover part of what we are trying to prohibit in the way of both equipment or other material. It will need an amendment to deal with penalties.
There is another concern I have, although I think I have pretty well satisfied myself, but I will raise it at this point and we will probably have more discussion in committee, assuming the bill is passed in the House at second reading. Clearly, the member for is after--I do not want to presume guilt--individuals or groups who may very well be part of organized crime or have attachment to organized crime, because they are the greatest number of individuals or groups who are producing methamphetamine in this country at this time. By and large overwhelmingly they produce it and then distribute it, as we have heard from members from the other three parties, primarily to the youth in this country.
We have also heard, and I have not addressed it because so many other members have very accurately and in some cases passionately addressed the consequences of this distribution by these groups, by organized crime in particular. The penalty may need to take that into account. We may be able to put in a specific penalty and then fall back on other sections in the Criminal Code with regard to organized crime. I want to do more thinking on that. I want to hear from the justice department in that regard.
However, the point that I am making is this. For individuals who are long-time criminals with lengthy histories of criminal activity, specifically if they are in organized crime, whether they have criminal records or not, we would want more severe penalties with regard to their conduct. They are really the ones we are after to try to stop this scourge.
In spite of the very debilitating effect that methamphetamine has on individuals who have become addicted to it, it is a reasonably well known fact that there are occasions where because they are so addicted to it and desperate for it, but are still functioning in a reasonably capable manner, they produce the methamphetamine for their own use. In that case we would want a separate penalty for them, which I think would have great emphasis with regard to treatment to try to get them off the drug.
The other penalty that needs to be addressed, and again I have spoken to the member for about this, is with regard to equipment and material used in the production of the drug. We want to give the courts authority to confiscate the equipment, and that would come from an application from the crown prosecutor. This additional power would allow our judiciary to adequately deal with these labs, especially the more sophisticated ones.
I want to make two more points that are indirectly related.
We know from an experience in the United States that there are other ways of dealing with this. I am not in any way taking away from the importance of doing this because we need this legislation.
New York state, when it first confronted the use of methamphetamine in its jurisdiction, identified early on that it was very important to get at the chemicals, the precursors that are used in the production of this. We know that a number of these chemicals are sold over the counter, mostly in pharmacies but in grocery stores as well.
The state did two things. It regulated the ability to sell those. People who produced the methamphetamine would walk into a pharmacy and strip the shelves. The pharmacy would sell these chemicals to them and they would take out box loads. Obviously, it was much more than was needed for individual consumption, whether it was for a cold, or a flu or some other ailment. That has been regulated. Now pharmacies can only sell a limited number.
The other major problem the state of New York identified, and it is problem we have in Canada and one that I am critical of the government for not acting on this, was big pharmaceutical companies were producing and selling substantially more of the precursors than they could imagine being possible for legal purposes.
Again, the state regulate that. It said that, historically, this was the amount of a certain chemical that was sold in its state, and two years ago it jumped by 100% or 1,000%. The state regulated that and all the company could bring into the state and sell was a certain amount. If the company's market expanded for legal purposes and it could justify it, the state would allow it to sell more.
That is a problem we have in Canada. The government has not acted on this. We have regulations that allow a company to do the same thing. The Department of Agriculture should be doing this, but it has not acted on it, in spite of recommendations from the RCMP and just about every major municipal police force in this country. We can be using the model from the state of New York. This would have a very positive effect on reducing the availability of this drug in our country.
The other point I want to make is this, and we know it from experience. The first time we saw this really develop was in the northern parts of the prairie provinces. We are not quite sure why it happened. We think it is because it is cheap to buy these drugs. However, it has now spread across the country. There are treatment facilities that can respond when we identify this, particularly when our youth get into it. There are not enough of those available. Both provincial and federal governments need to address this issue and allow our youth, in particular, to get the treatment they need to get off this drug.
Again, we will do what we can to improve this bill at the justice committee, assuming that it gets there.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the bill put forward by my hon. friend from .
I believe the member for Peace River has introduced this bill in a very timely fashion as many of the items that are coming forward, when it comes to meth, are coming to the attention of the police and the lawmakers. It is unfortunate that on one side it takes a while to catch up with what is happening out on the street with a lot of drug pushers and the criminal element. However, I think we have an opportunity here to actually curb the growth of this particular drug. It is of great concern because of how it affects Canadians and I commend him for drawing this particular issue to the attention of this House.
Unlike other better known drugs of abuse, such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana, methamphetamine presents some unique challenges. It is a synthetic drug. It is not dependent on cultivation of a crop. Its production requires no specialized skill or training. Its precursor chemicals are relatively easy to obtain and inexpensive to purchase. These factors make production attractive to both the criminal trafficker and to the addicted user.
I should clarify when I specified that it requires no specified skill. In many of the smaller labs, it does not, but many super labs have suddenly popped up all over the country. It appears that some areas of the country are more subject to their growth than others and the chemicals are ordered in bulk container loads at a time. That, of course, poses another problem. Not only has this particular drug proliferated some areas of North America, it is being packaged in a way that is attractive to youngsters. A new sort of designer element to this particular drug, which is called strawberry quick, is that it is strawberry coloured and flavoured, and it is packaged in a way that youngsters might want to try it. It is a dangerous way to go but it is actually out there and it is happening in that fashion.
I know that this legislation may fall a bit short, as the member from Windsor has pointed out, but he is also very supportive of seeing something move ahead, which is the key issue.
Any piece of federal legislation needs to permit the domestic seizure and forfeiture of methamphetamine precursor chemicals. Therefore, the precursors, the stuff that this chemical is made up of, must come under a clear direction from legislation for the police to be able to seize it. The legislation should also direct the police and the attorney general to cooperate with international drug enforcement agencies to interdict such chemicals.
When I say that these chemicals come from all over, they come from all over the world actually and they land on our shores, sometimes not even noted in bulk form but they are destined for, now, these super labs. Therefore, there is a need for this international cooperation to take place.
The bill also should increase penalties for the possession of equipment used to make controlled substances and for trafficking in certain precursor chemicals.
What kind of equipment is used? We could go to any lab that produces any kind of pharmaceutical actually and we would find equipment there that could be easily employed in these super labs. In fact some of them are almost like that. It would have to include anything that would go into lab work, whether it is a beaker or glass containers. Some of the smaller ones use makeshift equipment, glass tubing or plastic tubing and they need a lot of it.
Some of these labs are popping up in high-rise apartment buildings or the house next door. They pose a considerable hazard to the neighbourhood. If it is in an apartment, sometimes depending on what chemicals are used, toxic vapours are emitted. Those vapours can kill. After hearing from concerned neighbours, there have been labs that have been discovered in apartment buildings by police officers and all the occupants inside were dead. It is very, very dangerous. It could ignite and create an explosion, almost like a bomb, that damages neighbours and certainly injures those inside.
There is a need for law enforcement. The public should be made aware too. Herein lies the need for education. The public should be aware of what is happening around them as well. They should be the eyes and ears of the police. What should they look for? They should look for quantities of equipment like I have just described, or large barrels of chemicals going into a residence. These are items that are often used by organized criminals to create crystal meth.
Above all, because the distribution of crystal meth is such an international scourge, it requires a very strong link to other agencies worldwide. There has to be an agreement to interdict any such chemicals and any such equipment if they are destined for certain places. Of course, agencies need to educate people and other countries. There is a growing need for an international approach to law enforcement.
If people think there is a crystal meth lab in their neighbourhood, the first thing to do is to approach the police, advise them that this could be a very toxic area and stay away from it. Police officers are now being trained to look after these situations.
We can talk about a lot of issues. I had the privilege of attending a crystal meth conference in the United States. I just came back last week. Mexico, Canada and the United States are coming together to combat this huge problem and they have certain successes. There are concerns about what is happening in Canada. There are concerns about what is happening in Mexico and of course in their own nation as well. They seek our cooperation as much as we seek theirs.
The human misery attached to the use of this drug is beyond words. For the young people who use it, one of the side effects is rapid tooth decay. They call it “meth mouth”. They can have heart failure, kidney failure, brain damage, neurotoxicity, paranoia and depression. Some of these things are lasting. They cannot be fixed.
We have an obligation in the House to support this kind of an initiative, to make sure that it is workable in our courts, in our society, that police officers are directed to place this as a priority. I am pleased to hear there are a number of members in the House who will support this bill. We all do indeed look forward to seeing the bill in committee.