I would like to call the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order.
Being Thursday, December 13, 2007, we will, as a committee, continue our evaluation of Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, methamphetamine.
Before us are a number of witnesses. I'm going to ask that all witnesses come forward and sit at the table, including the Department of Health, from which we have Carole Bouchard.
A voice: She's not here.
The Chair: Professor Jean Fallu from the University of Montreal is not here either.
We have before us at present, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Michel Aubin, acting director general, drugs and organized crime; and Sergeant Doug Culver, chemical diversion unit. As well, we have Rebecca Jesseman, policy analyst, from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse; and David Podruzny, vice-president of business and economics for the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association.
I will turn the floor over to Michel Aubin from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Allow me a few moments for an opening comment.
The clandestine labs today are a world apart from the historic stereotype of the 1960s, or that of their resurgence in the 1990s. There is a concerted effort in the world of organized crime to capitalize on this new-found opportunity and turn synthetic drug production into an illicit economic-based enterprise of unprecedented size.
Clandestine labs producing methamphetamine, as well as numerous other amphetamine-type stimulants, have become entrenched in many countries worldwide, including Canada. The impact these illicit drug labs have on our communities is devastating.
The production of illegal synthetic drugs fuels organized crime groups that profit from their sale in Canada and abroad. These illicit drug-producing operations use hazardous chemicals that frequently explode, catch fire, and generate large amounts of toxic waste. Fires, explosions, and environmental toxins threaten everyone living in close proximity to a clandestine lab, and all too often, law enforcement personnel encounter these “chemical time bombs” in densely populated areas, even in high-rise apartment buildings.
These labs are growing in number, complexity, and size. Organized crime groups are funding these operations through the purchase of vast quantities of precursor chemicals and industrial-grade equipment.
The precursor control regulations that were enacted in January of 2003 provide law enforcement and other regulatory bodies the opportunity to monitor and control the movement of chemicals destined for illicit drug production. Over the past five years, these regulations have provided law enforcement with increased measures to prevent the diversion of numerous tons of precursor chemicals destined for clandestine labs in Canada and elsewhere.
The legislation has been effective in--
I shall, sir. I apologize.
The legislation has been effective in allowing for the seizure of vast quantities of precursor chemicals destined for these labs. It has been successful in mitigating the diversion of the domestic supply of precursor chemicals. Despite our efforts, we have seen an increase in the availability of synthetic drugs on our streets and an increase in economic-based laboratories, those being capable of producing five kilograms or more of product. Many of these laboratories that are found by law enforcement exceed by far this threshold, and their purpose is not only for domestic supply but also for exportation.
It's our opinion that the creation of any legislation that would further inhibit the ability of organized crime to produce these dangerous drugs and damaging substances would be well received by law enforcement. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug capable of ruining lives, families, and communities. However, I would like to respectfully emphasize to this committee that it is only one of many illicit drugs and controlled substances being illegally produced and sold in our country.
All of these operations require materials and equipment to produce. Most of the materials and equipment found at these sites have been diverted from a legitimate use to their present function, the manufacture of illicit drugs. While it is important to focus on the process--abusing the equipment and precursor chemicals to make illicit substances--additional focus must be directed to the issue of public safety in these labs. They are extremely dangerous when in operation and provide contamination to areas surrounding the location and to individuals who are present. Any measures that can be taken prior to a lab's becoming operational would be seen as a very positive step.
Legislation that prohibits the sale, diversion, and use of materials and equipment used to produce any controlled drug or substance would provide law enforcement with another tool in its effort to locate and dismantle these labs and to disrupt organized crime groups responsible for their existence in our country.
The law enforcement community is mindful of the legitimate use of these chemicals and the equipment, and our focus is not in that area. However, any framework that would also prevent the diversion of these substances, equipment, or material used in the production of the substances that are scheduled under the CDSA would allow law enforcement an opportunity to prevent the clandestine labs from ever reaching a stage whereby they would become functional. By being able to prevent the set-up of a functioning lab, we would be able to drastically reduce the negative impact these operations currently have on our communities and environment, and also negate the supply of these drugs and their exportation from Canada. Law enforcement would also be able to disrupt and dismantle organized crime groups involved in this type of illicit activity at the onset.
I welcome the opportunity to answer your questions.
I have with me Sergeant Doug Culver, who is our national coordinator on synthetic drug operations. He has over 10 years' experience in this field and has been recognized by the criminal courts as an expert witness in this.
Thank you, sir.
Mr. Chairman and committee members, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse appreciates the opportunity to meet with you today to share information on methamphetamine as you consider Bill .
As you may know, CCSA is Canada's national non-governmental organization formed in 1988 by an act of Parliament to provide national leadership and evidence-informed analysis and advice on substance abuse and use in Canada. CCSA recognizes the harms associated with the use and production of methamphetamine and therefore supports efforts to reduce levels of use, production, and availability in Canada.
I thank my colleagues from the RCMP for speaking to the practical enforcement concerns related to the ease with which methamphetamine can be produced using legally available materials in Canada. In light of CCSA's mandate and expertise, my presentation will focus on providing the committee with a summary of evidence on the use of methamphetamine in Canada in order to inform your discussion and provide a context for these very real and practical enforcement-related concerns.
I would like to begin by emphasizing the need to ensure that any response to substance use is evidence-informed. In order to respond effectively to methamphetamine use in a community, we need an accurate picture of the problem, including the extent of use, characteristics of users, social context, and sources of distribution. As an example, the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, supported by CCSA, is currently piloting a rapid assessment methodology that brings together a range of community resources to assess and act on developing substance use issues.
Maintaining current information on substance use at both national and community levels also facilitates the identification of problems in the early stages. This early identification allows communities to gather the health, enforcement, and other social resources needed for a proactive, comprehensive approach to the problem.
Overall, available prevalence data indicates that only a small proportion of Canadians currently use or have ever used methamphetamine. There is also evidence that rates of use in many locations have stabilized or are declining. I would, however, like to emphasize that I do not present these statistics to minimize the potential impact of meth on users, on their families, and on communities, but to provide you with what we know about the scope of the problem in order to inform your discussion.
At the national level, we currently have limited data specific to methamphetamine use. The 2004 Canadian addiction survey categorized methamphetamine under the general category of “speed and other amphetamines”, therefore breaking out what proportion of the 0.8% who reported past-year use of speed and amphetamines—
Breaking out what proportion of the 0.8% reporting past-year use of speed and other amphetamines in the Canadian population is therefore not possible.
More specific information is available through provincial student drug use surveys. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's 2007 Ontario student drug use and health survey, for example, the rate of methamphetamine use among Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 in 2007 was 1.4%. The rate in Atlantic Canada was slightly higher at 1.9%.
These surveys also demonstrate one of the characteristics of the meth issue in Canada: wide variation according to geographic regions and population. Within the Ontario student drug use and health survey, the rate of use varied from 0.5% in the Toronto area to 3.6% in the northern region. Within the Atlantic provinces, the rate varied from 1.2% in Prince Edward Island to 2.4% in Newfoundland.
At the local level this variation is often attributed to the presence of a supply source, but variation can also be associated with overall population drug use trends, as well as shifts in specific drug use preferences.
Use of methamphetamine varies not only by region but also by population. In general, males are more likely to use than females, and those in the age group of 15 to 24 are more likely to use than older populations. Evidence indicates that street-involved youth are at particularly high risk for use. Due to the transitory and marginalized nature of this population, accurate figures on use among street youth are difficult to obtain; however, available data indicates that anywhere from 14% to 38% of street-involved youth in some urban centres use methamphetamine on a monthly or more frequent basis.
In this case, methamphetamine may be playing a functional role associated with lifestyle. Meth helps users to stay awake for long periods of time, therefore preventing theft of their personal belongings or other victimization that may occur while they sleep. Meth also reduces appetite, therefore reducing the discomfort associated with hunger. It increases feelings of power and euphoria, therefore combatting fear and isolation.
Concern regarding methamphetamine is also related to other high-risk behaviours that are associated with use. Methamphetamine is frequently injected, presenting risks of soft tissue and vein damage, infection, and blood-borne disease transmission. Methamphetamine use has also been associated with risky sexual behaviour, particularly with those involved in the sex trade, and among gay men involved in the underground club scene.
Those who use methamphetamine are commonly multiple substance users, creating risks of overdose or substance interaction effects. Methamphetamine may also be used by workers performing repetitive tasks or tasks requiring extended periods of concentration, such as construction or long-haul truck drivers. Performing these tasks while under the influence may compromise the safety of the individual and those around him or her.
I would also like to briefly address the question of addiction raised during previous witness testimony on this bill. The theory that experimental use of methamphetamine inevitably leads to dependence has not been supported. Most Canadians who try methamphetamine do not continue use, and there is evidence that many of those who do continue do not use frequently.
This information is extremely useful, since understanding the factors that differentiate those who become problematic users from those who do not can help us identify potential risk and, perhaps more importantly, potential protective factors that can inform prevention and treatment efforts.
Ensuring that enforcement has the tools necessary to charge and prosecute those involved in the production of methamphetamine is an important part of reducing its availability. But as you consider this legislation, it is also important to recognize that enforcement is only one component in an overall strategy to reduce the use and production of methamphetamine.
As illustrated in previous testimony on this bill by the mayor of Drayton Valley, an effective approach to the abuse of any drug requires a comprehensive and collaborative prevention, education, treatment, and enforcement effort. Community drug coalitions provide a means of bringing multi-sectoral partners together to leverage local resources toward the common goal of addressing or preventing the use of substances such as methamphetamine.
Campaigns targeting methamphetamine use have been initiated at the grassroots, municipal, and provincial levels and provide access to a wealth of information for patients, parents, educators, youth, the general public, and those seeking treatment.
I would also like to note that CCSA's drug prevention strategy for Canada's youth, a five-year plan that complements the Government of Canada's new national anti-drug strategy, will include partnerships with provincial organizations, such as the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, youth organizations, communications professionals, and educators. In addition, the strategy will establish a working group on special populations to advise on interventions best suited to high-risk youth, therefore targeting marginalized populations, such as street-involved youth with the highest risks and rates of methamphetamine use.
Treatment also plays an important role in a comprehensive approach to methamphetamine use. In general, treatment for substance abuse problems in Canada needs to be developed in a way that provides users with access to a cross-sectoral continuum of care that meets individual needs through a range of services and supports. Even within an ideal framework of treatment availability, there are challenges specific to the treatment of methamphetamine, including physical withdrawal, cognitive disruption, unpredictable behaviour that may include violence, and poor overall health.
On a positive note, there is evidence for the efficacy of treatment that addresses these issues within a comprehensive approach, involving, for example, cognitive behavioural therapy, social support and family education, individual counselling, and urine testing. The Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission has recently released guidelines for the treatment of methamphetamine users that are freely available through the commission website.
In closing, I would like to express CCSA's appreciation for the opportunity to present evidence on the use of methamphetamine in Canada. Thank you for your interest. I will be happy to address any questions.
Let me start by saying that the members of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association produce and market a wide variety of chemicals.
I'd like to restrict my comments to the chemical precursors, in particular the multi-use aspects of a number of the chemical precursors. I'll also restrict my comments to industrial chemicals, not the pharmaceutical active ingredients, which are outside of our membership's purview.
For the most part, our members produce and market to other companies, who in turn produce the products for public consumption. Very little of our production goes directly to the public.
The global trade in chemicals is second only to motor vehicles. Canadian exports to the United States are over 80%. Roughly 80% of our total production in this country is exported. There are estimated to be somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 chemicals of commerce worldwide. In Canada, there are over 20,000 chemicals that are marketed commercially, and many times that are available in lab quantities.
While we produce only a small number of different industrial chemicals within our membership, the Canadian economy uses as diverse a range of chemicals as in any other developed country. I think the chemical sector needs to present to this group that many of the chemicals we produce are inherently hazardous. All of them deserve respect, in both production and handling. Many chemicals have multiple uses, and many chemicals are precursors for the production of other chemicals. I want to come back to that with a couple of examples.
Our members are working within an advisory working group on precursor control regulations. We have been working with Health Canada on how to put necessary controls in place that would allow normal business practice to proceed and yet give the regulators and law enforcement adequate tools to manage the illicit handling of our products.
I'd like to briefly mention a couple of things for the record--and I apologize if I'm speaking to the converted--on the class A and class B precursors.
For class A, at this point you have to be licensed as a manufacturer or shipper. You can only sell to licensed purchasers. You must keep records of what is produced, and those records must be available to enforcement officials.
For class B chemicals, you must be registered, maintain business records, and be audited. As a condition of membership in our association, our members are required to deal only with reputable buyers. They're committed to refusing any suspicious sales where the purchaser does not have a line of business that directly requires the chemicals being purchased.
I want to mention a few specific examples. There is an increasing diversity of chemical imports, with enormous growth in container shipment traffic, particularly through the west coast. Carriers into remote areas of this country might need to come under increasing scrutiny. A number of key carriers, including railways, and a number of trucking companies are associate members of our association, and we spend a lot of time working with them on recognizing when products might be diverted.
Our association also works with Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the chemical weapons area. We work with Natural Resources Canada on explosives precursors, and, as I mentioned, we're part of this group with Health Canada.
There are many areas where chemicals can be diverted for illicit use. Let me give you a couple of examples of class A and class B multiple uses.
Acetic anhydride, which is one of the class A listed chemicals, is also used in water treatment and water purification and air purification as a disinfectant. In the class B area, first of all, all of the chemicals there are multiple use, but let me pick up on acetone, whether it's being used as nail polish remover or being used in the manufacture of paints or varnishes. There's a whole series of applications.
But there are a couple others I'd like to mention specifically. One is sulphuric acid. It's by far the most widely used industrial chemical worldwide. In the United States alone, over 40 million tonnes a year are shipped around the country and outside of the country. Canada is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 million to 15 million tonnes a year. In the case of hydrochloric acid, about five million tonnes a year are shipped. These products have multiple uses. They are used in fertilizer production. They have a wide variety of uses.
Our message is that many of the class A and all of the class B precursor chemicals are multiple-use in commerce. Doing something further or eliminating these products would have a considerable impact on the Canadian economy, restricting the ability to produce a wide variety of important and required goods of commerce. For the most part, banning the use or restricting the use further of these dual-use chemicals would only result in using alternate chemicals to make the same product. Chemistry can find a way.
We don't think that product deselection is going to solve the problem. We do think there needs to be effective monitoring of the products that we produce and where they go, and we believe we're doing that. We're also working very closely with the Health Canada officials on the list and keeping it up to date. We believe your existing legislation has provisions for adding to and subtracting from that list as the technologies evolve.
I'll stop there and offer to take questions.
Good day, honourable members of the standing committee, and thank you for inviting Health Canada to participate in your discussions today.
My name is Carole Bouchard. I'm the director of the office of controlled substances at Health Canada. The office of controlled substances is the organizational unit within the drug strategy and controlled substances program that is responsible for the administration of the legislative framework for controlled substances and precursor chemicals in Canada.
In this regard, I thought I would take this opportunity to provide you with some background on the legislative framework and specifically the precursor control regulations, so as to inform your discussions on this particular legislative proposal about methamphetamine that is before you today.
As you may know, Canada's federal legislative framework for drug control includes the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or the CDSA, along with its associated regulations. CDSA and its regulations provide the parameters for the legitimate medical, scientific, or industrial use of controlled substances and precursor chemicals, and it also lays out the offences and penalties that apply when persons are found to have carried out unauthorized activities.
The act includes eight schedules. The schedules identify the controlled substances and precursor chemicals covered by the act. They are generally grouped with consideration of chemical structure, pharmacology, and abuse liability and dependence potential, and are mainly organized in such a way that lower-numbered schedules are associated with higher penalties for offences. For example, morphine is included in schedule I, and the maximum penalty for offences involving the import, export, production, and trafficking of morphine is life imprisonment, while a simple possession offence carries a penalty of seven years.
By consequence, the maximum penalty for offences involving the import or export of substances included in schedule IV, diazepam, for example—where diazepam is a drug used for the treatment of anxiety—is three years, and it's not illegal to possess substances in schedule IV unless one is found to be in possession for the purpose of trafficking or exporting. These schedules, of course, can be modified by regulation when necessary.
In addition, the CDSA allows Canada to fulfill its obligations under three United Nations treaties, namely: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; the Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Canada respects many of the specific obligations laid out in the UN drug control conventions through a diverse network of regulations made under the CDSA, perhaps the most important ones in terms of your discussions today being the precursor control regulations, which outline the rules governing the production, distribution, import, export, possession, and sales of precursor chemicals in Canada.
Precursor chemicals, in this context, are substances that may be used in the illicit production of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine. Given that the bill in front of you relates specifically to methamphetamine, perhaps I will now turn to how this substance is currently regulated under the CDSA and how the precursor control regulations, or the PCRs, which came into force in 2003 and 2004, work to prevent the illegal import, export, production, distribution, and sale of substances used in its production.
Currently, methamphetamine, including its salts, derivatives, isomers, analogues, and salts of derivatives, isomers, and analogues, is listed in schedule I of the CDSA. This was not always the case, in that prior to 2005, methamphetamine was listed in schedule III to the CDSA. The movement of methamphetamine from schedule III to schedule I has increased the maximum penalty associated with its illegal importation, exportation, possession for the purpose of exportation, production, as well as trafficking, from 10 years to life imprisonment. Similarly, the maximum penalty for illegal possession has increased from three years to seven.
As many of you will be aware, methamphetamine is produced domestically in clandestine laboratories using ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial applications, for example, red phosphorus, which is widely used in the production of matches.
The fact that methamphetamine can be made so easily using ingredients that are relatively cheap and easy to obtain, and that it can be administered using a variety of routes, for instance, intravenously or orally, have made methamphetamine an attractive drug of abuse that is readily accessible in comparison to other illicit drugs.
In a sense, therefore, the PCRs were established in order to respond to domestic concerns, primarily from law enforcement agencies, regarding the ease with which chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacturing of drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy were able to be imported into, exported out of, and moved across Canada. They also enabled Canada to fulfill its international obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
That said, because the chemicals that would be regulated under the PCRs were currently being used legitimately, either in households or in a variety of other industries--for example, in cold medication and in paint products--the regulations had to balance those needs with the desire to curb the use of the same chemicals in the illegal production of synthetic drugs. Inherently, this principle of balancing the needs of legitimate users and the need to reduce abuse and diversion is one that applies in scheduling decisions.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the PCRs, these regulations contain provisions authorizing the importation, exportation, production, packaging, distribution, and sale of precursor chemicals through a pre-export notification, licensing, and permit scheme. The regulations also impose security, record keeping, and reporting requirements on companies conducting activities with precursor chemicals. Health Canada inspectors are authorized to monitor and investigate compliance with the regulations. And where an inspection or investigation yields evidence suggestive of diversion for illicit purposes or criminal activity, this is referred to and investigated by law enforcement.
The implementation of the PCRs has been reported to have had a positive impact in helping to decrease the cross-border trafficking of the chemicals regulated by them and has contributed to greater collaboration between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies. Both the U.S.–Canada cross-border threat assessment reports, produced jointly by the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as the International Narcotics Control Board annual reports have also spoken favourably about the PCRs.
That said, we are always looking at ways to improve the effectiveness of the regulatory framework for precursor chemicals. In this regard, I would be remiss if I did not mention that our ability to administer the PCRs has just received a boost with the allocation of new funds to Health Canada under the enforcement action plan of the national anti-drug strategy. These funds, which are part of a $22 million envelope aimed at assisting law enforcement agencies in tackling illegal drug production and distribution operations, with a focus on gangs and the clandestine production of methamphetamine, will be specifically targeted at increasing the compliance and enforcement capacity of the office of controlled substances and increasing the drug analytical service's ability to support law enforcement agencies via the analysis of seized substances.
As you may know, Health Canada is a key partner in the national anti-drug strategy, which aims to address a wide range of issues associated with illicit drug production, use, and abuse.
In conclusion, our department, with our federal partners, continues to work diligently at administering the CDSA and the PCRs in order to ensure that controls are applied where warranted but that legitimate trade is not compromised. As the proposal that you are debating today will capture a wide range of substances and materials that are found or used in the production of a large number of industrial and consumer products--for example, cold medications, fabric dyes, jugs, pails, and other examples--I trust that the information I have provided will be helpful as you continue your deliberation.
Thank you. I would be pleased to answer any questions.
Whereas the banning and repression resulting from it cause more harm to individuals and to society than the use of psychoactive substances themselves;
Whereas widespread behaviour can only be eradicated through legislation with difficulty, without causing other problems such as corruption;
Whereas scientific studies show that at best, there is no difference in current user profiles as far as countries with different drug policies are concerned, and that at worst, prohibition strategies engender more serious consequences than do harm reduction strategies;
Whereas there is an important distinction to be made between use and abuse, and that the majority of users are functional and have adapted, in a way that is all together comparable with those who abstain;
Whereas abuse and addiction are often the consequence of problems of psychosocial functioning and not their cause;
Whereas people grappling with abuse and addiction problems are primarily in need of assistance and not punishment, and punishment often aggravates the situation;
Whereas abstinence is not always possible for everyone, at least not in the short term;
Whereas in Canada, the principle of fair justice is not respected from one region to another as far as the possession of narcotics is concerned;
Whereas the devastating effects of metamphetamine primarily result from the inhalation or injection methods of use and the lifestyle of the user;
And finally, whereas the effects of substances and drug addiction are not punely the result of the pharmacological effects of substances, but of the interaction between them, the individual and the context, it is recommended to the committee and to the government to not criminalize the possession of metamphetamine, nor any other drug.
It is also recommended to the government to implement measures other than reducing supply by also taking action with respect to people and their social context with a view to reducing demand and harm. That is the first proposal.
The second, which more specifically concerns the two subsections under 7.1 put forward in the bill, read as follows:
Whereas a number of people, particularly young people, who for the most part are well adapted, contributing members of our future society, possess and use speed in pill form that could contain metamphetamines or their precursors, for example amphetamines;
Whereas a number of people possess and use medications or natural products made up in whole or in part of potential metamphetamine precursors;
Whereas certain substances used in the synthesis of metamphetamines can also be used to produce other consumer goods, for example perfume, in the case of lithium hydride;
And finally, whereas well-intentioned people wishing to manufacture natural products, for example, buy used equipment to enable them to produce pills, but that such equipment is sometimes contaminated by a previous owner, it is recommended to the committee and to the government to amend Bill C-428, , in order to specify which substances are targeted by section 7.1—speed pills sold as amphetamine, amphetamine, pseudo-ephedrine, ephedrine, ephedra, natural products containing ephedra, decongestant medications containing pseudo-ephedrine or ephedrine, mahwong, lithium hydride, aluminum hydride, etc.—and in what form.
Finally, it is recommended to the committee and to the government to clarify the word “intended” so as to avoid anyone being unfairly incriminated by having material in his or her possession that could potentially be used for production or trafficking, but in fact is not.
To conclude, I believe that it is both possible and preferable to control the precursors to metamphetamine production, and that all the other aspects of this bill could do more harm than good.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming. I'm very happy that I let Professor Fallu go before me because I think he made some excellent points.
I think there are really two issues before us on this bill. The primary issue is whether we actually need a legislative change or whether the provisions that we have in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are sufficient. I would certainly follow up the comments made by Professor Fallu that this heavy reliance on enforcement as the primary tool to deal with substance use issues is certainly very politically driven by the Conservative government. I think the evidence shows us that reliance on enforcement is not only a wrong approach, but it can actually be counterproductive and harmful in and of itself.
I think there is a question as to whether or not an additional legislative approach is necessary. If we agree that it is, then I think the second question is whether this bill, with the wording we have, is the approach we should take. I've heard from all of the witnesses, to different degrees, with slightly different perspectives, that with the bill that's before us it seems to be very unclear what its impact, if any, will be. I really am left with a sense that this bill is really neither here nor there.
You may have some issues about how the enforcement is done, but whether or not this bill is going to change anything from a legislative point of view is I think one question. But just overall, with this reliance on enforcement....
I do have a question for Madam Bouchard.
In terms of the controlled drugs and substances unit that you're part of, does either your unit or somebody else collect information on what the charges and sentences are? We'll be dealing with this issue overall in the House of Commons, and I'm just curious to know whether or not you actually track the charges and the convictions that we have now.
I think some clarification is necessary, Mr. Chair. The government is proposing an amendment to the bill, which I think will address a number of the issues that have been raised, in particular by Mr. Lee. Actually, the couple of questions I have will be in line with his questions.
The reason this amendment is being made is to clarify the mens rea and to make clear that to be found guilty of the offence, the offender must not only commit the illegal activity but must know of the future illegal use of the substance, equipment, or material.
To take that a little bit further, Mr. Lee's reference to life imprisonment for those involved with the drug itself, in whatever context that may be, is post-production. That life imprisonment has nothing to do with what happens during the purchase of equipment or the purchase of the ingredients necessary, if you will, to make the drug. It has everything to do with what happens, I suppose, on the street versus behind the scenes, as noted in Ms. Bouchard's presentation, where it is produced domestically in clandestine laboratories. That's what this bill gets at, and I think it's very important to note that we are talking about and are trying to be specific about giving them, whether it be law enforcement or in terms of criminal charges, the ability to charge those issues.
So if we want to have a discussion of post-production, that's fine, but that has nothing to do with this bill. There is ample legislation in place, as Mr. Lee has pointed out very correctly, to deal with post-production--sale on the street, those using it, and those selling it. There is no legislation to deal with the component of mens rea--pre-production--and that's what all these folks, or at least most of the folks, are here today to present on.
I'd like to ask Mr. Aubin about that and get his perspective, because I think the amendment really addresses some of the concerns some have brought forward. I'd like to get your thoughts and your feelings on the direction of this bill and the strength it gives you to do work you are not able to do presently.
Mr. Chairman, let me reassure you that I am sober and in full possession of my faculties, whatever the government may think.
Mr. Chairman, all I mean by this is that after a brief discussion with our NDP colleagues and those from the other party, out of respect for the sponsor of the bill, I am not sure whether it would be wise for us to move to clause-by-clause consideration at this time. I think that if we did that now, a majority, if not all, of the opposition members would not support the bill. I strongly believe that the sponsor should have every possible opportunity.
There are two problems. I would like you to clarify whether it would be better to call back the sponsor of the bill, who did not do his job because he did not explain how this bill would useful for law enforcement organizations.
Mr. Fallu had already appeared before the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs. Given the fact that this testimony proposes to specify the substances at issue, I wonder whether we should not give the sponsor of the bill another opportunity. Perhaps he could continue collaborating with Mr. Fallu and get in touch with the RCMP. This morning, we realized that he is not a legal expert, and we were not expecting that.
However, I am inclined to ask you to verify whether we can defer clause-by-clause consideration, invite the sponsor and give him another opportunity. Otherwise, I fear that this bill will be defeated.
Let me note that the government has a great influence on the legislative process. MPs only get one item every four years. Of course, when we have a minority government, it is even less than that. I want to help the sponsor, but we need more information.
Thank you to the witnesses.
As it was just raised here, we should be looking at this bill in the context of how it could be amended. I want to put on record a couple of things. Obviously the precursor chemicals that are available are widely used in other legal activities. We all recognize that. Therefore, the amendment that the government is going to put forward--some of you have seen it by now--would simply clarify that a person must have the requisite mens rea. They must have criminal intent such that they know that what they're in possession of is going to be used to commit illegal activity.
The crown is going to have to prove that someone engaged in possessing these items knows that they would be used for illegal activity. Only then would they be found guilty of the offence. They know there will be future illegal use of the substance, the equipment, or the material.
So I think that addresses some of the questions. And when we're asking these questions, I would like us to consider them in the context that there has been an amendment moved.
It was also raised that the amendment is going to refer to not only methamphetamine now but also methamphetamine and its salts, derivatives, isomers, salts of derivatives, and so on--a more comprehensive scope rather than just simply methamphetamine.
That's the crux of the government amendment, which I think addresses most of the issues I've heard.
Now, we could go down the road of some discussion on whether any drugs, or all drugs, should be illegal. That's not a discussion or debate that I think we should have here.
I'd like to know a bit about this: what is the problem, and does this bill allow our police or our system to address the problem in a way that it cannot be addressed now? That's narrowly how I'd like to look at it. Is this a tool that's going to be used by the police to do something positive that they cannot do now?
In light of that, could the representatives from the RCMP take us through this a bit? We heard about some of the clandestine labs and super labs that are being used, where they're taking in this material in bulk and efficiently producing methamphetamine. Can you take us through the stage where you now--and you alluded to this in your answers--are able to act and put a stop to it, versus where you'd like to be able to act and put a stop to the illegal activity?
I think our goal as legislators should be to stop illegal activity and dangerous activity early on rather than when someone has been able to go further down that road later on.
So could you comment a bit on that? Maybe you could tell us what's typical in terms of what you see, day in and day out, and how this bill would allow you to act earlier.
In order to address the possible inference that the current law does not provide any enforcement capability at all for equipment that might be used, I want to refer the panel to and ask for your reaction to the existence in the Criminal Code of the conspiracy provisions, section 465, and the attempt provisions: attempt to possess, attempt to traffic, conspiracy to posses, conspiracy to traffic.
With all the offences, it could take place before the actual creation of the meth, and that's what this statute tries to do. But even with this statute, there's an assumption that we're going to have to have an amendment to it, because the current wording, in my view, wouldn't get by one half-hour in the first court prosecution that took place under it. It's simply so deficient legally that it won't fly. This dog won't hunt, so to speak.
If we amend it, then it might be viable. But even under the amended provisions, you have to have knowledge and you have to have intention. To be more practical, it's not just the existence theoretically of the knowledge and intention. There has to be police evidence, evidence of the intention. The police aren't going to arrest just anybody, whether it be under this statute or under the conspiracy statute or under the attempt provisions, unless they have good evidence of intention.
I'm suggesting to you that there is plenty of law available, if the police have evidence of intention or evidence of conspiracy, to pre-empt a conspiracy to produce methamphetamine or any other drug. Those provisions exist under the existing Criminal Code and the existing CDSA.
I'll follow that with another question. If you can't find all the functioning crystal meth labs that exist now, how are you going to find one that hasn't even come into existence yet?
I'll put it to the RCMP to respond on the conspiracy and attempt provisions and how they could be used now, if we had the evidence and had the money to invest in the investigation.