Mr. Speaker, I have 13 minutes. Last time, I was interrupted in the middle of my speech, so I will continue where I left off.
Before the debate on Bill was interrupted, I was saying how heavily this bill relies on harsher minimum penalties and I was talking about the supposed deterrent effect of these penalties. I will repeat that this has more to do with the Conservatives' repressive ideology than with the rehabilitation approach preferred by the Bloc Québécois.
Now, to resume debate, I will speak about the one positive element in Bill . This bill enables a judge, with the consent of the prosecutor, to order the offender to participate in a drug treatment program. If the offender successfully completes treatment, the court is not required to impose the minimum punishment. This can be found in subclause 5(2) of the bill.
This approach seems promising, and is a change from the Conservative government's approach of wanting to deal with crime using harsher minimum penalties.
If drug offences must be harshly punished, we must also consider alternatives to minimum penalties, since this approach does not allow for rehabilitation. This is why we must carefully examine Bill , so we can be sure that the principle of rehabilitation is still there and that it is effective.
For example, I found out from some Statistics Canada data that adult offenders who have served their time under supervision in the community are far less likely to return to the correctional system within 12 months of the end of their sentence than offenders who have served their time in a correctional institution. That fact must be taken into account.
But my analysis does not end there. We have to consider the fact that illegal drug convictions typically affect young people. About 2.5% of those between the ages of 15 and 24 are addicted to illegal drugs, compared with less than 0.5% of people over 35.
As a result, Bill could end up punishing relatively more young people. As legislators, we have to ensure that our young people can benefit from effective rehabilitation options. Why? Because prison has always been and will always be crime school. Prison is the kind of place where young people cannot help but become deeply resentful of society. That is why this clause in Bill , which opens the way to rehabilitation, is so important.
That is why we have to study this bill and its new mechanisms thoroughly to ensure that the principle of rehabilitation remains intact and effective without undermining the fight against drugs.
In conclusion, I believe that Bill is not without merit. However, there are legitimate concerns about what it seeks to achieve. For example, when I read the text of the bill, I was very concerned about some of the aggravating factors, such as when the accused has used a building belonging to a third party to commit the offence. Why would the same offence be that much more serious when committed in a rented house than in a house belonging to the accused? Why would it be more serious in an apartment than in a condo, even if the two are located in the same building?
Despite the fact that we are against this bill in principle for the reasons I mentioned earlier, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill at second reading so that it can be studied in committee. In my opinion, as I have said several times in this House, if we really want to fight crime, the first thing we have to do is fight poverty, social inequality and exclusion.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak at second reading to Bill , which deals with minimum mandatory sentencing for drug crimes.
I have to begin by saying that it is not really a surprise that we are debating this bill, although in my comments I hope to show that the bill itself is seriously flawed and very ineffective. However, it is not a surprise that the Conservative government has brought forward this bill because it is very much a part of its core agenda where it is trying to give people the illusion that it is dealing with a serious problem in our society, in this case drug use, by coming in with a very repressive and heavy enforcement regime.
My riding of Vancouver East has often been in the media and it is a community that has been at the epicentre of a drug crisis not only in Canada but in North America. I have become very involved in this issue over the course of being a member of Parliament for 11 years. I have become very involved in looking at drug policy, what works, what does not, and what kinds of reforms are taking place not only in Canada but around the globe.
In my community of East Vancouver, we are very proud of the fact that we are home to North America's first safer injection facility called Insite. In fact, just yesterday in the House, I questioned the to find out if finally the government would acknowledge the dozens of studies that have been done which show that Insite is a very effective program that has reduced drug use and improved safety, and finally make a decision to allow Insite to remain open.
Unfortunately, the , as on previous occasions, did not respond to that question and did not make it clear whether or not Insite will continue.
However, I want to say that in Vancouver, there have been many amazing advances in terms of our understanding of the drug issue, how it impacts people and what kinds of public policies need to be developed. In fact, two former mayors of the city of Vancouver, Philip Owen and Larry Campbell, were very involved in setting the stage through their leadership for a changed policy around drugs. Groups like VANDU, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, have been instrumental in transforming the debate.
So often this debate is about dividing people, of saying there are good people and there are bad people. People who are drug users are automatically labelled as traffickers or dealers. We have seen a history in Canada, as we have in the United States, of this issue being used in a way to create fear. I call it the politics of fear and this is something very much that the Conservatives have picked up on, but in East Vancouver, and in Vancouver generally, we have rejected that kind of model.
We believe that the issue of substance use, drug use, has primarily to do with public health. It has to do with ensuring that people make good choices, that people are supported in prevention, treatment and harm reduction when they need it. The more we criminalize drug users, the more we create further harms, as I hope to show in the debate today.
I do want to say that for the NDP, one of our overall concerns is that there is absolutely no proof that mandatory minimum sentences are effective and an appropriate measure to reduce drug use and crimes related to drugs. In fact, most evidence shows the opposite.
This bill does not address the core issue of why people use drugs. In fact, what it does do is increase an already imbalanced and overfunded enforcement approach to drug use in Canada without reducing crime rates or drug use. What this bill further does, in the whole program that we have seen from the Conservative government, is to abandon successful measures, such as harm reduction and grassroots education programs.
What we are most concerned about is that this bill is moving Canada toward an expensive, failed, U.S.-style war on drugs that we know spends tens of billions of dollars a year on enforcement and incarceration while crime rates soar and drug use soars as well.
Greater incarceration rates place a greater burden on the courts, police and prisons, and in fact the bill leaves it open to enforcement. This is one of the real problems of this bill, as it in effect goes after low level dealers, even for marijuana infractions. The fact is that selling one joint or growing one plant can constitute trafficking under this bill.
Just looking at the situation in Canada, we know that Canada spends about 73% of its drug policy budget on enforcement. Only 14% goes to treatment, 7% to research, 2.6% to prevention, and 2.6% to harm reduction. So when we look at that picture and see where the money has gone and where the emphasis has gone, it presents a very troubling situation. Yet, we also know that drug use has continued to rise in Canada.
In 1994, 28% of Canadians reported to have used illicit drugs. By 2004, this number was 45% and we know as well that a Department of Justice report from 2002 concluded that mandatory minimum sentences are the least effective in relation to drug offences. It said:
|| MMS do not appear to influence drug consumption or drug-related crime in any measurable way. A variety of research methods concludes that treatment-based approaches are more cost effective than lengthy prison terms. MMS are blunt instruments that fail to distinguish between low and high-level, as well as hardcore versus transient drug dealers.
In addition, we have many other people speaking out about this bill and I would like to read into the record some of the key organizations which expressed grave concern about the bill. Certainly, one notable group, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, has done extensive research, analysis and review on drug policy. In some of its background material, it picked up on one very important point and that is that the Conservatives are peddling this bill as a bill that will deal with drug dealers, that is who they are really going after.
Yet, in the HIV/AIDS Legal Network backgrounder, it makes the point that:
|| This distinction between drug dealers and drug users is artificial, particularly when harsh minimum sentences are mandated for dealing in any quantity of drugs.
|| The real profiteers in the drug market—those who traffic in large quantities of illegal drugs—distance themselves from more visible drug-trafficking activities and are rarely captured by law enforcement efforts. Instead, it is people who are addicted and involved in small-scale, street-level drug distribution to support their addictions who commonly end up being charged with drug trafficking--
That is exactly what is going to happen with this bill. If we go into the downtown east side in my community, it is the low level folks on the street who are dealers, it is part of the system of how they support their habits. Those are the people who are already most at risk from a health point of view and who are very vulnerable. They are the ones who will be targeted by this bill in terms of the minimum mandatory sentences.
There is further evidence. Judge Jerry Paradis is a member of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. This is quite an incredible organization of former police chiefs, police officers, drug enforcement officers in the United States and Canada including former judges, who are speaking out against the war on drugs. Former Judge Jerry Paradis said: “The evidence unequivocally showed that minimum mandatory sentences have no effect on crime and they carry with them a grab bag of unintended consequences. The true kingpins are the ones who, as the legal network says, are the ones who are able to distance themselves and not be caught by this kind of legislation”.
Retired Quebec Judge John Gomery, someone who we are very familiar with in this House, has also spoken out against this bill and said that “Judges view this kind of legislation as a slap in the face”. He said that judges find that it is an implied criticism when Parliament imposes these mandatory sentences. This is from someone who is very well respected saying that this bill is the wrong approach.
We have a very important organization called Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Its members were on Parliament Hill a couple of months ago doing their first policy and the leaflet that they put out and spoke to us about says “not in our name” because they know again that the propaganda that is being put out by the Conservatives is that this is about helping young people with drug issues. This organization understands that it is really about criminalizing young people.
The organization says in its leaflet:
|| While criminalizing drugs and drug users continues to be justified as necessary to protect our youth, it is our responsibility to eradicate this harmful approach...
It further states:
|| The current criminal justice approach to drug use is failing our generation, and our society, and leading to increased harm from drug use.
Young people are speaking out in their own voices with their own experience about what they believe needs to be done.
There is further evidence that this approach put forward by the Conservatives is a failure. The Health Officers' Council of British Columbia, which consists of all the public health officers across B.C., wrote a very important paper in 2005, “A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada”. The council states:
|| Criminal enforcement strategies do not seem to have achieved long-term reductions in either the supply or demand for illegal drugs.
In this paper the council argues:
|| The harms attendant upon a criminal-prohibition framework for drugs are significant and the benefits modest, at best. A change in policy to a public health approach, where production and distribution can be wrestled from criminal interests and a range of effective harm reduction strategies can be implemented and evaluated, is overdue.
Further afield, a new report just came out from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in the United Kingdom. This is a group made up of business people, elected representatives and professionals. It concludes that the current regime, the so-called war on drugs and the emphasis on enforcement are an absolutely failed approach. It has called on the British government to change its policies in regard to drug policy reform.
There are many people speaking out.
What I fear most about this bill is that it is taking us down a very dangerous road. It is a road that has already been experienced in the United States where, for example, 2.1 million people are now in U.S. prisons. Eighty per cent of the increase in the federal prison population in the U.S. from 1985 to 1995 was due to drug convictions. By 2004, drug offenders made up 54% of sentenced federal prisoners, up from 25% in 1980. That is what is happening in the United States. That is the direction in which the Conservative government is taking us.
In the United States, ironically, many jurisdictions are now moving away from minimum mandatory sentencing. They can see what an utter failure it has been economically, politically and in terms of dealing with the crisis of drug use in our communities. For example, the U.S. Sentencing Commission concluded that minimum mandatory sentences have failed to deter crime. It reported that only 11% of federal drug defendants are high level drug dealers. In 2000 California repealed its minimum mandatory sentences for minor drug offences. In 2004 Michigan also repealed its mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offences. Delaware and Massachusetts are considering doing the same thing.
I find it incredible that the government is about to go down this route when in actual fact what it is modelling it on in the United States has already been shown to be a colossal failure in terms of the rate of incarceration. Drug use is still going up. The crime rate is still going up. Therefore, this model of prohibition and enforcement is clearly a failed model.
What we know about this bill, however, is that it is really designed to appeal to the core conservative base. It is really an oversimplification of drug use in Canada. It uses scare tactics to bully people into thinking that marijuana and other substances are the root of violent and organized crime in Canada and that somehow enforcement is going to address that.
In reality, this bill would do absolutely nothing to address either of those problems. We believe very much that the Conservatives are taking Canada in the wrong direction. It is a direction that is very expensive. It has no effect on drug use. It will only increase the prison population, creating a new set of issues about overpopulation, health, safety and crime within the prison system.
In British Columbia we have had very difficult situations emerge, such as overcrowding and safety problems for corrections officers. We have seen that just very recently.
In fact one of the consequences of this bill, because we are dealing with minimum mandatory sentences, is that we may see an increase in incarceration. The burden of that will be borne at the provincial level.I wonder if the minister has had any discussion with his provincial counterparts that what he is doing with the bill is basically loading the cost on to the provincial systems that are already overcrowded and overburdened. This is a totally failed strategy.
We in the NDP believe that Canada must have a balanced approach to drug use. We have supported the four pillar approach which includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and yes, there is a role for enforcement, but not the kind of imbalance that we have seen in past history with previous governments and which is now being exacerbated by the current government.
There are many successful models that have worked in Europe. The big city mayors in Canada have adopted this four pillar approach. It began in Vancouver. It has shown to be successful.
Why would we not be investing in that? Why would we not be investing in grassroots harm reduction strategies like Insite, like needle exchanges? Why would we not be investing in real education for young people which actually gives people real information about their bodies, about making good choices?
I always find it very ironic that we have police officers going into schools doing drug education. Would we send the police into schools to do sex education? I do not think so. They only do drug education because these substances are illegal. What we need to do is focus on a health based approach, because that is the real information that needs to get to young people.
Mandatory minimum sentences, as we see from the evidence and reports both in the United States and Canada, are least likely to work on drug crimes. It begs the question, why is this bill coming forward? If we know it does not work, if we know it is the wrong approach, if we know it is actually going to create a worse situation in the prison system, if we know that it is not going to in any substantive way or even a minimum way deal with drug use and in fact incarceration and crime will probably continue to rise, then why is this bill coming forward?
We have to come to the conclusion that very regrettably, the bill is about a political optic. This is all that the Conservatives have left. It is about creating a climate of fear.
I do not doubt that people are very concerned about drug use in local communities. People are very concerned about the dealing that takes place, the impact on schools and so on, but this bill will not address that.
We have had more success in my community when the police sat down with the drug users, with community representatives and actually worked out a strategy on how to deal with individual situations in our community. That did more good. They were called the Tuesday meetings at the Carnegie Centre at Main and Hastings. The police, the drug users themselves, community representatives, the city of Vancouver would sit down and work out these issues in terms of what was happening on the street and what the impact was in the community. That produced more dialogue and results than anything else.
We think that this is a terrible bill. The bill will not solve the problems with illicit drugs. It will only create further harm.
I really hope that the opposition parties will defeat this bill. We are going to be voting against the bill at second reading. We do not approve of this bill in principle.
If the Conservatives want to fix something, maybe they should look at the medical marijuana program which is in absolute chaos right now. There are huge problems with that program. If they want to actually make some sensible decisions and help people, then they should actually do some good and take a look at what is happening with the medical marijuana program and how people are being severely and negatively impacted by the way the program is run.
I call on the other parties to examine this legislation and defeat it, as it is absolutely the wrong direction for Canada to take.
Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with legislation that focuses on the drug crime that is plaguing our communities across Canada. Bill would impose tough new mandatory minimum sentences on the most serious of drug crimes. At the same time, it would provide hope to those who want to escape their drug addictions. This is a balanced approach to addressing drug crime in our country.
I can say with absolute certainty that Canada's drug problem is one of the most important issues to the residents of my community of Abbotsford.
I have called my community of Abbotsford home for some 26 years. My wife Annette and I have raised four daughters in that community. It is a community that fashions itself as a city in the country.
Statistics Canada has declared Abbotsford to be the most generous community in the country when it comes to charitable giving. It is a city of volunteers and it is a community of families with strong traditional values and a strong work ethic. We have a very low unemployment rate. It is somewhere around the 3.7% mark. We are also an incredibly diverse community, one of the most diverse in the country. We have a very strong farm economy. In fact, Abbotsford generates the largest farm gate revenues for the province of B.C and with that, comes prosperity. We also have a significant urban presence and with that, comes some of the problems that face big cities, problems of crime.
Neighbourhoods in Abbotsford are experiencing drive-by shootings on a regular basis. Marijuana grow ops and crystal meth labs proliferate in Abbotsford. In fact, drug related violence and even drug related murders are not uncommon for the average Abbotsford resident. It is happens in their neighbourhoods and it concerns me.
I will point out how critical this problem is. I will read from one of our local newspapers, the Abbotsford News . from a few months ago, and this is typical. It states:
|| A wheelchair bound man was arrested after the drug squad raided a home in north Abbotsford and discovered a large grow and loaded firearms Tuesday evening.
|| Abbotsford drug squad officers seized 850 plants...and three firearms after executing a warrant...A loaded rifle was found near the front door of the home and two loaded hand guns were discovered in a bedroom.
|| “Guns and drugs are a continued threat to officers and the public”, said Const. Casey Vinet....
|| Another marijuana grow operation was shut down the day previous after a hydro bypass was discovered and led officers to a home...Police found 630 plants growing underneath the living area of the residence housing a family with school aged children...
That is the problem facing communities across our country. Despite the efforts of our dedicated Abbotsford Police Department, citizen complaints to city council about escalating drug activity in their neighbourhoods are increasing.
As I speak, the lives of thousands of Canadians and families are being ruined by illegal drugs. They have become victims of criminal enterprises, the victims of drug dealers who make obscene profits off the misery of others. Time and time again drug traffickers rob young people of their future and sell them a lifetime of heartache. Too often such a future leads to an early death.
The goods news is, after years of inaction by the previous Liberal government, our Conservative government is finally taking action. We are taking concrete steps to rein in organized crime and drug dealers, who have ruined so many lives without facing any real consequences.
It is almost as if previous governments were hoping that the problem of drug crime would simply go away. In the meantime, drug criminals have continued to use our revolving door justice system to evade real and certain justice. That is why we have taken decisive action.
Last October, Prime Minister Harper unveiled—
Mr. Speaker, the and his anti-drug strategy provides almost $64 million over two years to prevent illegal drug use, treat people who have drug addictions and fight drug crime. The strategy proposes a two-track approach, one which is tough on drug crime and one which focuses on the victims of drug crime, including the drug addicts themselves.
Our action plan to fight the production and distribution of prohibited drugs focuses on providing strong penalties that will act not only as a deterrent to others, but will put out of commission the really serious drug traffickers in our communities. That is the context within which our Bill has been introduced. Moreover, the bill follows up on one of the five key priorities that we identified for Canadians during the last election, namely to get serious about tackling crime. As with so many others of our promises, we are getting the job done. We are actually fulfilling our promises.
Let me tell the House what Bill would achieve.
The bill proposes a series of mandatory minimum prison sentences that ensure that criminals who commit serious drug offences face appropriately long sentences. I want to emphasize that the bill is not about applying mandatory minimum penalties to all drug crime. It is not a wide net that catches all drug users. It is not a bill that goes after the recreational users of drugs. Rather it introduces targeted mandatory minimum penalties for the most serious of drug crimes and ensures that those who carry out those crimes will be harshly penalized. It bill clearly sends a message that Canadians do not accept drug trafficking as a legitimate business or violence associated with drug trafficking and production.
As members know, the production and trafficking of illegal drugs present serious health and public safety hazards. They create environmental hazards, pose significant cleanup problems for city councils and endanger the lives and health of our neighbourhoods. I know that from experience, having served on Abbotsford's city council for some nine years.
Drug trafficking is a lucrative business and attracts the most insidious of organizations, the organized crime groups and drug gangs. Huge profits are available with little risk to drug dealers, and these profits are in turn used to finance other criminal activities.
It has become very clear that the penalties and prison sentences for drug trafficking and drug production are considered by many Canadians to be too lenient and not commensurate with the level of harm that such drug crimes impose on our communities.
Our Bill is specifically tailored to target the most pernicious of these crimes, primarily the trafficking, production, importation and exportation of larger amounts of prohibited drugs. The prohibited drugs that would be covered under our bill are drugs such as cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and marijuana. I want to make it crystal clear, again, that mandatory minimum penalties will not apply to simple possession offences or to offences involving less serious drugs such as Valium. They also do not apply to the trafficking of small amounts of prohibited drugs for personal use.
As I mentioned earlier, our approach is fine-tuned to target the most serious offenders and would operate as follows. Members will have to bear with me because I want to explain exactly how these penalties would be implemented. It may take a couple of minutes, but it is important for Canadians to understand what the bill really involves.
For the trafficking of the hardest drugs, we propose a one year minimum prison sentence where certain aggravating factors exist. I am talking about drugs such as heroin, cocaine or crystal meth. The aggravating factors that would attract mandatory minimum penalties of one year would be where the offence involves organized crime, or where the crime would involve violence or weapons or perhaps a threat of violence or weapons, or where the crime would be committed by a repeat drug trafficker. These are the really bad guys.
If youth are present or the offence occurs in a prison, the minimum jail sentence would be increased to two years.
If someone imports or exports prohibited drugs, the minimum penalty would be raised to two years if the crime involves more than one kilogram of a drug such as heroin, cocaine or crystal meth.
If someone produces or otherwise manufactures cocaine, crystal meth or heroin, a minimum of two years in prison would apply.
Then there may be additional aggravating factors, which would attract a three year prison term. For example, these factors would include a situation where a drug producer uses somebody else's real estate, such as a house, to produce that drug, or where the drugs are produced in a location where children are present. If someone is growing or producing drugs in a home and there are children living in that home, there would be a minimum penalty of three years in prison.
Three years would also apply where the drug production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area or where the drug dealer sets a trap to injure or kill others if they enter the premises. This is quite common with marijuana grow ops. The drug dealers will actually booby-trap the house to make sure that intruders cannot get in. Those booby traps are intended to maim, injure and kill and often impact our police officers.
For lesser drugs such as marijuana, the proposed mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking, importing or exporting would be one year if certain aggravating factors such as violence, recidivism or organized crime are present. If a drug dealer is trafficking in the presence of children or in an area frequented by children, such as a schoolyard, the minimum prison sentence of one year would be increased to two years.
We are also going after marijuana grow ops. If a grow operator produces up to 200 marijuana plants, he or she would get a minimum of six months in prison. If a grow operator produces up to 500 plants, he or she would get one year in prison. If he or she grows more than 500 plants, he or she would spend at least two years in prison. There would be no more slaps on the wrist. There would be no more revolving door justice system.
Getting tough on marijuana grow operators will be especially welcome in Abbotsford. Marijuana grow ops and crystal meth labs have been a blight on our city, jeopardizing the safety of our neighbourhoods and families.
At this point, I want to give special credit to Abbotsford's city council. Faced with a former federal Liberal government that refused to get tough on grow ops and other drug crime, and faced with a police force reluctant to bust grow ops due to weak federal anti-drug laws, my city council responded by finding creative new ways to use municipal bylaws and regulations to shut down those grow ops.
For example, sophisticated heat sensors are used to determine whether a house is producing more heat than would normally be expected. The city identifies a house that is perhaps a marijuana grow op. Of course there are other telltale signs such as foil on the windows and an odour emanating from the house, and often there is suspicious activity going on. Then the city posts a 48 hour notice of fire and safety inspection. It cuts off the water and the electricity, so of course the plants cannot grow any more. After 48 hours, city staff or the police return and typically find the premises abandoned.
On top of that, the city files a notice against the property advising prospective purchasers that the house has been a marijuana grow op. That of course reduces the value of the property in many cases, as people do not want to purchase a home that has been used for illegal drug activity.
I commend the Abbotsford city council for taking these steps, but I have to ask the members of this House, is it not our job as federal parliamentarians to protect our communities? Why was it left to the Abbotsford city council to deal with this problem? Why, over 13 years, did the former Liberal government not get it done?
Our Conservative government is getting it done and there is much more. Bill also introduces tougher penalties for trafficking in what are commonly known as date rape drugs. These drugs are used to drug unsuspecting women to allow predators to sexually assault them. Protecting women against violence has been one of our top priorities.
I also fully expect the usual response from the Liberal and NDP members of the House. We have already heard some responses from the NDP this morning. Some will tell us that deterrence and denunciation do not work. Others will tell us that the focus should be on rehabilitation and social reform, not tougher sentences. I am absolutely certain that they are going to tell us that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. They will also try to convince Canadians that our hands are tied and that Bill might violate the legal rights of the drug pushers.
However, there is one group those members almost never mention. Can we guess what it is? It is the victims of drug crime, the victims across the country who are crying out for redress. They are crying out to be heard. They have not been listened to. I have been in the House for over two years now and I have observed how seldom the opposition members of the House actually take heed of the cries of victims across our country.
Last Sunday I spoke in Burnaby, B.C. at a rally recognizing National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. The rally was sponsored by organizations I really respect: Mothers Against Drunk Driving and F.A.C.T., Families Against Crime & Trauma.
It is quite clear from the sentiments expressed at that rally and at other similar rallies that many Canadians feel outraged. They are outraged that for decades it has been the defence lawyers and the prisoners' rights advocates who have had the ear of government and that victims of crime have been all but abandoned. I am here to say that today victims of crime do have a strong advocate in our Conservative government.
Some members of the opposition will also tell us that Canada does not have a crime problem. They will point to statistics which seem to indicate that crime is down, not up. There is a wealth of material in the House from the opposition members. I went back to the words of the member for . When speaking on another bill, he said the following:
|| In fact, by any and every standard of measurement, crime is declining in every category. That is the truth.
He went on to say:
|| We have crime rates declining in all categories in virtually all communities.
Those are the words of the Liberals.
What are the facts? I believe it was Mark Twain who referred to “lies, damned lies, and statistics”. I would suggest that some members of the opposition could learn from Mark Twain.
There is always a grain of truth in what the opposition says about crime, but it is just not the whole truth. The real truth is that while the overall crime rate has gone down marginally, due to fewer petty crimes being committed, Statistics Canada reports that rates for almost all categories of violent crime have gone up, not down.
I encourage my Liberal friends across the floor to actually review the latest statistics from Statistics Canada. It is as simple as going to that website. I am going to quote from those statistics.
For example, crimes such as attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, robbery, kidnapping and forcible confinement are all up. Drug offences involving cocaine are up by a whopping 13%, while other serious drug offences, including those involving crystal meth, were up by 8%. Of even greater concern is the fact that Statistics Canada reports that youth crime has increased by 3%, the first increase since 2003, and in fact the rate of young people accused of murder was the highest since 1961.
Clearly the violent drug crime problem that plagues our nation calls for solutions, not excuses. That is what Bill does: it takes serious action against the scourge of drug crime in our streets.
We are getting the job done. It is time for the Liberals and NDP to stop dithering on the issue of drug crime and join our Conservative government in passing this bill. Canadians are demanding change. It is time to deliver that change.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to discuss a very important issue to my constituents of : our society's approach to illegal drugs. It affects my family, neighbours, businesses and constituents across . I say my family because, along with my wife, Roni, we are raising three children from school age to university. I run my own business in my own riding.
When I talk to parents and to the businesses, marijuana grow-ops are a problem that is affecting people across society.
Last year, when I was talking to Chief Superintendent McRae, he told me that last year the RCMP handled 7,000 drug related incidents in Surrey, an increase of 11% from the year before. Chief Cessford from Delta tells the same story.
Addictive, destructive drugs can ruin lives and often the lives of our children. Crystal meth, for instance, is extremely hazardous to the brain. Particularly when smoked, meth rapidly damages the brain, killing portions of it. It makes the brain of users in their early twenties look like the brains of sixty or seventy year olds who have suffered from minor strokes.
Not all drugs are as dangerous as crystal meth. As responsible legislators, we must keep things in perspective.
Bill is welcome in many ways, although it has limitations. Before considering the bill, we should be clear on what principles should govern our approach to illegal drugs and other criminal activities.
Canadians are a fair and generous people. We have never been as harsh as our American neighbours. We recognize that many social forces push people toward crime: poverty, poor education, unstable childhoods, social isolation and many more.
We believe that people are fundamentally good but we recognize that good behaviour is not automatic. People need to be encouraged.
Canadians also know that it is not enough to try to prevent people from becoming criminals. We must also deal with those who commit crime. People who break the law must be punished.
A government that serves the needs of Canadians must be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to make the most of life but people should not get away with committing crimes.
Canada's crime policy should not be just reactive. It should proactive. Our goal should also be to prevent crime. How do we prevent crime? Do we hire more police, prosecutors and judges? Do we set longer sentences or minimum sentences? I believe the best way to prevent crime is by ensuring criminals get caught and convicted.
Earlier, I was listening to my hon. colleague from talking about 2,500 new police officers that the government promised in its platform. However, when it comes to those figures, that corresponds to $32,000 a year for a police officer for only four years.
This is a long term, serious problem that we need to deal with. Funding needs to be stable for those 2,500 new police officers and it needs to be a reasonable amount so we can hire and get more police officers on the streets.
Beyond that, we need to provide positive activities for our youth so that they do not fall into drugs.
Yesterday, I was talking with people at the Muslim Youth Centre in my riding. Organizer and volunteer, Zeynel Azimullah, and his associates are providing tremendous volunteer efforts to play a constructive role in the lives of city youth. The aims and objectives of this organization are to protect our youth from doing things that are unlawful and illegal, to provide learning opportunities for character building, to mould our youth to be committed and dedicated citizens, to offer physical, spiritual, moral and social educational programs, and to promote peace and harmony.
When it comes to government, it can be a force of good in people's lives. For the last four years, the Muslim Youth Centre has been running based on donations. This is the type of work that is really appreciated in my riding. However, when the organization went to the Revenue Canada Agency to get a charity number it did not qualify as a charity organization. This is the type of organization that needs to be encouraged and needs the resources to be put in place.
Similarly, two years ago I was introduced to another gentleman in my riding by one of my constituents who is a multicultural coordinator with the city RCMP detachment. She introduced me to a young man named Rob Rai. He works with youth at risk and teaches them skills through sports and keeps them off the streets. Similar to the Muslim Youth Centre, Rob Rai's organization is also run by donations from businesses.
It is the people who are playing a role in the lives of our youth but I am sure the government can do much more on this. Every social worker or child care provider with whom we talk say that the first six years in a child's development is very important. However, when the government cancelled those child care agreements, it showed how serious the government was in providing the prevention needs.
When the government cancelled the Kelowna accord, it showed that it was not committed to improving the lives of our youth.
I appreciate the government bringing in this bill and I, along with my colleagues, will be supporting this bill in principle.
In Canada, the use and abuse of illicit drugs is a serious problem that is increasing. The number of Canadians who have used an injection drug during their lives increased from 1.7 million in 1994 to 4.1 million in 2004. According to the RCMP, the number of secret labs seized increased from 24 in 2000 to 53 in 2005. Because growers use volatile materials and frequently obtain their electricity illegally, marijuana grow operations pose a threat to public health and safety, especially to their neighbours and children.
Production of ecstasy is also on the rise in Canada. The United States has expressed concerns about ecstasy being smuggled into the U.S. from Canada.
The increase in drug use, trafficking and production threatens our safety. These activities have serious impacts on our communities, such as increasing rates of petty crime, prostitution, increased violence, and increased risk to law enforcement officers. Proceeds from the sale of drugs are used to finance other criminal activities.
What we want to stop above all is violence. We need to recognize the problems that are caused by small producers and the biggest dangers from the big operations. We need to define where the problem is and where we need to get tough.
We also need to be smarter on crime. The city of Surrey's innovative electrical fire safety initiative has been so successful at shutting down grow ops that the city is doubling the program. It investigates houses with unusual power consumption and cuts off power if there is dangerous wiring, typical of grow ops. The program has sent a strong message that grow ops will not be tolerated in Surrey, and it is working.
Tougher penalties are an important part of our strategy to fight crime. Bill proposes several measures on drug crime. It would create a one year mandatory jail term for dealing drugs while using a weapon, or for dealing drugs in support of organized crime. It would create a two year mandatory term for dealing cocaine, heroin or meth to young people, or for dealing near places young people frequent.
Bill proposes to increase the maximum sentence for date rape drugs. It would create a mandatory six month sentence for growing as little as one marijuana plant for the purposes of trafficking.
I welcome the measures in Bill to target large scale growers and traffickers, organized crime groups, and people who push drugs on our children and teenagers. These people are ruining the lives of our future generations. We hope that this bill will help. Our hopes should be focused more on our youth, and I personally feel that this bill is a step in the right direction.
The Conservatives' approach, however, has problems. They see that drug abuse is a criminal matter, but they do not see that it is also a health issue. They are not focusing on the more serious criminal problems, especially gangs and guns.
We could talk to the police chief or any police officer in my riding and they would tell us that we need to focus our resources on organized crime. For instance, right now we only have a 16% conviction rate for homicides. This is appallingly low. It used to be much higher, but it is harder for the police to get convictions now because more homicides are being committed by organized crime.
Those are serious problems, but they are not getting the attention from the Conservative government that they should be getting.
We do not even know where all the new prisoners will be jailed. The British Columbia provincial corrections department says that if Bill were to pass, it would probably have to find room for about 700 more marijuana growers per year. Nobody is sure where they can go because 80% of the provincial prisoners in B.C. are already double-bunked and the rest are either in protective custody or are too violent for a cellmate.
Even the National Post is critical of these issues, and when the National Post agrees with The Globe and Mail, we know something must be seriously wrong.
Just like with the economy, the Conservatives had a fantastic opportunity to change Canada's drug policies for the better over the past two years, but they have once again wasted the opportunity.
Now, I request that this government, if it were to implement Bill , should also be focusing on preventive measures and education, particularly among our youth and aboriginal communities. That is very important.
I will be supporting this bill as I have on every crime bill that has come before this House. I have always stood up to be tough on crime, but at the same time, I have always been an advocate of preventive measures, education and social benefits, so that we can keep the social justice, so we can keep the balance when it comes to making laws and providing resources in our communities.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is a pleasure to speak to Bill , which is an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The recently tabled Bill C-26 which proposes a number of mandatory minimum penalties to ensure that appropriately high sentences are imposed on those who commit serious drug offences.
The bill is not about applying mandatory minimum penalties for all drug crimes. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act contains a complex offence and penalty structure. Penalties depend on the nature of the prohibited activity and on the type of substance involved.
The most problematic and dangerous substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and morphine are listed in schedule I. Offences involving these substances attract the severest penalties, up to life in prison.
Cannabis is a schedule II drug and attracts lesser penalties. It is only if at least three kilograms are involved that trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking are punishable by up to life imprisonment. Production of cannabis is punishable by up to seven years' imprisonment.
The least severe penalties, up to 12 months' imprisonment on summary conviction, are reserved for offences involving substances listed in schedules IV and V.
It should be noted, however, that most of the prohibited activities in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act are legal if committed by someone possessing the proper licence, permit or exemption.
For example, the marijuana medical access regulations that came into force on July 30, 2001 provide a comprehensive scheme for sick individuals to apply for licences to possess or grow marijuana for medical use with the support of their doctor, or in some cases with the support of a specialist. There is also a process to apply for a designated person production licence if the individual is unable to grow the marijuana himself or herself.
As such, there are individuals in Canada who are exempted from the production offence contained in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act who are growing marijuana within their residences or in their yards.
The amount of plants that the individual is permitted to produce is derived from a formula tied to the amount of dried marijuana product which the individual holder of the permit requires on a daily basis. The amount of plants that the permit holder is authorized to produce can be quite significant. For example, it can be in excess of 50 plants.
Some members of the House may be of the view that serious drug offences do not require a response such as the one contained in the bill. However, serious drug crime is a growing problem in Canadian cities and towns and a serious legislative approach is required.
According to Statistics Canada's Juristat “Crime Statistics in Canada, 2004”, the rate of marijuana cultivation offences has more than doubled over the past decade from approximately 3,400 offences in 1994 to 8,000 in 2004.
According to a study on marijuana grow operations in British Columbia in 2003, 39% of all reported marijuana cultivation cases, or 4,514 cases, were located in British Columbia. Between 1997 and 2000, the total number of these cases increased by over 220%. Although the number of individual operations in British Columbia levelled off between 2000 and 2003, the estimated quantity of marijuana produced increased from 19,729 kilograms in 1997 to a seven year high of 79,817 kilograms in 2003, which was due to the size and sophistication of individual operations.
Recent investigations by B.C. Hydro indicate the existence of up to 17,000 possible marijuana grow operations. The increase in the illicit production of marijuana has occurred not just in British Columbia but all across this country. There is no available national data on synthetic drug production.
Other RCMP data indicates a steady rise in these production operations. The RCMP seized 25 synthetic drug production operations in 2002, 51 in 2003, 60 in 2004, and 50 in 2005. Of the 60 operations seized in 2004, 17 were producing ecstasy and 40 were set up to produce methamphetamine. Of the 50 labs seized in 2005, 60% were producing meth and 30% were producing ecstasy. Ecstasy seizures and precursors increased between 2001 and 2006 from 1.5 million tablets to in excess of 70 million.
Unlike other better known drugs of abuse such as heroin, cocaine or marijuana, methamphetamine presents some unique challenges. Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug. It is not dependent on the 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.
Methamphetamine also presents a threat to law enforcement authorities. They must simultaneously combat small toxic labs and super labs, which are primarily controlled by drug trafficking organizations. The small labs produce relatively small amounts of methamphetamine and are generally not affiliated with major drug trafficking organizations.
A number of factors have served as catalysts for the spread of small labs, including the presence of recipes easily accessible over the Internet. Indeed, widespread use of the Internet has facilitated the dissemination of technology used to manufacture methamphetamine in small labs. This form of information sharing allows wide dissemination of these techniques to anyone with computer access.
Aside from marijuana, methamphetamine is the only widely abused illegal drug that is capable of being easily produced by the abuser. Given the relative ease with which the manufacturers or cooks are able to acquire recipes and ingredients, and the unsophisticated nature of the production process, it is easy to see why this highly addictive drug is spreading.
Methamphetamine use has a number of impacts on users, on our communities and on society generally. The quality of life among users of methamphetamine is generally greatly diminished. Addicts may experience dissolution of relationships, social isolation, altered personality, difficulty with academics, loss of employment, involvement in crime, exacerbation of pre-existing mental illness, drug related psychosis, brain damage, health risk behaviours, including risky sexual encounters and declining physical fitness.
Furthermore, individuals may be unmotivated to seek help as methamphetamine can create seemingly high levels of energy and productivity. Communities can become vulnerable to petty crime, social disorder, associated risks to health, increases in violence and increases in large scale labs and drug trafficking.
Methamphetamine production operations also pose serious public safety and health hazards to those in and around production operations. These operations can result in serious physical injury from explosions, fires, chemical burns and toxic fumes. They produce environmental hazards, pose cleanup problems and endanger the lives and health of community residents.
The collateral damage of methamphetamine includes impacts on families, school staff, students, law enforcers and fire department paramedics, health care practitioners, businesses and property owners. These individuals experience second-hand symptoms of methamphetamine use. First responders may experience exposures to production byproducts, fire explosion or hazards and may be subject to violence from addicts or frustrations and stress from inadequate resources or judicial restraints from preventing them from taking action.
Parents may also experience emotional and financial stress, strain from missing work, fear and embarrassment, guilt and shame, as a child goes through treatment. A family may also encounter gang related crime, contamination, violence—
Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill . From my constituency, I hear great concern with regard to the impact of the drug trade and the drug fueled crime that results from that trade.
With crystal meth, the date rape drug, the marijuana grow ops and clandestine labs proliferating in our communities from coast to coast, Canadians are demanding that the Government of Canada take some action.
In the last election we promised to crack down on drug crime. We promised that we would “introduce mandatory minimum sentences for designated drug trafficking offences to ensure that serious crime results in serious punishment”, and that we would, “end conditional sentences or house arrest for serious crimes, including major drug offences”. We also promised that we would support results oriented community based initiatives for addiction treatments, training and rehabilitation of those who were in trouble with the law.
With Bill and our national anti-drug strategy, the government is fulfilling these promises.
With the proposed legislation, I am particularly pleased that we will take strong action to combat marijuana grow ops. Why do we need these mandatory minimum penalties for grow ops? We need them because sentences for these offenders amount to little more than a simple slap on the wrist.
Professor Darryl Plecas did a study of all the drug files opened by the police of British Columbia from 1998 to 2003. His findings underscore the need and the urgency for these criminal law reforms.
Professor Plecas found that between 1997 and 2003 indoor grow operations increased in average size from 149 plants to 236 plants. It should be noted that hydro bypasses, which allow for theft of hydro, were seen in approximately one in five grow operations. Also the number of fires associated with grow operations increased from 32 in 1997 to 80 in 2003.
These numbers are important because it draws a picture. Among the suspects, 57% had at least one other drug conviction, 41% had a prior conviction of some form of violence, 22% had a previous conviction for production and 27% had a previous conviction for possession for the purpose of trafficking. On average, suspects had seven convictions occurring over a thirteen year period.
What kind of sentences are the courts imposing? Members may find it hard to believe that Professor Plecas found that only 27% of offenders with nine or more non-drug convictions were imprisoned. For offenders with nine or more drug convictions, only 54% were sentenced to jail time. Moreover, cases in which prison sentencing was the most serious disposition dropped from 19% in 1997 to 10% in 2003, while conditional sentences, as the most serious penalty, increased from 13% to 46%. When a prison sentence was imposed, the average length was only 4.9 months.
Clearly, existing sentences are not deterring individuals with multiple convictions from participating in grow ops over and over again.
I believe all members will agree that these sentences are insufficient to deter persons from being involved in marijuana grow ops. Certainly, I do not think they are appropriate. These sentences do not adequately reflect the serious nature of these crimes.
The issue of grow ops, and specifically crystal meth superlabs, is something in which I have taken a personal interest. My private member's bill, Bill , which is currently being dealt with in the other place, deals with raising the penalties for those who produce and traffic in this dangerous drug.
I have heard from people from coast to coast who are concerned about the illegal drug use. They are concerned especially about the deterrents that are in place for those who produce and distribute these dangerous drugs, which have such a horrific impact in each one of our communities. It is time that Parliament send the needed message as to what we think is the appropriate range of penalties within which a judge can craft a sentence, taking into account the particular circumstances of the offender.
Bill would set that new range. At present, there is no floor and the ceiling is only seven years. Under Bill there would be a new maximum of 14 years, indicating clearly to the courts how seriously parliamentarians take this type of crime. More important, there would be mandatory periods of imprisonment that would reflect the number of plants. Those mandatory minimums would be increased where: the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area; the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; a trap was placed or set; or the offender used real property that belonged to a third party to commit the offence.
Under Bill , the penalties would be: six months for the production of up to 200 marijuana plants where the production was for the purpose of trafficking and nine months where the offence involved safety and health aggravating factors; one year for the production of 201 to 500 plants and 18 months where the offence involved health and safety aggravating factors; and two years for more than 500 plants and three years where the offence involved health and safety aggravating factors.
Clearly these proposed mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment are a measured response and fulfill the promise “ensure that serious crime results in serious punishment”. Moreover, the proposals fulfill the promise to support addiction treatment, training and rehabilitation of those in trouble with the law.
I remind members that where the accused has a previous conviction for a serious drug offence but there are no other aggravating circumstances with respect to the offence before the court, the legislation will allow the court to suspend the imposition of sentence if the offender participates in a drug treatment court program. If the person successfully completes the drug treatment program, the court can impose a lesser sentence.
Drug treatment courts are fairly new to Canada, but they are very promising. I understand that at a press conference on Bill , Joe, the first graduate of Ottawa's drug treatment court, spoke eloquently and emotionally about how the court had helped him to be clean for 16 months. Joe has turned his life around and now he can contribute to society, whereas before he used to commit crimes to get money to feed his drug addiction.
I urge all members of the House to support Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be taking part in this debate on Bill . The Bloc Québécois wants to see the bill sent back to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights but the committee chair must be able to fulfill his responsibilities properly. The Bloc Québécois wants to see the bill sent back to the committee once it returns to normal. Even then, that does not mean that we will automatically support this bill after studying it more closely. We want to hear witnesses and do a comprehensive and thorough job because we obviously have questions.
Let us put all this in context for our fellow citizens. Bill introduces a minimum one-year prison sentence for trafficking of drugs, particularly marijuana, when undertaken as part of organized crime and involving the use of a weapon or violence. Certainly we agree that drug-related activities, especially those that profit organized crime, deserve a penalty. The Bloc Québécois has not changed its mind about minimum mandatory sentences.
I have said it many times, just as a number of my colleagues have: there are no conclusive studies showing that a minimum mandatory sentence in a bill necessarily works as a deterrent. Quite the opposite, a minimum mandatory sentence can lead to plea bargaining, a game of negotiation between the defence counsel and the Crown where they agree to other charges that are not subject to minimum mandatory sentences.
A second offence is contained in this bill. A minimum sentence of two years will be imposed for trafficking drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines to young people and, of course, for trafficking drugs near a school or near any other public place usually frequented by young people, like a youth centre.
We are in favour in principle of the legislator taking a closer look at people wanting to traffic drugs in places frequented by young people. In fact, that was a recommendation of the special committee created in 2002 in which I took part. I will come back to that later. Nonetheless, we are not convinced that this offence requires a mandatory minimum sentence.
Third, this bill contains a minimum sentence of two years for the cultivation of more than 500 marijuana plants.
Fourth, the maximum sentence for the production of cannabis will go from 7 to 14 years imprisonment. The Bloc Québécois does not have a problem with the maximum sentences, as this respects the judicial discretion that judges hearing witnesses should be afforded. They are aware of the circumstances and are well placed to determine the best sentence for each individual case. The Bloc Québécois has always defended the idea that sentences should be handed down on a case-by-case basis. A judge must receive and look at each case by bearing every factor in mind.
Finally, punishment will be more severe for trafficking in GHB, which is commonly known as the date rape drug. We do not have any particular problem with that provision.
There is another aspect of the bill that is a little more on the positive side. Clause 5 states that if the offender successfully completes a drug treatment program—and every one of our provinces and communities offers one—the court is not required to impose the minimum sentence, as the treatment will be seen as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
I understand that a government member has already introduced a similar bill.
We are in favour of clause 5 of the bill, but we have a number of concerns about the rest of the bill.
I would also like to mention that the bill establishes a list of aggravating circumstances that would rule out the possibility of a minimum sentence. These factors are considered serious enough to encourage judges to lean towards harsher sentences, rather than more lenient ones.
This bill addresses offences committed for the benefit or at the direction of a criminal organization. These provisions already exist, since they were passed when we dealt with the whole issue of organized crime. The House will recall that there are three offences under sections 467, 468 and 469, I believe. Committing an offence for the benefit of a criminal organization, whether drug related or under other circumstances, is still considered an aggravating circumstance.
Also, when violence is used in the commission of an offence, naturally, that is considered an aggravating circumstance. The same is true for offences committed in a school or on school grounds, offences committed in a prison and offences committed using the services of a person under the age of 18 years. Those are all examples of aggravating circumstances that would rule out the possibility of a minimum sentence.
The drug issue is very worrisome, of course. We in the Bloc Québécois are aware that drugs can destroy families, have a profoundly negative impact on communities, contribute to the formation of criminal networks and lead to violence. Thus, we are not complacent about the issue of drugs.
We can be somewhat critical of the bill. In 2002, I participated in a study on drug use. At the time, there was a member by the name of Randy White. I can mention his name because he is no longer a member in this House. I am sure you will remember him because he held office for three terms. He was a staunch Conservative. We could use more colourful language to describe him but I will refrain. He was a fairly opinionated Conservative. He had introduced a motion that the House establish a committee to study the non-medical use of drugs.
We worked for about two years on this committee, together with the former member for Burlington, Ms. Torsney, who was the chair. Other members who are still in this House were also on the committee and we invested about two years travelling around Canada and Quebec to hear testimony.
I was very surprised at the time—it was the early 2000s—when we were informed that the Canadian government was allocating $500 million to the drug issue. Of this $500 million, $380 million—which is not small change—went to the RCMP and Correctional Services Canada, organizations responsible for enforcing the law.
These organizations are not very likely to engage in prevention or early intervention. They do not work with the youth in our communities and inform them of the terrible consequences of drug use in order to deter them.
It is very worrisome that, as recently as the early 2000s, we picked a prohibitionist approach and one that was very clearly and predominantly associated with elements of repression.
It is even more troubling—and we need to think about this—that for at least 80 years, Canada has had provisions in the Criminal Code that prohibit the use, import, export, possession and trafficking of drugs. Anything to do with these five things has been prohibited in the Criminal Code for decades. Obviously, this was moved into the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act a few years ago, but the Criminal Code has been used for a very long time to deter people from taking drugs.
I say this with complete detachment: I have never taken drugs in my life. Anyone who knows me will know this, and even those people who find me hopelessly relaxed. Nevertheless, I have to wonder something. For 80 years, we have had a prohibitionist strategy, and in survey after survey, after examining the realities and the current situation, we find that one quarter of Canadians take drugs. I should clarify that, of course: 80% of those people use marijuana.
Should we invest as much in social resources to deter young people as we invest in the Criminal Code? We should allocate $500 million to explain to young people that marijuana, although it is perhaps less harmful than other drugs, is not part of Canada's food guide. A person does not need to use marijuana to be happy in life or to be successful. This is not to pass judgment on those who do use marijuana, but it is certainly not something that should be encouraged.
Conversely, does society really want this system, in which a young person gets a criminal record for using marijuana? When we examined this in committee, we realized that there were very serious consequences to having a criminal record, affecting many things, from bail hearings to job searches. In fact, when a person declares to a potential employer that he has a criminal record, it is still quite a stigma.
Is this the right strategy when we know that, despite the prohibitionist approach that has been in place since the creation of the Criminal Code in Canada, one quarter of Canadians report using marijuana or other drugs more or less regularly? We need a more nuanced approach. Is the Criminal Code the best way to achieve these goals?
Let me go over the list of stigmas associated with having a criminal record. First, it can influence a police officer's behaviour during an arrest because it creates a negative prejudice. Of course, it justifies denying bail and can influence the crown prosecutor's decision to proceed with an indictable offence—which means fingerprinting and so on—or by summary conviction. It also undermines the credibility of testimony given in court. Having a criminal record makes it difficult, if not impossible, to cross borders—certainly the American border. It compromises access to citizenship and, as I said, can have a detrimental effect when job-seekers get to the interview stage.
This does not mean that we should not pass the bill. I am not suggesting that the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act should not include provisions for drug traffickers, particularly for those who get young people involved, who profit from it and, by the same token, make money for organized crime. However, does cannabis really deserve such a hard-line approach?
When the committee studied this issue, I was surprised to learn that Canada produces about 800 tonnes of marijuana per year. That is a lot; Canada is known as a marijuana producer. This phenomenon has been on the rise in British Columbia, where growers use hydroponic greenhouses.
Do you know approximately how much the RCMP and law enforcement agencies seize each year? According to the latest statistics presented to the committee in 2002—more recent statistics would be better—of the 800 tonnes produced in Canada, 1.2 tonnes were seized. Some $500 million was spent. One thousand RCMP officers in Canada are policing the borders and taking part in drug investigations. Despite all of these resources, this law enforcement infrastructure and all of the money that we invest in that infrastructure, 1.2 tonnes out of 800 tonnes was the total seized.
It is therefore not obvious that repression is the way to go. It is not obvious that it is good to insist on giving law enforcement organizations more resources. As a society, would it not make more sense for us to turn to the school system, youth centres, adults who play a significant role in the lives of children or youth? We need to explain the negative effects of marijuana and try to understand why people use these substances.
By the way, when we studied marijuana and the non-medical use of drugs in committee—Senator Pierre Claude Nolin also headed a task force that spent several years looking at this—no one concluded that marijuana was a gateway drug. People are not going to get hooked on heroin or other drugs because they use marijuana regularly. I am not promoting marijuana use. What I am saying is that when we heard the witnesses and did our work, no one was able to provide scientific evidence to back the claim we sometimes hear that marijuana is a gateway drug that inevitably leads to hard drug use. That is what we need to say about marijuana.
The Bloc Québécois will work seriously. Once again, I want to remind this House that my committee chair has unfortunately dug in his heels and is refusing to do his duty and hold a vote on a motion by our colleague from that would allow us to hold a hearing concerning the Cadman affair. Regretfully, I must say that my chair is refusing to comply with the rules.
Mr. Speaker, you and the table officers could attest that when a motion is introduced in a committee and we do not accept the chair's ruling, all the members of that committee have the prerogative to challenge that ruling. Ordinarily, a vote without debate should automatically follow. But my chair is refusing to comply with the rules, and that is creating an unusually tense situation in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Everyone has worked collegially. We have done quite a lot of work. Hon. members can imagine the uncomfortable situation we are in. I urge my chair to come to his senses and regain his sense of fairness.
I believe I have a minute left, so I will conclude by saying that the Bloc Québécois will examine this bill seriously in committee. We have some concerns about the scope of the bill, but we will be happy to hear witnesses and to invite the committee chair to report to the House on Bill in due course.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak this afternoon in the debate on the government's Bill .
This is an important piece of legislation, because the issue of drug use in our society is one that affects many Canadians and is important to many of our communities.
I know it is important in my community, where people are affected personally both by the issues related to drug addiction and by issues of crime related to drugs in our community, not only the trafficking and production but also the property crime that results from this. Police have told us that in the Vancouver area probably 80% of the petty property crime is related to the needs of drug users who resort to crime to deal with their addiction. It is a very serious problem that affects many people in our community.
Unfortunately, I have to say that I believe this legislation from the government is absolutely the wrong direction to take. It is the wrong approach to take when it comes to dealing with the serious question of drugs in our society. In fact, it borrows so heavily from the American style war on drugs that it has to be seriously questioned.
This approach has been shown to be a failure, a dramatic failure in the United States and a dramatic failure all around the world. The war on drugs has not resulted in greater success. More people are in jail because of drug infractions. Drug use has gone up. Drugs are more potent. Big crime associated with drugs has increased around the world. The problems of drug-producing countries have also increased.
The war on drugs has yet to prove successful after years of taking up huge resources. The huge expenditures by government on the war on drugs in the United States have not gone unnoticed. As for the failure of this money to produce any tangible result that has actually led to a lowering of drug crime, a lowering of addiction and those sorts of determinants that might be an indicator of some success, this money seems to have been wasted on a plan that has not proven successful.
After so much analysis of those kinds of programs, I am not sure that at this stage Canada should be going further down the road on the war on drugs in this American style, Bush style campaign that has proven to be so unsuccessful around the world.
A cornerstone of this legislation is the provision of mandatory minimums and increased minimums for drug related crimes. That is a particularly flawed piece of the war on drugs. We know, particularly when it comes to drug crimes, in fact, that mandatory minimum sentences are very ineffectual. They have never lived up to the hype that surrounds them.
In fact, many jurisdictions in the United States that went down the road of implementing mandatory minimum sentences have backtracked significantly from them and have undone that kind of legislation. They found that it only ended up putting more people in jail, with increased prison populations and increased dislocation in families and communities. It targeted racial minorities. It targeted the low end of the drug chain, whereby the neighbourhood traffickers got the sentences but the big guys were missed completely.
Mandatory minimum sentences have proven to be highly ineffectual. In fact, the United States Sentencing Commission concluded that mandatory minimum sentences failed to deter crime. It reported that only 11% of federal drug defendants in the United States are high level drug dealers and that 59% of crack defendants are street level dealers compared to the 5% who are high level crack dealers. This seems to be targeting absolutely the wrong people when they are going after the root of trafficking problems in the United States.
In 2000 California repealed mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offences. In 2004 Michigan also repealed mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offences, including what it had been proud to call the “harshest drug law in the nation”: life without parole for dealing more than 650 grams of cocaine.
Even elected leaders in a state in the United States who had proclaimed to have gone farther down that road than anyone else, had proclaimed their commitment to a harsh mandatory minimum sentence, had to backtrack significantly from that and undo that law because it had proven to be so ineffective and actually the reverse, so harmful to the overall campaign to deal with drug issues in that state.
Other states, like Delaware and Massachusetts, have similar legislative reviews already in process to reduce mandatory minimum sentences.
The American Bar Association's Kennedy commission called for the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences. It stated, “mandatory minimum sentences tend to be tough on the wrong people”.
We cannot any longer pretend that this approach to dealing with drug use, drug crime, drug addiction is an effective approach to dealing with that problem. It is so clearly proven that all it does is increase the population of prisons and increase dislocation. It does not solve the problem of drug related issues at all.
In Canada we have depended heavily upon enforcement measures to deal with the problems related to drugs. Seventy-three per cent of the money that is spent on drug issues in Canada is spent on enforcement. That is a significant percentage of all the money that we spend on drug policy in Canada. We spend 14% on treatment, 7% on research, 2.6% on prevention and 2.6% on harm reduction. Those other key elements that most people concede are absolutely crucial to a sensible drug policy, a sensible attack on dealing with the issues in a positive way, are dramatically underfunded in Canada, when 73% goes to law enforcement proceedings related to drug policy.
The legislation that we have before us would do nothing to significantly overturn that imbalance. In fact it would continue the undue emphasis on enforcement by taking us farther down the road of mandatory minimum sentences in Canada. This has been effectively proven to be the wrong way to go. It clearly has been shown to be an ineffective way of dealing with the core issues of why people use drugs and how we can change those patterns that have such detrimental effects on society, families and communities.
This bill also puts a greater emphasis on drug treatment courts. There is significant concern about drug treatment courts in many quarters, because many people believe that it is impossible to coerce somebody into drug treatment. The coercive effect of a drug treatment court is fairly plain when we look at what they are really about. What they try to do is defer somebody into a treatment program monitored by the courts, by medical professionals, by social workers, to keep the person out of the criminal justice system, to keep him or her out of jail. The person has had to plead guilty to a drug crime but has opted for this treatment program and the person is monitored throughout that process of referral into a treatment program.
The reality is that the most successful drug treatment programs are ones initiated by the person who has the addiction issue when the person is ready to take that drug treatment, when the person wants to go into that program, not for other reasons such as to avoid going to jail.
The reality, too, is that there is a real lack of evaluation of the effectiveness of drug treatment courts. They have not been effectively evaluated. The reality is that we do not know that they produce a significant difference in, for instance, someone who goes to jail for the same kind of drug crime. There does not seem to be a significant correlation between a lowering of the kinds of criminal activity that people who go through a drug treatment court would be involved in and the kind of activity that people who go through the justice system and who might end up in jail participate in either during the time they are waiting to go on trial, or the time they are in treatment, or subsequently, when they have completed their treatment program and/or are released from jail. There just does not seem to be a significant improvement in the results for people who go through a drug treatment court.
The book is still yet to be written on the effectiveness of drug treatment courts. It sounds like a good idea. It sounds like a great idea to keep people out of jail and get them into treatment, but there are significant problems with first coercing people into a treatment program as a way of escaping that. We have seen in the United States that people often are offered a drug treatment court as a way of avoiding jail even if they really do not need to be in that kind of treatment program.
Here in Canada spaces in treatment programs are still very limited. The need for those still far outweighs the number of positions that are available. Without a significantly increased commitment to treatment programs, it makes it difficult for this kind of program to succeed. There are still very serious problems about that.
It is far beyond time. We need to look at significant research into the effectiveness of drug treatment courts. I am going to talk later about Insite, the safe injection site in Vancouver. It is ironic in that it has been the subject of 24 studies about its effectiveness, almost all of which have been positive and yet the government will still not commit to its continuation beyond June of this year.
Here the Conservatives are introducing a bill to further support drug treatment courts when the available research on them is very inconclusive and very scanty to put it mildly. I do not understand how the government can choose to support this option and dismiss another one that has been studied and studied and shown to be effective. There is a very significant issue around this other aspect of the bill before us in its support for drug treatment courts.
There is something to be said for a four pillar approach to dealing with drug policy in Canada. Harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement all need to be pieces of how we approach dealing with drug issues in our society.
Harm reduction measures such as safe injection sites and needle exchanges have been shown to be very effective both as public health measures and as places for ensuring that people who are ready to deal with issues of addiction get the kind of assistance they need when they are ready to do that.
Places like Insite, the safe injection site in Vancouver have broad public support. Certainly people in Burnaby—Douglas are broadly supportive of Insite and the approach it takes to reducing harm in our community. We know that lives have been saved. We know that diseases have been prevented from spreading further because of Insite and the people who make that facility work so very well. It has been a significant new institution both as a public health institution and as a component of a positive drug policy in our community.
Prevention programs are crucial. I do not think anyone is going to dispute the need for continuing education programs that ensure people, and young people in particular, are aware of the problems associated with the use of drugs. None of us wants to see that kind of program stopped, but we also want to make sure that there is increased funding so that the job can be done more effectively.
We know how crucial treatment programs are, but we also know how few places there are in reality. When someone makes the decision to go into treatment for drug addictions, we know how crucial it is that the space be available when that decision is made, because putting off that kind of decision lowers the effectiveness, lowers the success rate very dramatically. We need to make sure that there is an increased commitment to treatment.
Enforcement is a piece of all of this. Unfortunately, I believe that the over-emphasis on enforcement has not served us well. The resources that go into enforcement policy, into law enforcement have not served our society well. Canadian society has shown different attitudes around recreational drug use that often throw these kinds of measures into some disrepute. For the police who are required to enforce them, it has affected how people view police forces in many of our communities as well. There are serious issues around the emphasis on enforcement. All of those are key to how we proceed on drug policy in this country.
I noted a few minutes ago that Insite, the safe injection site in Vancouver, has been studied. I think there are now 24 studies, including most recently, just last week, the government's hand-picked panel that looked at Insite and came to the same conclusion as so many others, that it has had a very positive effect in terms of saving lives. It has reduced the spread of disease. It ensures that people deal with their addictions in a context where they can get help and where the risk to their lives is significantly reduced.
Moving drug injection out of the back alley and into a safe clean facility has a number of positive effects for the community. All of us who have witnessed people injecting drugs on the street have felt very uncomfortable and unsure of what to do in that kind of circumstance. Knowing there is a place where people can go and deal with their addiction in a safe controlled environment is a very significant improvement.
What I really want to talk about in many ways today is the failure of how we approach the use of drugs in our society. There is a lot to be learned from the past and the United States' experience with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s. Alcohol was prohibited in very similar ways to the way drugs are prohibited in our society today.
Alcohol prohibition was a massive failure in the United States. It led to the same kinds of problems we are experiencing in our society today with drug prohibition. We saw in the 1920s and 1930s an increase in family dislocation because of rampant alcoholism. We saw an increase in the inability of people to get assistance for the kinds of alcohol dependency issues they had because alcohol was a prohibited substance and therefore was illegal. Therefore, barriers were put up to people getting the kind of help that would improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
We saw the problems associated with backyard and basement stills. They caused problems in neighbourhoods, fires, explosions and all those kinds of things. We see that in parallel today with grow ops that exist in homes across Canada and the kinds of problems they cause for tenants in buildings and for neighbourhoods where those grow ops are located.
In the case of alcohol prohibition we saw a very significant period of growth of organized crime in the United States. Some people see the roots of organized crime in North America in the period of alcohol prohibition. Gangs became very powerful and organized. They had significant resources to use because of their involvement with rum running and the illegal sale and distribution of alcohol. This is a very similar situation to what we are seeing today with the involvement of organized crime in drug production and distribution here in Canada.
There were very significant problems with alcohol prohibition. Society in the United States decided in its wisdom that this was a failed program. It made more sense to regulate the use of alcohol, ensure there was access to it, and put resources into all of those other programs that were so significant. Serious problems did arise from the use of alcohol in society, but the outright ban of alcohol was a complete and utter failure.
Canada never went down that road. We decided with regard to alcohol that regulation and legal use of that product was the way to go.
We should have learned something from the experience of alcohol prohibition. We are seeing exactly the same problems in our society related to drug prohibition. Many people who have studied this issue have noted that very clearly.
One organization in particular that is doing excellent work on this is LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I would invite anyone who is watching to look at LEAP's website. People will find many resources from law enforcement officers who themselves have decided they can no longer support prohibition of drugs in our society. They can no longer support what it does to society, what it does to law enforcement officers, what it does to public policy. They see it clearly as bad public policy that needs to be overturned.
I believe the bill takes us down the wrong road. It furthers the failed war on drugs. It puts forward mandatory minimum sentences as a solution when all over the United States similar legislation has been shown to be a complete failure and most jurisdictions have moved to undo such legislation where enforced or coerced treatment, such as drug treatment courts, is still unproven as a policy.
There are significant problems with this legislation and I hope we can have a serious debate about it in this place.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak about this issue of drugs.
Just yesterday we heard a mother pleading for her two teenaged daughters who have been having a really hard time trying to find drug treatment programs. The mother ended up spending tens of thousands of dollars to send her daughters to a drug treatment program in the U.S. that is comprehensive and long term.
She is speaking out about and lobbying for a drug prevention program and also a treatment program within Canada. Everywhere she goes she hears about thousands of middle class Canadian families who have been told that there is just not enough funding to support drug treatment programs, yet somehow the Conservative government seems to have a lot of money to put people in jail.
I want to talk about what Bill is all about. This bill ignores the root causes of drug use and the problems relating to drug use in Canada. It would give mandatory minimum sentences, but science and studies have shown many times that these kinds of mandatory minimums just do not work on drug crimes.
Many statistics in the U.S. have shown that it has failed in the many years of its war on drugs. More people are in jail and many are trapped in a cycle of violence in their neighbourhoods. The majority of this violence is caused by drug use and drug dealing.
In 2004 the American Bar Association's Justice Kennedy commission called on the U.S. Congress to repeal mandatory minimum sentences, particularly with respect to drug crimes. Interestingly, the report said, “Mandatory minimum sentences tend to be tough on the wrong people”.
We want to jail the kingpins, but the kingpins and the drug lords are most likely to get off. The people who are going to be jailed and who are most likely to get harmed by mandatory minimum sentences are the folks who are the small fry, which is what they are called on the street.
We also notice that the U.S. Sentencing Commission concluded that mandatory minimums fail to deter crime and reported that only 11% of federal drug defendants are high level drug dealers, the kingpins I was talking about. It also reported that 59% of crack defendants are street level dealers compared to 5% of defendants who are high level crack dealers. Yes, we need to crack down on all crack dealers, but why are we not going after the high level ones? These are the people we really need to go after.
Just nabbing the small folks on the street will be a recipe for exploding prisons, courtroom backlogs, and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Research has shown that it costs at least $100,000-plus per person for a year in jail, whereas if we used that money for a prevention program, an effective counselling program and effective drug treatment programs, we would actually see results.
That is not where the Conservative government is going. The Conservative government is ignoring what works and is of course going forward with the failed, George Bush, Republican style war on drugs that has been waged for many years. We have not seen many results.
In fact, we have seen a lot of handguns illegally imported into Canada from the United States. These illegal handguns are making the drug situation in big cities such as Toronto even more dangerous, as these folks who are on the streets protecting their turf are buying these illegal guns and causing havoc in our communities. We believe this legislation will actually make it a win for organized crime, because we are going to take the small players off the street, push up the price of drugs and leave the door open for organized crime, making the situation worse.
However, I want to spend more time talking about the four pillars approach, about what actually will work. I have noticed that even this House of Commons in 2002 had the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs.
The House special committee, the Office of the Auditor General and the Senate committee have brought forward four areas, including, first, strengthened leadership, coordination and accountability, with dedicated resources.
Second is enhanced data collection to set measurable objectives, evaluate programs, and report on progress. We do want to know what we are doing and how we are spending taxpayers' money in trying to be effective. Without evaluation programs, we do not know whether these programs are effective or not.
Third, we need a balance of supply and demand activities across government.
The fourth one, which is the most important, is that we absolutely need to increase our emphasis on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
We know this balanced approach is not happening right now. How do we know? We can just follow the money trail. I have noticed that for every $100 Canada spends on the war on drugs, $73 goes to enforcement, i.e. catching the people doing the drugs. Only 14%, which is $14 out of every $100, is spent on treatment programs. Research gets a tiny amount. Researching whether any of these approaches will be effective gets only $7 out of $100. That is hardly anything.
To see what is even more outrageous in terms of our approach, let us look at the figures for prevention, which is the most important. We know it is the most important because it deals with the root problems of drug addiction. For prevention, we spend $2.60 out of every $100. Of the money that we spend on the war on drugs, 2.6% is spent on prevention. That is really quite shameful. For harm reduction is the same thing, at 2.6%, so for every $100 we spend, only $2.60 goes to harm reduction.
It is no wonder that this war on drugs is not working.
Let me point out, however, that in other parts of our country people are taking leadership. In Toronto alone, there are the drug strategy recommendations. Many of the recommendations actually deal with the federal government. It calls on the federal government to establish a national framework for action and take leadership. Of course it is not doing that. The Conservative government is actually going the other way right now.
The Toronto drug strategy report calls for a holistic family approach. It says that we absolutely have to support funding for “family-based support services” to help families that are dealing with substance use, because often it is not just one person doing it.
That one person doing the drugs and who is addicted actually has an impact on all the family members. The report says that we need to provide a support and counselling strategy for family members as to how they will deal with that one family member who is addicted. By and large, the approach is one of health. When one is addicted, one needs to have the tools to be able to get out of the addiction.
The report also calls for support for parents who want treatment programs and the provision of “on site childcare at treatment facilities”. That is a very common sense approach, because one cannot take one's young child to many of the treatment facilities. As a result, because they do not have child care support, some of the folks who are addicted end up not going to these treatment programs.
For young people, says the report, we absolutely must have “comprehensive prevention programming” for young people on how they can avoid getting addicted to drugs. It states, in fact, that this should be a comprehensive mandatory drug prevention program for young people. Often they are missed. We are beginning to do this with regard to tobacco. I have seen it. It has been effective. By the way, tobacco is also a drug. We have seen that the prevention program is effective. We are noticing, for example, that fewer young teenagers are smoking. We know that if we put our minds to it, we can do it. We have seen programs that work.
The recommendations also say that it is important to train people on the front lines, whether they are teachers or front line workers, so that they can detect a person who is addicted to drugs and so there would be “early intervention, counselling and other supports in place” to assist these young people.
Of course, we need to deal with the root problems. Many young people in particular do drugs because they need to have drugs to mask the pain they are experiencing. Some of the pain could be physical abuse, sexual abuse or mental abuse that they experienced as children. Unless we provide the kind of counselling support they need, it is very difficult for them to get out of the cycle of addiction: being addicted, going to treatment, and then getting trapped again.
There are also other recommendations, which state that we have to work with the people who are abusing substances in order to come up with some kind of comprehensive approach. This is not what is happening in many places.
There are also service barriers. We have seen drug addicts who want to get out of street life and a life of violence. They want to escape that cycle, but because they cannot find affordable housing they cannot get their lives back in order. That is the result. They are trapped with people around them who are doing drugs.
We have seen programs where there is supportive housing. We might ask what supportive housing has to do with drug use and the war on drugs. Actually, having decent, stabilized, affordable housing, with some kind of supportive network around the person, is very effective. We have seen it work in downtown Toronto. Former drug addicts will say that they have turned their lives around, not because they went to jail, which may in fact make the situation worse, but because they found stable housing. They were able to feel that they could begin to contribute and participate in society in a meaningful manner.
That is a way to deal with our young people or with people who are addicted and have been on the street for many years. That is the way to crack through this, because drug users occasionally have mental health problems, and until there are programs to deal with that, they will continue to use drugs.
We have also noticed that many of the drug users are more involved in the cycle of violence and we need to enhance neighbourhoods, whether it is working with the community to provide alternatives or with the police to target high level drug traffickers, importers and producers of illegal substances. We need to work with the police in a holistic way. Having minimum sentencing is not going to do it.
The city of Toronto has said that there are parents, unfortunately, who occasionally use their children as runners for drugs, which is quite unfortunate. One way to deal with it is to work with the police and find ways to protect these children, possibly to pull them out and have their parents punished properly.
All in all, the NDP is proud to say that it does not want a very simplistic approach to control drugs and substances and that we have to have the four pillar approach. Sending people to jail for extensive periods of time for marijuana use, for example, will just not be effective. The U.S. has failed in its war on drugs. It has, for example, spent tens of billions of dollars a year on enforcement and jailing folks while crime rates and drug use have soared.
I hope the other parties will not send this bill for second reading. If that happens, there will be a tremendous amount of amendments at committee, so that the bill does not return to the House of Commons in its present form because we certainly cannot see any reason to support it.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this important debate today.
The bill is being introduced to further the Conservative tough on crime agenda. It is clear, with the number of justice bills the Conservatives have introduced over both sessions of the 39th Parliament, that this will be one of the major focal points of their re-election campaign.
The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act regulates certain types of drugs and associated substances. The new legislation would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, focus on drugs in schedule 1, which includes opiates such as opium, heroin, morphine, cocaine and methamphetamine, and schedule 2, cannabis related, including marijuana.
Currently there are no mandatory prison terms under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, but the most important serious drug offences have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Under the proposed legislation, anyone found guilty of a serious drug offence would automatically receive a mandatory term of imprisonment. For the purposes of this initiative, serious drug offences mean production, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting.
The bill would amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to include mandatory prison terms for drugs listed in schedule 1, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and in schedule 2, such as cannabis, marijuana. Generally the mandatory sentence would apply where there would be an aggravating factor and would also be increased where the production of the drugs would constitute a potential security, health or safety hazard. Also, the maximum penalty for the production of schedule 2 drugs, for example, marijuana, would be increased from 7 to 14 years.
Commonly known date rape drugs include GHB and Flunitrazepam and will be moved from schedule 3 to schedule 1 and it will provide access to higher maximum penalties for illegal activities involving these drugs.
The legislation would allow the drug treatment court to impose a penalty other than a mandatory sentence on an offender who has a previous conviction for a serious drug offence where: (a) the offence involves no other aggravating factors; and (b) the offender successfully completes the drug treatment court treatment program.
As we can see, this is a very important debate. It is certainly a conversation or dialogue that Canadians are having from coast to coast to coast. We heard members speak to the bill today. Liberal members have said that they are supporting the bill going to committee because of the importance of the dialogue Canadians are having.
We agree there must be a balanced approach. The hon. member for spoke extensively about the four pillars approach, which includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement, on the war drugs.
The Conservatives are taking a hard-nosed approach, which does not seem to be designed to encourage the four pillars approach. It is very reminiscent of the Republican approach with its war on drugs. The Conservatives are tagging this as a war on crime. The problem with this is it is not a balanced approach. As Canadians are engaged in a dialogue about the increase in crime and the types of crime, the increase in gang violence and the increase in serious offences related to drugs, there absolutely has to be a dialogue.
When we look at the drug policy budget in Canada, 73% of it is spent on enforcement, and rightfully so, but when there is not enough money budgeted to begin with, only 14% goes to treatment, 7% to research, 2.6% to prevention and 2.6% to harm reduction. The budget is not adequate. We need to be resourcing all sectors of these strategies.
When we talk about the Conservative approach, it is a war on crime and a war on drugs. I will quote Dan Lett, a writer for the Winnipeg Free Press in response to the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday in Winnipeg to battle auto theft. He said, “Harper's pledge Monday was to introduce tougher laws to crack down on the trafficking—