September 21, 2017
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-338. This private member’s bill has been brought forward by my Conservative colleague, the member for Markham—Unionville. The member has an obvious genuine concern for his own community and those across Canada. He recognizes the harmful effects that drugs have had in his own city and he has stepped up to do something about it by bringing forward this legislation, so I thank the hon. member for the work that he has done on this bill.
Drugs have been around for as long as anyone can remember, so why the urgency now? The reality is that the drug scene today is nothing like it was in the past. The Internet has made drugs far more accessible. International shipping has made drug distribution both more efficient and more difficult to stop. The growth in the highly addictive and extremely deadly drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil has made drugs more deadly than ever. As I have said in this House before, the best way to combat our drug and opioid crisis is to stop the illicit supply from coming into this country and trading on our streets.
Before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, the RCMP testified that 98% of the illegal opioids in this country are coming from China. This is not a new problem. Work was started under the Stephen Harper government to stem this tide of drugs flowing onto our streets. It culminated recently in an agreement with China that should have some effect—at least, we hope it will have some effect. The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that almost 2,500 Canadians died from opioid overdoses in 2016. This year, that number is expected to exceed 3,000 deaths. That is eight people a day dying from drugs, eight families a day dealing with an unexpected death.
Bill C-338 would target those who are working to bring drugs onto our streets and into our neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, even if we do catch those responsible for shipping these deadly drugs, the punishment that awaits them is insufficient and hardly a deterrent for protection of our communities.
As proposed section 1 states in the bill, if the amount of drugs involved is less than one kilogram, the offender would be subject to a maximum of life in prison with a minimum of a two-year sentence. This would increase the minimum sentence from one to two years. Proposed section 2 in the bill states that if the amount of drugs involved is more than one kilogram, the offender would be subject to a maximum of life in prison with a minimum of a three-year sentence. This would be an increase from two to three years in this minimum sentence.
One of the most dangerous drugs on the street today is carfentanil. It can kill in the smallest amounts. The equivalent of less than a grain of salt can kill. Simply touching the drug can potentially kill. First responders are at a high risk of death. I am not trying to be an alarmist here; I am just reporting the reality. Young children are dying after coming into contact with this drug. Even just the residue on clothing can be deadly to a small child.
In June 2016, Canadian border services intercepted one kilogram of carfentanil en route to my city of Calgary. RCMP Inspector Allan Lai said, “One kilogram of carfentanil can produce approximately 50 million fatal doses.” That is enough to kill every man, every woman, and every child in Canada one and a half times over. If we are going to turn this tide, we need to equip our courts with the tools that they need to remove these dealers of death from our streets.
Alberta Health Services, in my province, has found that 343 people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016. This is a whopping 33% increase over 2015, and a horrifying 110% rise from just two years ago. A doubling of the death rate in just two years is incredible. It is disgusting. Calgary experienced the worst of it. Half of the province’s deaths were in Calgary.
We need to give our courts the tools and the willpower to keep the drug pushers and traffickers off our streets where they cannot do harm. We need to show our law enforcement that their tireless efforts and risky work was worth it. We need to show our first responders that we recognize the dangers they face, and we are looking to reduce potential harm. We need to show our overworked medical staff, those who see the damage daily, that we are trying to save lives as much as they are.
We need to show our communities that their safety and security is under threat, and we are taking action. Most of all, we need to show Canadian families we are doing what we can to better protect their children, their brothers, their sisters, and in some cases, sadly, their parents.
The reality is that the Liberals will not support our efforts to make these changes set out in Bill C-338. The Liberal government is working hard to expedite legislation that would make it legal for children to carry up to five grams of marijuana, while defeating Conservative attempts to jail drug dealers. The NDP members are even worse. Some of them are suggesting we legalize all drugs. This cavalier attitude toward drugs has consequences, and eight times a day, we are reminded of what is at stake.
I am not naive. I know we cannot simply increase all penalties and think it will magically make everyone follow the law. However, we are talking about people who cruise our streets, literally handing out death pills. I know we are all safer if they are in prison, and not on our streets or in our communities.
I encourage all my colleagues to vote in support of this legislation, and let it go to committee for further review. We need to tackle the importing and trafficking of drugs to stop this problem from getting any worse. If my colleagues across think the bill can be improved, then let us do it. Let this proposal go to committee. Let us hear from experts, and let us just do something.
Voting down this legislation is tantamount to doing nothing as Canadians increasingly die around us. Let us do something. Let us do the right thing. Let us vote in favour of the bill.