The Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper was sworn in today as Prime Minister, and his Cabinet choices announced. A vicious prohibitionist was named to the Justice Ministry portfolio. Former prosecutor Vic Toews (pronounced Taves) now holds the position of Justice Minister.
The Honorable Minister of Justice is the person whom our petitions and -? more importantly ? your individually written letters should be addressed to. There?s no postage required within Canada when you write to the House of Commons.
Vic Toews, Minister of Justice
House of Commons
Telephone: (613) 992-3128
Fax: (613) 995-1049
Our challenge is to approach Mr. Toews with arguments regarding the efficacy of making Canada’s streets safer ? by ending prohibition.
Mr. Toews has embraced many falsehoods as you can see in his remarks in Parliament reprinted below, such as ?marijuana is extremely physically addictive?, and is convinced that we need thousands more people in Canadian jails.
This is the most hostile Minister of Justice the Canadian cannabis community has ever had to deal with. Read the statement excerpts to get a picture of the man handling the fates of Marc Emery, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams. Please write letters and tell Vic Toews it would “shock the conscience” of your nation if the extraditions are carried out.
38th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION
EDITED HANSARD ? NUMBER 125
Monday, September 26, 2005
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in the House and to address Bill C-49 as the justice critic for the official opposition.[snip]
I will just mention for a moment marijuana grow ops. I spent a lot of time this summer in the lower mainland in British Columbia where there are an estimated 8,000 marijuana grow ops. Two days ago I was on a street of 25 houses where there were seven marijuana grow ops including one meth lab and one MDMA lab. This is an area with 8,000 marijuana grow ops, yet the government says mandatory sentencing does not work.
Whereas Canada has hundreds of cases going through the courts where individuals essentially receive a few thousand dollars in fines for operating multi-million dollar grow ops, in the United States, at the same time, there are three or four actual prosecutions because grow ops simply do not exist there to the extent that they do here in Canada.
The difference is that when individuals get caught in the United States for manufacturing methamphetamine or MDMA or getting involved in grow ops, those individuals will go to jail and will go to jail for hard time. Firefighters and police officers who have to raid these places and expose themselves to dangerous chemicals are protected, never mind the neighbourhoods that are subjected to this horrible abuse. Yet the government keeps on saying mandatory minimum sentences do not work.
We know for sure that the policy of the government of allowing these hardened criminals who are putting poison into our children’s veins does not work. They are putting poison into our children’s veins and they are getting house arrest. The government says that works, but I beg to differ. The Liberal government is killing our children and it does not seem to care.[snip]
There is one other point that I want to quickly make. The people who stand to monetarily gain from this are subjected to lower sentences, not life imprisonment. These are the kingpins who sit in the backrooms. They are protected by layers of criminal activity. They are the ones who collect the money. They are the ones who direct everything, and yet they are the ones who get the lower sentence.
Why is it that the government thinks that we should simply catch the people out on the street who are doing the abuse, but leave the criminals who are actually profiting with fewer sentences or lesser sentences when it is so difficult to get these individuals to begin with?[snip]
When we deal with the issue of crystal meth, and I support the movement from schedule 3 to schedule 1, from 10 years maximum to life imprisonment, the point is there are still conditional sentences available. The meth dealers who are using the labs and burning houses and causing explosions in urban areas which is dangerous to children, women, men and traffic, will still get conditional sentences because the direction from the government is to provide conditional sentences, house arrest.[snip]
One step the government has to take is to eliminate conditional sentences. The second step is for drug dealers and gunmen to have mandatory minimum prison sentences to ensure that they are off the streets.
I support rehabilitation. I support businesses creating job opportunities. I support all kinds of educational and other programs. I support all of those, but children cannot go to school when gunmen and drug dealers are on the streets. Businesses cannot create economic opportunities when gunmen and drug dealers are on the streets.
I met with the business people in Whalley, North Surrey just last week. The entire place looks like Los Angeles. There are abandoned buildings and barbed wire on top of fences. There is no business. People are scared.
There are answers and that is to get the drug men and the gunmen off the streets and get rid of conditional sentences.
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, across Canada there has been a rapid increase in marijuana grow operations and crystal meth labs, destroying entire neighbourhoods. Along with the drug dealing is a marked increase in gun related violence.
How many more people need to die in our streets before the government decides to eliminate house arrest and impose mandatory prison sentences for drug dealers and violent gun crimes?
Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government will be introducing legislation particularly with regard to combatting issues of conditional sentences and ensuring both that our streets are safe and that innocent victims are protected.
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, that is a promise the government has been making for 12 years. Social programs cannot work in drug and gun plagued communities unless the government is prepared to increase front line police resources and institute mandatory prison sentences for drug dealers, gunmen and other repeat violent offenders.
Will the minister commit today to eliminating house arrest for drug dealers and violent or repeat offenders and send them to prison so our children and our youth are safe?
37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION
EDITED HANSARD ? NUMBER 001
Monday, February 2, 2004
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to echo the comments of my colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville. Speaking as a former prosecutor, certainly the problem with prosecuting impaired driving when we do not have an approved roadside device or other device to measure the content of the drug or alcohol is a very difficult thing to do, whereas with .08 there is what is called a presumptive offence: that we are presumed to be impaired if we blow over .08. When we have just a straight impaired driving charge with no appropriate roadside detection device or other device, it is a very difficult thing to prosecute. One only needs to look at the Martin’s annotated Criminal Code to look at all of the cases that deal with this issue and realize how easy it is to avoid conviction. I am very worried that we are doing the same thing here.
The second point I want to raise is the issue that the marijuana bill appears to me to be tailor-made for organized crime, that is, it encourages youth to use marijuana and indeed to traffic in marijuana and at the same time it leaves the source of the marijuana illegal and criminal, thereby in fact increasing the potential for profit for an organized criminal.
I am wondering whether my colleague sees that same association: that at the same time as we are increasing the use among children and thereby creating a bigger demand, we are keeping it illegal in order to raise profits for organized crime.
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I was quite interested in the speech given by my colleague from Yellowhead.
The issue of methamphetamine is a very important one which he brought to the House’s attention. He indicated that organized crime is treating marijuana with methamphetamine. That certainly brings a whole new dimension to the use of marijuana.
Back in 1997 to 1999 when I was directly involved in a provincial government in a cabinet position, we dealt with the American authorities. At that time they were warning us about the spread of methamphetamine, that methamphetamine was devastating communities right across the United States. They told us at that time that over 80% of child welfare apprehensions in the state of California were directly related to methamphetamine abuse. They told us about the deaths of police officers and emergency responders who would go into methamphetamine labs and would be overcome by the fumes of these very dangerous and inexpensive labs.
Has the member heard of actual meth labs operating in his area? Has he had contact with the police? Does it not put a whole new perspective on the issue of legalizing marijuana when it is being treated with methamphetamine?
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Madam Speaker, I live in a border riding, Provencher, in southeast Manitoba. Much of our trade goes south of the border, manufactured goods, agricultural goods and all kinds of goods.
I have heard various reports about the Americans being concerned about this bill. Even a small delay of an hour or two in that border traffic translates into a cost of millions of dollars. If that kind of cost is evident in a riding like Provencher, what would it be like in a place like Windsor where the volume of traffic is much higher? Perhaps I am putting the member on the spot, but do we have any firm figures as to the cost of a delay of a few hours when we deal with just in time delivery and that kind of thing?
Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Madam Speaker, I am delighted to participate in this debate today.
The issue for me on this bill is that we, as parliamentarians in coming to vote on this issue, need information. We simply do not have the information available to us to make an informed decision. The government, rather than providing the opposition, its backbenchers and Canadians with the necessary information to make that informed decision, has simply chosen to push Bill C-10 through for one reason or another. We owe it to our country, we owe it specifically to our children, to get answers from the government and the minister as to why the haste on this bill.
There are a number of issues I would like to see addressed. There are a number of substantive matters which I believe need answers and those answers have not been provided by the government.
The first thing that strikes me about Bill C-10 is that the bill is tailor-made for encouraging trafficking among youth. We are lowering the prohibitions in the law. We are basically stating that anywhere from 15 cigarettes to 30 cigarettes to 45 cigarettes, depending on how they are rolled, could be carried in a youth’s jeans and sold at, say, $5 to $10 a piece, but we would have to catch that youth in an individual transaction in order to prove trafficking. It is very low level trafficking but at a large scale and it will make money. It may not necessarily mean that much money for the youth involved in the trafficking but the youth would probably make enough to support his or her own habit. That is the other aspect of the bill.
Bill C-10 would increase the influence of organized crime. It would perpetuate bigger profits. We are increasing demand through low level trafficking and all the other trafficking that goes to support it, and at the same time we are keeping the source of the marijuana illegal. What do we do? Prohibitions are down, but the profits are up. This would provide a wonderful opportunity for organized crime to expand. That is what Bill C-10 is all about.
A fundamental question would be why are we setting up the bill in this way, one which profits illegal enterprises and hurts our children? That is the consequence of the bill. I have not seen an answer. The Liberals have not refuted that that is the consequence of enacting this legislation.
The second question to which Canadians want an answer is the issue of impaired driving as a result of drug use. I spent a lot of my career in the attorney general’s department as a prosecutor in constitutional law. Back in the late 1980s, the number of deaths and injuries on the highways was increasing.
Even back then the federal government was unwilling to take the necessary steps to stop this carnage. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I am proud to say that Manitoba was a leader in this, we saw new initiatives to decrease impaired driving through administrative methods, administrative seizures of licences and administrative seizures of motor vehicles from those who drove after their licences had been suspended. These initiatives were tremendously successful.
The biggest challenge that Manitoba had was to convince other provinces that this was the right thing to do. It was not just the defence lawyers who were saying that it was unconstitutional and we should not do it, it was other attorneys general. The federal government was skeptical about it well into the 1990s. Yet if we look at the history of that initiative, most provinces have adopted that model, and to a good end. Fewer people are dying. Fewer children are being killed on the highways. Fewer adults are being killed and injured on the highways. This is a good thing, but we risk undoing the gains that we have made through hard, diligent work.
When we are encouraging an increase in the use of marijuana, the inevitable result will be an increase in the use of marijuana and driving. Why are we going down that road? We know that marijuana coupled with alcohol has a much more dangerous cumulative effect in terms of impaired driving. Having one marijuana cigarette and one or two beers is not the same as having three beers. There is a multiplier involved. The impairment is severe. We do not have an effective roadside screening device, or other devices, that will detect that.
Why are we proceeding at this time? We do not have those answers. Why are we putting hundreds and thousands of people’s health and lives at risk by going down that road?
I do not have that answer. I cannot give that answer to my constituents because the government has failed to provide that information to me as their representative. How can I in good conscience tell my constituents not to worry, that the Liberals have some secret plan that will overcome this fear that their children may be injured on the highways and that their spouses may be killed on the highways? How can I tell them not to worry, that the Liberals have a secret plan?
That is not good enough. Canadians are entitled to know what response the government will put in place if the law goes into effect and impaired driving through the use of drugs is increased.
I have another concern to which I still do not have an answer. Many people view marijuana as a harmless drug. We could speak to virtually any drug addiction counsellor. Marijuana, especially with the THC content that it has now, is an extremely physically addictive drug. There is no debate about that issue any more. It is an addictive drug. I do not know on what scale it is addictive, whether it is the same as heroin, cocaine, crack or crank, but the guidance counsellors and addiction counsellors say that it is addictive.
We are not dealing with a harmless drug and yet we do not have a local or national strategy to deal with the problem. Why are these issues not being raised and answered so that I can go back to my constituents and say that the Liberals are prepared to allow their children to become addicted but that they should not worry because the Liberals have a secret strategy in place to address this, a national secret strategy, and we should trust them?
In view of the Liberals’ record over the past couple of months, I cannot go back to my constituents and ask them to trust the Liberals. They are not worthy. They have not earned it. They have lost the trust of Canadians.
The other concern I have is the issue dealing with methamphetamine and the soaking of marijuana in methamphetamine. I do not know if members know how horrible a drug methamphetamine is. On the street it is called crank or white ice. American officials who I dealt with back in 1997 through 1999 warned Canadians that this was coming. It was devastating rural America. These law enforcement agencies told me that what crack did to urban black areas, crank or this white ice will do it to blue collar, white, rural, small town America and Canada. It is happening. It certainly happened in the United States. What crack did not complete, crank is finishing in our rural areas and in our small towns. It is a horrible problem.
I will tell the House what crank or methamphetamine does to people. People do not just go on a 12 hour run with methamphetamine. They go on 30 day runs where they virtually do not sleep for 30 days. Does anyone know how they go to sleep? They take heroine to calm down so they can go to sleep. It is a horrible addictive drug. Now organized crime is soaking marijuana with methamphetamine.
These labs are nickel and dime labs. They can be set up virtually anywhere. They are set up in hotel rooms, in rented rooms, anywhere. The ingredients are cheap and the process is simple. It is an explosive thing. It is a very dangerous thing to make methamphetamine. The explosions occur as quick as lightening and the death that follows from those explosions is immediate.
I have seen video tapes where the first responders go into a hotel room where the meth lab has been in the washroom and the explosion has occurred in the washroom. The person in the washroom is dead immediately. The person at the doorway staggers a step or two. The person on the bed who tries to make it to the door makes it about three or four steps. The gas kills immediately from those explosions.
We might say that those are the people involved in making this. Well, if we have no sympathy for those human beings, we should at least have sympathy for the first responders who open up the motel room door and are hit by that cloud. They die as surely as the drug dealers who are making the methamphetamine.
In 1997 and 1999, agencies in the United States told us that over 80% of all child welfare apprehensions in California were as a direct result of methamphetamine. There is an explosion in apprehending children from parents addicted to methamphetamine. I am certain that the rates would be similar in terms of crack use in urban America. Now we hear of the same problems developing in Canada.
The Americans back in those years were saying to us that they had outlawed the precursors, the ingredients to make methamphetamine, but the American drug dealers were coming across the border, especially from Montana, into Alberta, going into drug stores, literally cleaning out the shelves of over the counter drugs, boiling them down and using those ingredients back in the United States. We were oblivious to this problem. This problem is now hitting us with a vengeance.
One other area where methamphetamine has hit very hard in the United States, and it is finding its way into the same areas in Canada, is in our first nations communities. It has been a horrible problem in first nations communities across the United States and now it is coming here. We look at all the problems that some of our first nations communities have and now they are going to be met with this problem.
I am worried. We are moving in this direction with marijuana, marijuana soaked with methamphetamine which is addictive after one or two uses. It is almost certain that people will become addicted. Imagine kids trying marijuana soaked in methamphetamine, waking up and realizing they have a monkey on their backs, and it is a horrible monkey.
Where are the answers? The government has not provided me with those answers. How can I go back to my constituents and tell them not worry about these aspects because the Liberals have assured us that its drug policy will work? Will it work like their drug policy in east Vancouver, which now has the highest crime rate in property crime in North America second only to downtown Miami?
The people in organized crime are telling everyone that if they are caught with drugs anywhere in Canada they should waive those charges into British Columbia because they will never go to jail. The laws are not being enforced there. The judges are not enforcing them. The efforts of other judges in other areas of the country are being undermined as these charges are being waived into British Columbia, and judges there simply do not seem to care.
We need things like sentencing guidelines or minimum sentences to establish a floor right across the country so that if some judges do not care about our kids and our communities, at least Parliament says that they had better do their jobs by following these sentencing guidelines or these minimums. Why do we not see that in the bill?
Those are some of the questions that I have been asked by my constituents. How do I go back to my constituents and tell them to trust the government when the government simply does not have the answers? If the government has the answers it has not yet decided to share them with the opposition and with the people who we represent.
Mr. Vic Toews: Madam Speaker, let me deal with the second issue. I think the issue of vigilantism deals with the fundamental question of what should a law be. What is the purpose of a law? A law needs to provide a level of comfort to people that they need not take the enforcement of justice into their own hands. When people are no longer confident that justice is being done in the court system because the laws are not being enforced, they will take that vigilante action.
I do not condone vigilante action. I think it is wrong because the very fabric of society is destroyed as a result of vigilante action. However there is a corresponding responsibility of government to enforce certain standards so people are confident that they do not have to resort to that kind of action.
We see that in our drug laws generally. That is something that will happen. It will spill over, not just into the enforcement of the drug laws, to which the situation in Winnipeg Beach refers, but the fact that there is no more protection for one’s own property or the safety of one’s own person. Once people and police lose confidence in the system, our society begins to break down. We need to address that, not simply for the sake of a few junkies or drug addicts but also for people in general in our communities.
With respect to the issue of kids dividing up into non-drug users and drug users, I think that is a very natural reaction. However this is not just young people saying that they think drugs are bad because they do not allow them to perform well in terms of school work. It is also in terms of their own protection. What they are doing is creating a gang to protect themselves because the system is not protecting them any more. These kids group together to protect themselves against the drug dealers and the drug users. That is the kind of message that is going out into our schools. We are talking about small rural communities, as well as large urban centres.
The government has not provided the answers as to what it is doing with its drug policy and the repercussions of that are that our children are having to band together to protect themselves because the government says that their interests are second to the interests of those who want to use drugs.
Mr. Vic Toews: Madam Speaker, the purpose is very evident. It is to mislead Canadians into thinking that the government is serious about the problem.
The Liberal government knows that judges will not impose maximum sentences. My colleague from Langley? Abbotsford has already indicated that, and I do not need to give him information on this because he has been at the forefront of this fight for a long time.
The Liberals know judges do not give maximum sentences, but they stand up and say they are getting tough. Look at the maximum sentence offenders could get. Yet, if they were asked about a six month or a one year minimum sentence for trafficking, well, they could not do that. They do not want to tie the hands of the judges.
This is a government that defers to the judiciary so it does not have to make the tough decisions. That is what the government is all about. It wants to be all things to all people. If we want to be Liberals, vote for them. If we want to be hard core Conservatives, well vote for them also because look how tough they are getting on crime.
Both the Liberals and Conservatives in society are being mislead because the philosophy that the government adopts through its legislation does not rehabilitate, and does not punish or deter. It does absolutely nothing. What we get is the mess that we have now in east Vancouver.