PARLIAMENT of CANADA

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Publications - October 10, 2002
 

37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Thursday, October 10, 2002




¿ 0935
V         The Clerk of the Committee
V         Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.)
V         The Clerk
V         The Chair (Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.))
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Randy White

¿ 0940
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee
V         The Chair

¿ 0945
V         Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Randy White
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Randy White
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dominic LeBlanc
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Dominic LeBlanc
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair

¿ 0950
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Derek Lee
V         The Chair










CANADA

Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs


NUMBER 001 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, October 10, 2002

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¿  +(0935)  

[English]

+

    The Clerk of the Committee: Honourable members, I see a quorum.

    Pursuant to Standing Orders 106(1) and (2), your first item of business is to elect a chair. I am ready to receive motions to that effect.

    Mr. Lee.

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    Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.): I move that Paddy Torsney be elected chair of this committee.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Clerk: Ms. Torsney, would you please take the chair.

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    The Chair (Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.)): Thanks, team.

    We now move to the election of the vice-chairs.

    Kevin.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): I move that Randy White be nominated as vice-chair of the committee.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: We need a second vice-chair.

    Mr. Lee.

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    Mr. Derek Lee: I move that Carole-Marie Allard be elected vice-chair of the committee.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: Colleagues, perhaps we could deal with a couple of routine motions we had adopted in the past.

    Although we're finished with witnesses, there may be a reason to call a witness back. The first motion is that we be authorized to hold meetings to receive and publish evidence when a quorum is not present, provided that at least three members are present, including a member of the opposition.

    An hon. member: I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: Could we agree that the committee retain the services of two awesome researchers from the Library of Parliament, as needed, to assist the committee in its work, at the discretion of the chair?

    An hon. member: I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: In case anyone in the room isn't aware, Marilyn and Chantal have been working extraordinarily hard to get a draft of this report done. The timelines are really cruel, but they have done it.

    The next one has to do with witness expenses: that if requested, reasonable travel, accommodation, and living expenses be reimbursed to witnesses, not exceeding two representatives per organization.

    Mr. Derek Lee: I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: The next one has to do with working meals, which may become important in the wee hours of the night as the committee continues its work: that the clerk of the committee be authorized to make the necessary arrangements to provide good working meals for the committee.

    An hon. member: I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: The next one is on notice of motions: that 48 hours' notice be provided to the clerk of the special committee of any substantive motions. This is standard.

    An hon. member: I so move.

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: This will be quite important: that the chair be authorized to engage the services of Mr. Louis Majeau to edit the French text of the committee's draft report at an hourly rate of $70, to a maximum of $100.

    An hon. member: That's hours.

    The Chair: Sorry; 100 hours.

    Mr. Randy White (Langley--Abbotsford, Canadian Alliance): Unless he can do it in an hour and a half.

    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

    (Motion agreed to)

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    The Chair: That's the main part of what we needed to get through today.

    We do have copies of the draft report for all the committee members.

    Randy.

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    Mr. Randy White: Before we go to the draft report, I want to cover a couple of issues. Is it okay to do that now?

    The Chair: Sure.

    Mr. Randy White: We talked before about this focus on marijuana as opposed to the more important things. I would consider them to be more important, anyway.

    While I appreciate the comment in the throne speech, I did not appreciate the opportunity the government took to focus on the decriminalization of marijuana. I think it really distorts the priority and the focus of this committee. I really have to wonder how we're going to impress upon this country the problems with cocaine, prescription drugs, Ecstasy, crack, and heroin when we're going to enter into a major debate on the decriminalization of marijuana. We cannot afford to allow that to be the focus. There are too many people counting on us differently, in my opinion. I'm disappointed in that comment in the throne speech, to say the least, but I'm more concerned about this focus and where the media is going. When they talk about this committee, all they talk about is decriminalization. You can't even get them to talk about the other stuff.

    I just want to bring that up for discussion, because it's a major concern I have.

¿  +-(0940)  

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    The Chair: I agree. When I have been approached by the media--and we don't have a report, so I'm not commenting on what we're going to do--I have tried to explain that our committee is much more than that, and I really wish they wouldn't put the emphasis on marijuana. So all of us can try to get that message out, although we all seem to be responding, in various ways, on the marijuana issue.

    In terms of how we release our report, and what we do around its release, hopefully we can get that message out, or reinforce it. If all of us could try to talk about all the other issues, it might be helpful.

    Hedy, then Kevin.

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    Ms. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.): I agree with Randy. I think there are things we need to bring up in this report that are far more important than simply the marijuana issue. However, I think this sudden interest in discussing only cannabis was created by the tone set by the Senate committee. There's very little we can do, as I said and Paddy said, other than both de-emphasizing marijuana every time we're asked a question and continuing to say that this report is broader based; it's about prescription drugs and all the other things. We just have to keep doing that over and over.

    I don't think the way in which we release the report is going to make a difference. But that's just my opinion. No matter what you say, I think the first thing they're going to ask you is.... So we can't escape that. What we can do, though, is the usual when they ask what we think. We can say, “Yes, but actually, I hope you note this”, and emphasize the others always. That way, eventually we will get our message across that it's far more than just that.

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    The Chair: Kevin.

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    Mr. Kevin Sorenson: I just want to underscore what both Randy and Hedy have suggested. When I heard the throne speech, I felt that it undermined the work of the committee. We now have a directive from the throne speech that talks about the decriminalization of marijuana, and when I sit at this committee, I wonder, are we basing our recommendations on the evidence that we've heard in committee, or will it be passed down from the executive of the government? It was mentioned in the throne speech, and that's what we've been hung with on this thing.

    As far as sitting around here, is it a fait accompli? I hope not. I hope we don't have to build our debate and our arguments around the directive that came out of the throne speech. It undermines the legitimate work of this committee, and it's frustrating. I've had more reporters call me from Alberta and all over, asking, “What are you going to do about marijuana?” I've said that this thing is not about marijuana, it's about addiction, it's about some of the real concerns we've seen with every other drug, and marijuana is a minor part. But that's all they're interested in, and that's what the throne speech focused on.

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    The Chair: Well, to be fair, the throne speech, in reference to our committee, talked about a national drug strategy in reference to all drugs.

    To Hedy's point, I think the one sentence about decriminalization, which is actually a shorter sentence than the one referring to our committee, was responding in part to the Senate report and to what is out there.

    I think we're all on the same page here. We're all trying to figure out a way to make sure that people are focused on the issues we have actually been studying for a year. We have been discussing some strategies on how to put the focus on those issues, get people focused on the Vancouver east side, on Halifax's drug problems, on everything else, and on how to move the focus away from marijuana.

    Derek.

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    Mr. Derek Lee: I'm hopeful that before our report.... Well, we have to finalize our report, of course, but...and I do agree with what's been said about the unfortunate continuing focus on marijuana. We all agree that it is not the big fish, and it never was. Maybe there's a way, or maybe we could find ways, in terms of how we finish up our work, and how and when we report, to structurally deflect the focus away from the marijuana issue and more toward the real harms that are out there.

    I'd be very keen to try to find a way, or ways, to do that. I'd like it if we could put our heads together to do that. We can do it publicly or in camera. I'd prefer to do it in camera, to find a way to do it.

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    The Chair: Carol has rightly reminded me that we should mention that all the evidence we've received in the last session has been adduced to the committee for use in drafting the report. So that process has been done.

    I don't know that we need a motion for that, do we? No. Okay.

    Libby.

¿  +-(0945)  

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    Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): I don't know if you plan to have this on the agenda, but could we talk about when we think we're going to be meeting? I just find it to be very problematic. I assume people have seen the new committee schedule. They now have special committees scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30. Have you guys seen this? There are groups A, B, and C, and then special committees are in the evening, except on Monday. For those of us who are from B.C., if we ended up with Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30, that would be very difficult. The Monday is earlier, but....

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    The Chair: Libby, I think your timing is perfect. I've been talking to our researchers and our clerk about the timelines here, in order to make sure everything is edited properly and what have you. We're all going to get our copy of the draft report now. So we can take it away. We're not really in a position to discuss it. I haven't read it. No one has read it. There will be lots of things to edit and what have you. Everyone can take it away and read it next week. Then we're looking at coming back on October 21 and putting the report to bed by the end of the next week.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: Which is the Monday.

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    The Chair: So we have the weeks of October 21 and 28. That's going to mean that in spite of what that committee schedule says, we're going to need to block off a lot of time during those two weeks. It will depend on what the first reaction is on October 21 and how much rewriting there is to do, but if we can really try to clear our own decks and be here as much as possible for those two weeks.... It will be short and sharp and difficult, but we have to get it done.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: If it's going to be those two weeks...because we have to actually have it out by November 22. Is that correct?

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    The Chair: Yes.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: I know there is translation, editing, and all of that.

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    The Chair: The House doesn't sit the week before.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: So what days would we be looking at during the week of October 21? Are you saying that we're going to meet every day? I think we should set it now. I'd rather know now so that I can block off the time, make a commitment, and say no to everybody else.

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    The Chair: I propose that we start meeting after question period on October 21 and that we block off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of that week. So we would start after question period on the Monday, and then, if there's a possibility--and I'm open to suggestions--we would continue on Tuesday morning and take all those spots and try to leave by Thursday and see where we're at. The next week we would again start on the Monday afternoon and then block the two spots on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday in the morning, anyway.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: When you say morning, what do you mean?

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    The Chair: I mean 9 to 11.

    Randy.

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    Mr. Randy White: I'm okay. I just have to clear some meetings, I think.

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    The Chair: It's going to be difficult--

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    Mr. Randy White: We have to get this over with.

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    The Chair: Yes. Let's get it done.

    Dominic.

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    Mr. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, Lib.): I want to make sure that I understand you correctly. It will be Monday, October 21, after question period, around 3 or 3:30, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings in the 9 to 11 slot.

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    The Chair: It will be Tuesday morning and Thursday morning from 9 to 11.

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    Mr. Dominic LeBlanc: Wednesday is caucus.

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    The Chair: Yes. It's Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.

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    Mr. Dominic LeBlanc: What time slot is that?

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    The Chair: From 3:30 to 5:30.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: I thought you said Tuesday in the morning.

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    The Chair: Both. That first week at least, let's block both so that we can keep focused, and then we'll figure out how it's going.

    The other thing I would suggest is that it's been my understanding that we're all trying to work on a unanimous report. So when we're reading this report over the break week, if there's a possibility that people are going to say, “Really, I can't go there”, I would offer you the example of a report that the justice committee did on impaired driving. They had their recommendation, they talked about the majority, and then they had a dissenting opinion. In this case it was the Bloc who said that they couldn't.... They were delighted on the one side; however, in the next paragraph, this option had problems for them.

    Now, I thought it was going to be blocked--a little square around it, for instance--to show that some of us have problems with this issue, or are not fully in compliance on this particular recommendation. Maybe we could just have that as opposed to a dissenting report. Because if we're going to have dissenting reports, that's going to create additional challenges in terms of timing, although that's not....

    So if people are reading it and saying, “I don't think I can go there”, let's figure out if there's a way to just say, “I see why the committee is doing that, but I'm uncomfortable with this part”, and put a footnote or a box underneath the recommendation that says, “I'm not in favour there.”

¿  -(0950)  

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    Ms. Libby Davies: At the HRDC committee, when we reviewed the Employment Equity Act, we did the same thing. We had the unanimous report and then we had these footnote things.

    It's okay, but what happens is that in the process you're only allowed four or five. Otherwise, it gets too big with all these footnotes all over the place. And they were footnotes; they weren't actually underneath the recommendations.

    So I think we have to determine how significant the differences really are. If they become really significant, they become very difficult to cover off in a footnote.

    The Chair: You're right.

    Ms. Libby Davies: So maybe they could go underneath a recommendation. I think we have to be a little flexible about that.

    The other point I want to make is that I don't know about other members, but as the NDP representative on this committee, I do want to have the opportunity to go and talk to some of my colleagues. I mean, we have our own debate about where we stand on, say, decriminalization or whatever. I presume other members might be doing that informally, although I don't know. That first caucus meeting on that Wednesday is an opportunity to do that.

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    The Chair: Okay. Just keep in mind that the report is confidential. The concepts could be discussed, but the report and the text are completely for all the members of this committee and not for anybody else.

    Ms. Libby Davies: No, I don't mean to circulate it.

    The Chair: I know, but it's just helpful to remind members. Some people haven't done reports in some of the committees.

    As well, hopefully we won't have any leakage to the media, either. As we've discussed, it's in our interest to try to really launch this thing and to get people to focus on substance abuse across the country and not just on pot.

    Anything else? Yes, Derek.

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    Mr. Derek Lee: I hate to burden the public record with this. The discussions we're having now often happen in camera.

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    The Chair: Should we go in camera?

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    Mr. Derek Lee: I'd prefer that.

-

    The Chair: Okay.

    [Editor's Note: Proceedings continue in camera]

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