Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Issue 11 - Evidence for February 15, 2012
OTTAWA, Wednesday, February 15, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, met this day at 4:18 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator John D. Wallace (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good afternoon and welcome, colleagues and invited guests, whom I will introduce in just a moment.
I am John Wallace, a senator from New Brunswick, and I am chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Honourable senators, today we are continuing with our consideration of Bill C-10, the proposed safe streets and communities act. Bill C-10 proposes to amend a number of acts which, for the purposes of today's hearing, include the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other acts.
This bill groups together nine bills that have been dealt with separately during the Third Session of the Fortieth Parliament.
Bill C-10 was first introduced in the House of Commons on September 20, 2011, by the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Robert Nicholson. The bill underwent several weeks of consideration in the house and was referred to this committee by the Senate on December 6, 2011, for further detailed study.
In order to complete our examination of the bill, this committee is holding extended and additional hearings. As a result, we have scheduled 11 days of public hearings, including all-day hearings during the week of February 20 to 24, 2012. This is our fifth hearing on Bill C-10. These hearings are open to the public and are also available by live webcast on the parl.gc.ca website.
In total, the committee has invited approximately 110 witnesses and more information on the scheduling of the witnesses can be found on the parl.gc.ca website under the heading "Senate committees. "
The topic for today's hearing focuses on Part 2 of Bill C-10, which deals with sentencing and, more specifically, proposes certain amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as well as other acts.
This subject is one that our committee is very familiar with, having studied bills during the previous two parliamentary sessions that are very similar to this particular section of Part 2 of Bill C-10.
In a motion that was passed in the Senate, the papers and evidence that were received by this committee in its study of these previous bills were also referred to this committee for the purpose of our study of Bill C-10.
In this regard and in very brief summary, Bill C-10 includes provisions that purport to: first, establish mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug trafficking offences, including those carried out for the benefit of organized crime; second, establish mandatory minimum penalties for the offences of importing, exporting and producing certain drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana; third, support the efforts of the National Anti-Drug Strategy to combat the illicit drug trade by targeting drug suppliers; fourth, increase the maximum penalties for illegal activities involving so-called "date-rape drugs "; and, fifth, in cases where the offender has a drug addiction, this proposed legislation would allow a court to suspend or eliminate a mandatory minimum sentence if the addicted offender successfully undergoes a drug treatment program.
Honourable senators, before introducing our guests who are joining us today, I would first like to take a moment to have each of our committee members introduce themselves and identify the region they represent, beginning with our deputy chair.
Senator Fraser: Good afternoon, my name is Joan Fraser and I am a senator from Quebec.
Senator Joyal: Senator Joyal, for the Senate district of Kennebec.
Senator Baker: Senator George Baker, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Jaffer: Senator Mobina Jaffer from British Columbia.
Senator Chaput: Maria Chaput, Manitoba.
Senator Angus: David Angus, Quebec.
Senator Lang: Dan Lang, Yukon.
Senator Frum: Linda Frum, Ontario.
Senator Boisvenu: Pierre Hugues Boisvenu, Quebec.
Senator Runciman: Bob Runciman, Ontario, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
Senator Meredith: Senator Don Meredith, Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you, honourable senators.
Our first panel today includes a representative from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Superintendent Eric Slinn, who is Director of the Drug Branch.
Also, from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, we have Barry MacKnight, who is the Chief of Police from Fredericton Police Force. Welcome.
Superintendent Slinn, I understand you have an opening statement you wish to make.
Superintendent Eric Slinn, Director, Drug Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Good afternoon, chair, honourable members of the committee. Thank you for having invited us here today.
I am Superintendent Eric Slinn and I am Director of the RCMP's Drug Branch. It is my pleasure to appear before this committee and to have the opportunity to participate in this discussion on Bill C-10 and how it would impact the work that we, as law enforcement, do.
Please allow me to begin my presentation with a brief overview of the current drug situation in Canada.
Over the course of the past five to ten years, the Canadian drug landscape has changed and become far more complex. Although cannabis continues to be the most commonly used illicit substance in Canada, with domestically produced marijuana seizures surpassing other illicit drugs, synthetic drugs are also another extremely viable commodity for organized crime, as the traditional cocaine drug market also remains strong. Canadian-based organized crime now exploits a very diverse drug environment that targets not only domestic consumption, but also export, import and contraband transit.
Canada remains one of the primary global source countries for MDMA, also known as XTC, and methamphetamine. Organized crime groups continue to produce an abundant supply of MDMA and methamphetamine, far surpassing the demands of domestic consumption. This overabundance of supply or inventory is exported primarily to the United States but also to Asia and Oceania, hence fuelling Canada's status as a source country for synthetic drugs.
It is clear that organized crime has become far more sophisticated over the past decade. We are seeing unprecedented cooperation between different organized crime groups that transcend traditional boundaries of culture, geography and commodity.
There was a simpler time in decades past when law enforcement dealt primarily in the repression of the drug problem. Law enforcement, in order to meet the needs of the communities that it serves, has needed to evolve at an exponential rate.
Drug investigations in today's world are multi-faceted in that they require officers to understand environmental issues, to navigate and handle hazardous materials, to manage international implications in both the legal and policy arena, to foster partnerships and to adapt to an ever-changing community and its expectations.
The marijuana and synthetic drug problems in Canada and law enforcement's response are tangible examples of how the issues have become complex. With the advent of super labs and smaller clandestine labs centred in major urban communities like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Edmonton, it is only a matter of time before environmental issues and risks from the hazardous waste dumped into the ground and the public sewer systems significantly impact our city infrastructures and ultimately affect public health and safety. Organized crime groups have no regard for environmental or health and safety issues. They are goal-oriented and profit driven.
In response to these emerging issues of safety in our communities, a cohesive and encompassing National Anti-Drug Strategy (NADS) was implemented in late 2007 aimed at contributing to safer and healthier communities through coordinated efforts to prevent use, treat dependency and reduce the production and distribution of illicit drugs.
The NADS funding has contributed to the RCMP's development and support of the Marijuana Grow Initiative, as well as the synthetic drug initiative. These initiatives are guided by the National Anti-Drug Strategy in the regrouping of partners in a whole-of-government approach, which demonstrate the forward thinking and pragmatic approach of the RCMP in meeting the challenges of drug enforcement in today's global village.
Specific to marijuana, the RCMP developed and implemented its Marijuana Grow Initiative in September 2011 in order to further address the marijuana grow situation in Canada. This initiative is based on three pillars: prevention, deterrence and enforcement. Early results from this initiative have been met with positive response from the public. These results include the posting of marijuana grow op locations on the RCMP website that have certainly provided a catalyst toward enhanced public engagement.
In developing the Marijuana Grow Initiative, the RCMP does not pretend to come forward with answers to the problem, but rather a road map of sorts that encourages community engagement and fosters the concept of a shared responsibility amongst Canada's citizens.
Marijuana is undeniably the jet fuel that powers Canadian-based organized crime and allows it to finance its other illicit activities, not only in Canada but throughout the world.
Prevention and education are important pillars in the RCMP's drug strategy and are not exclusive to its Marijuana Grow Initiative. The RCMP provides prevention awareness messaging to those elements of our communities who are the most vulnerable — primarily our youth — relative to the consumption of drugs and the dangers associated with these types of illegal activities.
The proliferation of marijuana production in Canada by organized crime has caused law enforcement to reflect on the effectiveness of enforcement-focused actions alone. Organized crime continues to control the once recreational subculture of marijuana use and has turned it into a multi-billion-dollar industry. The health and safety of Canadian citizens is considered collateral damage in the turf wars and violence that indiscriminately erodes community well- being.
The key messaging is awareness, awareness that there is a problem and that organized crime and its exploitation of marijuana grow operations has a significant and detrimental impact on our communities. The message is simple: Organized crime negatively impacts Canadian communities, from Victoria, B.C., to St. John's, Newfoundland, in upper scale neighbourhoods and lower income areas alike, without prejudice and without remorse.
As a law enforcement community, we face many challenges that are taking us into unchartered waters. It is only through fruitful collaboration with our Canadian and foreign partners that we can look towards success in our battle with organized crime. Appropriate legislation is an important tool to the National Anti-Drug Strategy and to the marijuana grow and synthetic drug initiatives.
As in any legislation or regulation, organized crime looks to manipulate and exploit any and all loopholes to its benefit. It is therefore important that new regulations and legislation work towards not only reducing or limiting organized crime's exploitation of the illicit drug industry but also to hinder and impede their manipulation of new regulations and legislation.
Bill C-10 and its proposition of implementing minimum sentences for certain drug offences is an integral part of deterrence. Those persons at the lower end of the organized crime hierarchy that are crucial to the support base of these groups' operations may think twice before making a quick dollar if a prison term is an absolute consequence to their involvement.
It is evident that Canadian stakeholders, in the fight on drugs, are now collaborating and working in concert better than ever. The National Anti-Drug Strategy is working because the RCMP and its partners have embraced it and collaboratively focused their initiatives towards its support.
Bill C-10 is another piece of the strategy that will better prepare Canada to reduce the impact of organized crime on our communities.
I would like to thank you once more for giving me the opportunity to address the committee. It would be my pleasure to answer any questions that the committee may have.
The Chair: Thank you very much for that, superintendent.
Chief MacKnight, do you have an opening statement you wish to make?
Barry D. MacKnight, Chief of Police, Fredericton Police Force, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: I do, thank you.
Honourable senators, let me begin by thanking each of you to appear today regarding this important bill. My name is Barry MacKnight and in addition to my position with the CACP, I am the Chief of Police in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
In 2007, CACP adopted a drug policy that was developed through the drug abuse committee, which I chair. This policy sets out the position of CACP on this very important national issue that has direct impacts on Canadians on a day-to-day basis. Beyond the pain and suffering that Canadians endure because of the use and abuse of drugs, the best research we have from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse shows that the social cost of illegal drugs in Canada is $8.2 billion per year.
Let me provide you with a brief overview of the CACP drug policy. We believe in a balanced approach to the issue of substance use and abuse in Canada, consisting of prevention, education, enforcement, counselling, treatment, rehabilitation and, where appropriate, alternative measures and diversion of offenders in order to counter Canada's drug problems.
We believe in a balanced continuum of practice distributed across each component. In addition, the policy components must be fundamentally lawful and ethical, must consider the interests of all and must strive to achieve a balance between societal and individual interests. We believe that to the greatest extent possible initiatives should be evidence-based.
Let me speak about prevention for a moment. We strongly believe that prevention is the most important component. Drug education and positive youth development is important in building resistance strategies towards substance use as a regular and sustained part of the school curriculum is imperative.
On enforcement, we are committed to enforcement practices that target the criminal infrastructure, which support and perpetuate the cycle of crime, violence, disorder, as well as the victimization of the most vulnerable citizens in our communities.
We endorse the practice of police discretion in individual communities but believe there should be emphasis on enforcement of laws against the possession and illegal use of drugs where the users are engaged in behaviours that harm or interfere in the lawful use or enjoyment of public and private property and contribute to street disorder. In particular, we believe that enforcement should be a priority in parks, in and around schools and other locations where vulnerable children and youth are placed at risk.
On the subject of healthy communities and transition to treatment, we support a range of strategies that serve to reduce harm to society and have, in the past, expressed qualified support for certain activities that reduce harm, such as needle exchange programs.
We acknowledge that the reduction of harm is necessary to support public health objectives such as reducing transmission rates of HIV and hepatitis, as well as preventing drug overdoses. However, reducing harm should reflect temporary measures to prevent those suffering from addiction from contracting disease, injuring themselves or dying before they have the opportunity to access and eventually succeed at treatment.
Some initiatives designed to reduce harm to drug abusers may conflict with law enforcement activities intended to address public safety issues. Therefore, we encourage the management and mitigation of these impacts through communication with community partners.
Treatment will reduce the number of people suffering from addiction, and reduce their addiction-related behaviours that harm society and to which the police must devote valuable and limited resources.
We support legislated and properly resourced programs such as drug courts and other initiatives that facilitate and enforce mandated treatment programs.
I shall now saw a few words about Bill C-10 and, in particular, Part 2, the amendments to the CDSA. The amendments to the CDSA in this bill are aligned with the CACP focus on dealing with the most serious drug crimes that impact our communities. The clear message to Canadians from these drug crime amendments is that these are serious crimes that warrant serious consequences.
The aggravating factors I believe speak for themselves: offences committed for a criminal organization, offences involving the use or threat of violence or weapons, offenders with previous drug crime incarceration, offences in or near a school, offences in a prison, and offences involving a child in the commission of an offence.
These amendments are a welcomed aspect of the balanced approach that must, in the end, define our collective response to drug crime in Canada. The safety of our police officers and indeed our citizens in general depends on our success in implementing just such a balanced approach.
The Chair: Thank you very much for that, Chief MacKnight.
We will now move to questions from committee members beginning with Senator Fraser.
Senator Fraser: I have one question for each of you and I will begin with you, Mr. Slinn. You got up first, so you get my first question.
You said that Bill C-10 and its proposition of implementing minimum sentences for certain drug offences is an integral part of deterrence. I would like you to explain a little more why you think it is such an integral part of deterrence, because we have heard over the years in this committee a great deal of evidence — everyone from academics to lawyers to even I think the odd study from the Justice Department — that minimum sentences are not in fact a deterrent. What evidence have you for that?
Mr. Slinn: From a research standpoint, I cannot comment on that. I am not up on that type of research. However, I can tell you anecdotally from talking to certain community members who have been involved in the marijuana grow industry in the past that they fear going to jail as a consequence of getting caught operating marijuana grow ops, so they have stayed away from getting involved in that particular milieu.
We know there are some groups out there that have a propensity to get involved in grow ops and there has been pressure within those communities to grow for criminal organizations. Some have come forward and told the RCMP in some of those community consultations that, "I do not want to go to jail; I fear going to jail, " in terms of growing marijuana for this organization.
That fear actually translates to some measure of deterrence. To what level the deterrence will be felt by Bill C-10 if it goes through, it is difficult to quantify that. I do not have specific research. It really relates to anecdotal discussions we have had with some people.
Senator Fraser: Yes, it is almost like pinning jelly to a wall, trying to pin this down. I am not trying to put you down. What you live is what you live. Here, we are trying to juggle it all and figure out what is what. It is sometimes extremely difficult, but I thank you for that answer because it is important.
I was also very interested, following on that passage of your statement, that you did suggest that this bill will go after the lower end of the organized crime hierarchy, which is something that has sometimes been disputed by the minister.
Mr. Slinn: I do not know necessarily that I want to couch my response that it goes after the lower end. We know within the marijuana grow industry that the higher end of the organized crime groups does not baby-sit marijuana grow ops. They use nominees, if I can use that term. There must be some deterrence or consequence for those people to actually get involved in grow ops or perhaps other clandestine activities. Some of the discussion we have had with some people is, "I will not grow because I do not want to go to jail, " even within the existing legal framework we have.
Senator Fraser: That is assuming they get caught. We could go on and on, but I know the chair will lean in on me any minute now.
Mr. MacKnight, you probably did not realize that you were touching on something that has puzzled me about this bill ever since it first came to us I cannot remember how long ago now, and that is the reference to activities in and around schools, on or near school grounds or in or near any other public place usually frequented by persons under the age of 18. This is not an insignificant element of this bill because, if someone offers a joint to a friend in those circumstances, that person can get sent away for two years. It is a fairly big thing. Can you please tell me how you interpret "near a school " or "near school grounds? " What does "near " mean?
Mr. MacKnight: This is an interesting question, and I will try not to natter on too long, but I think I can get to the nub of the issue. The courts frequently deal with issues around the definition of what is "in " or "around " or "near " and that sort of thing. I do not see the courts or the police having any difficulty dealing with that particular aspect of the bill.
The point that you raise around the issue of whether or not a joint or a pill or some sort of illicit drug being passed from one person to another could invoke a mandatory minimum because, technically speaking, that could be considered trafficking is a good question because I think there are people who have perhaps some fear about that.
The point I would like to make in answering that is you can take any section of the Criminal Code and probably any piece of legislation that has penalties and, if you deconstruct the definition section to its individual elements that must be proven, you can come up with a set, technically speaking, of things that could lead to a conviction and technically could have an absurd result. This is the point with a joint passed from one person to another. How could it be right that that person would be subject to a mandatory minimum and go to jail for a period of time without a judge being able to exercise discretion?
I can tell you as a police officer that that just does not happen. That is not where we target our enforcement. There are checks and balances in our systems within police agencies and between the police and the Crown about those exact things. I can tell you in my jurisdiction, in the circumstances where a joint is passed from one person to another and they happen to be in a dormitory of a university, that charge would not be approved.
Senator Fraser: What, in your experience, does "near " mean?
Mr. MacKnight: I have not experienced a court having difficulty in dealing with "at " or "near. " I cannot answer your question about what "near " is. I guess I would go back to the plain definition of what "near " is.
Senator Fraser: Well, 50 feet would presumably be near. Is half a mile near?
Mr. MacKnight: I think it depends on the context. Our experience is that the police, the Crown and the courts do very well in interpreting things like that, whether or not it is at or near, because there are many sections in the Criminal Code that talk about issues about at or near a certain location.
Senator Fraser: I know I have run out of time. I remain in frustrated ignorance on how I should interpret "near, " but I thank you very much.
The Chair: I guess that proves not everything can be determined on a table. There is a practicality to it.
Senator Runciman: Chief, I want to follow up on what you were responding, not about the school situation, but there seems to be a misconception out there that an aging hippy growing a few pot plants for personal use would be put in jail under this bill. There is a reference here to it having to be tied to trafficking. I am wondering if you could tell the committee, and both of you can perhaps offer evidence on this, the type of evidence you would need to get a conviction that would carry the mandatory minimum and that it was for the purpose of trafficking. Also, what would be involved in proving aggravating factors? Can you talk a bit about those issues?
Mr. MacKnight: I would struggle a bit with answering that because I am not a drug investigator, and some of what you are talking about is not only the elements of the offence but how the Crown will prove that in court.
Senator Runciman: You have to be in a position to make a recommendation to the Crown.
Mr. MacKnight: Absolutely, and our drug investigators certainly know the ins and outs of the elements that they need in order to prove a trafficking offence.
Mr. Slinn: Maybe I can expand on that. There must be a constellation of facts. If we take six plants, we have to look at size of plants. I have seen plants as big as Christmas trees. Then we have to look at the person conceivably saying, "I am consuming this. " We know through our experts how much a heavy user would smoke. It might be in the area of three to five grams per day. A Christmas-tree-sized plant will produce pounds of marijuana. There is one element.
There will be other elements within the house, such as score sheets, which are evidence of trafficking. We would be looking at perhaps phone records. There is a lot of investigation that goes into proving possession for the purpose of trafficking or trafficking. It is not merely finding six plants or a bowl of ecstasy pills or a couple of vials of GBL. A lot of investigatory steps must be taken to meet that threshold, and the Crown will ultimately be looking at that.
Senator Runciman: I wonder if both of you can again speak to the issue of sentencing. We have witnesses later from academia. This is a bit dated, as it was released publicly in 2002. This was in British Columbia, so it may not have wide applicability, but I know in Ontario there were concerns related to sentencing. This is individuals who have had nine plus prior convictions for drug offences, history of drug trafficking and/or production. Fewer than 50 per cent of them were sentenced to prison, and the average length of a term — it must have been in a provincial lock-up — was less than 60 days.
I would like to tie this in to perhaps, superintendent, what you were talking about, cementing Canada's status as the source centre for synthetic drugs and the cost of doing business approach and that sentences have not been scaring people off, is perhaps the way to put it. I wonder what your experience has been from a Canada-wide perspective. Certainly in B.C., in the evidence we have before us shows it has not been much of a deterrent.
Mr. Slinn: I will go back to my days in Halifax. Not many years ago, growers in the province of Nova Scotia were getting federal time, and this is going back about 10 years ago, until they quickly clued in that, in B.C., judges are sentencing people for grows to conditional sentences at the time. We were seeing a disturbing trend where we would catch people in Nova Scotia and they would ask to have their charges transferred out to B.C. for lesser sentences. I think it shows organized crime and the people involved saying, "I know where I can go for the path of least resistance. "
It is not by accident that the U.S. points to Canada with our marijuana, our B.C. bud, and the copious amounts of marijuana that is available. There must be a correlation between the lack of penalty for growing marijuana and the amount of marijuana that is being interdicted in the U.S. or that our U.S. law enforcement colleagues are pointing to us. It is disturbing to see the quality of marijuana go up, the amount of marijuana being seized in the U.S.
In my view, there must be a correlation. If the marijuana is still heading down to the U.S. in large amounts, it must be related in part to the lack of penalties perhaps from going to jail as a consequence.
Senator Runciman: Do you see the amendments contained in Bill C-10 as helping to address the challenges you face?
Mr. Slinn: Any tool that law enforcement can get helps. Many of our police officers or drug enforcement officers are frustrated seeing the same people walking out the door, making millions of dollars. Is there any wonder why more youth are following the path of growing marijuana knowing that there is not a consequence for growing it? There must be a consequence.
Senator Runciman: Chief, did you want to add anything to that?
Mr. MacKnight: If I could, yes, please.
Sentencing is not the silver bullet that will bring us out of this. We will not arrest our way out of this problem. We will not incarcerate our way out of this problem. We have to approach this with a balanced approach across all of the continuums.
Bill C-10 is part of that balanced approach. On its own, I fear it will make no difference. There are things in Bill C- 10 that we need, and we are glad to have them. When the legislation goes through, we will be glad to have it. However, on its own, it is not the silver bullet; it is one element and there must be successive elements around all the things I mentioned, such as treatment, keeping addicts alive so they can get the treatment.
Senator Runciman: Education.
Mr. MacKnight: Very much so.
The Chair: As a supplementary question, Chief MacKnight, you referred to a need for a balanced approach that takes into account treatment, prevention and enforcement. Bill C-10 seems to be directed more to the enforcement end of that. However, you referred to the National Anti-Drug Strategy, which I believe incorporates all three of those components. Can you make any comments about how that strategy addresses the components other than enforcement that, as you say, are extremely important and I understand to be part of the overall balanced approach?
Mr. MacKnight: Mr. Chair, I think that NADS was a big help for us because we began to do something that, unfortunately, as Canadians, we had not done in well over 20 years before NADS came on, and that was to give clear messages to Canadians about the harmful impact of drugs. One to the things that NADS did was address that. I am proud to see there are commercials on television that talk about the harmful impact of drugs, and they come from NADS. Again, NADS is an important slice in getting some of that work done.
I know that funding comes from NADS to treatment programs in various areas of the country. Is it enough? I feel confident in saying no, it is not enough, but we are starting down the road to where we should be going in that balanced approach.
The Chair: That strategy, again, is not one-dimensional. Enforcement is an aspect of it, but it is not the beginning and the end of that strategy.
Mr. MacKnight: I am trying to come up with the pillars.
Mr. Slinn: Enforcement alone, as Chief MacKnight said, we will not arrest our way out of this. With the marijuana grow initiative that the government introduced and the synthetic initiative, government and law enforcement can only do so much. We are maxed to that level.
We need the community to get engaged, such as nongovernmental organizations, power corporations who are losing millions, insurance bureaus. That is resonating. I think we are balancing the scales there.
The Chair: Thank you for that.
Senator Jaffer: I have very much appreciated your presentations. I also will try and have two questions. My first is to you, Superintendent Slinn.
The Canadian Police Association was here. I come from B.C., so I was not proud of what you said. I am not speaking about organized crime people or pedophiles. I do not think anyone here is. We want them off the street.
What the president of the Canadian Police Association said, and I have been thinking a lot about what he said and I will read his words so no one can dispute what he said. He said, "We use our discretion in terms of how we take enforcement activities right at the front end as police officers. We do a lot of work with the Crown in terms of having discretion, looking to diversion, for example, before there is a criminal charge. "
I asked him another question, but he goes on to say: "Mandatory minimum sentences come after the person has been charged. What I am saying from a front line policing perspective is we will be charging people who are chronic offenders engaged in serious crime. "
He goes on to say, "We do not arrest or charge those people who are using drugs or addicted to alcohol. That is not the right approach to take with them. We need alternative approaches. "
Where I am having difficulty is that there is a discretion — and there should be, I am absolutely for it — with the police officer on when to charge. I think I heard you say that indirectly. Why are we then taking away the discretion from the judges?
Mr. Slinn: I do not think that is a question I can answer.
Senator Jaffer: You use discretion as to who you charge, right? You have that discretion.
Mr. Slinn: Yes, we do.
Senator Jaffer: You both have talked about a balanced approach and about alternative measures. I hear the passion. Especially, chief, you have been speaking about having a balanced approach and you responded in a strong and profound way.
You talk about alternative measures, and that the government and the police cannot do it, but we are taking away alternative measures. Crown counsel has come here and said, "We do not have the resources. " How will you handle Bill C-10 with the resources you have? How will you see what you want happen?
Mr. Slinn: It remains to be seen how Bill C-10, if passed, will impact on the RCMP or law enforcement in general. I cannot hypothesize there.
In terms of the discretion, you are quite right in that our law enforcement officers on the front line have that discretion. The checks and balances there is perhaps if they do not use their discretion as best as they could or common sense, there are checks and balances there, and that is called the Crown. It is nice to have those two levels; it offers a bit of independence.
At the judge's level, I am not in a position to comment on that. It would not be appropriate for me, nor do I have a comment. There are drug treatment courts there; that seem to be more prolific. Those are options that give us that balanced approach.
Senator Jaffer: Again, coming from Vancouver, and seeing how effective their drug courts are, I know that is working.
Chief, I had a question. You spoke very eloquently about a balanced approach to the issue of substance abuse and abuse in Canada. Did I understand you to say that you were in favour of places like the Insite clinic in Vancouver?
Mr. MacKnight: CACP has not adopted a specific position on supervised injection sites, but in the drug policy that we developed, the excerpt that I read is in that same section where we talk about any program that is intended to reduce harm in a community. The recommendation from CACP is that must be dealt with by the community themselves. There is a supervised injection site in Vancouver, and because there is one in Vancouver does not necessarily mean that it would work in Toronto or Montreal.
I have taken the drug abuse committee to Vancouver and we have walked the streets of the downtown east side, and we know that Vancouver is a unique environment in Canada for drug issues.
Our position has been that we are very supportive in reducing harm in communities because that is what we do as well. We have the same objective. However, we also see that sometimes there can be a focus toward the reduction of harms that can ignore public safety factors associated to it. It is very much a community decision. That is our position.
Senator Angus: Superintendent Slinn and Chief MacKnight, thank you both very much. You had articulate and clear presentations, which is very helpful.
Is it fair that we can assume that you both agree with all of what the other has said? You each gave different elements of the issue.
Mr. Slinn: We are a brotherhood.
Mr. MacKnight: I am sorry, senator. I think I would want to know exactly what the issue was. We are supportive and we work together.
Senator Angus: There was nothing that the superintendent said that you disagreed with? That is what I am really asking.
Mr. MacKnight: To be clear, senator, I would want to make it clear to the committee that CACP does not have a formal position on mandatory minimum penalties. I know there are a variety of opinions within our membership on the application of mandatory minimum penalties.
I have said before, and I will say to this committee, inasmuch as the expression of a mandatory minimum penalty is strong denunciation of an offence, we think that is a good thing. Strong denunciation to the general public, perhaps the general deterrence may benefit from that. I know there is research that shows that the specific deterrence to an offender, there seems to me an absence of evidence that that works. That is why CACP has not adopted a formal position on mandatory minimums.
Senator Angus: Did you want to comment, superintendent?
Mr. Slinn: The RCMP is very supportive of any tools.
Senator Angus: I understood from both of you that you support Bill C-10, at least I think you mentioned Part 2 of it. Can we assume you support the bill in its entirety, both of you?
Mr. Slinn: Again, I will go back to say the RCMP supports whatever the final decision is. We are always happy with whatever tools come in the toolbox.
Senator Angus: Fine. I think I get that.
Superintendent, it was interesting at the outset when you talked about synthetic drugs and how they have become so prevalent. You used the word "production. " Are they produced in Canada? You mentioned it is becoming a big synthetic drug distribution place. Are synthetic drugs imported or locally produced?
Mr. Slinn: I would say the majority of synthetic drugs are produced in Canada. The precursors to make them come from outside Canada, although you can obtain some here.
In the last couple of years, we had what we called "super labs, " which were large-scale productions. In the last year we have not seen so many, but that does not mean they do not exist. We have taken smaller-type labs. We have been successful in working with chemical companies and foreign governments in terms of choking off precursors, but you have to understand with synthetic drugs — and we had a big media event this morning — that the organized crime groups that make these will go and find other toxic chemicals. That is all that goes into methamphetamine. They are solvents. Everyone in this room would have some in their garage. You just cannot legislate every precursor chemical that is made. Most of them are made here.
Senator Angus: In Canada and in no particular spot. I know we have heard some evidence that they are produced in B.C.
Mr. Slinn: We do not want to be too hard on B.C. B.C. has a record for grow ops, but they are everywhere in this country, and I would surmise the same is true with clandestine crime labs.
Senator Angus: You used throughout your presentation, superintendent, the expression in capital letters, "organized crime. " This may seem an odd question, but it is capitalized, and I am wondering who is organized crime. Maybe I can elaborate where I am coming from, because are we talking about organized crime groups? You talked about various groups that cooperate and work together now. Are they foreign? Are they American? Are they from offshore or are they local, formalized groups?
Mr. Slinn: They are formalized groups that are in Canada, that have global networks. A quick example would be the Hells Angels motorcycle club. They have chapters throughout the world and a network. Technology has allowed them to have that network. Certain cultural — Asian organized crime has connections back to China to be able to potentially get precursors, but they live in Canada. These are groups that are in Canada, operating in Canada, but that have global networks.
Senator Angus: You know who they are, though?
Mr. Slinn: We know a number of them, but there is a lot that we do not know, unfortunately.
Senator Angus: One of the things that I find curious, because we have been told over and over again in this committee that the intention of this and that and this other law is not to get a kid with three joints of marijuana, or whatever, but it is to go to organized crime.
A close relative of mine was the head nurse in a hospital in Quebec, and a lady came in to have her baby and suddenly the police were all around. This lady was the significant other of a major Hells Angels person. As I sat there, I saw the florist coming in with big bouquets from the chapter of the Hells Angels, and the police are there. I am wondering: Why is it so hard to get at these people? They are right there in River City in the ward of the hospital.
Mr. Slinn: I think I know where you are going. We know who many of these organized crime figures are. We can point out who is the president, the vice-president and the treasurer. We have that intelligence. That is not enough, though, to charge people and to support the criminal legislation.
Organized crime investigations are labour-intensive, taking a lot of manpower, resources and time. Let me be clear about the RCMP's mandate. We do target organized crime. We are not looking at the low-hanging fruit. We are looking at organized crime, which takes time. Through NADS, that is how government gave us money to fight organized crime and marijuana grow ops and other clandestine labs. That is what we have been doing.
Senator Angus: I just have one point of order arising from your questioning and the witness just talked about NADS again. He said in his statement NADS was implemented in late 2007. You asked questions about it and how good it is. Who implemented it? Who did it come from, NADS?
Mr. Slinn: It was the government.
Senator Angus: The federal government implemented it?
Mr. Slinn: Yes, the federal government.
Senator Angus: The National Anti-Drug Strategy.
Mr. Slinn: That is correct.
The Chair: Thank you, senator.
As we go through this process, time will always be pressing in on us, so if you could keep your questions as concise as possible, I would very much appreciate it. To our witnesses, please keep the answers as concise as possible, though we do not want to miss any detail of what you have to say.
Senator Baker: I have two questions. I would like to say how much we appreciate the RCMP and all of our police forces in Canada. They do a terrific job, especially the guys and girls on the street, especially the drug teams that we have. I think they should be paid double what they are presently being paid.
I will get to my two questions. I was only going to ask one question, but I will ask two. I will preface the first question, which I was not going to ask, with just a couple of cases, a couple of sentences. R. v. Chu, Vancouver docket 192265, first paragraph: "The accused is charged with one count of trafficking in ecstasy. Admissions were put before me which establish that the accused committed this offence on October 28, when he gave one ecstasy pill to an undercover officer, Constable Haines, at a rave event at the Pacific Coliseum. "
The case concludes in paragraph 51:
The evidence establishes that the accused is guilty of trafficking in ecstasy by "giving " ecstasy to the undercover constable. This conviction is to be recorded.
Another recent case is R. v. Austria, docket Vancouver 236504, paragraph 6. The charge was possession for the purpose of trafficking after the sale of one pill to an undercover police officer.
There is the case of R. v. Ye, docket Vancouver 193535-1, paragraph 12. At paragraph 1, they outline all of the different projects: Project Twiggler, Project Temporal, Project Thirst and Project Tirana, in which dozens of people were arrested during a raid; and one pill was given and the convictions registered.
In Newfoundland, there is R. v. Millet, docket 308APR188 — I think I know this guy. The headnote on the sentencing hearing says:
Accused was convicted of the possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking. Accused gave one joint of marijuana to an undercover agent. Accused was sentenced to three months in jail for the trafficking offence.
We go to the Canadian court martial and see the same list of cases on one joint or one pill. The obvious question is: Are the witnesses saying that sometimes this happens, not very often does this happen, that the police, with the advent of this new minimum sentence legislation, are not going to bring the charges against any of these people in similar circumstances?
Mr. MacKnight: I will start with that. I am not familiar with the cases. I would say that without knowing the context, it is difficult to answer that.
Senator Baker: It is not usual to do that, is it? It is not a usual thing to charge.
Mr. MacKnight: All I can say to you at this point —
Senator Baker: You said it never happens.
Mr. MacKnight: Was there an undercover operator?
Senator Baker: These are RCMP undercover operations, yes; one pill, one joint.
Mr. MacKnight: I know how much it costs to train and deploy undercover operators. I am speculating, because I am not familiar with the case.
Senator Baker: There are dozens of cases.
Mr. MacKnight: If there was an undercover operation at this rave, there is something more to it, I guess.
Senator Baker: I just wanted to register that because I have heard this evidence given many times to this committee: The one joint does not happen. These are university students. Under this legislation if they are charged again, they go to jail — mandatory two years for a joint if the rave is on a university campus. It would have to be a Schedule I offence. It would have to be ecstasy or cocaine or something like that.
Senator Angus: That does not follow. I do not know what you are saying.
Senator Baker: You do not know what I am saying? Under this proposed legislation —
The Chair: What you are touching on is really important and how Bill C-10 relates to that. In terms of the trafficking of one joint, my understanding is that Bill C-10 would require —
Senator Baker: I said one pill of ecstasy. I corrected myself.
The Chair: I thought you said one joint.
Senator Baker: I did originally but it is one pill. With this previous offence, you go to jail for two years if it is on a university campus; and you agree with me.
My main question was not that; you got me distracted. My main question has to do with deterrence, which was the whole purpose of the RCMP presentation here. It says: "Persons who are in the hierarchy of organized crime. "
Now, as far as my recollection goes, the mandatory minimum for the top dealers in organized crime under this proposed legislation is three years. All mandatory minimums are at the lower end of the average. They are never within the range of what you give under normal circumstances. The mandatory minimum is below the range.
In the three years in this case, if you go to case law, you see organized crime cases go from eight- to twelve-year sentences. If you are saying that three years is a mandatory minimum, could not someone argue this could be an encouragement? Under normal circumstances, they get eight to twelve years anyway.
Senator Frum: There is no mandatory minimum for trafficking of one pill.
Senator Baker: You got it wrong. I said, "if they commit the offence again. " The requirement is that if you commit a prior offence under anything but 4.1, which is simple possession, and you do it again, you go to jail automatically just for passing one pill. That is in this bill.
The Chair: Senator, those are interesting comments. If there is a contrary position, there is an opportunity to ask questions. You have put your questions to the witnesses, Senator Baker. Would they care to respond?
Mr. Slinn: I go back to the RCMP's mandate to target organized crime. To charge someone with organized crime under the provisions within the Criminal Code and even under this proposed legislation, you need a constellation of facts. You need to prove that they are part of that organization and part of that hierarchy. I cannot comment on each of those cases because I do not know, but there are situations where, based on our intelligence, we go into what we think is an organized crime, perhaps a rave, and the outcome is perhaps a small trafficking result. We go in with the best of intentions to investigate organized crime.
Senator Lang: I differ with my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador. He makes the situation too simplistic in many ways.
Senator Baker: How is that?
Senator Lang: It is because the message is so simple to spin if you put it that way. I want to say this: I come from rural Northern Canada. The methamphetamines and other chemical drugs, along with marijuana, are in rural small- town Canada of 500 people. Three or four thugs are in those communities. They know who they are and everyone walks by them every day. In some cases, there is daily fear, especially in some of the First Nation communities. This proposed legislation gives a message to those who would prey on their brother, their sister and their friends for the sake of money to put them in the area of addiction. I just want to ask you, Mr. Slinn: What if we do not pass this bill and instead go the way we are presently? I hear around this table day after day how concerned we are about our communities, especially First Nations communities. If we maintain the situation the way it is, what message will we give to the front line officer out there who is trying to clean up these communities so they can make it safe for those young men, women and children who do not want to get involved in this type of thing?
Mr. Slinn: The best response I can give you is that this morning we did a media event because of the deaths from synthetic drugs out West the last couple of months; there were approximately 10. We brought the mother of a daughter who, some three years ago, died after taking an ecstasy pill at a rave. We are telling young people that they do not know what they are taking. She died for 10 bucks. That is as simplistic as I can put it. An ecstasy pill in Iqaluit is worth up to $100. You can get it for $10 in Toronto or Vancouver. I cannot be more blunt than this: A $10 value was put on this young girl's life. She was an aspiring model, a beautiful girl. Organized crime cares nothing about all of our children and our grandchildren. They will exploit anything. We need as many tools as we can have to discourage them and hold them accountable.
There has to be some accountability. In Canada, we were not a synthetic drug producer some 10 years ago. Why is it we are now? I do not have all the answers, but quite frankly, I am personally disgusted by that. I take a little bit of personal responsibility as a law enforcement officer. I want to do something about it. I think a balanced approach is required. Education is required. I leave you with this: There is a $10 value on people's head for an ecstasy pill.
Senator Lang: I want to follow up further on my question. During the last hearings we had on this bill, we had a mother from the Yukon who appeared who had lost her daughter. It was a heartfelt and soulful testimony given to this committee, not unlike the one you talked about this morning.
However, looking at this legislation, you did not answer my question. If it is not passed, what will that say to the front line officers out there and their morale in respect of trying to put these individuals before the courts, getting them sentenced and off the street?
Mr. Slinn: I can tell you they are already frustrated. I do not know if they are necessarily plugged into the legislative work. They are discouraged by the amount of drugs they come upon on a daily basis. In answer to your question, whatever tools we can get that may help us. They may uplift the morale of law enforcement officers on the front line to feel that some of these people that they see on a revolving door on a daily basis — known in the community — may go to jail or be held accountable.
Senator Meredith: Thank you for being here today. As someone who has presided over funerals in the city of Toronto for those who have been affected by drugs and gangs, I get it. The million dollar question is we are trying to go after organized crime: the syndicates, dealers and the heads. However, the consequence of this is that the youth — marginalized, Aboriginal, visible minorities — are the ones being caught up in all of this. That is the question. What is your view on Bill C-10, the impact on these young people, and the fact that we are trying to still clean up our streets, get these dealers off the streets, but we are going — and you mentioned it in the statement — to the lower end? What is your view on moving forward with that balanced approach? That is the endgame here for me.
Mr. MacKnight: I want to go back to say what is the impact going to be on all of the youth at risk in our communities? If Bill C-10 is all we do, the impact may be very little. Bill C-10 is, again, only one slice of the response. There are things in Bill C-10 overall, the entire bill, that will help us get it done. However, in our communities, we are not standing there twiddling our thumbs and waiting for Bill C-10. The cops on the street are working it. We are engaged in the communities, dealing with youth at risk, and using every option we have, because quite frankly we cannot wait. Government can help with legislation and funding programs, but we cannot wait. Some of the positive things we are doing now are engaging all of the groups involved in helping youth that are at risk and have fallen through the cracks. What is the impact of Bill C-10 going to be on those kids? If it is all we do, I am not sure it will have any impact.
Mr. Slinn: All I can do is echo the thoughts of Chief MacKnight and say that Bill C-10 is not the panacea. It really is community engagement. That is where we are shifting gears within the RCMP, and communities engaged. That is youth, marginalized youth, parents, and those types of people. We have to get them engaged, because law enforcement cannot solve this problem. This is a community and social problem. We are pushing ahead with those deterrents and awareness prevention messages.
Senator Chaput: My first question is along the same lines as Senator Meredith's question. Gentlemen, you have talked a lot about community involvement.
How do you get the community involved? Is Bill C-10 a tool, a step in the right direction to help you engage the community?
Mr. Slinn: I highlighted the Marijuana Grow Initiative. We realize with the problem with marijuana, law enforcement cannot do everything. We have engaged communities — such as power corporations, insurance bureaus, and the Canadian Real Estate Association — to see if they can message, for example, homeowners to say be aware of these signs so you do not have a grow op in your house. That helps law enforcement because it discourages. Insurance bureaus are communicating how much it costs. These people are becoming messengers. To steal a line from our U.S. colleagues, we are forming a coalition of the willing — law enforcement, nongovernment organizations — to collectively speak out against marijuana grow ops in this situation, and synthetic drugs.
How Bill C-10 works, is more the enforcement prong. I do not know that community engagement has a lot to do with Bill C-10. I think community engagement is what we have to do in the prevention and awareness area. Perhaps Bill C-10 is more beneficial on the enforcement side.
Senator Chaput: Do you have anything to add?
Mr. MacKnight: Yes. I think some of the best things going on in communities around Canada is service providers coming together and casting away all of the ordinary rules that had been in place about why we would not share information, and how we could not come together to help youth at risk because it is a social development department. They are on welfare and you cannot share information, education will not share information, and yet we are all dealing with the same clients. In communities across Canada you are seeing an increased momentum toward that. In my particular city, we have a community youth action team that deals with youth at risk. We get them early so they do not become prolific offenders.
The message with Bill C-10, and some of the tools here, are about the strong denunciation. It is just one slice of the response. Bill C-10 is giving us some tools to deal with priority, prolific offenders and organized crime, but again, it is not the whole answer. The other side of that is that we must engage the community to stop the youth at risk from further developing into those offenders. It is heartbreaking for the police and our communities, because we deal with kids. We watch them from the time they are born and we know that child is headed for jail. It is heartbreaking.
Senator Frum: I will ask this question to Superintendent Slinn, because I think Chief MacKnight said he cannot answer this question.
The mandatory minimum for those who are growing more than 500 marijuana plants is two years, and for those growing between 201 and 500 plants, the minimum sentence is one year. Would you be willing to express your feelings about the proportionality of those sentences? Do you have any comment about the length of that sentence? You talked about the impact of organized crime. I have to believe anyone growing more than 500 plants is deeply involved in organized crime. They will get a mandatory minimum of two years.
Mr. Slinn: 500 plants?
Senator Frum: Yes, the mandatory minimum is two years.
Mr. Slinn: I will say that if you have 500 plants, you need a network of distribution. No one in this country can grow 500 plants, I would even argue down into the hundred plants. If we look at the average plant, it produces a pound, our experts say. However, it can be much more than that. First, you cannot smoke it. You need a distribution network to get rid of that plant and get it to a market. The marijuana industry is well organized. There are the growers, the people who clip it, and the person who takes the product to market, whether in the U.S. or another market.
My point here is that you must be organized. You have to have an organized network to get rid of that. It is to the point that organized crime is involved. That is the statement that I would make to reaffirm. You have to have a network; you must be involved in organized crime or you are tied into it if you are growing that much.
Senator Frum: I know this is repetitive with the other questions, but I have to ask it again because all of us on this committee have had our inboxes jammed with letters from people who say, "I am a medical marijuana user; I am a college kid; I am a casual marijuana smoker. How dare you put in these sentences; it will put me into jail. " I want to ask you one more time, from the point of view of law enforcement, what is your attitude towards those people who have plants in their home because they are growing it for medical marijuana purposes, or for personal recreational purposes, or for their college dorm purposes. In terms of your resources, your interests, your energy, can you describe your attitude towards those people?
Mr. Slinn: We are intelligence led. It is like shooting fish in a barrel out there with organized crime. The primary activity of about 72 per cent of the organized crime groups in the 2003 threat assessment was drug trafficking, not counterfeiting and that kind of stuff.
We are going after the highest levels of organized crime. We are not going after college dorm kids that are growing six or eight plants, unless they have some big network and they flow it up in some type of a threat assessment to us that says they are seriously threatening public safety. Our goal is public safety and organized crime groups that are threatening public safety. Marijuana grow ops are a significant risk to public safety. We have home invasions going on. They create a lot of mould in houses. There are all kinds of public safety issues around that.
The college dorm kid or gal that is growing six or seven plants and wants to smoke it for them and their friends does not float up on our radar. That is not to say that intelligence may come to the forefront. I do not want to box ourselves in here and say that we will turn our head the other way and let it go because our job is to enforce the law. In terms of a strategic approach, the RCMP's mandate is dealing with the highest levels of organized crime.
Senator Joyal: Chief MacKnight, I would like to come back to your brief. On page 3, the middle paragraph, the last sentence states that, "We believe to the greatest extent possible initiative should be evidence-based. " I underlined "evidence-based. " I was pleased with that quote from your brief and from your understanding, the way you explain it, because to put the fight against drugs in the broadest terms possible — we do not want to use "war against drugs " — it did not produce the results that we would have expected. The police forces' public campaigns of awareness, of school involvement, and so on, have not given the results that we would have liked to see after so many years. There is something in what we are doing that is not effective. On an evidence-based basis, we have come to the conclusion that what we have been doing has not produced the results that we would expect.
There are other people who seem to reflect on another approach. I read in the paper this morning that four former B.C. attorneys general — they are serious people if you have been attorney general of a province with a drug problem like B.C., as we know — and four former mayors of Vancouver — again, they are normal citizens, not just a Joe Blow somewhere — have come to the solution that we have to change our approach because it did not produce the results we were expecting.
It seems that you, as chief of the police association; or the RCMP should be part of the general reflection of appraising how we — and when I say "we, " I include everyone at the various levels of society — have been fighting drug marketing, sales and consumption. If there are drugs available, it is because there is a demand. If there were no demand, the market would dry by itself. If there is more of a demand, it is because there is something there that sustains that demand of drug consumption.
Again, if we are working with an evidence-based approach, we should be thinking of expanding our tools, as you said, and not repeating the same old things. We can put everyone in prison but that does not seem to solve the issue. As you say, that would have an impact, probably, I hope. However, it would be a drop in an ocean that seems to be expanding, as Superintendent Slinn said. Canada was not involved in making synthetic drugs; now we are a producer. There is something wrong there in what we have been doing and we did not see it coming.
Would you be involved in a capacity of reflection to see how we can revise our drug policy in Canada in order to have better results than what we have now, based on evidence not on perception? I have heard that Canadians have lost their faith in the justice system. That is a good speech, but it did not change the effectiveness of what we have been doing in the past. We are trying to produce more of the same, thinking that we are in a bulb, and we are not really seeing what the problems are because the problem is expanding, not contracting.
Mr. MacKnight: That is a good question. I think that some of what Mr. Slinn and I have said should lead you to believe that our officers are frustrated; we are frustrated. Police officers have been kicking in the same doors for 30 or 40 years. There are snippets of innovation over the years that have provided some hope that we can get this right. My personal belief is that now is the time, when we are seeing more innovation in dealing with the aspects of our communities that are at risk than ever before.
Regarding the people who are talking about legalization of marijuana, I have great respect for their opinions. I could not disagree any more strongly with them, but I do so respectfully. I have more hope for Canadians than to support the legalization of drugs. I think we can do better on that. I have had this discussion many times with trusted friends and colleagues, and I turn to the advice of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which is a substantial organization that sits on the drug abuse committee and holds our feet to the fire on evidence. When we think about the legalization of certain drugs, we simply turn and say, "How is that working for us with alcohol? " There is a huge cost that alcohol abuse causes in our society. I think innovation is precisely what we need to move this terrible social issue forward.
Again, I go back to some things that we are seeing in communities. Communities themselves are not pushing government away, but they are finding unique, little innovative responses to take responsibility for their children, their young people. We will still have to put some people in jail because we need to be protected from those souls who will harm us.
Senator Joyal: There is no doubt about that.
Mr. MacKnight: However, we have to encourage innovation at all levels. There are some good things we see in drug courts, and we have to push those in every community.
Mr. Slinn: I think Mr. MacKnight puts it quite well. Law enforcement officers are not researchers. We are not criminologists. We enforce the laws of the land presumably by the will of the people. The will of the people right now is that these drugs are illegal, enforce them, they are damaging to public safety, they are damaging to public health, and the well-being of communities is being undermined everyday by drug dealers who have no respect for the well-being of our kids and our communities. To build on what Mr. MacKnight has said, we are seeing a groundswell of communities saying, "Legislation is great, but we can do more; we can come up with innovation, and we do not want this garbage in our communities. "
I will stick to the fact of what law enforcement's role is, which is the evidence-based stuff. It is not our role to analyze that evidence. We will leave that to researchers and let them present that to parliamentarians, and we will enforce the laws based on the people's will.
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you for your testimony. From listening to you, we understand that drug trafficking falls under organized crime and you are saying that organized crime is taking on international dimensions.
The comparison that comes to mind — and correct me if I am wrong — is the globalization of the economy in the 1980s when large Canadian and American corporations moved to countries where the risks were as low as possible, laws were more relaxed especially in terms of the environment and profits were very high.
When we look at international organized crime groups in Canada, such as the Hells Angels and the mafia, they operate in a host of countries. And since Canada has one of the most wide-open laws on production and sale in terms of the Criminal Code, does this not provide fertile ground for the organized crime industry of drug trafficking, among other things, to stay here and continue to make profit and flourish?
Mr. Slinn: Again, I am not a researcher, but perhaps the facts speak for themselves. We have some very robust organized crime groups in Canada that make millions of dollars of profit, largely from the drug community. That may be one of the reasons that perhaps our laws are not as stringent as in other countries. There may be other reasons for that being the case.
More importantly to me, they are here, and they are putting the public at risk. We see the gun fighting in Vancouver. You are aware in Montreal about what brought about the organized crime legislation with the war on the bikers. The violence is here, so that is more important to me. The assessment as to whether our laws are weak or need to be strengthened is for someone else to analyze. We cannot deny the fact that organized crime is well rooted here in Canada, and they have global networks around the world.
Senator Meredith: Again, thank you so much for being here today. I am impressed with the work that the men and women do everyday across this country, and you talked about it, Chief MacKnight, from Surrey, B.C., to St. John's, Newfoundland. My hat goes off every day to these men and women who put their lives at risk for us.
You talked about a balance, a continuum of practise distributed across each component. In addition, the policy component must be fundamentally lawful and ethical but must consider the interests of all. We must strive to achieve a balance between societal and individual interests. You went on to talk about prevention. We strongly believe that prevention is the most important component.
My question to both of you is this: How have we engaged our schools, our health practitioners and other institutions? Again, I must stress, going back to the youth of our country, they are not only our future, but they are our present. They have challenges. We see organized crime at their doorsteps in every community trying to recruit them into gangs and into being agents for distribution. How will we, in your opinion, move forward? We know that strong legislation is necessary, and I support legislation that removes those hardened criminals off our streets. However, I am concerned about our youth and engaging them in a positive way to ensure that they are prevented from going into illegal activities.
Mr. MacKnight: I do not know what the complete answer to that is. Part of it is that, on an individual community level, there are people stepping up and sounding the alarm to say, "Let us come to the table and talk about this. " I think that is how it will happen in any and all communities. It will be a bit less about government and more about communities. However, government needs to be there to help grease the wheels. The police, I think you see in many communities, do not have the solution, but because we are sick and tired of the heartbreak, we say, "Come to our office. We will buy the coffee. Let us talk about this, because we have to figure this out. It is killing us all. " I think that is a strong role for us.
I will talk about my community of Fredericton for a minute. Each of the high schools has a full-time police officer that works there. That is where they go to work in the morning. We did not get extra positions in our complement to do that. We just did it because we knew it was right, this community youth action team. We had to take a police officer, because when it comes to personnel, that is all we have basically, police officers, and that is the youth at risk officer. All that officer does is network those agencies so we can identify the youth at risk and wrap services around them.
Like never before, we are getting buy-in from the senior bureaucracy at the political level to say we have to make that happen. The privacy issues, as I have mentioned, come up, and we are pushing through those and getting it done.
Bill C-10 will help us with the hardened, prolific offenders. Again, it is just part of the answer. I think the police are critical in this equation. Like I say, we have the room where we can meet. We can buy the coffee and be part of the discussion.
Mr. Slinn: It takes a village to raise a child. I think what we do well in the law enforcement community, because we deal with so many problems, is act as the catalyst for success. We can bring various community groups together and chair a meeting, but not lead it. The RCMP in the last couple of years has changed its focus to develop programs that are community led, police assisted, as opposed to in the past they were police led, community assisted. It puts the onus on the community to say, "What are the big problems in your community? What do you want to address? We will bring everyone together. "
There is a program in B.C. that our drugs and organized crime awareness group has started. It is a community program where the police brought public health people together and said, "This is what we see as the top three problems in your community: Drug trafficking, loitering and squealing tires. What do you as community members see as your problem? " They did this in Cranbrook. Everyone had a part to play. What can you do as public health, the school board, et cetera? This has proven to be a very effective model that we are trying to implement elsewhere in the country. That is how we get some of the kids at risk. That is how we can help them.
Law enforcement, as Mr. MacKnight says, is critical. We are the catalyst that can bring people together and help solve community problems. We have to be more aggressive and assertive in that regard. We can do better with that.
Senator Chaput: Following on Senator Meredith's question, I would like to thank you for your efforts to reach young people before they become hardened criminals. Does the bill not hinder your efforts to reach kids before they become hardened criminals? I understand that it can be a tool for something else, but could it hinder your efforts?
Mr. Slinn: I do not think so. I think we have an obligation to get to kids earlier within law enforcement. We do that through the DARE program, Drug Abuse Resistence Education, and getting to the kids younger.
If we do our jobs better in partnership with the community, I do not think we would see these kids fall potentially into the Bill C-10 realm. Will some fall through the cracks? Let us be honest, yes, there will.
The Chair: I have one question. There was something that Senator Baker said earlier that reminded me of this. You may recall the exchange between us. I obviously misunderstood him. I thought he was suggesting that Bill C-10 could result in a mandatory minimum sentence for someone who was trafficking one joint, but then he clarified that was not what he was saying.
What it reminded me of is that in Bill C-10, the trafficking provision requires more than three kilograms of marijuana or cannabis to be trafficked and there could be mandatory minimum sentences depending whether aggravating factors are present, including the involvement of organized crime, violence, use of weapons, something occurring at or near a school. It is that limit of more than three kilograms. It would have to involve trafficking more than three kilograms. Can you give us any idea of what the street value would be of three kilograms of marijuana or cannabis?
Mr. Slinn: I would have to do my Mountie math here.
The Chair: Just ballpark. I have no idea myself.
Mr. Slinn: A pound is around $2,500. It depends at what level you are buying it, if you are buying on the street or you are the wholesaler, but $2,500 for a pound, so 454 grams, so $5,000 — three kilograms, $1,500.
The Chair: Thank you for that.
Honourable senators, we are now over our time, and that will conclude this panel.
Superintendent Slinn, Chief MacKnight, I want to thank you so much. That was very informative and we much appreciate your contribution.
Honourable senators, continuing with our second panel on today's consideration of Bill C-10, I am pleased to have with us, from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Research Policy Analysts Rebecca Jesseman and Heather Clark, and from the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, Vice President Gwendolyn Landolt.
I understand, Ms. Jesseman, you have an opening statement.
Rebecca Jesseman, Research and Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: Honourable senators, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Senate committee on Bill C-10. We would also like to thank the former presenters from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the RCMP, who are long-standing and valuable partners of CCSA.
CCSA is an arm's-length, not-for-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. CCSA was created by an act of Parliament in 1988 that established our mandate to provide national leadership, evidence-informed analysis and advice and to advance solutions that address alcohol and other drug-related harms.
Respecting this mandate, as well as the areas of interest identified by the committee in its invitation to appear, the content of the proposed legislation and the questions raised during the committee's hearings on this matter to date, we will provide a brief overview of the evidence base in three areas, the first being effective approaches to substance use, the second being drug treatment courts and the third being prevention of substance use among youth.
The committee has previously heard concerns regarding the impact of Bill C-10 on the provinces and territories in terms of incarceration. The treatment alternatives provided by Bill C-10 will also rely on services provided at the provincial and territorial level.
The report, A Systems Approach to Substance Use in Canada: Recommendations for a National Treatment Strategy, has been distributed to the committee. This report identifies gaps in the current treatment system, including resources, coordination, and measurement and monitoring. It also outlines the development of a comprehensive continuum of services and supports to address these gaps.
Canadians with substance use problems face many barriers to accessing treatment. Barriers such as complex needs and stigma are increased for clients involved with the criminal justice system.
As the committee has heard, drug treatment courts have been implemented throughout the United States and in some Canadian urban centres with varying indicators of success. CCSA encourages the implementation and evaluation of innovative approaches to addressing substance use. However, we would like to highlight the following concerns regarding reliance on drug treatment courts.
First, they are not available to most Canadians involved with the criminal justice system; they do not have a strong evidence base for diverse populations such as women, First Nations and Inuit; and they require the use of very expensive court resources.
Clause 43(2) of this bill is intended to ensure that offenders who require substance use treatment are able to access appropriate services. CCSA believes that it is crucial that we measure, from the outset, the impact that implementation of Bill C-10 will have on treatment services and on the rates of access to treatment or other diversion options for offenders with substance use problems. We suggest that this impact be monitored within the first year of implementation and reported on regularly thereafter to inform any required policy change. CCSA would be pleased to offer our support in conducting such an impact assessment and in exploring diversion options.
I am pleased to introduce my colleague, Heather Clark, who will briefly highlight best practices in preventing substance use among youth.
Heather Clark, Research and Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: Honourable senators, several witnesses have noted that one of Bill C-10's goals is to prevent substance use among youth. The evidence base indicates that health and social interventions such as building skills and competencies in parents and youth, improving family relationships, engaging youth with pro-social influences such as the school and community, and ensuring a good match between initiatives and youth characteristics can significantly affect substance use and other health and behaviour outcomes, both in the short and long term. These types of interventions have also been demonstrated to be cost- effective. Alternatively, punitive approaches such as drug testing and zero-tolerance policies are not supported.
Currently, there are significant gaps in youth substance use prevention in Canada. CCSA supports aligning policies and consistent funding with evidence-based initiatives to address these gaps, and has recently published the Portfolio of Canadian Standards as a resource to support this alignment.
In closing, CCSA would like to recognize the support that the federal government has provided for both prevention and treatment through the Drug Treatment Funding Program and the Community Initiatives Fund components of the National Anti-Drug Strategy. We hope that any legislation addressing substance use through criminal justice and enforcement aspects will be supported by continuing, evidence-informed investments in other sectors, particularly health and social services, that contribute to a comprehensive approach.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Gwendolyn Landolt, Vice President, Drug Prevention Network of Canada: Honourable senators, we know that illicit drug use imposes tremendous economic and social costs on society in the form of health care, enforcement, loss of productivity in the workplace and at home, disability and even death of the addicts.
According to Antonio Mario Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, legal controls on drug use have been highly successful around the world. This is contrary to some claims recently, for example, from British Columbia, saying prohibition does not work. That is an incorrect assumption. One has only to analyze the results of prohibition between 1920 and 1933 in the United States, when alcohol consumption declined dramatically. The number of deaths from cirrhosis of the liver and admissions to state hospitals because of abuse of alcohol greatly decreased.
For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol during prohibition declined by 30 per cent to 50 per cent. That is, prohibition did not end alcohol use, but it did succeed by reducing by one third the consumption of a product that had wide historical and popular sanction. In contrast, the use of marijuana, heroin and other controlled drugs have never been a widely accepted activity in the U.S. or Canada.
We do know that prohibition is effective and necessary. If we remove the prohibition, many more people who have never been involved will become involved and will become drug users.
It is Parliament's role, however, to advise the courts and judges across the country so that offenders are led to understand the severity of the offences they commit with regard to drugs. This objective can be achieved, inter alia, by mandatory minimum sentences. Unfortunately, in Canada, the application of judicial discretion in sentencing does not always achieve this objective. It is detrimental to the interests of the Canadian public to rely solely on judicial discretion in sentencing in drugs as it can lead and has led to a loss of confidence and faith in the criminal justice system.
This is due to the fact that, regretfully, judicial discretion does not necessarily mean the application of common sense by judges when sentencing. In fact, judges, when sentencing, have frequently failed to balance the objectives of denunciation and general deterrence with their desire for rehabilitation of the offender. This has led, in all too many instances, to a chaotic sentencing regime for offences, especially with regard to marijuana grow ops and marijuana possession. That is, operators of grow ops in Canada all too frequently are given minimum fines by the judge and the slap-on-the-wrist approach is regarded by the offenders as merely the cost of doing business and in no way serves as a deterrent. That is probably why in 2009the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated that the illicit drug situation in Canada of domestically produced marijuana continues to provide a source of considerable profit. If they are going to make a profit, a minor fine will not interfere with their activities.
Similarly, possession of cannabis is regarded by some liberal judges, for personal ideological reasons, to be merely a minor offence. Consequently, in exercising their discretion, they have mostly handed down sentences of probation only.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Canada has the highest proportion of marijuana users in the industrialized world, reaching 16.8 per cent of those between 15 and 64 years of age. Cannabis offences rose 13 per cent in Canada between 2009 and 2010. The lenient sentencing of probation only for cannabis possession has led to the public perception that marijuana use does not cause harm. However, well-informed individuals should understand that marijuana is not a harmless drug. In fact, there are many studies indicating this to the contrary. I have given you some websites.
The other point I would like to raise is the importance of drug courts in Canada. Unfortunately, at present, there are only six drug courts operating in Canada. This is in contrast to thousands of such drug courts in the United States.
Drug courts provide non-violent drug users with the option of obtaining treatment in lieu of conviction. That is, these courts provide a window of opportunity for the addict to obtain treatment, which the addict may not otherwise have considered. It is significant that, whether the treatment is undertaken voluntarily or by way of a court order, the rate of success remains the same.
It is significant that in the U.S., 75 per cent of drug court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two years after leaving the program. The National Crime Prevention Centre in Canada reports that there is a significant decrease in drug use and drug-related crimes for those who complete the court-designated program. However, it is deeply troubling that apparently in Canada only 14 per cent of the participants of court-supervised treatment actually complete such programs, which is in sharp contrast to what occurs in the United States.
Therefore, what we urgently need are strategies to encourage participants to complete their treatment programs, as well as to greatly increase the number of drug courts established across the country in order to assist drug addicts.
Senator Fraser: Thank you all for being here. You had very interesting presentations. I will have a question for all of you.
Ms. Clark or Ms. Jesseman, I think this was in the portion delivered by Ms. Clark, you talked about what works in preventing substance use among youth, all very interesting stuff. Then you went on to say, "Alternately, punitive approaches such as drug testing and zero-tolerance policies are not supported. " I am just not quite sure exactly what you meant by "zero-tolerance policies. " Would that include, for example, mandatory minimum sentences?
Ms. Clark: No. The policies I am speaking of are more school-based policies. For example, zero tolerance —
Senator Fraser: If you are found with a joint, you are out.
Ms. Clark: Exactly.
Senator Fraser: What about mandatory minimums? Have you taken a position on them?
Ms. Clark: As a prevention measure?
Senator Fraser: That is the object ultimately, obviously, is to minimize drug use, particularly among young people, and to do that, in part, by getting at the traffickers. There is also the fact that a certain portion of young people are amateur traffickers, if you will, getting a little for themselves and a little for their friends and selling a bit more in order to finance what they have for themselves.
I am interested in your view about the effect on that population, those young people who are not what you would call hardened criminals, at least not yet, of mandatory minimums.
Ms. Clark: I would reflect what we know with the evidence base, that with mandatory minimum sentences, we have not seen any evidence that supports that as a prevention measure. It is a more universal, selective and indicated approach at youth based on varying levels of risk and a comprehensive approach there. That is what the evidence base supports, and that is the direction that we are advocating for, a comprehensive approach.
Senator Fraser: Obviously, one of the things we are trying to do as we contemplate all the elements of this bill, not just the controlled drugs and substances issue, is wrap our minds around all the evidence we can find.
Ms. Landolt, I was remembering this afternoon that you were a witness at the very first meeting of this committee that I ever attended. I will not say how many years ago that was.
Ms. Landolt: No, do not.
Senator Fraser: I remember it well.
I was very interested by your conclusion about the urgent need for strategies to encourage participants to complete treatment programs, as well as to greatly increase the number of drug courts. We only have six, none of them east of Ottawa. It is my understanding that the drug treatment programs, the recognized ones that are approved, have waiting lists, people cannot get in and it is very difficult for them.
I was also struck — and I would like your comment on this, going back again to, I think it was Ms. Jesseman who delivered this portion of the brief — that drug treatment courts do not have a strong evidence base for diverse populations such as women, First Nations and Inuit. They are also very expensive, but if we knew they were great for everyone, I am sure no one would begrudge the money.
Have you looked at that aspect of drug courts, how effective they are for, if you will, minority populations?
Ms. Landolt: We have looked at it. First what we need in Canada more than anything else are more treatment centres. There are huge waiting lists, and we know they are successful. However, we have to adapt the treatment centres to individual needs, which are to Aboriginals and women. We cannot just have one-size-fits-all. I do not think there has been enough work done, which may explain why we only have a 16 per cent success rate, which is extraordinary.
The United Kingdom and the U.S. have done very well with drug courts. Why are we so behind in that? It may well be because we are not developing the strategies for the unique needs of Aboriginals and women. I think it is crucial that we should spend money on looking at how we can adapt the situation to suit the needs of drug addicts. Drug addiction is a great tragedy with regard to our youth, our communities and to families. If we can find ways with treatment that will work, it would change the whole dynamic of our problem.
Senator Fraser: Ms. Clark and Ms. Jesseman, this is a serious point that you raised and that Ms. Landolt agrees with, that we do not know as much as perhaps we should about the diverse populations, the best way to help and treat members of those populations.
Can you give us any sense of what we do know about what we should be doing other than finding lots more money to spend in terms of the nature of what we would do?
Ms. Jesseman: Certainly. Being responsive to population needs is an absolute priority. There have been a number of best practices identified in both Canadian and U.S. research that responsivity is generally established through the use of validated assessment tools when screening program entrants; swift transition into treatment, or getting people into treatment programs as quickly as possible; access to a comprehensive, multi-sectoral treatment approach, one that is not limited to substance abuse and recognizes that offenders have a complex set of needs that cross into other sectors.
Senator Fraser: This would be where the diverse populations' needs started to diverge and where the one-size-fits-all would not fit?
Ms. Jesseman: Yes and no. The multi-sectoral does not necessarily respond only to diversity needs, but I am also talking about housing needs, for example. Providing housing supports is one of the predictors of success for drug treatment courts. That is also relevant to employment and education needs. Certainly the needs specific to employment, education and trauma-informed care would be a great example for how to make programming more responsive, particularly to women offenders. These are some of the considerations we need to get into.
Senator Fraser: We have a long way to go.
Ms. Jesseman: We do.
Senator Runciman: I wonder if all three witnesses might want to comment on the growing evidence that cannabis use has negative effects on a whole range of areas, such as mental health, physical health, memory and attention. We are seeing more and more evidence of this. As Senator Frum talked about, we are being flooded by folks who are casual users of marijuana, for example. We see it in the media all the time. There is a television show called Weeds, I believe, about a housewife who is supplementing her income by selling marijuana. It says to young kids especially that this is an acceptable thing to engage in.
I know there are dangers. I saw a study from the British Medical Journal about people smoking marijuana three hours before driving are twice as likely to cause a crash as those without drugs in their system.
I wonder if you might talk about the public messaging, which is so widespread, that this is something you do not have to worry about.
Ms. Landolt: We know more and more about how dangerous marijuana is. We know that it is more dangerous than cigarettes, because taking three tokes of marijuana a week is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. THC, the main component of marijuana, latches onto the lungs but also onto the fat cells of the body, and it does untold damage to young people. That is why you cannot casually say, "Well, they are college students. They are smoking pot. It is okay. " It is not. Their memory is affected, their perceptions, quickness, driving, all those things.
Why is this message not going through? One of the reasons is that the courts are being so negligible in terms of giving just probation and saying, "Oh, it is just kids. " It is ideologically based, not evidence or fact based, how dangerous it is. These kids think it is harmless, and it is anything but harmless.
That is why I think the mandatory minimum sentence is a very important thing, that these judges cannot use their discretion, which is ideologically based, not based on evidence that it is harmful. I am very grateful to see that included, that they will have to know that if they are going to get a severe sentence, that there must be something wrong with smoking it. If there is no severe penalty, they think, "Oh, well, we will pass it off. " That is one of the crucial problems we have with our young people. It does not hurt me, they think, but it does. A strong, firm mandatory minimum sentence will give another message to them.
Ms. Clark: Regarding cannabis use, I would like to point out that some of the evidence regarding the harms, especially with youth, is emerging evidence. It has been a bit for us to be able to even have a message to get out there in some ways.
Youth see consequences in terms of short-term consequences. It is not always evident when using cannabis what some of those short-term consequences actually are. There is a need for us to reach youth in an effective way and get these messages out to them and ensure that they are aware of the risks and harms of cannabis use.
A comprehensive approach involves more than getting messages out. What we know about some of the key risk and protective factors for substance use and abuse among youth are factors such as pro-social belonging, family relationships, engagement in community, and connectedness to school. If we have appropriate continuum of care for prevention that addresses these issues of belonging, ensuring that youth are able to develop skills and competencies that they feel are valuable and have meaningful engagement in activities and in their communities, then we will see evidence does show there is a reduction in substance use.
Senator Runciman: I am curious about what you think society's responsibility should be to people who get rich from selling these drugs, making them available to people, especially young people. Do you have a view on that?
Ms. Clark: I think availability is an important factor to address when it comes to youth substance abuse, but there are also some key background factors regarding youth. If you limit the availability of one substance, you might find that some youth take up another substance. Yes, there is a role for limiting the availability of different substances, including cannabis. However, that, in and of itself, is not a comprehensive approach and that will not stop youth from using substances.
Senator Runciman: That was not my question, though. I was asking you about what you think society's response should be to people who pursue youth and supply them with those illegal products. Do you have a view on that?
Ms. Clark: I think the most effective response to preventing and stopping that should be in place.
Senator Runciman: Mandatory minimums might be part of the answer to address that issue. That is obviously where I am going with this.
Ms. Clark: I do not have a comment when it comes to enforcing trafficking laws. I have a lot to say on prevention, though.
Senator Runciman: In your report on costs to the economy, you found that illegal drugs — and I think this was referenced by a previous witness as well — cost Canadians $8.2 billion in 2002. Is it your organization that did that review?
Ms. Clark: Yes.
Senator Runciman: The enforcement component of the total cost of substance abuse was just a fraction of that total. Is it a reasonable proposition to suggest that if enforcement can reduce the availability of illegal drugs, it can reduce some of the other costs of substance abuse, such as health care, lost productivity, and other matters that have been raised before this committee?
Ms. Clark: Enforcement plays an important role when it comes to a comprehensive approach for substance abuse.
Ms. Jesseman: One thing I would focus on in the report is the costs of illicit drugs versus the costs of alcohol and tobacco, which are legal substances, and the fact that those costs are much greater to society in all categories. That provides us with some evidence that the response does have to go beyond enforcement and that we cannot necessarily look for a proportionate result simply through investing in enforcement.
Senator Runciman: No one was suggesting that. However, if we can reduce the availability of drugs, it will have an impact on those other cost factors.
Ms. Jesseman: It will.
The Chair: Ms. Landolt, would you care to make any comment with regard to that question?
Ms. Landolt: No. I think it has been satisfactorily answered. Enforcement will lead to a great reduction in health care and social costs, if we can stop the use of drugs.
Senator Jaffer: It is good to see you again. I looked at your website and saw that you are in favour of minimum penalties, and you made that clear here today.
On your site you also talked about prevention, education and treatment. Could you expand on that, in addition to what you said in your presentation, that the drug courts have helped? You gave a statistic of 61 per cent of people not coming back, if I am correct. I wanted to hear more from you with regard to what kind of education and prevention, especially with young people, you were thinking of when you put that on your website.
Ms. Landolt: First, we have been working closely with treatment centres. We feel there has to be a stronger voice, politically and socially, for treatment centres. They really got the lower end of the stick. They are talking about the fact that they are not giving enough money and they are not recognizing that the independent treatment centres are working desperately in the community. We are trying to educate, by way of reaching out to the youth. We are planning to have conferences across the country. There is the financial problem, but we want to reach out more to the communities and to the youth. That has been a major concern, I think to everyone around this table.
Senator Jaffer: From what you are saying, would I be correct in saying that with Bill C-10 we have to have resources put towards helping the treatment programs with prevention?
Ms. Landolt: Yes. I do not think treatment has been recognized enough. I know that the government, a few years ago, did give money to British Columbia to deal with treatment, but it is not enough. Every province has drug problems. Certainly it is worse in Vancouver, for a number of reasons.
We have to emphasize the treatment more because that is the only thing that will help the addicts. Nothing else will ever help them.
Senator Jaffer: I could not agree more with you. In my experience, judges come from all backgrounds. In your presentation a number of types, you used the phrase "ideologically based judges. " Can you expand on what you mean by that?
Ms. Landolt: Every judge comes to the bench, but unfortunately they are human beings and have their own ideas. Far too many of them regard marijuana possession as a trivial offence and just give probation. Certainly, when I went to law school, the graduates who became judges are from a different generation. I hate to say it but we are different and are much more inclined to be sterner. I find many of the younger judges coming up are almost of another culture. They are extremely lenient and they do not see marijuana and drugs as all that important. My concern is that they are putting their personal interpretation in their sentencing, and that is why mandatory minimum sentences are so important. Parliament decides what is important and what is not. I find that some judges are more liberal. They are of all backgrounds but there are a lot who are liberal. The younger judges, I am finding, are much more liberal than those who went to law school with me. They are using their own ideologies and tossing aside the severity of it. That is the message going out to our youth: I only get probation, why worry, let us smoke a couple of tokes.
Senator Jaffer: I know you have been a lawyer for a number of years. Do you have any research to show this or is this just anecdotal?
Ms. Landolt: Actually, they mention this in the government documentation provided to us with Bill C-10. It is documented right there.
Senator Jaffer: These are government documents, not your research.
Ms. Landolt: Not our own. This was the government saying that 52 per cent of all drug issues before the courts have been cannabis. They said that invariably, whether it is a youth or adult, they are simply given probation. That is giving a very casual interpretation. If you know you will have a severe penalty, you will not be as inclined to smoke marijuana. That is the government documentation I have read.
Senator Fraser: Ms. Landolt, would I be accurate in assuming that when you talk about "liberal " judges, you are talking about small "l " liberal.
Ms. Landolt: Yes. I meant liberal orthodoxy.
Senator Angus: Are they not the same thing?
Senator Lang: I want to go back to the question of the mandatory sentencing. Ms. Landolt, I appreciate your observations because I think what you have just said reflects at least a good segment of the population in how they view the courts today and in many ways feel there are no consequences to those who would get into the area of trafficking and this kind of business. It is a profession. It is a conscious decision to go into trafficking. You cannot be a little bit of a trafficker; you are either a cab driver or you are not.
I want to go through the minimums so that the public understands what we are dealing with. The impression is being left that there is a minimum eight-year sentence for certain offences and people are wondering why it would be so high. Quite frankly, I find that for some, I question whether they are high enough. For example, for importing and exporting drugs the minimum is one year or as high as two years in jail. Possession for the purpose of exporting at clause 40 is one year or two years, depending on the situation. The minimums are maybe one year and in some cases two years, and then the discretion is to the court on the severity of the offence. Do you feel that these are satisfactory minimums or should they be greater?
Ms. Landolt: I can only answer that personally. When I read the proposed legislation, my reaction was the same as yours: Gosh, that is not really very stringent. Why are they being so lenient with regard to the serious offence of exporting drugs? That was my personal reaction as well. I do not really think it is strong enough and severe enough in order to stop the crime. We heard the previous panel say how lucrative drug trafficking, the manufacturing of drugs and the distribution of drugs are. Two years does not translate in our system of justice to two years; it will be much less than that. I do not think it is severe enough. I am not speaking for my organization because we have never addressed that. My personal inclination is to say that it is much too low, if anything.
Senator Lang: It is important that we realize what we are discussing. We have heard a lot from the other side at times — the small "l " liberal side that the discretion of the judge has been totally taken away, but of course, that is not the case at all. The message is to send the message that there are consequences and people will go to jail. It is not a question of they might go to jail.
Ms. Clark, I very much appreciated your presentation. I want to follow up on Senator Runciman's question to you. You have stated that your mandate is to provide national leadership, informed analysis and advice to mobilize collaborative efforts to reduce alcohol and other drug-related harms, which I am sure you are doing a good job of. When you were asked the question about traffickers and whether there should be consequences to those who choose to do it, you said that your organization had no position on that. I find it hard to believe that you would not have a position on that, but perhaps I misunderstood. Perhaps you could clarify that.
Ms. Jesseman: As an organization, we certainly support the role that law enforcement has in addressing substance abuse in Canada. Perhaps the clarification would be that Ms. Clark speaks from the expertise as a prevention researcher.
Ms. Clark: Yes. Enforcement definitely does have a role. I was saying that I did not have a comment on the mandatory minimum sentences and the impact they would have.
Ms. Jesseman: Does that provide sufficient clarification?
Senator Lang: Perhaps I should direct this to you, Ms. Jesseman. Does your organization take a position with respect to the traffickers? You have to buy it from someone in order to be able to become an addict.
Ms. Jesseman: We certainly agree that is an enforcement issue.
Senator Lang: A mandatory sentence for those that chose to traffic would be a step in the right direction. Is that correct?
Ms. Jesseman: I would have more concerns with relying on mandatory minimum sentences because of the lack of evidence base. Going back to our mandate, we are an evidence-based organization, and the research we have reviewed to date has not been strongly in support of mandatory minimum sentences as an effective deterrent.
The Chair: On the issue of the appropriateness of mandatory minimum sentences, each of you has spoken about the need for drug treatment programs and drug treatment courts, in particular, and for more funding and resources in that direction. I believe, as you know, Bill C-10 provides that someone who is guilty of a drug offence could have relief from the application of the mandatory minimum sentence if they agree to take a drug treatment program, either within a drug treatment court or an approved drug treatment program. If they successfully complete that, they could avoid the mandatory minimum.
Could each of you comment on whether that is a reasonable approach? Do you have any comment on the appropriateness of that provision?
Ms. Jesseman: We certainly support the availability of a treatment diversion. We know the vast majority of offenders in the criminal justice system have a history of substance abuse problems. The more opportunities we have to provide services and supports to help them address those problems, the more the benefit to those individuals and to society. We know that addressing substance abuse problems is part of reducing one of the significant risk factors for reoffending, so we absolutely support that. That is why we have also made the recommendation that the impact of the legislation of Bill C-10 on access to treatment be monitored. As a nation, we can track whether or not we are in fact using that clause in an appropriate way and whether we have the capacity to meet the demand that is created.
Right now, we know there are a lot of gaps in services, particularly for criminal justice related offenders. It is important to ensure we are not creating an opening or making a promise we cannot keep. If we do not have the services and capacity to provide treatment to those who need it, we need to ensure we make the necessary investments to develop that.
Ms. Landolt: I think it is a very good idea. We know in the United States they found 75 per cent do not get back into the criminal justice system if they have taken full treatment. To dispense with mandatory minimum sentences and give them treatment is a marvelous way because many of these drug addicts are simply not capable of making the decision to take treatment on their own. For most of them giving them the option to escape a conviction is a wonderful window of opportunity for them. I think it is a great idea. It was the Americans who came up with the drug court idea. They have finessed it and do it very well. We have to look and see what they do and why we are not doing as well as they are. It is a great concept to save the lives of the addicts.
The Chair: To protect society ultimately.
Ms. Landolt: Yes.
Senator Boisvenu: Ladies, thank you so much for your very interesting presentation.
Ms. Landolt, a few years ago, Health Canada produced a report on marijuana saying that the drug being sold today is between 20 to 30 times more powerful than it was in 1975, because all sorts of chemicals are now being added to it. Another troublesome figure is that the starting age for experimenting with pot was around 15 in 1975 whereas, in 2010, the age was nine. What concerns me the most is the drop in age for using marijuana while the drug is 30 times more powerful. Health Canada says that one of the permanent effects is neurological damage and, among kids who start to smoke when they are nine or 10, there will be 2.4 times more cases of schizophrenia when they reach the age of 18.
So we see that, as a society, we will have huge expenses if we do not keep the situation under control. Selling pot in high schools is pretty much a given for dealers and now they are going after even younger clients in elementary schools.
A report on the JE show said that around 4,000 12 and 13 year-old girls in Quebec resort to prostitution to be able to pay for their drug debts, pot debts in particular.
In terms of Bill C-10 tightening sentences for adults who sell pot to children — I do not call them teenagers anymore, I call them children — what do you think about this stricter approach towards adults selling pot to children who are going to suffer from the after-effects for life? Do you think Bill C-10 should be stricter in those cases?
Ms. Landolt: I certainly do. I notice the statistics show the consumption of marijuana is 12 per cent higher in Quebec than the rest of Canada. Of course, Quebec's statistics in everything are different, but it is troublesome that Quebec is having a worse problem with marijuana use in youth than the rest of Canada. We have to protect those children in Quebec, in Vancouver and everywhere. It is a great worry that something is happening Quebec because there is so much marijuana consumption. I think getting at the traffickers by stiff sentencing and jail time is the best thing we can do at this particular time. I think we have to deal with young people; we cannot ignore that. The community must deal. They are lost to us when they start at a young age. They are forever doomed and will never be able to function because they do not care about anything. They get to a state where their memory goes, they have no energy, no drive, and they do not want to be educated. We have to stop that. Certainly strong sentencing is an answer, but I also think it has to come from the communities, families and parents. Why are the children consuming so much marijuana? It is deeply troubling to everyone, I think.
The Chair: Senators, that concludes this panel. Ms. Jesseman, Ms. Clark and Ms. Landolt, I want to thank you. That was very helpful to us and very much appreciated in the work we have to do.
We will now continue our consideration and study of Bill C-10, as we have our third panel of the day before us now. I have the order here in front of me, but I will start by referring to Mr. Plecas, who is joining us by video conference. I want to make certain he can hear us and we can hear him.
Darryl Plecas, Director, Centre for Criminal Justice Research, University of the Fraser Valley, as an individual: Yes. Good evening.
The Chair: Mr. Plecas is from the University of the Fraser Valley. We have with us as well Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, Psychiatrist and Neuroscientist, Associate Professor, McGill University. Welcome.
From Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Inc., we have Michael Anderson, Research Director, Natural Resources Secretariat; and Ron Evans, Chief, Norway House Cree Nation. Welcome, gentlemen.
From the Legal Services Board of Nunavut we welcome back Scott Wheildon, Criminal Law Counsel. Welcome.
We will start with you, Dr. Gobbi. If you have an opening statement, we would be most interested to hear it.
Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, Psychiatrist and Neuroscientist, Associate Professor, McGill University, as an individual: Ladies and gentlemen, honourable senators, good evening: I am a doctor with a specialty in psychiatry and I also do research in the neurobiology of mental disease. I have been working in Canada for 14 years, before which I worked in Italy.
About 10 years ago, I started to observe an increase in the use of cannabis in my patients and I began reading many epidemiological studies concerning the long-term effects of cannabis and amphetamines in young people. In particular, I was very impressed by the fact that Canadian adolescents have the highest rate of cannabis consumption in the world.
In my laboratory, I consequently started to study the mechanisms underlying mental disease and use of cannabis or amphetamines during adolescence. Adolescence, as you know, refers to the development period between childhood and adulthood, from 12 to 17 years old. During adolescence, as we know from neurological study, the brain is still in a phase of development. In particular, the limbic area, which controls emotions; and the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision making and thinking, is still under progress.
Consequently, all drugs consumed during this period strongly interfere with the normal development of the brain. We know that in almost all cases, the consumption of drugs and addiction begins in adolescence. We know that drug addiction is a problem of adolescents.
I have no time to get into the details of the complex neurobiological mechanism of cannabis, depression and schizophrenia, but I would like to underscore the increasing number of studies establishing a link between the consumption of cannabis during early adolescence and the risk of developing a psychosis or depression.
In the last 10 years, many studies have demonstrated that the use of cannabis in adolescence increases the risk of psychosis, which is a severe mental disease characterized by hallucinations and delusions, as well as cognitive and social dysfunction. In particular, people who used cannabis by the age of 15 or even earlier were found to be four times more likely to have a diagnosis of psychosis at the age of 26 than non-consumers. Several studies have also demonstrated the link between adolescent cannabis consumption and the increased risk of depression, suicide, antisocial behaviour and addiction to other drugs. This is true particularly among heavy users.
I appreciate the effort of Bill C-10 to give more punishment to people trafficking and selling drugs near schools and near places where adolescents and children live. However, it is a moral imperative today to educate adolescents and families about the risk of cannabis, and it is essential that Canada evaluates and implements evidence-based education programs. It is also mandatory to increase access to treatment and long-term rehabilitation programs in addiction.
Policy issues relating to the protection of adolescents' and children's mental health are not left or right political decisions, Liberal or Conservative decisions, but must rather be inspired by science and knowledge.
We need a broad public health perspective, including prevention, appropriate intervention and long-term rehabilitation. We must identify high-risk people as well. Thanks to the biological clinical study on addiction and mental health, we are now in a position to formulate adequate policies for the prevention of drug use and rehabilitation from addiction that are based on science. This policy must be oriented towards the protection of our young people and for the well-being of Canadians.
The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Gobbi.
Chief Evans, if are you making the opening statement, then please proceed.
Ron Evans, Chief, Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Inc.: Thank you to honourable senators, to the Senate and to my fellow witnesses. I have submitted the presentation so I think you should have one. However, I will highlight it so that I do not take up too much time.
Tansi, Boozhoo, Edlanet'e. Good evening. On behalf of the 30 Manitoba First Nations and the 65,000 First Nation citizens represented by the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Inc. — and that means in English Manitoba northern chiefs, so you know for the record — I would like to thank you for the opportunity to make this brief presentation on Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities bill. MKO also wishes to speak to the committee about the meaning of the treaty relationship and the honour of the Crown and about how we must work in partnership to make sure that all First Nations citizens equitably share in and enjoy a safe and secure Canada and to share in the opportunities enjoyed by all Canadians.
It is a core vision of the 30 MKO First Nations that each of the MKO First Nations should be the safest and most secure place to live for each of the citizens of the MKO First Nations. The MKO First Nations are, first and foremost, committed to achieving the highest standards of public and community safety and security based on community-driven preventative and restorative approaches supported by community-based policing. It is the objective of these initiatives to place an emphasis on reconciliation between the victim, the community and the offender and on the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders as productive members of the family and community. This vision also reflects the inherent and customary laws and community and cultural values of the MKO First Nations.
Restorative and alternative justice initiatives, such as the sentencing circles and elder counselling, have shown success in the MKO region. Let me share an example of how the MKO First Nations have worked to bring our vision to reality.
Between 1998 and 2011, 6,770 accused persons were diverted into the alternative and restorative justice initiatives as part of the MKO First Nation Justice Strategy. Of these persons, 2,667 were diverted in 2010 and 2011.
One evaluation of the MKO First Nation Justice Strategy that was carried out as part of a recidivism study was conducted by Justice Canada's Aboriginal Justice Strategy for the period 2002 through 2007. At that time, the MKO justice strategy participated by providing information on 500 completed diversions. Justice Canada's summative report revealed that the recidivism study indicated that the MKO activities as part of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy had a positive impact by reducing the rates of reoffending by the Aboriginal Justice Strategy participants. The evaluation found that the AJS participants are less than half as likely to reoffend as those who do not participate in the AJS program, and that this impact is sustained over time. Offenders were tracked for at least four years following their participation in the AJS program.
As another example of MKO efforts to bring our vision of restorative justice to life, MKO is working to support the development and adoption of uniform minimum standards for the preparation and consideration of Gladue reports. As set out in the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Gladue  1 SCR 688, regarding the application of section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, a judge must account for the special cultural considerations of an Aboriginal offender in considering whether a restorative justice process may be more appropriate than incarceration.
The consistent consideration by the court of Gladue reports prepared in accordance with uniform minimum standards represents a valuable restorative justice option and an essential alternative to incarceration in response to the circumstances of an Aboriginal offender. The consistent application of the Gladue report process will help to address the significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian jails.
Against the backdrop of MKO's successes and the slow but steady progress being made toward MKO's vision of community safety and security, I would like to share with the committee the present stark statistics of the disproportionate family separation, detention and incarceration of Aboriginal peoples.
In Canada, 20 per cent of inmates in federal prisons are Aboriginal people. In Manitoba, 70 per cent of the inmates in provincial facilities and 50 per cent of the inmates in the two federal institutions are Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal peoples make up only 15 per cent of Manitoba's population and about 4 per cent of the population of Canada.
In Manitoba, Aboriginal offenders are sent to prison more often than non-Aboriginal offenders. In Manitoba, Aboriginal offenders make up more than two thirds of offenders in custody but less than half of those serving conditional sentences.
In Manitoba and Yukon, Aboriginal women account for 83 per cent of all female admissions. Eighty per cent of the more than 10,000 children in care in Manitoba are Aboriginal. Eighty-eight per cent of inmates in the federal medium- security Stoney Mountain Penitentiary were involved in the child welfare system between the ages of 13 and 17.
To conclude, Bill C-10 goes against the principles of Canadian family values by putting more women and youth in jail and more children in foster care. The Conservative government should not pass this bill. The provincial governments and the Canadian taxpayers should not pay for it, and Canadians, including First Nations people, should not suffer its damaging effects on families and communities.
The "fill the jails " approach of Bill C-10 is morally and fiscally irresponsible and Canadians would not be any safer. It is better to invest in addressing the poverty that is the underlying cause of many offences than to spend hundreds of millions of dollars putting more Canadians, and mainly Aboriginal Canadians, in jail.
The MKO First Nations are not looking for more jails. We are looking for more jobs and adequate housing. This is how we can work together to build safe streets and communities in Canada.
Bill C-10 will perpetuate the cycle that often begins when First Nations children are removed from their families and mothers and placed in foster care. Our children are more likely to be placed in youth detention centres and to wind up in jail as adults. The evidence is that the majority of First Nation people in jails were placed in foster care as children.
Bill C-10 will further the legacy of the Indian residential school system in Canada.
MKO recommends that as key elements of Canada's approaches and investments in community safety, security and well-being, that the provisions of Bill C-10 providing for limitations on conditional sentencing, changes to the consideration and granting of pardons and mandatory minimum sentences be withdrawn; that the committee recommend that Canada immediately communicate its intention to develop and enter into an arrangement to expand the First Nation policing program in order to support community-based policing in the MKO region and for other First Nations; and that the committee recommend that Canada work with First Nations to enhance and expand alternative and restorative justice programs, which include a focus on fostering a reconciliation between the victim and the offender.
Ekosani, Mási-cho, Meegwetch.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Chief Evans.
Scott Wheildon, Criminal Law Counsel, Legal Services Board of Nunavut: Good evening. I am Scott Wheildon and I practise criminal law with the Legal Services Board of Nunavut at the legal aid clinic Maliiganik Tukisiniakvik. This clinic was founded by your honourable colleague Dennis Patterson. Thank you for this opportunity.
Bill C-10, as it relates to the elimination of many conditional sentences produces mandatory minimum jail sentences, facilitates the incarceration of youth, and fetters the discretion of sentencing judges, will have a significant adverse impact upon Nunavut. Significant funds will be required to implement Bill C-10, and all justice-related institutions are bracing for impact.
In order to reduce crime in Nunavut, funds must be allocated to an in-house addictions treatment healing facility, rehabilitative counselling and poverty reduction strategies. Simply incarcerating more Inuit for a lengthier period of time is not the solution.
While the national crime rate has been decreasing, sadly, Nunavut has moved in the opposite direction. Nunavut's crime rate is six times the national average. It has more than doubled since the creation of the territory in 1999. Per 100,000 people, the national crime rate in Canada is 6,969. In Nunavut, it is 41,231.
In 2010, the violent crime rate in Nunavut was eight times the national average. In 2010, the drug crime rate in Nunavut was five times the national average. Ninety-eight per cent of Nunavut's inmates are Inuit, and the vast majority of citizens brought before the courts are Inuit.
At present, the Baffin Correctional Centre has official capacity of 65 inmates. Unfortunately, BCC usually has upwards of 90 to 110 inmates at any given time, many of whom are required to sleep on the gymnasium floor. There are agreements with the Province of Ontario and the N.W.T. to house some Nunavummiut inmates. BCC was never intended to house these inmates that it currently holds and it is an institution that is severely out of date. There is a facility in Rankin Inlet that is to be opened this year, which will hold approximately 45 inmates, but is insufficient to meet current demand.
Corrections Nunavut is bracing for impact. Remand rates are rising, with an average of approximately 60 inmates on remand at any given time.
With the focus on dealing with capacity issues, insufficient resources are dedicated to rehabilitative programming. The net effect is an increased likelihood of recidivism as an offender has not dealt with the root cause of the criminal behaviour.
Corrections in Nunavut is projecting a 25 per cent increase due to Bill C-10, excluding its annual growth rate projections of 15 per cent per year. There is simply not enough room to house the inmates in appropriate rehabilitative conditions. Drastic action will be required to meet the needs. There is talk of building emergency shelters for inmates. There is also talk of sending more Inuit down South. Both are completely unsatisfactory solutions to the crime epidemic in the North. Costs of a new correctional facility will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In short, the correctional system in Nunavut is at a breaking point.
There is a 33 per cent vacancy rate for social worker positions in the territory. There is a lack of health professionals and mental health workers. At present, there are limited community corrections officers for Nunavut's 25 communities and as a result there are communities that have no supervising corrections officer for citizens on probation. It is a task that falls to the social workers, who rarely last over a year in a community and are typically straight out of college or university. It is a job they are not trained to do. There is very minimal counselling available in many of the communities. Judicial committees are not present or functioning in many of the communities, including the territory's capital, Iqaluit. Only 300 matters were diverted in the territory.
There is no facility in Nunavut which diagnoses fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and no in-house treatment facility for addictions. These are pressing problems, along with the staggering poverty, and these are all contributing to the increasing crime rate.
Nunavut has a suicide rate five times greater than the national average. It is more acute for Inuit between the ages of 15 and 24, where the rate is seven times the national average. Nunavut lost 34 citizens to suicide in 2011, 27 of whom were between the ages of 20 and 25. It is unclear how the judicial and corrections system play a role in this unfortunate reality, but it is clear that they do. Sending more Inuit to jail for longer will not help this tragic and pressing situation.
Establishing mandatory minimum sentences fetters the discretion of judges to take into account the unique factors of the citizen before them. This approach prevents the court from considering 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code and the principles outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Gladue. The mandatory minimum sentences established under Bill C-10 prevent a judge from considering an appropriate sentence outside of custody. This will lead to further incarceration of Canada's already overrepresented Aboriginal peoples.
It may be that in a particular case, given the unique systemic background factors of an Aboriginal offender, custody is not a suitable sentence. The difficulty with mandatory minimum sentences is that they generally punish offenders who would be more worthy of a rehabilitative sentence. Given this reality, it is reasonable to project a proliferation of section 12 Charter arguments in the court.
Limiting the role of a judge on sentencing in Nunavut runs contrary to the vital role judges currently play, along with other community participants, when determining an appropriate sentence. The Nunavut Court of Justice routinely hears from elders and members of the community. Community participation is a key factor in Nunavut to ensure that confidence is maintained in the administration of justice and respect for the rule of law is promoted.
In Nunavut, the court travels to the remote communities on average three times a year depending on weather. The court sits approximately two days when in a community. In many instances, a community has reconciled with an offender prior to sentence. To remove this offender from a community due to a mandatory minimum penalty leads to confusion and a sense of alienation from the justice system among the Inuit.
Incarcerating an individual in Nunavut routinely takes a citizen away from his or her community and on occasion outside of the territory. With the passage of Bill C-10 more and more citizens will be shipped out of the territory to southern jails. Currently citizens serving in territorial prison do so predominantly in Iqaluit but are increasingly sent out of the territory. Citizens doing federal time are transferred out of the territory. It is difficult to reconcile this fact with promoting rehabilitation and reintegration into a community, especially a remote community of fewer than 500 people. Setting out mandatory minimum penalties will not assist in rehabilitation and reintegration and may have the adverse result, as individuals will be forced away from their respective communities.
There will be an increase of cost to the Legal Services Board, the correctional system and the judicial system. These costs are unknown at this time but are estimated to be significant. There is little or no incentive for an offender to resolve a file where there is no hope of a CSO or a mandatory minimum penalty applies. Lengthy Charter applications will abound and delay in court will persist. This will lead to increased litigation, resulting in greater court time for an already bursting-at-the-seams judicial system. There will be a requirement for more prosecutors and defence counsel. There will be a need for more judges in addition to the two new expected appointments.
Honourable senators, it is my respectful submission that Bill C-10 is not helpful in promoting safer streets and communities in Nunavut. Rather, the resources needed to help reduce crime will be diverted from preventive and rehabilitative strategies. Respectfully, sending more Inuit to jail for longer periods, likely out of the territory, is not the solution.
Mr. Plecas: Good evening again, honourable senators and fellow witnesses. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Bill C-10.
As you know, I am from British Columbia and have had the chance to look rather extensively at the problem of drug crimes, and in particular drug production and drug trafficking. In fact, since the last time I spoke to the committee, I have had an opportunity to do further studies that look specifically at what has happened over the last 14 years with respect to drug production in British Columbia.
I can talk a bit about that later, but I was hoping I could focus on two things: First is the whole matter of this concern that some witnesses have had that we will have people caught up in minimum sentencing who ought not to be caught up in it, for example, people who have characteristics that are not suited for a prison term; and second is the matter of why we would need minimum sentences at all.
The first thing I would like to point out with respect to our concern about who might get caught up in this is I believe we want to remember it is clear that police do not have time to be investigating or otherwise pursuing drug crimes involving very small amounts of drugs.
To put that into perspective, in British Columbia, in the Cariboo Region of the province over the last 5 years, the average size of a marijuana grow operation was almost 1,000 plants, and that is whether you are talking an indoor operation or an outdoor operation. We have huge operations, and I am reminded that these operations are 3 times larger than they were in the 1990s. More importantly, the production is substantially greater.
Overall, what is important here is that whilst we have had this dramatic increase — and it is not just in the Cariboo — we know that police are not able to get to as many of them as they were in the 1990s and in the early 2000s. In fact today in the Cariboo, police are only able to investigate 31 per cent of grow ops coming to their attention. The largest reason for that is they simply do not have the resources.
Equally significant is if one looks at the operations police do attend, 33 per cent of the time police attend a grow operation they treat it as a no-case seizure. Further, if we look at the number of plants involved in those cases, the number of plants involved in a no-case seizure is literally half of what it is in a case seizure.
This is consistent with other research we have done that shows there is a clear relationship with the number of plants found in a grow operation and what the police do with it afterwards. Disturbingly, at the end of the day, only 11 per cent of cases coming to the attention of police result in charges being laid against the people responsible. We also know that when someone is found responsible and a charge goes ahead, it is only in about 20 per cent of cases that there is actually a prison term of any kind.
We have this situation where while we have a huge volume of this criminal activity, at the end of the day, it is a relatively small number of people who end up with any kind of prison sentence. We also want to remember that when we talk very small numbers, around five plants, anything over that our analysis has determined is clearly what is properly described as a commercially viable grow operation. When police do these investigations, it is not just the matter that they found five plants that lead them to decide whether or not there is a charge. There is the facility, the set-up of the operation and all of the things that are found at the scene that would collectively lead police to lay a charge of production and trafficking normally.
I only say that to point out, for starters, that we are not talking about people who have significant involvement in a large crime. That is just not the case. Of course, these are significant operations, and as I have mentioned before, there is no question that the vast majority of them, nearly all, are clearly connected to organized criminal activity.
Second is the matter of trafficking, low-level and street-level trafficking and a concern that people will get busted because they are selling a couple of joints or a couple of pills. Thinking that does not respect what really goes on in police investigations in the determination of who it is they ought to be investigating. Police spend a considerable amount of time targeting individuals who clearly have a connection to gang affiliations, et cetera.
We should also remember that the whole business of trafficking, even at the street level, is very much one where it is hierarchical. It is not that someone can be a street-level drug dealer and operate as an independent; you have to be a relatively seasoned, included person in the criminal subculture to do that.
The other thing I know, of course, is that the likelihood of someone getting busted for a very small amount of drugs as a trafficker is extremely remote. Also remember that at times where people are charged with such things as possession where it seems like a relatively minor charge, if one goes back, one has to look at what the other charges were that were stayed on that charge because commonly in drug cases, people are charged with one thing and other charges are stayed. Even in cases, for example, of grow ops, when someone is convicted of possession, on average that is 93 plants.
On the matter of why we even need minimum sentences at all, I think we need to be reminded of the experience of the last 30 years, what we have tried to do with people who are found guilty of one thing or another. It is very clear that the kinds of sentences that our courts have handed out have not come close to having the ability to rehabilitate, they have not been able to deter and they absolutely have not provided for public safety. The evidence of that, of course, is the revolving door that we have.
Further evidence is that the average length of sentence for people who are given one sentence or another, there are increasing numbers of people who are found to be prolific offenders. I think I reminded the committee once before that in my community of Abbotsford, for example, the average property offender who is arrested comes to that charge with 15 prior convictions.
My point is that in the absence of a clear inability of the system to provide for the basic aspects of sentencing, we need to have a time-out for these individuals, and that time-out asking for these minimums as they are is hardly enough, I would argue, to provide the kinds of things that we expect from a sentence.
In sum, I would say that Bill C-10, with regard to its minimum sentencing, does not go far enough. They actually ought to be longer sentences. I say as one final comment that when we think of sentencing in Canada, there is only one place where we have a clear, demonstrated history of success, and that is for those people who are sentenced to federal terms. If one understands how that system works, it is very clear why we should expect it to be so successful.
Of course, when we talk about minimum sentences, that does not mean a person serves the full sentence. Everyone given a sentence has an opportunity to be released at an earlier date, once they demonstrate to correctional officials and others in the criminal justice system that in fact they have moved towards rehabilitation and/or no longer constitute a public safety threat.
In the absence of our ability to do that for the present, I am grateful that this bill provides for a guarantee, if you will, of some small measure of public safety that we absolutely do not have at the moment.
Senator Fraser: Thank you all very much. There has been a wide array of presentations here, all very interesting.
First, I have a request to both Professor Gobbi and Professor Plecas. The actual text of what you said is very interesting, but what I am really interested in is links to the sources of the various statistics and whatnot that you cited because there was a lot of material from both of you that would be extremely interesting to be able to look at in greater depth.
I have a question for Chief Evans, if I may, and it has to do with the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. I just want to be sure I understand how that works or worked, at least at the time this study was done.
Am I to assume that what that strategy did, or at least what you were looking at, when you talk about 500 completed diversions, that means diversions away from custodial sentencing and into the restorative justice community?
Mr. Evans: That is correct, yes.
Senator Fraser: Therefore, with these interesting results that you got, you would be looking at people who did not get the custodial but did get the traditional justice, if I may, versus people who went into the standard Canadian system and probably ended up in jail or prison? I have understood, therefore, what it is all about?
Mr. Evans: That is correct.
enator Fraser: May I ask, Chief Evans, in the MKO territory — if you do not have statistics, you probably have at least an idea — how much of the crime in the territory is drug related?
Mr. Evans: If I can defer to Mr. Anderson, he has a good handle on statistics.
Michael Anderson, Research Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Inc.: Thank you very much for the question.
In terms of the crime that the First Nation governments and certainly law enforcement officials are interested in, there is a strong presence of drug-related crime that relates to either crime in the territory. I would undertake to provide the committee with some of the statistics regarding how these sorts of crimes sort themselves out.
The Chair: We would appreciate that, if you could.
Senator Fraser: Following through again on the Aboriginal Justice Strategy study of the 500 diversions, how many of those would have been for drug-related offences? If you have those numbers —
Mr. Anderson: I would be pleased to provide those statistics.
At that time, I have to say that the nature of drug-related crime within the MKO region has evolved over time and it has accelerated relatively recently.
The concern is that we have a lot of younger members of the community who may only be on the fringes, early-stage engagers in these types of activities. These are the individuals that we are most interested in ensuring do not find themselves in that cycle on their way to Stoney. Then, instead of young persons who are only at the fringes of what would legally be defined as "criminal activity in their community, " they would become literally criminals because of their exposure in facilities where there are other individuals that have more engagement in long-term criminal activity.
Part of restorative justice — the alternative approach that is so critical to our communities — is to divert not only persons who have been charged but also persons who are engaging in activities that may result in them being charged. There is a collective approach by the community justice circle in the community. Everyone, in many ways is related to various degrees to each other in our communities. There is a broader engagement by community members in preventing crime and in disengaging youth in particular from a pathway toward criminal activity and, therefore, to focus on those that are actually bringing criminal activity into the community.
Senator Fraser: I may be making a false assumption, but I am assuming that in the MKO territory, as everywhere in the country but in particular among Aboriginal communities, the stresses of the 21st century are growing and the ingenuity of criminals is growing. I am talking now about the suppliers — the people who feed it. As well, the cultural attitudes are evolving quite rapidly in the whole Canadian population and, I believe, among Aboriginal peoples.
That is a long preamble to explain why I am about to ask whether diversion programs work as well with today's youth as they might have done 15 to 20 years ago.
Mr. Anderson: The other part of the question is the demographics of our community, which I will also be pleased to provide the committee. We have predominantly young communities that are under the age of 25. This is an important question to First Nations and governments.
One of the areas that Chief Evans touched on was our interest in community-based policing, and this responds directly to your question. In the natural resources program, of which I am director, I was recently contacted by a sergeant for the RCMP based in Thompson because he remembers a presentation I did several years ago about traditional land use. He remembers my description of when snow comes down and ice forms and how the entire landscape can be travelled upon; every river, every creek, every esker becomes a roadway. The customary concept of drug interdiction at node points on the national transportation network becomes meaningless.
In the summer, in the open water season, we have rivers, streams and creeks and so forth. Therefore, it is critical that the community justice initiatives linked with community-based fully trained police officers use their knowledge of the land, the community, their cultural history and the land use patterns to put it all together. At the present time, we have not enough policing presence in the classic sense. The policing service agreement is shortly to be renewed in Manitoba. MKO had made several representations to the Minister of Justice to include something called "detachment performance plans, " so the DPPs would allow us to create priorities with the RCMP Division D to deal with these exact types of issues by maximizing justice committees and constables and for our efforts to fully train police officers, either by the Winnipeg police or at depot. We had a proposal earlier this year to train 30 officers to help fill this gap. Interestingly, we are still working to encourage our Minister of Justice to do this. Clearly, any First Nation person trained fully as a police officer, either by Brandon police, the Winnipeg police, or depot, will be hired instantly as a police officer in some force, hopefully in our region.
Part of our plan is to develop a regional police force in the MKO region, which covers approximately three quarters of the political area of Manitoba today, and the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, which is similar to the Winnipeg police, covers most of northern Ontario and the Treaty Three Police Service. We match these tools together to promote safety and security by combining our knowledge of the land, the habits of people, travel corridors and everything into one integrated safety and security initiative.
The Chair: Thank you for that very comprehensive answer. I would remind all committee members if you could keep your questions as concise as possible. As you know, we are running over and we have five witnesses. I am sure we wish to ask questions of each of them.
Senator Runciman: Mr. Plecas, I was quoting from an empirical survey that your school published in 2002. I was shocked by some of the materials. You were referencing convicted offenders sentenced who were only individuals with prior convictions for drug offences among offenders who have a history of drug trafficking and/or production and a number of prior convictions, for example, nine plus priors. Less than half of those folks were sentenced to prison. The average length of the prison term imposed was 1.6 months. That is pretty startling. I wonder if you might comment on what you see as cause and effect and the number, size, sophistication and danger of grow ops. Do you relate it to this kind of sentencing that you have been able to track?
Mr. Plecas: We would say, no. The figures you were referring to in that 2002 study you would find in our later studies. Whether you are talking grow ops or other kinds of crimes, the pattern is always the same. We have a situation where people are consistently unlikely to get prison terms, despite the fact that they have many prior convictions.
Disturbingly, we know that if people are given a sentence that is not a period of incarceration, a significant percentage of the time they are not able to complete that sentence without being convicted for a new offence. There is no question: If one considers the huge amount of money that is involved in the average production operation — hundreds of thousands of dollars at least — and weigh that against the consequences, which I think it is in the 2002 report, we note that an average grower at the time had a 13-year criminal history with seven prior convictions. We would argue and we predicted back then that given this situation, we ought to expect that growers will become more sophisticated, move to larger operations, and the problem would continually get worse and be greater linked to organized crime. That is exactly what has happened.
Senator Runciman: Mr. Evans, you talked about the disproportionate number of aboriginals in the prison system. Maybe this is an incorrect assumption, but that would also suggest a disproportionate number of victims in your communities as well. Is that an accurate assessment of the situation?
Mr. Evans: I would have to agree with that. With respect to the comments made by Professor Plecas, we are talking about trying to deal with the drug problem; it is very challenging.
Senator Runciman: We have very limited time. I apologize, but I think an important issue that we have not been able to talk about at length is the victims. I would like to talk about victims, because it strikes me that Aboriginal victims must bear the brunt of repeat criminality, and what we are trying to deal with in this legislation is repeat criminality. When we are talking about minimums here, we are talking about sex offenders, drug dealers and traffickers. I would like to hear some feedback from you and others in the Inuit community as well.
How do you address the concerns of people who are continually being victimized and re-victimized? Your concerns seem to be solely on the side of offenders here. I would like to hear something from any of you with respect to concerns about victims.
Mr. Evans: If we do not deal with the real problem, the root causes of why there are so many offenders and victims, the problem will only escalate. As First Nations, we have been strong in voicing the need for education and in focusing more on education. There is a cap on post-secondary education in our communities. As long as that is not dealt with, those problems will continue to escalate.
In Manitoba, we have a justice system that is maxed out. There are not enough magistrates. There are people who are in remand. When the bill comes into effect, if it is passed, the system will burst at the seams because you will have more and more.
Our position, as leadership, is: Let us deal with the other problems as well. Once we deal with that, then there is a balance. Right now, there is no balance.
Senator Runciman: I do not disagree with you in terms of parallel initiatives, but what you are suggesting — and perhaps I am misinterpreting — is that in terms of re-offenders being within the communities, that should simply be tolerated. I personally have a great deal of difficulty with that. I would not want to walk in the shoes of those folks who have to look out the door of their homes the next day.
When you talk about minimum penalties, we are talking about child sex offenders and about people involved in the trafficking of drugs. I think that would cast quite a cloud over any community when you see those individuals continue to walk around the community.
Mr. Evans: I am not here to protect the sex offender or the drug dealer who is destroying lives. Rather, we are here to try to protect the ones we can save at this time. If a bill is introduced that will not do that, and that will create more criminals, then we cannot support it. That is simply what we are saying.
The Chair: Mr. Wheildon, I sensed you wanted to respond as well.
Mr. Wheildon: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The victims are the penultimate concern. What we are trying to do is create safer streets and communities. Sending someone away for a mandatory minimum period of time without the rehabilitative measures in place only sends a sharpened tool back to the community.
Senator Runciman: Why do you conclude that rehabilitative measures are not in place?
Mr. Wheildon: If we look at the statistics in Nunavut and we see the amount of incarceration that has occurred over the last 10 years —
Senator Runciman: They are sending them out for rehabilitation. That is what we heard from the justice minister. You do not have them in Iqaluit, but they do send away prisoners to other jurisdictions where treatment programs are available.
Mr. Wheildon: I would submit that that is wholly and completely inadequate for Nunavut. You are sending someone down to Ontario or to the N.W.T. to deal with the best of the worst that those communities have to offer. They do not have any culturally sensitive training that is occurring. They do not have anyone who can speak Inuktitut. They do not have like-minded males, no cultural sensitivity whatsoever in those institutions.
While they may have rehabilitative programs that have been proven to work for our sons and daughters of the south, they do not work for the Inuit. All you do is you have someone who has gone down to that institution, has been trained by the best of the worst of those communities, and comes back sharpened to go to their small communities.
Senator Runciman: It would be helpful for the committee to get information from someone in Ontario who is providing these programs, in terms of whether they are meeting any standards to address the concerns.
The Chair: That would be helpful.
Senator Baker: I would like to ask some questions to the litigator at the table, Mr. Wheildon. To start, I have not discussed this hearing with you prior to the hearing, have I?
Mr. Wheildon: No, sir.
Senator Baker: I have not discussed the questions I am about to ask you, have I?
Mr. Wheildon: No, sir. I would swear to that.
Senator Baker: Good, because some people will perhaps suspect that we have set this up.
Mr. Wheildon: You may be prejudging my answer, senator.
Senator Baker: Let me ask you this: Have you ever litigated a section 12 argument?
Mr. Wheildon: I have, sir.
Senator Baker: Have you ever litigated pursuant to section 24(1) of the Charter?
Mr. Wheildon: Yes, I have, sir.
Senator Baker: Have you ever won those arguments?
Mr. Wheildon: Yes, I have.
Senator Baker: Did those arguments lead to a reduction in someone's sentence?
Mr. Wheildon: Yes, sir.
Senator Baker: The judge's discretion lies at 24(1) on Charter arguments, namely, 7, 8, 9, 10(a), 10(b) and 12; is that not correct? That is where his discretion lies as far as the remedy is concerned?
Mr. Wheildon: The remedy lies in 24(1), sir.
Senator Baker: Yes, about sentencing. Subsection 24(2) would be to discard evidence.
Mr. Wheildon: That is correct. However, there is a slew of other remedies available to a judge under 24(1) other than a reduction of sentence.
Senator Baker: Exactly. This is why I am asking you the question, you see. Let us deal with section 12, jails in the North. Your judgments on section 12, cruel and unusual punishment, which you say you have won them on, some of them involved the way these prisoners are kept, sleeping on concrete floors with no mattress?
Mr. Wheildon: Sir, I understand the case you are referring to. However, just to be clear, that related to treatment at an RCMP detachment.
Senator Baker: Yes, a holding cell or something like that?
Mr. Wheildon: That is correct.
Senator Baker: I do not know what case you are referring to.
The Chair: Senator Baker, if you could tie your question back to Bill C-10. I believe that is the direction you are going.
Senator Baker: My question is this: With the mandatory minimum, with the offence faced by the accused, that discretion by the judge under 24(1) will be taken away, will it not, on sentencing?
Mr. Wheildon: No. The judge, in order to get into 24(1), will have to find that there has been a violation of the Charter, which is always open to a judge. Once the judge finds that there has been a Charter violation, the remedies under 24(1) are still available, notwithstanding any act of Parliament.
I believe I can answer your question in a different way, that the discretion of the judge taken away to apply 718.2(e) of the mandatory minimums may or may not in certain circumstances amount to cruel and unusual treatment or cruel and unusual punishment. Therefore, the threshold of getting into a remedy to get around the mandatory minimums and apply perhaps 718.2(e) requires an argument that section 12 has been violated.
It is clear to me that, as a general proposition, 718.2(e) will not apply once a mandatory minimum has been imposed. It will only be in certain circumstances that one could seek to get around that by virtue of section 12.
Senator Baker: Have you ever tested any of the UN conventions regarding section 12 of the Charter?
Mr. Wheildon: Not in relation to section 12 of the Charter. There is a decision by the Nunavut Court of Justice that makes reference to certain UN conventions.
Senator Baker: What you are saying is that even with the imposition of the mandatory minimum, it will not restrict the judge, under 24(1), in his decisions that he would normally make in the reduction of sentences?
Mr. Wheildon: I would say this, senator, and perhaps this is as clear as I can be: If a judge finds that a mandatory minimum sentence violates section 12 of the Charter, or violates any provisions of the Charter, it is available for that judge, under 24(1), to reduce that sentence or to circumvent. We have seen recently in Ontario the curious case of Mr. Smickle. That would be a similar circumstance on how to go around a mandatory minimum.
The Chair: Senator Baker, you have had two questions here and we are running very late.
Senator Baker: As Senator Angus just pointed out below the table there, that involves a violation. The provision of mandatory sentences violated the Constitution and, under 24(1), declared something unconstitutional. However, my question was not concerning that, but it concerns the use of 24(1) in the reduction of sentences itself. Will that still be available to the judge to say, "Okay, your client will only stay in jail for one day plus time served, " which would be a normal thing for him to do if his rights have been violated in a very serious way?
Mr. Wheildon: Only if there has been a violation of Charter rights. That is the threshold criteria to get into 24(1).
Senator Baker: You can get over the mandatory minimums? Is that what you are saying?
Sorry, Chair, you go ahead.
The Chair: I think we have the answer. We can look at the transcript from the hearing. Mr. Wheildon has been very clear.
Senator Baker: He has done a magnificent job.
Senator Lang: I would like to get back to the rights of the victims. It does not seem to resonate that well sometimes, but it is one of the reasons we have Bill C-10. I would like to direct my questions to Dr. Gobbi.
I found your testimony very interesting. I think that a lot more Canadians should have the opportunity to hear the effects of cannabis on adolescents and the long-term effects on them and society. You referred to a number of studies with respect to what you were involved in.
Could you give us a further idea of what these studies were and the number of people involved when you came to this conclusion about the mental disorders that came about because of the use of cannabis?
Dr. Gobbi: Yes, there are two kinds of studies. There are pre-clinical studies I was involved with that concern laboratory animals in which we can dissect exactly the mechanism of action of marijuana cannabis on the brain. We have a number of clinical epidemiological studies. More importantly, we have longitudinal studies, which are the most significant studies in epidemiology.
Concerning cannabis and marijuana, the first epidemiological study started at the beginning of 2000, and now I think we have more than 25 studies regarding cannabis in adolescents. With respect to depression in adolescents and marijuana, we have about 15 or more epidemiological studies. It is quite significant. These studies were completed in Europe, New Zealand and North America, so there is strong concurrence. We also have two or three studies that are negative, but for the most part the studies were done with very large cohorts. I am talking about thousands of people and thousands of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 12, followed to the age of 26.
Senator Lang: I know we are getting on here, but I would like to pursue this.
I would like to refer now to the witness who is here by videoconference, Professor Plecas. I wanted to go on a further statement that you made. The fact that this bill is designed to deal with individuals who have made a life of crime is important. In other words, they have made a conscious decision. They are repeat offenders or want to be repeat offenders. You gave a staggering statistic over the course of your testimony where you stated that in some cases they have 15 convictions over the course of a very short period of time going through the court system but never spend any time, if any, in incarceration. Did I understand you correctly?
Mr. Plecas: You heard me absolutely correctly. I would also emphasize that is the norm. If you look at any population of criminals in British Columbia — other than auto thieves who average 28 years old — the average criminal in British Columbia what we might call suspect chargeable and could be arrested for a crime, is over 30 years old. Consistently we find people who have 30, 40 or 50 prior convictions. The problem is, when they are sentenced at all, it is an incredibly short period of time. I remind the committee that 28 per cent of people sentenced to a prison term in Canada are sentenced to a period of eight days or less. There is also the average number of months a person receives overall, which is significantly small.
Therefore, we have nonstop recidivism. Our problem is getting those recidivists off the street. One of the things we take some satisfaction with in British Columbia is that for the first time in our history we have been able to bring about a significant and swift decline in crime across the board. Our crime reduction has outstripped that for Canada by some distance; by at least double the rate. I would say that is largely a function of police initiatives pointed at individuals who are the most recidivistic and involved in crimes such as the drug business. It is not the only thing driving it, of course, but it is a primary reason we have it.
I know the committee is very aware of the program in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The chief there has done a great job of paying attention to the kinds of things other witnesses have pointed to, the need to get other players, stakeholders, schools and social services on board. That is also happening in B.C., but I am reminded that those other areas have not demonstrated a very good ability over the last three decades to do the job. If they did, we would not be talking about significant numbers of recidivists.
Senator Lang: I have one more question. I think it is important because no one speaks about this. With the advent of this legislation — and the framework of it that gives direction to the judicial system that these are serious crimes, there are serious consequences and there will be jail terms if you commit these offences — does it not conversely follow that the judicial system will see these individuals a lot less than what they are presently seeing? They will be incarcerated for a period of time and then it follows that the judicial system will save time and money in that respect and perhaps unclog the courts?
Mr. Plecas: Absolutely, because what we have is a situation like Groundhog Day for repeat offenders. We have the same individuals funnel through the court over and over again. We ought to take a lesson from the Correctional Service of Canada's success and remember that 3 per cent, at most, of people on conditional release from federal sentences, commit a violate offence while under conditional release, and overall only 10 per cent. That is a spectacular degree of success, and for lots of good reasons. Of course we can never achieve that if we are not getting longer sentences. What should we ever expect to do with an eight-day sentence, one-day sentence, or two-week sentence? It is just nonsense.
It comes back to your point that we ought to be equally concerned about victims of crime. With prison sentences, we have the opportunity to do that, but you cannot always capture another kind of sentence and simultaneously provide for the rehabilitation, which is so important.
The Chair: Dr. Gobbi, I have a brief supplemental to an issue raised by Senator Lang. I was very interested to hear your comments and the studies you have done about the negative impacts of cannabis and marijuana on the mental condition and stability of people, particularly in adolescents.
I was wondering if there was any comment you wished to make in that regard as it relates to Bill C-10. I do not know if I heard you say anything directly or indirectly about Bill C-10. Is there anything you care to add?
Dr. Gobbi: Thank you for the question. I would like to point out that I have not seen anything in this bill about rehabilitation programs, prevention or treatments. Addiction in adolescents is a 360-degree problem. Of course, it is important to make some laws that punish people who traffic, but it is not the only problem. For example, prevention among adolescents is something that in Canada does not exist in that dimension.
I would like to make another point, given my experience as someone who has worked both in Europe and here. Long-term rehabilitation is a big problem in Canada. We have few community programs. Addiction is not only a pharmacological problem. Addictions change our moral values and affect our work life. "Long term " means five or six years and even more. Allow these people who are sick to recuperate totally their life. These people do not only need a disintoxication program of one or two months, they need more. In particular, this is true for the First Nations and Inuit. This is a point that I would like to emphasize, because I think there is something missing, something important for the most vulnerable population.
Senator Angus: I was not sure, after the deputy chair's question, if we got an agreement from Dr. Gobbi to file a written summary of her remarks, which would refer to these studies.
The Chair: I believe we did. I just want to confirm that.
Dr. Gobbi: Yes; I would be pleased to do that.
The Chair: I thought you understood that. Thank you very much, doctor.
Senator Jaffer: When the Minister of Justice from Nunavut was here, it struck me sharply that we here sit in Ottawa and want to pass laws that are the same for everyone. He was very articulate in saying that you cannot have a cookie- cutter approach in a diverse Canada. You are giving the same impression.
Mr. Wheildon, we are all concerned about victims. One of the ways that you do a great disservice to victims is if you do not have the proper resources to bring the cases to court. We all have heard a litany of cases that are not going to court because of unreasonable time. You are here representing the legal services. I would like you to tell us what happens to those cases that fall off and do not go to court because there are not the resources. You are dealing with Charter arguments where there is an unreasonable delay, so the case does not proceed. What happens to those victims?
Mr. Wheildon: I cannot answer that question tremendously in terms of unlitigated cases or cases where citizens have been granted a remedy under the Charter for unreasonable delay, because I do not deal with those victims.
What I can say is that there is a situation in the North where there are many witnesses who do not want to come forward and testify, and that leads to a great many charges that fall away. Some citizens are not brought to justice as a result of the unwillingness of witnesses to testify. That, I would suggest, deals more with this feeling of alienation towards the justice system, with a lack of understanding of how the justice system can help victims in certain situations and just generally a complete misunderstanding of what the justice system has to offer.
In many of the communities where it takes six months for the court to arrive, you have a community of 300 people; the offender and the complainant are in the community together. They have reconciled and come to terms with what has occurred. For the court to then come in and impose a sentence runs contrary to what a couple may have come to an agreement on. The fact that the court is not sitting in the communities and these things are not being dealt with in a timely way really leads to victims, in many instances, not wanting to come forward or not wanting to pursue matters. In many instances, they do not understand that it lies within the discretion of the Crown and not within their discretion whether a case is pursued or not.
That being said, I would like to highlight that while the person who finds themselves in the criminal justice system has a victim associated with that crime, even if it is a property-related crime, in many instances in the North that person is a victim themselves. They have been subjected to the wake of the residential school system, whether they were there themselves or whether a family member was there. They have seen substance abuse, suicides and murders in the communities. They have lived in abject poverty in many instances where people have to take shifts in communities to sleep on beds because there are about 10 people in a house with one bedroom. They come before the court as victims and it is a perpetual system of "victimness " in the territory.
I would ask this honourable Senate committee to consider proposing an exemption to the mandatory minimums with a Gladue exemption. This is not two-tiered justice.
Senator Jaffer: Is that under section 718?
Mr. Wheildon: Section 718.2(e), not as it relates to all offenders but with particular attention to First Nation offenders. That is, an affirmation of the law as it stands. Give the court an opportunity to fashion a sentence that is appropriate in the circumstances, taking into consideration the unique circumstances of the Aboriginal offender. At the same time, you will be surprised. There is no leniency of the court with respect to Aboriginal offenders. The court routinely sentences people to custody. The court is not lenient on sentences. They are tough on crime. They take into account the principles of Gladue. Give that particular offender who may be worthy of a sentence a chance.
Senator Jaffer: Chief, I disguise my white hair, but I have been a lawyer for 40 years and have worked with many Aboriginal people. Over the 40 years that I have been in the system, one of the things that I have been proud to observe is that we have brought new methods of dealing with Aboriginal people, for example, the healing circle and the elder counselling. We have introduced things that will help heal some of the things Mr. Wheildon was saying.
What will this act do? You mentioned it in your presentation, but I want you to expand on this and tell us what will this act do to all the work you have done over the years?
Mr. Evans: First, thank you for giving me the opportunity. I agree with my fellow witness Mr. Wheildon in terms of the way he describes it. It pretty much describes our situation identically.
On your comments about it not being a cookie-cutter approach, I want to commend the Conservative government for doing away with the gun registry. That is an example of how that did not work. There needs to be that understanding in terms of the work that we do as First Nations, as leaders in our communities.
We are trying to ensure that we have a healthy population. We want to ensure that we have safe communities as well. Also, we want to ensure that our young people have an opportunity to better themselves. Without taking in the recommendations as put forth just now, this will create more criminals because the communities are close-knit. As has been described, no one wants to come forward and make statements, which is necessary to bring to justice those who are offending. What that does to the young people, to the younger kids, is that they become the victims. However, not only do they become the victims but they also become the criminals after. You turn them into criminals; then they become victims. You have more criminals and more victims and the cycle just grows. That is what we have to think about, namely, how it works in our communities. I can understand if I was running a big city, but it does not work that way in the First Nation, Aboriginal community. That is why we continue to voice our concerns when there are various bills that are introduced that will impact us in a negative way.
With all that good work we do, yes, we are fixing our problem here, but it just keeps growing because we are not dealing with the root cause, which is what I said. At the same time, after hearing what we said and our concerns, let us not go ahead and pass a bill that just ignores what we presented here just now.
Senator Jaffer: I just have one request of Ms. Gobbi.
The Chair: Very short. We are running well over.
Senator Jaffer: I have so many questions to ask of you, but on the last question the chair asked you about rehabilitation, you said a profound thing. It can be a one-month or two-month thing. If you have anything you can provide to us, I would appreciate it.
Dr. Gobbi: Yes.
Senator Frum: Dr. Gobbi, I understood you to say that Canada has the highest rate of cannabis use in the world.
Dr. Gobbi: In adolescents.
Senator Frum: In the world.
Dr. Gobbi: Yes.
Senator Frum: Mr. Plecas, I was quite taken by your testimony. We all understand that drugs are deadly, but I think you really put a level to it that is not widely understood. What are we doing wrong as a society on a cultural basis? Mr. Plecas, on a judicial basis, obviously cannabis use is illegal, and yet we have these incredibly high rates of use. I do not think Canadians understand that our children are using more drugs than other children around the world. What are we doing so wrong?
Dr. Gobbi: That is the $1 million question. I do not know. I do not have the competence to know. It is true that cannabis is very common in the schools among adolescents. We have statistics that say for adolescents it is easier to consume cannabis than a cigarette. First, there is a problem that there is a lot of cannabis around. It is true that in the last few years Canada did not do any prevention. Many adolescents feel that cannabis is not so dangerous and that it is just an herb.
There is also a misconception in Canada about medical marijuana. I would like to clarify. It is true that marijuana has a pharmacological property for pain, depression and other diseases, but the fact that it has pharmacological properties does not mean we should give it to everyone. In pharmacology today, we have a lot of drugs that come from plants — digitalis for cardiovascular diseases, for example, and others for cancer — but that does not mean because they came from plants we have to give them to everyone. There are some cultural misconceptions in Canada about medical marijuana and marijuana as a drug of abuse. I think we have to readdress these issues in this country. We have to do a big, cultural, knowledge-based science program to bring to people these scientific issues. I think this is one of the main problems in Canada.
Senator Frum: Mr. Plecas, you can add something to that, if you wish.
Mr. Plecas: I would encourage everyone to be attentive to Dr. Gobbi's work. It really is outstanding work. I should add that we at the University of the Fraser Valley have done research looking at the harms associated to marijuana use and have published some papers on that. I can be sure that the Senate committee gets those. Certainly the kind of research that Dr. Gobbi has done is incredibly important because it talks about the known consequences of use, and, in particular, people who are using it extensively.
To go to the question of what is wrong here, one thing that has always bothered me in this whole debate and the unfortunate debate about decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, for example, is that it seems to me people are forgetting why we have law in the first place. We do not have law to protect everyone. We have a law because we know that, with any group of people engaged in an activity, there will be some individuals within that group who, for whatever reason, because of their own conditions or because of their environment, would be harmed where others would not. Of course, that is especially true for people who are susceptible to schizophrenia, for example. We need to have greater clarity for the public that points to these harms and a better appreciation of why we would have the law in the first place. I would say that clearly it would seem that we have a judiciary that has not given the weight to those harms that it ought to, at least in my view. We have a situation where we, over and over again, remind people, erroneously, that this is a relatively harmless drug with relatively harmless consequences, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Senator Chaput: I too worry about some aspects of Bill C-10, mostly, I must say, its negative impact on Aboriginals, whether it be the young families, women and children, and also the negative impact on the mental health issues. As you have said so clearly, we put people in jail, children in foster care, and it is perpetuating the cycle.
Chief Evans, I appreciate and thank you for your recommendations. I too believe there should be particular attention given to Aboriginals in Bill C-10. The RCMP came to our committee today and spoke about the importance and the need for community-based, driven approaches, and you have talked about that too. It shows how well you know the situation and what should be done.
I have a very short question. Bill C-10, for me, does not do enough for victims. What do you think? Should it address the needs of the victims?
Mr. Evans: I have sat on committees dealing with human trafficking. I have met with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on that, sitting in a committee with our member of Parliament, Joy Smith. We talked about how we can strengthen dealing with the offenders but at the same time ensuring there are no victims. Like everyone around the table, we want to ensure that we try to prevent all the crime from escalating in our communities and that our people feel safe and that we are seen to be doing something.
As a leader as well, I want to ensure that my people feel that, as a chief, I am working to do something with all the bad things that are happening in my community, as you are, but you do it as a country. That is why it will take dialogue and it will take the community itself to work out what are those solutions that we can work on together, looking for support. When I say the community, I mean the RCMP, the education system and the health care system sitting down and saying, "What is our plan? " The plan for my community might not work for the community beside us. It has to be done in a certain way, but at the same time ensuring there is support there for us when the time comes.
Let me share this fact with you. Back about 12 years ago, when I was chief, we wanted to put a bylaw in place dealing with drug dealers. We initiated that at Norway House. Many of the drug dealers came forward. It was sort of like an amnesty. There was one that challenged us. That went into the courts, and then we were handcuffed at that point. We could not do anything, because this was in the courts. The court system took so long. I think it took three years before there was a decision rendered. In the end, it was rendered in our favour, but in the meantime, in that span of time, everyone went back to what they were doing. We were defeated at that point. We were trying to deal with that as leadership, but the justice system was not there to support our work.
Senator Fraser: I had wanted to ask Mr. Wheildon about Gladue, but Senator Jaffer beat me to it. Now all I will do is expand a little bit on my request for Dr. Gobbi to give us the studies.
With the epidemiological studies, can you signal for us any information you have that goes beyond simple correlation or coincidence and looks at cause and effect? In other words, if someone who is 25 is depressed, is that because that person took marijuana or was that person at risk for depression and self-medicating when they took the marijuana?
Dr. Gobbi: There are a few studies that even control for that.
Senator Fraser: Good. If you could let us know about that, that would be great.
Dr. Gobbi: Absolutely.
The Chair: Colleagues, that concludes this panel. I sincerely want to thank Dr. Gobbi, Chief Evans, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Wheildon, and of course Mr. Plecas, joining us by video conference. It was excellent input. We very much appreciate it. We have run long. You have stayed far longer than I think we indicated you would, but it has been deeply appreciated.
Colleagues, we will adjourn until 10:30 tomorrow morning, and we will continue again at that time.
(The committee adjourned.)