Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 1 - Evidence
Ottawa, Tuesday, December 12, 1995
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was
referred Bill C-7, respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and
other substances and to amend certain other Acts and repeal the Narcotic
control Act in consequence thereof, met this day, at 10:00 a.m., to give
consideration to the bill.
Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: This morning we will consider Bill C-7, respecting the control of
certain drugs and the Narcotic Control Act.
We have with us today witnesses from Health Canada, from the Department of
Justice and from the Solicitor General of Canada.
Mr. Bruce Rowsell, Director, Bureau of Drug Surveillance, Health Canada: Mr.
Chairman, we will provide for you this morning some background on Bill C-7, how
it proceeded through the house and why this is considered a health bill under
the domain of Health Canada.
The essence of Bill C-7 is to make available for physicians and pharmacists
those drugs that are needed to treat their patients. Many of the narcotic drugs
under discussion are very powerful. Some are painkillers used to treat cancer
and other terminal illnesses. Some are medications used to treat certain mental
diseases. Some are very powerful psychoactive substances.
Because some of these substances are so powerful, they also are liable to abuse.
A drug which can provide a very beneficial effect is often attractive to
certain parts of society who would abuse this power.
The Narcotic Control Act and its regulations and Parts III and IV of the Food
and Drugs Act and the appropriate regulations are the areas of legislation
which currently direct these substances. These laws flow into Bill C-7.
As the titles imply, these acts deal with substances such as morphine, heroin,
cocaine, codeine and other painkillers. Controlled drugs are amphetamines,
certain barbiturates and sedative-type drugs.
In approximately 1961, the United Nations felt there was a need to bring
together more international control over these substances. There was concern
that, throughout the world, countries were not taking the same responsibility
to handle drug control and drug availability for medical purposes. The UN
created a single convention on narcotic drugs. This was the attempt to provide
that uniform direction for the control of these substances. Canada became a
signatory to that convention and, therefore, agreed to the obligations of that
Later, in 1971, a concern arose about psychoactive or mood-modifying substances.
Again, the UN created a convention on psychoactive substances. The main concern
was the diversion of many of these substances from medical practices, hospitals
and pharmacies, into the illicit marketplace.
Finally, in 1988, the UN enhanced these two previous conventions with a
convention that deals specifically with illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs
and psychoactive substances.
Senator Jessiman: If I may interrupt, does the second UN convention take over
from the first one and add something, or are they independent of each other?
Mr. Rowsell: They complement each other. They do not replace but, rather, build
upon each other.
Senator Jessiman: Has that convention ever been changed, or are we looking at
the convention just as it was in 1961?
Mr. Rowsell: Since 1961, some amendments have been made to add drugs to the
Senator Jessiman: Is it the same for the 1971 and 1988 conventions?
Mr. Rowsell: The 1971 convention was amended in 1978.
Senator Jessiman: Was it amended in the same way, simply naming drugs to the
Mr. Rowsell: They added new substances. Perhaps Mr. Saint-Denis could address
this issue. He was part of the Canadian delegation which dealt with this.
Mr. Paul Saint-Denis, Senior Counsel, Department of Justice: The 1961 convention
was amended particularly in the area of adding certain provisions with respect
to extradition. Both the 1961 and 1971 conventions are continually amended by
virtue of the fact that they add substances to the annexes. This is done
through the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Periodically, as a result of work
done by the World Health Organization, substances are submitted for
consideration to the commission at their annual meetings. There, the members of
the commission vote on whether or not to add new substances to the various
legal control regimes provided with those conventions.
Since the late 1970s, no convention has been modified in terms of the various
provisions, but only insofar as new substances are added.
The 1988 convention has also not been modified. However, new substances have
been modified in terms of pre-cursor chemicals which are subject to its control
Senator Jessiman: Are the same parties to the first conventions of 1961, 1971
and 1988 the same parties as those to the other two conventions?
Mr. Saint-Denis: No, they are not. Oddly enough, different parties have ratified
Senator Jessiman: Canada is a party to all three, is that right?
Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes.
Senator Jessiman: Is Great Britain a party to any of these conventions?
Mr. Saint-Denis: It is party to all three.
Senator Jessiman: Is Holland?
Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes.
Senator Jessiman: What about Denmark and Norway?
Mr. Saint-Denis: They are parties, yes.
Mr. Rowsell: I will now give some of the main elements that these obligations
give to us.
They provide a framework for the control of the import, production, export,
distribution and use of substances that can alter the mental processes and that
may produce harm to health and to society when distributed or used without
They also provide for enforcement measures and make available to the enforcement
agencies, that is, the police and the courts, for the interdiction and
suppression of unlawful import, export, production and distribution of these
controlled substances, as well as for the forfeiture of any property used or
intended to be used in the commission of such offences.
As I mentioned earlier, at the present time it is the Narcotic Control Act and
its regulations, and Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act that give us
those control measures now. Unfortunately, there are discrepancies between
these two pieces of legislation. There is not uniform nomenclature, which is
one of the other reasons why we are proposing that these two pieces of
legislation be consolidated into the new piece of legislation.
In 1987, we embarked upon Canada's drug strategy. This was an initiative to
bring together many facets of drug control for the country. It tried to focus
on bringing together pressures to reduce the demand for these substances, as
well as those measures that are used to control them or to deal with the supply
of these medications.
For example, the partners in the drug strategy include provincial governments,
enforcement agencies, representatives of the alcohol and drug addiction programs
in various provinces and people at universities in academia. They worked
together to deal with prevention strategies, to provide anti-drug messages and
information to parents, as well as education to school children, in order to
advise them and warn them about the dangers of these substances.
The strategy also involves treatment and rehabilitation, which is one area of
the bill that was given a lot of attention when it was being reviewed by the
subcommittee on Bill C-7 in the House of Commons. There was a lot of attention
given to the concern that we do not necessarily look at these people as
criminals but as people who have a disease. To some extent, they need help in
seeking treatment and rehabilitation.
Senator Jessiman: One of the objections to the bill is that they become
criminals under it.
Mr. Rowsell: They are criminals in the sense of the law. However, we also need
to look at them as patients and as people who need treatment and rehabilitation
to get back into society.
There was also an element of research and information and being able to gather
information through surveys and other means to ensure that we are keeping
abreast of the activities that were take taking place and how best to deal with
Finally, there is the issue of enforcement and control, which is what this bill
falls under. It will improve our ability to provide the appropriate controls
for these substances, allowing the enforcement agencies to deal with the
illicit side of this business.
As you are aware, this bill was first introduced in the previous session of
Parliament in May of 1992 as Bill C-85, entitled the Psychoactive Substances
Control Act. That bill went through extensive consultations. Many witnesses
appeared before the committee on it. The committee reported back to the house.
Unfortunately, before it received third reading, the session ended and the bill
died on the Order Paper.
Senator Carstairs: Is this an identical bill to Bill C-85?
Mr. Rowsell: No.
In this session of Parliament, the bill was first introduced as Bill C-7 and was
entitled, Controlled Drugs Substances Act.
Many of these substances go beyond psychoactive substances. There were concerns
that there are many chemicals which have a psychoactive effect which were not
covered by the bill. Therefore, it was felt that the name should be changed. In
fact, one of the recommendations made by the committee studying Bill C-85 was
with respect to the change in name. They felt the name was not appropriate.
This bill went through very extensive consultations. Many of the groups that
have made requests to appear before you to give their views have also made
their presentations to the subcommittee. They represent health care and legal
professionals, addiction research groups and those involved with substance
abuse. Groups representing parents against drug abuse expressed their concerns
about the efforts made to lessen penalties in this bill. Many individuals also
Many of these witnesses wanted to deal with policy matters surrounding
legalization or decriminalization, or making changes to the availability of the
drugs which went beyond the scope of this bill. As a result of these
interventions to the committee, many members of the house felt strongly about
this bill and made representations as well. Consequently, significant changes
were made to the bill.
Most important, in a separate report to the House of Commons Standing Committee
on Health, they recommended that there be a comprehensive policy review on
substance abuse. The House committee has agreed to undertake a comprehensive
review of those substance issues, which will be included in their agenda.
One of the concerns dealt with the schedules to the act. Early in the process,
many of the witnesses expressed concern that cannabis marijuana was in Schedule
I and was given the same attention as cocaine, heroin and morphine. There were
changes. A new schedule was created for cannabis so that other options could be
One of the main concerns was that, even while we were adhering to the schedules
as laid down by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, there
were not good criteria for why they should be placed in various schedules.
Health Canada has agreed to bring together a group of experts from throughout
Canada who will develop those criteria so that we will have a better means to
support putting them in one schedule versus another.
Senator Jessiman: Will that be before this act is passed?
Mr. Rowsell: No, after it is passed.
Senator Jessiman: So the government is saying that if we pass this bill now,
even though some of the substances are in the wrong schedules, it will make
Mr. Rowsell: These are not necessarily amendments. It is simply ensuring that
the criteria are transparent.
Senator Jessiman: There is some suggestion that some substances are in one
schedule while substances with the same effect are in another.
Mr. Rowsell: You are correct. As a result of this review, there could be some
Senator Jessiman: Can that be done by regulation?
Mr. Rowsell: It could be done by order in council.
Senator Jessiman: Am I correct that hashish is 30 times as strong as marijuana?
Is it the same thing but stronger? Tell me what cannabis is.
The Chairman: Perhaps we should finish the presentation before we get into too
many detailed questions.
Mr. Rowsell: I would like to stress that many of the witnesses who appeared had
a concern about the policy issues underlying the bill. I re-emphasize that the
real purpose of the bill is to make many of these substances available as
medicines. It is the illicit nature of these substances that has brought
attention to the bill and changed the purpose for studying it.
This bill has elicited considerable pressure from the International Narcotics
Control Board and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Both of these units are
part of the United Nations. Canada became a signatory to the latter two parts
of these conventions in the late eighties and we have not yet adjusted our
legislation to accommodate our obligations.
At the present time, Canada is a conduit or a source for many of the precursor
chemicals that are being used by clandestine laboratories, motorcycle gangs, et
cetera, particularly for illicit substances being manufactured for the United
States. The American drug enforcement agency and the Home Office in the United
Kingdom have expressed to us their concern that we are not controlling these
substances appropriately and that they are finding their way on to the illicit
market in other countries.
As well, many manufacturers have been legally making available in large
quantities a group of drugs called benzodiazepines to developing countries.
These are a Valium-type substance; tranquilizers. From those countries, they
have been diverted into the illicit market.
As I said, two delegations from the United Nations came to visit both members of
the House and officials earlier this year. They produce an annual report. In
the 1994 report, for the first time, Canada was identified for not adhering to
its obligations under this convention. The report says, in part:
A few parties to the 1971 Convention, including Canada, Luxembourg, and New
Zealand, do not yet control international trade in all benzodiazepines. That
represents a volition of their obligations under the 1971 Convention.
In another part of the report, dealing with precursor substances, it says:
The smuggling of South American cocaine into Canada and the United States
continues to be a major problem. Due to the large supply, the purity of the
cocaine available on illicit markets in those countries is increasing and its
price is decreasing. Crack is reported to be available and abused throughout
the United States. Crack abuse is also spreading in Canada....
Although Canada ratified the 1971 Convention in 1988 and the 1988 Convention in
1990, national legislation is not yet in conformity with some of the provisions
of those conventions and the Canadian authorities have not been fully
implementing those provisions. There are indications that Canada is a source of
benzodiazepines entering the rest of North America.
In Canada, organized gangs trafficking in methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP)
and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are increasingly becoming involved in
illicit trafficking in precursors and other chemicals.
It is unfortunate that this legislation has taken such a long time to go through
the House. However, after all of the discussion which has taken place, we have
better legislation. It is certainly an improvement over what was originally
introduced. The changes that were implemented in Bill C-85 and the changes made
in Bill C-7 have made this a better piece of legislation and one which we are
pleased to support.
I will now ask Mr. Normand to go through some of the specifics and the main
features of the bill, as well as to give you some flavour of the discussions
that took place when those changes were made.
The Chairman: Is it mainly on the amendments?
Mr. Gérard Normand, Counsel, Department of Justice: No, it was both. I
can explain what is presently in the bill and talk about the amendments as they
come along. I will try to be short.
Senator Jessiman: Were these amendments as a result of the hearings of the
Mr. Normand: Exactly.
The Chairman: That is useful.
Mr. Normand: There were concerns from witnesses, the members themselves, and
It is important to understand that this bill will have the Narcotic Control Act
repealed. It will not exist in Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act. The
purpose of the measure was not to change the policy in a major way, although we
did make some slight changes. The intent was to modernize our act, which was
some 30 years old.
Dealing first with the substances that this bill will cover, besides narcotics
and controlled drugs that we find in Part III and restricted drugs that we find
in Part IV of the Food and Drugs Act, some of the substances coming from the
conventions will be added. We will be covering benzodiazepines and precursors,
as Mr. Rowsell mentioned. We were originally controlling substances that are
not listed but are substantially similar in their chemical structure and
effects. Those were the two different components.
There were concerns coming from the legal field. The bar in Quebec made
representations concerning the effect similarity clause. They felt that because
we were in the domain of the criminal law, that this was too wide and could
encompass just about anything.
Late in the game, the people from the herbal companies were also concerned about
this clause, although we never believed that this clause would affect the
herbal products at all because of the way that it was structured, and we
explained that to them.
Nevertheless, the clause dealing with effect similarity has been deleted. It is
not in the bill any more. What has remained, though, are designer drugs. These
are substances that are not listed but have a chemical structure substantially
similar to drugs that are listed. Those will continue to be covered. They are
effectively the drugs that are produced by clandestine laboratories. They will
simply take a substance, change a few molecules so that it does not fit the
schedules, and sell it. The chemical structure is so similar that the effect
would be the same as well. It is important to understand that the effect
similarity clause has been deleted from this bill.
Because of that clause, we had a clause that excluded tobacco and alcohol from
the bill since it was not the intent of this legislation to deal with those two
products. They could have fallen under this effect similarity clause. When we
decided to take out the effect similarity clause, at the same time we took out
the clause exempting or excluding tobacco because it was no longer needed.
As far as the substances are concerned, I will give you a few examples.
Currently the possession of the drugs speed and ice is not controlled, whereas
it will be controlled under Bill C-7. We feel that that is an important step.
Senator Jessiman: Is it similar to something else?
Mr. Normand: No, we are talking about metamphetamine and amphetamine. They
already exist in the schedules, but the possession element is not currently
controlled. People can carry them and it is not an offence. Those are hard
drugs, and the possession of them will now become an offence under this new
As mentioned earlier, many people had concerns about seeing cannabis in Schedule
I with the other drugs. Because it is dealt with differently as far as
trafficking, possession, and production in certain aspects, we decided to put
cannabis in a completely separate schedule. It is now in Schedule II.
Senator Carstairs: Is that the only drug in that schedule?
Mr. Normand: In that schedule currently, yes.
As Mr. Rowsell mentioned, there has been a recommendation to create a group of
experts to establish criteria for a scheduling of drugs in the future.
Essentially, what we have now is the same types of control that currently exists
for the existing drugs that are controlled except for metamphetamine and
amphetamine which are being controlled from a possession perspective.
As far as the offences and penalties in general, as Mr. Rowsell mentioned, we
had some problems with certain definitions. The definition of "trafficking"
in one statute, for example, was not exactly the same as in the other one. The
notion of "give" was lacking in one of them. By bringing that
together, we are consolidating and bettering our drug legislation as a whole.
As far as dealing specifically with one of the definitions of trafficking, we
had a new notion inserted. "Provided" was intended to cover the
prescribing aspect. If a doctor would have prescribed illegally, according to
the regulations, then he could have been charged with trafficking. This caused
some concerns to the Canadian Medical Association. The CMA felt that doctors
could be in a situation where if they do not prescribe correctly or legally,
they could be charged under the administrative part, which was to have their
license suspended, and at the same time be charged for trafficking. It was not
clear as to which side one could go, and it could go on both sides.
In order to clarify that, we are providing that it is an offence to sell a
prescription. If you sell a prescription either for money or in some
circumstances for sex, as we know happens, that will be the trafficking aspect.
If a doctor simply prescribes in a bad fashion, or something, that will not be
dealt with by the legislation but by the administrative regimes. The colleges
will see that this does not occur again. We will not be able to charge that
person for trafficking unless he sells the prescriptions.
The notion of "production" has been added. Currently the word "manufacture"
is found under trafficking. We have created an offence of production that
encompasses cultivation and any other unforeseen forms of production that may
come in the future. This offence is new and has been expanded.
As far as the import and export, it does not change much except there is now an
offence of possession for the purpose of exporting. This existed in the Food and
Drugs Act but not in the Narcotic Control Act. If someone possesses for that
specific purpose, it is now a new offence.
Dealing specifically now with cannabis with regard to possession and
trafficking, the simple possession offence of cannabis as it first started in
Bill C-85 and was amended in C-7 -
Senator Jessiman: What is cannabis?
Mr. Normand: Cannabis involves marijuana, hashish, and oil. Those are the three
Senator Jessiman: Hashish is part of cannabis?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Senator Jessiman: If you say hashish, it is hashish, but if you say cannabis, it
is hashish plus something else?
Mr. Normand: When you talk about cannabis, you talk about marijuana, hashish,
hash oil. They are all components under cannabis.
The Chairman: Perhaps we should have a lecture on the drug.
Mr. Rowsell: The subcommittee also had the same question. We have a document
that shows you a cannabis plant and separates out the distinction between
cannabis, marijuana, and hash. Hash is the resin, and hash oil is the oil that
comes out of the plant. They are of higher potency than the marijuana, which
are the leaves and the flowers. We will provide that document for you.
Senator Jessiman: Thank you.
Mr. Normand: The two major concerns which were brought by the witnesses and the
subcommittee members concerned possession of cannabis. Sometimes they use "marijuana"
and "cannabis" interchangeably.
The second concern involved the rehabilitation and preventions aspects about
which Mr. Rowsell spoke. I will tell you more about that later.
On possession of cannabis, for the most part, the status quo remains. We had
proposed to increase the fine from $1,000 to $2,000 because, in 1985, when we
amended the Criminal Code, all summary offences were brought up to a fine level
That proposal was not well received. Some people were saying that possession
should be decriminalized. Some said the fine should be reduced. Others said that
cannabis possession should be legalized.
We did not have a mandate to change policy under this bill, so we could not go
as far as decriminalization. We came up with some figures. Possession of up to
30 grams of marijuana or 1 gram of hashish will now be a summary conviction
offence only. It will not be a hybrid offence as it is now.
In crimes dealing with those quantities, the maximum penalty will always be six
months or $1,000 or both. The present range of penalty for possession of those
quantities is either, as a summary offence, a maximum of $1,000 or six months;
or, as an indictable offence, a maximum of seven years. In addition, because
this offence will only a summary conviction offence, the Identification of
Criminals Act does not apply.
Senator Jessiman: Is that for the first offence only? Is this a license to
Mr. Normand: This applies to any offence.
Senator Jessiman: You are telling us the maximum. What is the practice? What are
the judges actually charging someone for possession?
Mr. Normand: It all depends where you are. I have been a prosecutor in Hull and
Valleyfield. In Valleyfield, the going fine was $75. In Hull, the usual fine was
$100. It varies from one region to another.
Senator Jessiman: What are the ranges? What could the highest fine for a first
conviction be, that you know about? Would it be $100.00?
Mr. Normand: It may be $150 to $200. I do not know. Most of the time, a fine
will be given.
Senator Jessiman: I know the distinction here. There is no crime, so you can do
it any number of times?
Mr. Rowsell: No, there is a crime.
Mr. Normand: That is a misperception.
Senator Jessiman: I read somewhere here that it will not be a crime. Offenders
will not be fingerprinted; they will have no record.
Mr. Normand: Offenders are not fingerprinted but they will have a criminal
record. If we removed the criminal record, we would have decriminalized the
offence. We did not decriminalize the offence. There is no fingerprinting
because possession will be a summary conviction offence only.
Senator Carstairs: This is an interesting issue. If a judge decides to use the
sentencing provision and does in fact send someone to jail for six months - I
know that does not usually happen out there, but it could happen - how do you
prevent the person from being criminalized? I am sure every penal institution
in the country requires inmates to be fingerprinted.
The Chairman: Perhaps the witnesses could elaborate. Possession is still a crime
but it is a summary conviction offence. That is quite different.
Mr. Normand: As some of you may know, offences which are strictly summary
conviction offences are very rare in the Criminal Code. One of the few is
disturbing the peace. In other words, this is the lowest step before
decriminalizing the offence. This is the bottom. As far as the penalty is
concerned, we stick to what the current levels of six months or $1,000 for a
summary conviction offence.
When someone is arrested or detained, the Identification of Criminals Act
provides that a police officer may fingerprint and/or take a photograph at the
time of arrest for the purpose of identifying a criminal. Once the person is
convicted, the fingerprint and the photo are sent to the central database. That
system will continue. However, if you are not fingerprinted, your file does not
go into this central database.
Senator Jessiman: No photographs will be taken?
Mr. Normand: Right. So the criminal record will exist but it will be difficult
to trace. The usual practice is to search CPIC, the central registry controlled
by the RCMP.
Senator Jessiman: This applies no matter how many offences occur?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Senator Jessiman: Let us assume that the fine is $100 or $150. A person who
really likes to smoke will say that this is a license to smoke.
Senator DeWare: If an offender is back for the third time, what happens?
Senator Jessiman: He can go back any number of times and still pay the same
fine. I do not know the attitude of the judges on this. Even a judge who sees
the same offender reappearing has the same options.
Senator DeWare: Is there not a subsequent offence?
Mr. Rowsell: No, not for possession.
Mr. Normand: There is a subsequent penalty provision for offences above 30 grams
or above 1 gram of hashish or any other cannabis product.
The Chairman: Can you explain why you are doing that now?
Mr. Normand: Most of the groups, including the groups who will be here tomorrow
and Thursday, came to us and said that we were going the wrong way and that we
should either decriminalize or legalize and let government control the sale of
drugs. There was also a lot of pressure coming from some Canadian members.
The Canadian Bar Association wants us to decriminalize. The consensus among the
three departments was that this is as low as we could go without a specific
mandate to change policy. This would have been a major policy change. This is
one reason the subcommittee recommended that a drug control policy review be
undertaken by a parliamentary committee.
Senator Jessiman: This is over and above the question of the substances
Mr. Normand: Yes. This would be a major issue as it has been in Canada and in
many countries for decades.
At this stage, you are correct to say that a reoffender's record cannot be
traced for this type of criminal record. He will always be a first offender
before the court, unless he lives in a very small community and the judge knows
everyone, as is the case in Valleyfield. In Toronto, there will be no way to be
This amendment satisfied the subcommittee members because the bill and the
amendments were adopted unanimously. You probably read comments from people
such as Neil Boyd who came before the subcommittee and said we are going in the
As far as trafficking is concerned, possession of any quantity of cannabis for
the purpose of trafficking is an indictable offence, period. The maximum
sentence is life. The accused has the right to a preliminary inquiry and trial
by judge and jury.
In order to better reflect the laying of charges - sometimes the offence
involves very small quantities - instead of laying a charge of trafficking,
police officers would lay a charge of possession, which is a summary conviction
offence. This would avoid the necessity of a preliminary inquiry.
What we have done - and this existed under Bill C-85 as well - is create a
hybrid offence for trafficking. The Crown can proceed by way of summary
conviction or by way of indictment, depending on the case and the amounts
involved. An allowance was set at 10 kilograms. It then went down to one and
was brought back to up to three kilograms. It remains at three kilograms. This
hybrid offence provision had a maximum sentence of 14 years by indictment and
two years by summary conviction.
The latest amendment has created an indictable offence with absolute
jurisdiction, which means that although it is an indictable offence, only a
provincial court judge will be able to hear those cases. There is no
preliminary inquiry and no trial before a judge and jury. The maximum penalty
has been reduced to five years less a day. Why five years less a day? If an
offence is punishable by five years or more, the Charter guarantees the right
of a hearing before a jury. We respect the Charter by going five years less a
Some people have said that we are reducing the maximum again. The answer to that
is that although the maximum sentence was 14 years for an indictable offence
and two years for a summary conviction offence, we know that 95 per cent of
these cases would have been charged by way of summary conviction. The maximum
sentence would have been two years in most all cases. For all those cases that
would have been charged with a maximum two-year penalty, the penalty will now
be five years less a day.
Data going back to 1990 and 1991 shows that trafficking in quantities of 10
kilograms or less of cannabis rarely triggers a penalty above two years'
imprisonment. That is where we got the 10 kilogram quantity under Bill C-85.
Dealing with offences and penalties in general, we also expanded a clause
dealing with aggravating factors. This means that trafficking to a youth or
through a youth in a school or around a school yard constitutes an aggravating
factor. The court will have to justify when not to impose a jail term. This is
a clear message from the Parliament of Canada to the Canadian population. The
subcommittee added a general approach stating that the offence would include
any other place usually frequented by youth, such as arcades. If an adult
trafficks in an arcade, that act constitutes an aggravating factor for the
purpose of sentencing. However, the offence remains the same for the purpose of
Senator Jessiman: If the trafficker is not put in jail, the judge must give
Mr. Normand: Exactly.
Senator Jessiman: Do the reasons have to be in writing?
Mr. Normand: The reasons do not have to be in writing. The judge always has the
option of giving his judgement verbally or in writing. Of course, you always
have a transcript, and that becomes the written judgment.
Senator Jessiman: Yes.
Mr. Normand: People have said that this bill does not give any indication of
Mr. Rowsell mentioned that the way Canada's drug strategy works is that 70 per
cent of our resources go towards prevention, rehabilitation and treatment, and
30 per cent go towards enforcement. In the United States, the allocation is
completely the opposite in that 70 per cent go towards enforcement and 30 per
cent to rehabilitation, treatment and education. As a start, the strategy has
focused in areas where Canadians wanted it to focus.
You have recently dealt with a piece of legislation related to reforming the
sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. That reform put into a statute what
had been decided by the courts over the last 20 or 30 years as far as
sentencing is concerned. In essence, a judge shall take into consideration
rehabilitation when imposing a sentence. That fact is now codified. Now, this
legislation has not been proclaimed, but it has been adopted.
Our approach to the suggestion that we put something in this legislation was to
say that it is in the code, and the provisions of the code will, by way of the
Interpretation Act, apply to any criminal law statute, including this statute.
Nevertheless, we decided to add a clause in this bill to deal with that
situation. It reflects what we find in Bill C-41, the sentencing provision bill
related to the code. It reflects that a judge shall take into consideration,
where appropriate, rehabilitation and treatment in handing down sentences. The
same message that was sent in the reform of the Criminal Code provisions will
be sent here. With this drug legislation, people will not be able to say that
we do not have an approach of dealing with rehabilitation and treatment where
Under the Narcotic Control Act, we can only seize substances or ask for
warrants. We can seize any additional things we may find in a search. If we
know of the presence of drugs in advance, technically we would need two
warrants to seize other things: one under the Narcotic Control Act and one
under the Criminal Code. The search and seizure provisions of Bill C-7 will
resolve this problem. Through the warrant provisions under Bill C-7, we will be
able, with only one warrant, to seize substances and any other things that will
be required. It is a much more comprehensive scheme.
This is something that has been raised by the Supreme Court of Canada on many
occasions in dealing with section 10 of the Narcotic Control Act. The court said
that the Narcotic Control Act does not provide a warrantless power to search a
specific dwelling. If police officers were aware that there were drugs in a
house, they went inside and secured the house while one of the police officers
went to get a written warrant to come back. The Supreme Court said that even
securing the house is a type of search and seizure. They decided to keep the
evidence under section 24(2) as being valid, but they warned police officers
that this will not be possible in the future unless section 10 is amended. It
is up to Parliament to do so.
Bill C-7 will correct that situation by providing for warrantless search powers
in extreme circumstances where evidence could be lost.
Senator DeWare: Yes, or destroyed.
Mr. Normand: Police officers be able to seize these substances and other things.
This will be of some help to the law enforcement officials in Canada.
Senator Carstairs: You said "substances and other things". What other
Mr. Normand: You could have an offence related property or money.
Mr. Rowsell: Laboratory equipment, for example.
Mr. Normand: You can only ask for a warrant for drugs under the Narcotic Control
Act. If you happen to be on the spot at the time of the seizure and you see
something else that you have grounds to believe is linked to the crime, you
could seize it. However, before going to the premises in question, if you knew
of the existence of things other than drugs, technically, you would need two
warrants, one under the Narcotic Control Act and one under the Criminal Code.
Bill C-7 solves that problem.
The Chairman: That is a good thing.
Senator Lewis: You are talking about seizure and, following from that,
forfeiture. I gather that real property is exempt.
Mr. Normand: You are dealing with offence-related property?
Senator Lewis: Yes.
Mr. Normand: I will give you some background on that. This notion is a new
notion. Currently what we have under the Narcotic Control Act and Food and
Drugs Act are specific properties like money, needles, and so on - that is,
things that were used for the commission of the crime and conveyances, namely,
means of transportation. For offence-related property the approach has been to
define the term rather than specifying what the term will be. Real property has
Senator Jessiman: Up to now?
Mr. Normand: It is still excluded except for a late amendment, which will deal
with fortified drug houses. The way that the definition has been amended will
cover real estate that has been built or significantly modified for the
purposes of facilitating the commission of a crime, of a designated drug
The Chairman: But they are subject.
Mr. Normand: They are subject now.
The Chairman: And they will remain subject.
Senator Jessiman: They are not now under the present law.
The Chairman: It is about time that they are.
Mr. Normand: This notion of offence-related property is something that was
required by the conventions, and we still have our narrowed approach.
Senator Lewis: Real property is excluded, apart from that exception?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Senator Lewis: What does real property include? Does it not include, say, trees
on the property? We have all heard about marijuana plants being seized, but if
that is part of the property, how can they be seized?
Mr. Normand: You are not seizing the real estate; you are seizing the crop.
Senator Lewis: Is it a crop when it is in the ground or when it is cultivated or
Mr. Rowsell: Both.
Mr. Normand: If we want to be technical, there is power in the Narcotic Control
Act that will remain, which allows for the Minister of Health to cut it.
Senator Lewis: What is that under?
Mr. Normand: I think it is under the Narcotic Control Act.
Mr. Rowsell: Yes. We have authority to destroy under the Narcotic Control Act.
Mr. Saint-Denis: If you look at Part II of the bill, under the search and
seizure powers, law enforcement officers will be entitled to seize different
categories of things, one of them being controlled substances. A controlled
substance would include a plant in the ground. It would also allow peace
officers to seize offence-related property, excluding, by and large, real
property. There is no overlap, but there is no contradiction between the
ability of a peace officer to seize a controlled substance such as the
marijuana plant or an offence-related property.
Senator Lewis: But is the plant itself a controlled substance or is it not?
Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes, it is.
Senator Lewis: Must something be done with it, as, for example, with opium?
Mr. Normand: We have something in clause 2 that says that something that has a
listed substance on it forms part of the substance itself. For example, if the
plant contains the ingredient which is THC, the essential element in cannabis -
and, in hash oil that TCH level may go from 15 to 25 to 75 per cent, which is
very potent - the plant itself has THC. That is the element that we want to
Senator Lewis: I notice that under the definition it talks about producing the
substance when it does become a substance. You are covered, in other words,
under these other provisions?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
The Chairman: Is the word "substance" defined in your act?
Mr. Normand: No. We defined "controlled substance".
The Chairman: But the word "substance" appears everywhere. Is it not
Mr. Normand: The only word we defined is "controlled substance". Most
of the time we use "controlled substance", which is defined as being
those things in the schedules except for precursors, which are not controlled
substances per se by definition but which are also covered in the legislation.
The Chairman: Could you add substances by order in council?
Mr. Normand: Yes, as we can currently do so. We have been receiving some
surprising comments. Many witnesses thought this was new but that power has
existed for 30 some years. The order in council has always had the authority to
add substances to the schedule and to change it. This is nothing new at all.
However, it is important for you for understand the difference between
offence-related and proceeds of crime. Offence-related is something that you
use to commit the offence. Proceeds of crime is something that you buy with the
money that you have made, for example, in selling drugs. If you buy a car with
drug money, the car is proceeds. If you use the car to go and do trafficking,
the car is offence-related property. In both instances, we can seize and
forfeit, as long as we can prove the connection. First, you need a conviction
on the drug offence and you need to be able to prove the connection between the
property and the crime.
Senator Lewis: Does that cover purchasing real estate from the proceeds?
Mr. Normand: Yes. Real estate proceeds is there. You have numerous examples of
that, such as people buying condominiums. First, we can restrain, which is the
same as seizure. But when you cannot hold something - that is, when it is not a
movable asset - one talks about restraint rather than seizure, but it involves
the same type of control.
The Chairman: Can you seize something if it is immovable?
Mr. Normand: No. You restrain it. It is a restraint order then. For a building,
you will use a restraint order instead of seizing it.
Senator Lewis: On that point, the restraint order is an order of the court, I
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Senator Lewis: Are there provisions regarding the protection of an innocent
third party who might purchase that property?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Senator Lewis: An innocent purchaser is one who buys without knowledge and has
used due diligence. That is really what it amounts to. However, for the ordinary
person, that is rather difficult. What means would he have of finding out
whether or not there was a restraint order? He would have to search all court
records, would he not, or are they registered in the registry department?
Mr. Normand: Mr. Saint-Denis will be able to talk in greater detail than I, but
there are provisions in the code and in our bill that provide that a judge,
before making a restraint order, must make sure that the owner, or whoever has
an interest in the property, is contacted and made aware that a restraint order
will be made, or that the judge has the intention of making one, so that that
person can be heard if that person wishes.
Senator Lewis: The judge would then have to cause a search to be made to see who
the actual owner is and he will then be notified?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Mr. Rowsell: In many cases, these are rented properties and there may be an
itinerant owner who is away.
The Chairman: Could we hear from Mr. Saint-Denis on this?
Mr. Saint-Denis: I am not sure now if we have switched from proceeds to
offence-related property, or if we are still dealing with proceeds. Actually, in
both cases there are provisions in the code with respect to proceeds, and in
this bill there are provisions with respect to offence-related property, which
is real property - that is, the fortified drug houses - that give the court the
wherewithal to notify potential interested parties in the property.
With respect to registration, in some instances a restraint order will be
registered in the provincial registry so that it is possible for third parties
to be aware of the procedures in respect to the property in which they have an
Senator Lewis: Did you say "in some instances"? Is it not in all
Mr. Saint-Denis: Technically, it would apply to all the provinces. However, it
has not been done in every province. I cannot tell you for sure this will
happen. The code allows for a restraint order to be registered.
Senator Lewis: It does not state that it "shall" provide but that it "can"
Mr. Saint-Denis: I believe it is "shall". The practice has not yet
borne this out. Therefore, I cannot tell you that it has happened in every
province. It has happened in the two or three provinces in which we have used
Mr. Normand: The last point deals with powers of inspectors. When we deal with
inspectors, we are now dealing with police officers. Their sole purpose is to
ensure that the regulations are complied with. The regulations deal with
practitioners, pharmacists, hospitals, and so on. They go around and inspect to
make sure that everything is done according to the regulations. In other words,
Health Canada issues licences, permits or authorizations to persons under the
understanding that they must follow the regulations. These people know that in
advance. As some people may think, it is not an invasion of privacy if an
inspector walks into a place to ensure that everything is done according to the
regulations. They usually phone in advance.
The approach is different from having a police officer knock at your door at
10:00 in the morning wanting to seize something. One is a business-type
recognition that this may happen; the other is that a police officer will go
there to seize something.
I am raising this matter because the inspectors have a power to seize things as
Senator Jessiman: Do they have to have reasonable grounds before going in?
Mr. Normand: No. An inspector may visit any place at any reasonable time. It has
to be a reasonable time.
Senator Jessiman: Even if he does not have reasonable grounds?
Mr. Normand: Yes. He is not going there with the intent of doing anything. For
instance, pharmacists have certain drugs that must be kept behind closed doors.
If he goes in and sees those drugs on the counter, then that is an infraction.
He may then choose to seize temporarily those drugs in order to allow the
pharmacist time to build a proper cabinet.
Senator Jessiman: Can he knock on my door asking to inspect my premises?
Mr. Normand: No.
Senator Jessiman: In other words, there must be some reason for going. These
people have the kinds of things that he may be looking for.
Mr. Normand: Yes.
Senator Carstairs: We are dealing completely with illegal products here. Under
some circumstances, however, they are legal. For example, heroin may be
provided to a hospital for treatment of people receiving chemotherapy. Under
those circumstances an inspector can go in, without any notification, to ensure
that that heroin is being used and stored appropriately.
Mr. Normand: Yes.
The Chairman: The police cannot do that, although an inspector can.
Mr. Normand: The police must have reasonable grounds to believe that you are
doing something else. The inspector has a right to seize sometimes.
The Chairman: Without a warrant?
Mr. Normand: Yes, without a warrant. However, the seizure is not for the purpose
of gathering evidence. The seizure is simply for the purpose of ensuring that
the regulations will be respected. In the part dealing with inspectors, we see
that he has the obligation to give back whatever he has seized, when he is
satisfied that the regulations are being complied with. If it takes too much
time, then he gives whatever he has found or seized to the Minister of Health,
who will decide what to do with it. It is not at all the same. It does not lead
to a charge being laid and a criminal conviction being recorded. It does not
lead to this being used as evidence in a court.
The Supreme Court has recognized that the two approaches are completely
different. Administrative seizures do not infringe on privacy.
The Chairman: If they do it that way, is it in accordance with the Charter?
Mr. Normand: Yes.
The Chairman: If they do not do it that way, then the case of the Supreme Court
Senator Carstairs: Can we use a hypothetical situation again? Let us say there
is an announcement that a hospital will close. An inspector goes in and seizes
the heroin that may be on the shelves because he or she has good reason to
believe that, since there will not be any patients, this heroin could obviously
get into uses for which it was not ever intended. Is that the kind of thing to
which you are referring?
Mr. Rowsell: Correct. Another example would be a pharmaceutical manufacturer
who produced a large quantity of codeine or morphine tablets and for some reason
they were subpotent; they did not meet the potency level which they were
supposed to meet. The inspector could seize those and say, "You cannot
sell those because they do not meet our quality standards."
The Chairman: What worries me is you say that the inspector can do such a thing,
but he must go along with the obligations set out in the act. What is the
difference between the two? This was a case before the courts on this point.
Mr. Normand: I do not recall the exact case. I know that Wholesale Travel was
one dealing with the administrative seizure approach.
It has been recognized that section 8 of the Charter, which deals with
unreasonable search and seizure, triggers a much lower privacy breach in the
administrative areas than in any other criminal areas.
The only purpose of the inspector seizing something when visiting somewhere is
only to take it temporarily to ensure that the regulations are being complied
with. As Mr. Rowsell mentioned, if it is not potent enough or secure enough,
then he may take it. The legislation imposes the obligation to bring it back as
soon as the regulations are complied with. The outcome is not at all the same.
If a police officer obtains a warrant it is because there are reasonable
grounds to believe that an offence had been committed under the statute.
Whatever is seized will be used as evidence in court; it will not be brought
back to the person. There is nothing with which to comply because it was a
criminal offence that happened. The approaches are completely different.
There may be situations in which an inspector will go beyond his powers. After
all, humans are humans. On occasion, if someone learns that there is an
offence, they may use these powers to seize for criminal law purposes. If that
happens, then the courts will quash that search and say that it was illegal and
that whatever was found will not be admitted into evidence under section 24(2)
of the Charter.
The powers set out in Bill C-7 are clear. On the one hand there are the criminal
law powers to seize. On the other hand there are the administrative powers to
seize, in a very specific context.
The powers of the inspectors have not been amplified but clarified and
modernized. We now talk about the possibility of inspecting electronic data
because that is the way that things are going. Currently, we have no such
provision. We have modernized and clarified the powers.
When I say "we", I am talking about the subcommittee as a whole.
There was a clarification dealing with the medical records of patients. Some
concern was expressed by more than one group that inspectors might be seen as
having the power to inspect medical files of patients when they go into
practitioner's offices. In order to avoid any possible problem, the powers of
inspectors have been clearly exempted within the act.
Senator Jessiman: It has been amended?
Mr. Normand: Yes. It does not allow them to inspect personal medical files of
patients. This is now clear in the legislation.
There are other things to say about the bill or the amendments but, generally
speaking, those are the main aspects of Bill C-7.
The Chairman: I always ask the same question regarding all amendments to the
Criminal Code and other related acts.
I understand that the Department of Justice has certified that nothing is
against the Charter of Rights and freedoms, as is its usual practice. Has that
Mr. Normand: That is right.
Senator Jessiman: Or the Bill of Rights?
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Normand: Mr. Saint-Denis, who represents the criminal law policy section,
and myself, as an official from another department, were involved in this
process. Essentially, when the bill was brought up, this process was verified.
The amendments that were proposed at the same time went through the same
procedure. At the Department of Justice, we feel that there is nothing in the
proposed amendments that would infringe the charter in any way.
The Chairman: And the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court?
Mr. Normand: Exactly. On search and seizure, for example, we have taken into
consideration those comments made by the Supreme Court and we have made some
changes in order to respect those comments.
Senator Jessiman: The simple possession of precursors is not a crime?
Mr. Normand: No.
Senator Jessiman: It is only a crime if you are producing it or trafficking in
Mr. Normand: The only control we have on precursors is the importation and
exportation of them.
Senator Jessiman: Do you mean with the trafficking part of it?
Mr. Normand: No, not trafficking, the import and export of them.
Senator Jessiman: I always took importing to mean trafficking, but it does not.
It means that you are bringing it into the country, period, not necessarily
giving it to someone else.
Mr. Normand: Currently in the Food and Drugs Act, "traffick" includes
import. That may be wherein they lie.
Mr. Rowsell: Some of these substances have valid industrial uses, so we will
have licences for them to be imported for legal purposes.
Senator Jessiman: Yes. Hemp is an example. What is THC?
Mr. Rowsell: Tetrahydrocannabinol.
Senator Jessiman: There is a problem with hemp, too, is there not? You can use
hemp in clothing, ropes, and so on, and you can produce drugs as a result of
Mr. Rowsell: Hemp comes from the cannabis plant and is usually referred to as
having a very low THC level.
Senator Jessiman: Are all these drugs measured with THC? Is that the
Mr. Rowsell: That is the generally recognized substance that has the
hallucinogenic properties. The difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana
plant is dramatic. Usually marijuana is grown as a small or a low bush, with
lots of leaves and flowers. The hemp plant is grown like corn. You want it to
grow as tall as you can with few leaves and flowers and a long stalk because it
is the fibre in the stalk that is used for textiles, wood products, paper, or
other purposes. They are different varieties of the same basic plant family but
have very different properties.
Senator Jessiman: By growing the plant for hemp, from where do you get the
concern that it will be used for something else?
Mr. Rowsell: The difficulty arose in that, even in the international
legislation, the plant was simply referred to as cannabis. In the current
Narcotic Control Act, we have provision that the minister may issue a licence
for research purposes. That was intended to allow for research for medical
purposes. If you determined that a substance from one of these plants may have
had medical benefits, then a person could do research under those conditions.
Under Bill C-7, we are now opening that up. It would eventually allow for
regulations that could permit the industrial application of hemp. This law
would allow Canada to begin to get into the commercial hemp business, which
they could not have done before.
Senator Jessiman: I think I read that - and, you tell me if I am wrong - at one
point, Norway was very criminalized or open, somewhat like Great Britain. They
looked at the health part of drug use and did not criminalize it. Now the
policy is "no tolerance". Is that correct? Do you know whether or not
Norway has done that? Have they reversed that policy? I read that somewhere.
There seems to be two schools of thought about this.
Mr. Saint-Denis: There may be three or four schools of thought concerning the
domestic regime which is applied to drug use. It ranks from extremely benign to
Senator Jessiman: The United States is on the more severe side, is it?
Mr. Saint-Denis: No. There are countries in the Middle East and in Asia where
the death penalty is applied to traffickers.
By and large, most countries have, to my knowledge - at least on the books -
statutes to deal with these substances in a criminal fashion. Large differences
usually occur in the way that those statutes are applied. In some countries,
particularly European countries, the policy will be that, inspite of the
statute stating "X", "Y" or "Z", peace officers
will apply the law slightly differently.
Senator Jessiman: And the judges too, perhaps.
Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes, and the judges as well.
In terms of how Canada is situated, it would appear, to someone who is not
familiar with our legal regime, that our statutes are somewhat severe in that
maximum imprisonment of life is provided for in respect of a number of
substances. But the actual sentencing practices are considerably different. We
allow our judges considerable discretion in applying the sentence. In most
instances, sentences imposed are at the lower end of the spectrum rather than
at the high end. To my knowledge, there are almost no cases - in fact, there
are extremely rare cases of life being imposed on a drug trafficker.
Senator Jessiman: This is in Canada?
Mr. Saint-Denis: Right. It has happened, but it is a rare thing. For possession
cases involving marijuana, usually there is a low level fine and quite
frequently conditional and unconditional discharges are handed out. Of course,
within Canada there are certain disparities as to sentencing practices also.
If you had to place Canada on an international scale, we are probably closer to
the more moderate regimes than we are to the more severe regimes.
Senator Jessiman: I read also - whether I believe it or not is another thing -
that in the graduating class at Osgoode last year, 85 per cent said that they
smoked marijuana, or whatever, and 70 per cent said that they would continue to
I am a lawyer. We are officers of the court. There is something wrong there.
Senator DeWare: Statistics say that marijuana is not any more addictive than
Senator Jessiman: They say that no one dies from smoking marijuana, but 35,000
die from smoking cigarettes.
Mr. Rowsell: That is because we do not collect the data.
Senator Jessiman: Do you think they could? Does it affect your life?
Mr. Rowsell: Yes.
Senator Jessiman: So it is simply that we do not have the data on it.
Mr. Saint-Denis: It is somewhat disturbing. Hearing about 85 per cent of the
graduating class from Osgoode bodes ill for the legal profession, but that is
You must be able to compare equals with equals. The fact is that tobacco users
tend to use their substance quite a lot, on a daily basis quite a lot, and over
a long period of time quite a lot, whereas with drug users - and we are talking
about marijuana smokers - the practice is considerably less. If you were to
subject marijuana users to the same intake of smoke from their substance as you
would subject the tobacco users to their substance, you might find that the
medical evidence tends to show that there is not necessarily a large difference
between the long-term ill effects on the body.
Senator Carstairs: But they are not usually smoking 40 a day.
Mr. Saint-Denis: That is correct.
Senator Jessiman: A number of doctors also came before the House of Commons
subcommittee and said that we are wrong and being hypocritical. We have a law
that is not being enforced. We are now reducing it. If the judges continue to
impose fines of $100 or $50 and if they are only charged once a month, someone
will say that it is worth it.
Mr. Rowsell: They were not medical doctors, though.
Senator Jessiman: There was a doctor with a group of professors.
Mr. Normand: Dealing with the approach taken as far as drug offences are
concerned, the case of R. v. Hammond was pleaded in the Court of Appeal of
Quebec. Mr. Hammond said that the laws on possession of cannabis and
cultivating cannabis being a crime went against his rights under the Charter.
At the trial stage and then at the court of appeal, there was all kinds of
testimony from doctors. It was a lengthy case. The Court of Appeal came to the
conclusion that there was sufficient evidence there to show that it was
damaging to your health in order for this offence to be kept there. The offence
of possessing and cultivating has been found by one of the Courts of Appeal in
Canada to be consistent with the Charter.
This is important.
Senator Jessiman: Was that just recently?
Mr. Normand: That was two or three years ago.
Senator Jessiman: You have not had a Supreme Court case since that?
Mr. Normand: The Supreme Court did not hear this case.
Senator Carstairs: I wish to open the area of the medical use of drugs, because
we have not addressed that this morning. I should like to know from you what
has changed with respect to the use of heroin and cannabis as drugs for
medicinal purposes under this legislation.
The cannabis people would tell us that you have made no provision for marijuana
whatsoever, and yet we know it is used by AIDS and chemotherapy patients. What
is happening here?
Mr. Rowsell: With respect to cannabis, there are two preparations available in
Canada that contain THC or a derivative of THC that are used for cancer
treatment. One is Sesanet, and I cannot remember the brand name of the other.
The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. had undertaken some clinical
studies looking at the use of cannabis for treating cancer patients, for use in
glaucoma, and in use as an anti-emetic preparation against, nausea associated
with some of these conditions. The results of those studies did not show any
benefit from cannabis at this point in time.
There will still be provision in the law for research to be carried out in these
areas. If, eventually, there was a derivative of cannabis that could be used
for medical purposes, that could be accommodated through the regulations.
Mr. Normand: It is important to understand that the act is there. The act
prohibits, and the regulations authorize. When you talk about heroin or
cannabis being used for medical purposes, you will find that in the
regulations, not in the act.
Mr. Rowsell: Heroin is available today for use in medicine. It is restricted to
use in a hospital. That was basically upon the request of physicians for
security purposes, and so on, and terminally ill patients. Patients may take it
away from the hospital, if necessary, but it is delivered through a hospital
system, and it is available.
Senator Carstairs: Can it be used in an out-patient palliative care treatment
Mr. Rowsell: Yes.
Senator Carstairs: That leads to my final question, namely, why would you take
action in regard to heroin - and appropriately so, as I think it is quite a
legitimate treatment for end-of-life decisions - but not with respect to
Mr. Rowsell: There certainly is good evidence of the painkilling ability of
heroin and its ability to act in medical terms. We do not have the evidence yet
Senator Carstairs: Yet one is so much stronger.
Mr. Rowsell: There is quite a difference in potency between the two substances.
Senator Carstairs: Yes. Heroin is much more potent than cannabis. There is
certainly much anecdotal evidence that chemo patients, even if they are not
getting any pain relief, are getting a relaxant effect. I find that quite
Senator DeWare: How does the medical profession feel about the bill? Will it
deter their ability to prescribe drugs in any way?
Mr. Normand: Not at all. The regulations that will come with this bill maintain
status quo until a comprehensive review of the regulations is undertaken with
wide consultation with the partners.
Senator DeWare: You also talk about a rehab program. I understand that many
professional people do become addicted because drugs are available to them,
pharmacists as well as doctors. Do you have any statistics showing how well the
rehab program works? I know that it is a difficult addiction.
Mr. Rowsell: Dr. Cunningham at the Homewood Institute in Guelph has been
successful in working with these people. Again, it is a bit like Alcoholics
Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. A lot of it involves the support by their
colleagues. Again, society is recognizing this much more now and, rather than
trying to hide these things, we are opening the doors. There is more support
amongst their colleagues in the community to help these people get back into
Senator DeWare: I understand there are teams in some of these communities or a
doctor assigned who all of a sudden says, "It is time for you to go."
Maybe they will lose their licence or opportunity to practice if they do not
take the recommendation to go. Is that correct?
Mr. Rowsell: In my bureau, we work with the licensing authorities in how we deal
with people who become addicted to these substances. We are attempting to use
this voluntary approach. Society has made a big investment in training
physicians, pharmacists, dentists and veterinarians. We do not want to lose
that investment. We will do anything we can to help these people get back into
society and become productive.
Senator DeWare: To what report are you referring?
Mr. Rowsell: A report of the United Nations.
Senator DeWare: It sounds as though they are rapping our knuckles on importing
Mr. Rowsell: Correct.
Senator DeWare: Have you made provisions to correct this?
Mr. Rowsell: They are all addressed in the bill.
Mr. Normand: That is specifically why they came to visit us last summer, because
they wanted to have this bill adopted.
Senator Jessiman: You said no doctors. Dr. Diane Riley, a member of the Canadian
Foundation for Drug Policy, is a medical doctor.
Mr. Rowsell: No, she is a pharmacologist.
Senator Jessiman: She is from the Faculty of Medicine.
In testimony in the other place, Mr. Eugene Oscapella, a director of the
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, stated that:
We have about 150 years of experience in the drug policy field among the 11 of
us who form the founding members of this association, so I urge you to take the
sentiments expressed here for what they are: the reasoned views of experienced
drug policy researchers.
To be quite blunt, our position is that Bill C-7 should be withdrawn completely.
We would like to see the current narcotics laws, the Narcotic Control Act and
the Food and Drugs Act, revisited seriously, objectively, and openly. We would
like to see an independent committee established to report to Parliament within
one year on alternatives to the current system of prohibition, which we
consider to be fundamentally flawed.
They went on at length. It is pretty heavy stuff, and it opened my eyes. I would
have banned the whole works. They even refer to a recent German constitutional
decision to decriminalize marijuana in Germany.
Mr. Normand: I raised that specific case because their court decided that the
offence was unconstitutional. However, here we have a different charter and
different laws. Our courts have determined that this law is constitutional.
Senator Jessiman: I am sure they are studying it like crazy all over the world.
This is very serious stuff.
Mr. Rowsell: That is one of the reasons why the subcommittee recommended a
review of the drug policy. We were simply given a mandate to look after the
administrative parts of the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act.
Mr. Normand: It is important to understand that, although a policy review may be
undertaken in the next year or so, this legislation is a clear step in the
right direction. It modernizes 30-years-old legislation. It brings us in line
with our international obligations. It prevents a policy from being undertaken
later on. There is a lot of good stuff in this legislation and it is essential.
It is needed throughout the community.
Senator Jessiman: Even though the United States as a whole is stringent about
enforcement, a number of states are relaxing the law somewhat.
Mr. Rowsell: Yes.
Mr. Normand: Yes.
The Chairman: When you talk about the German constitutional court, in Canada, as
far as I am advised, it is the Court of Appeal of Quebec which has dealt with
this issue, not the Supreme Court of Canada. That means that the constitutional
problem is still open.
Mr. Normand: Yes. The Supreme Court refused leave to appeal on this decision.
The Chairman: They did?
Mr. Normand: Yes. We thought that we should not presume that they favour this
The Chairman: I see your point.
Mr. Saint-Denis: While the Supreme Court has not commented directly, it has
certainly given an indirect indication as to the validity of including that
particular substance, cannabis, in the regime by refusing leave to hear the
The Chairman: Perhaps we should circulate the decision of the Court of Appeal of
Quebec to inform members of the committee.
I wish to thank Mr. Rowsell, Mr. Normand, Mr. Saint-Denis and Mr. Dykeman for
appearing this morning. We may have to ask you to appear before the committee
again. As you have heard, there is much interest in Bill C-7.
The committee adjourned.