Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

February 27, 2009 13:27 ET

Government Re-Introduces Legislation to Fight Serious Drug Crimes

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 27, 2009) - The Government of Canada today re-introduced legislation providing mandatory minimum prison sentences for serious drug crimes. The bill would establish mandatory jail time for those who produce and sell illegal drugs. This Government is taking the necessary steps to crack down on crime and to ensure the safety and security of our neighbourhoods and communities.

"The Government is fighting back against gangs and other organized criminal groups by introducing new crime laws that target drug crimes, gangs and organized crime," said the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. "Mandatory prison sentences are appropriate for those who commit serious drug offences threatening our society."

The proposed amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) would impose mandatory jail time for producing and selling illegal drugs. This legislation calls for special penalties to be imposed when offences are carried out for organized crime purposes or if they target youth.

The amendments to the CDSA would include the provision of:

- a one-year mandatory prison sentence for dealing drugs such as marijuana, when carried out for organized crime purposes or when a weapon or violence is involved;

- a two-year mandatory prison sentence for dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to youth, or for dealing those drugs near a school or in an area normally frequented by youth;

- a two-year mandatory prison sentence for the offence of running a large marijuana grow operation involving at least 500 plants;

- increased maximum penalties for cannabis production from 7 years to 14 years imprisonment; and,

- tougher penalties for trafficking GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as date-rape drugs.

The proposed legislation would allow a Drug Treatment Court to suspend a sentence while the addicted accused person takes an approved treatment program. Drug Treatment Courts encourage the accused person to deal with the addiction that motivates their criminal behaviour. If the person successfully completes the program, the court normally imposes a suspended or reduced sentence. These courts include a blend of judicial supervision, incentives for reduced drug use, social services support, and sanctions for non-compliance.

"These measures are a proportionate and measured response designed to disrupt criminal enterprise; drug producers and dealers who threaten the safety of our communities must face tougher penalties," said Minister Nicholson. "Our message to potential offenders is clear: if you sell or produce drugs, you will face jail time."

BACKGROUNDER

Mandatory prison sentences for serious drug crimes

The Government today re-introduced amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) which was originally tabled in November 2007. The legislation provides mandatory jail time for producing and selling illegal drugs, and will allow special penalties to be imposed when offences are carried out for organized crime purposes, or if they involve youth. This legislation supports the National Anti-Drug Strategy's efforts to combat illicit drug production and distribution.

The proposed reforms would help disrupt criminal enterprises by targeting drug suppliers. It would send a clear message to growers and traffickers that this illicit activity will not be tolerated, and they will be punished -- especially when their activities involve Canada's youth or trafficking near schools.

Anyone found guilty of a serious drug offence would automatically receive a mandatory term of imprisonment. For the purpose of this initiative, serious drug offences would include:

- production;

- trafficking;

- possession for the purpose of trafficking;

- importing and exporting; and

- possession for the purpose of exporting.

The Bill would amend the CDSA to include mandatory prison terms for drugs listed in Schedule I, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and in Schedule II, such as marijuana. Generally, the minimum sentence would apply where there is an aggravating factor, including where the production of the drug constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard. Also, the maximum penalty for production of Schedule II drugs, e.g., marijuana, would be increased from 7 to 14 years.

The aggravating factors involve offences committed:

- for the benefit of organized crime;

- involving use or threat of violence;

- involving use or threat of use of weapons;

- by someone who has been previously convicted (in the past 10 years) of a serious drug offence;

- in a prison;

- in or near a school, in or near an area normally frequented by youth or in the presence of youth;

- through involving a youth in the commission of the offence; and,

- in relation to a youth (e.g. selling to a youth).

The security, health and safety factors are:

- the accused used real property that belongs to a third party to commit the offence;

- the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to children who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area;

- the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; and,

- the accused placed or set a trap.

Also, GHB and flunitrazepam, most commonly known as date-rape drugs, and amphetamine drugs would be moved from Schedule III to Schedule I, which would provide access to higher maximum penalties for illegal activities involving these drugs.

Exemption for the Drug Treatment Court

The proposed legislation would allow a Drug Treatment Court (DTC) to suspend the imposition of a sentence while the addicted accused person takes an approved treatment program. Drug Treatment Courts encourage the accused person to deal with the addiction that motivates their criminal behaviour. If the person successfully completes the program, the court normally imposes a suspended or reduced sentence.

SEE ANNEX A FOR THE PROPOSED NEW MANDATORY SENTENCES FOR SERIOUS DRUG OFFENCES SCHEDULE 1 DRUGS (COCAINE, HEROIN, METHAMPHETAMINE, ETC.) AT THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/jcaa2702.pdf

SEE ANNEX B FOR THE PROPOSED NEW MANDATORY SENTENCES FOR SERIOUS DRUG OFFENCES SCHEDULE II DRUGS (CANNABIS AND MARIJUANA) AT THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS : http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/jcab2702.pdf

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Internet: www.canada.justice.gc.ca

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Darren Eke
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice Canada
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207