Cannabis Act

An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment enacts the Cannabis Act to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale.

The objectives of the Act are to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework. The Act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

The Act

(a) establishes criminal prohibitions such as the unlawful sale or distribution of cannabis, including its sale or distribution to young persons, and the unlawful possession, production, importation and exportation of cannabis;

(b) enables the Minister to authorize the possession, production, distribution, sale, importation and exportation of cannabis, as well as to suspend, amend or revoke those authorizations when warranted;

(c) authorizes persons to possess, sell or distribute cannabis if they are authorized to sell cannabis under a provincial Act that contains certain legislative measures;

(d) prohibits any promotion, packaging and labelling of cannabis that could be appealing to young persons or encourage its consumption, while allowing consumers to have access to information with which they can make informed decisions about the consumption of cannabis;

(e) provides for inspection powers, the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties and the ability to commence proceedings for certain offences by means of a ticket;

(f) includes mechanisms to deal with seized cannabis and other property;

(g) authorizes the Minister to make orders in relation to matters such as product recalls, the provision of information, the conduct of tests or studies, and the taking of measures to prevent non-compliance with the Act;

(h) permits the establishment of a cannabis tracking system for the purposes of the enforcement and administration of the Act;

(i) authorizes the Minister to fix, by order, fees related to the administration of the Act; and

(j) authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting such matters as quality, testing, composition, packaging and labelling of cannabis, security clearances and the collection and disclosure of information in respect of cannabis as well as to make regulations exempting certain persons or classes of cannabis from the application of the Act.

This enactment also amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things, increase the maximum penalties for certain offences and to authorize the Minister to engage persons having technical or specialized knowledge to provide advice. It repeals item 1 of Schedule II and makes consequential amendments to that Act as the result of that repeal.

In addition, it repeals Part XII.‍1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with instruments and literature for illicit drug use, and makes consequential amendments to that Act.

It amends the Non-smokers’ Health Act to prohibit the smoking and vaping of cannabis in federally regulated places and conveyances.

Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 18, 2018 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 27, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (recommittal to a committee)
Nov. 21, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
Nov. 21, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 21, 2017 Failed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (report stage amendment)
Nov. 21, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
June 8, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts
June 8, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (reasoned amendment)
June 6, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts

Customs ActGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent. Our debate has not been very fruitful since this morning. I want to remind the House of certain facts about Bill C-21. Bill C-21 authorizes the Canada Border Services Agency to collect and receive biographical information on travellers leaving Canada. The act will authorize officers to require goods being exported from Canada to be reported, despite any exemptions, and will give them the power to examine those goods.

The Prime Minister first announced an agreement with the United States to implement a system for sharing basic biographical information in March 2016, after his first official visit to the U.S.

Currently, under the beyond the border action plan, the two countries collect and share biographical information on third-country nationals and lawful permanent residents at land ports of entry. Data on entry to one country serve as a record of exit from the other.

On November 21, on the matter that concerns us today, the Senate committee heard from Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, about the bill's general intention and the amendment adopted by the House of Commons. Mr. Therrien had this to say about the bill: “I am generally satisfied that this border management issue is based on important public policy objectives and the personal information in question is not particularly sensitive.”

As for the amendment, Mr. Therrien pointed out that, for greater legal certainty, section 93.1 should be amended to state that the data collected under sections 92 and 93 should be retained by the agency for a maximum of 15 years.

However, we should not forget that the former Conservative government negotiated the beyond the border action plan, which includes a provision on sharing entry and exit data with the United States. At the time, given the political concerns about privacy, we decided not to give effect to this legislative measure just before the election. However, this provision deals with longstanding Conservative priorities for border security and compliance with benefit programs.

Our border services need to have the tools to keep Canadians safe. Frankly, our law enforcement services all need the tools to do their jobs, but the current Prime Minister's government is needlessly compromising Canadians' safety. As long as this Prime Minister continues carrying out his reckless ideas, Canadians will have good reason to be concerned. Allow me to give some examples.

Under the current Prime Minister, we are seeing a problem at the border. This is something we raise often, but the government claims the opposite. However, I can confirm that right now, the time to conduct a security screening on the illegal migrants crossing into Canada has gone from the standard eight hours to just two hours. In addition, there is no government directive for border officers regarding the new ways to manage the influx of visitors coming to Canada with marijuana. Once again, the government says that we need to stop debating, that we should help the government move forward instead of standing in the way. The thing is, there is a reason we are standing in the way. We have valid questions.

Problems often arise after the debate and implementation of bills that the government rams down our throats, like Bil C-45 on marijuana. We then point out that we told the government so. The government refused to accept some of the amendments proposed by the Senate and now there are problems. Right now, border services officers are having to deal with those problems, as are police officers, who are having trouble detecting whether drivers have used drugs.

Let us come back to the matter of illegal migrants. Every time we ask a question about this issue, the Liberals say that we are racist or xenophobic. This has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the people who are coming to Canada. I believe that anyone who illegally crosses our border is an illegal migrant, regardless of his or her origin or colour. This has nothing to do with racism or xenophobia. That needs to stop. It is a dangerous game. The government is accusing us of playing a dangerous game when it is the one doing so by saying things that make no sense.

The problem is that the Prime Minister created a situation with his infamous tweet, even though the members opposite say that is not true. It is fairly easy to see that people are coming to Canada in response to what the Prime Minister said.

The government set up a camp to welcome migrants in Lacolle. Yes, it is important to welcome people, even if they are in Canada illegally. We are responsible people after all. We can agree on that.

However, the Liberals grossly mismanaged the situation. They set up a camp and expanded it. They set up infrastructure to receive 500 people a day. It is a nice facility with all the equipment and everything needed to do things properly.

However, this year, the camp expanded tremendously. There was room to take in 3,000 people. The Saint-Bernard hotel was even part of the security perimeter. The Government of Canada sent a cheque to the hotel owner, who must have left on vacation for a year since the rooms that were rented are empty and no one is staying there.

There is a steady flow of migrants every day and we are spending tens of millions of dollars in Lacolle. The Parliamentary Budget Officer pegged the cost at $1.1 billion. In the meantime, the government is not fixing the problem, it is not taking a position and telling these people to stop coming here illegally.

We are not asking questions just for the fun of being obstructionist. On the contrary, we want to resolve this issue. I have been here for three years. Whether in committee or in the House, our questions always serve to advance matters, not obstruct them.

The member for Kingston and the Islands accused us of throwing a wrench into the works, but they are the ones who are doing a bad job and messing everything up. They have botched everything including Bill C-45.

I would like to see a bit more maturity in the House, and I would like people to make sense when they are talking to MPs on this side of the House.

We also need to talk about the UN global compact for migration. Once again, members over here have been clear, we have taken the time to do things properly, we have assessed the situation and reviewed this much-touted compact. My party's immigration critic was on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Nothing made sense. The fact that the Prime Minister told the world Canada is good and is going to help them solve their problems is just a lot of hype, just for show.

Once again, we were practically accused of being bad, racist, right-wing or even extreme right-wing people for being against this. In the end, 34 countries—countries that matter—refused to sign the compact.

This morning, a former UN lawyer and current Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada lawyer published a very clear letter in Le Devoir setting out very specific facts that show that this is far-fetched. That is the word that the author uses at the end of the piece. We must not sign the global compact because it does not hold water. It is nonsense.

This is just like the government. From the start, for three years, all this government has cared about is improving its image and doing whatever it wants, like tweeting that it is sending $50 million to South Africa and that it is all good because the suckers in Canada will foot the bill.

Do we ask this kind of question just to block the system or for the fun of it? No. We are responsible people. We are seeing what is happening and we are asking questions appropriate to the circumstances.

Many of the 38,000 people who crossed the border illegally will experience hardship. That is obvious. There are families, particularly Haitian families, who were in the United States and got a scare. They were told to come to Canada, but now they are being told that they do not have the right to claim asylum here. The tweet sent in 2017 was just a joke, just for show. However, people are bringing their children with them and they will have to go back, not to the United States but to Haiti. Do the Liberals see how complicated this situation is and how much hardship this will inflict on people over the years?

All that to say that we supported Bill C-21. However, it is not a futile exercise to continue to debate it, to ask questions and to make improvements when circumstances change. The government needs to stop laughing at the opposition. As I already mentioned, the opposition has not raised many issues over the past three years that did not turn out to be true and important.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, excuse me while I shed a few tears for the troubles of being in a majority government. The parliamentary secretary should have an inkling of understanding, because he once sat in this corner, of the vast amount of power a majority government wields in this place. Frankly, I find it inexcusable at this stage in the 42nd Parliament that the only substantive justice bills that have been passed by the current government are Bill C-14, which was the result of a court-ordered deadline, and Bill C-46, which, of course, was the companion bill to Bill C-45.

Our contention on this side of the House has been that it would have been unnecessary to even use time allocation if the government had taken the non-contentious parts of Bill C-32, which was rolled into Bill C-39, which was rolled into another bill, and made those a standalone bill. For example, we have provisions in the Criminal Code such as challenging someone to a duel, possessing crime comics and fraudulently practising witchcraft. For decades, legal scholars have complained that these faithful reproductions in the Criminal Code lead to confusion. It should have been no secret to officials in the justice department that as soon as the justice minister assumed her mandate, we could have moved ahead with a bill to get rid of those inoperable, redundant sections of the Criminal Code, probably with unanimous consent.

Looking back at the last three years of the government's legislative agenda, particularly with justice bills, would the parliamentary secretary not agree with me that it would have been smarter to package the non-contentious reforms of the Criminal Code in a standalone bill, rather than having us, at this stage, at three years, with not a single reform of the Criminal Code yet passed by this Parliament?

Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be participating in today's debate on Bill C-51. I find it unfortunate, however, that the government has again had to resort to time allocation on a justice bill. The bill passed the House of Commons. I was certainly one of the members who voted in favour of it. However, I find myself in the awkward position of actually agreeing with what the Senate has done to the bill, because it very much mirrors the attempt I made at the justice committee last year to codify the nature of consent and provide a bit more definition in the Criminal Code.

Before I get to the Senate amendments more specifically, I want to talk more generally about the government's record on justice bills. While I do have a great deal of respect for the Minister of Justice and I very much agreed at the start of the government's mandate with what she was attempting to do, the pace of legislative change from the Minister of Justice has been anything but satisfactory. We started off with Bill C-14. It received a lot of attention and debate in Canada, as it should have, but we have to remember that the only reason the government moved ahead with Bill C-14 and we passed it in 2016 was that the government was operating under a Supreme Court imposed deadline. There was really no choice in the matter. Furthermore, when Bill C-14 was passed, we very nearly had a standoff with the Senate because of the provision in the bill about reasonable death occurring in a predetermined amount of time. We knew that that particular section would be challenged in the court system.

The other substantive piece of legislation the government has passed is Bill C-46, which was designed to move in conjunction with Bill C-45. Of course, Bill C-46 was problematic because the government has now removed the need for reasonable suspicion for police officers to administer a Breathalyzer test. They can basically do it whenever a person is legally stopped, whether it be for a broken tail light or for not stopping completely at a stop sign. If an officer has a Breathalyzer test on their person, they can demand a breath sample right then and there, without the need for reasonable suspicion. I have seen mandatory alcohol screening operate in other countries, notably Australia.

In my attempt to amend that bill, I stated that if we were going to apply such a draconian measure, it should be applied equally, because if we start giving police officers the ability to decide when or where to test someone, we know from the statistics, notably from the City of Toronto, that people of a certain skin colour are more apt to be stopped by the police than others. If such a provision were to be implemented, it should be applied equally at all times.

Moving on, there is Bill C-28, which deals with the victim surcharge, but is still languishing in purgatory at first reading.

The government then moved forward with a number of cleanups of the Criminal Code, the so-called zombie or inoperative provisions and the many redundant sections of the Criminal Code. That is the thing about the Criminal Code: It is littered with out-of-date provisions that are inoperable because of Supreme Court or appellate court rulings, but they are still faithfully reprinted every single year because Parliament has not done its work to clean up the Criminal Code. As my college the member for St. Albert—Edmonton has noted, it has led to some very bad consequences, notably in the Travis Vader case, where the judge used an inoperative section of the Criminal Code to convict someone. That conviction was then overturned. So these section do have very real consequences.

My contention has always been with section 159, which was brought forward in Bill C-32. Bill C-32 was then swallowed up by Bill C-39. Then Bill C-39 was swallowed up by Bill C-75, which has only just passed the House and now has to clear the Senate. We have no idea how much longer that is going to take. The House is about to rise for the Christmas break. We will be back functioning at the end of January, but Bill C-75 is a gigantic omnibus bill and full of provisions that make it a very contentious bill.

My argument has always been that for such an ambitious legislative agenda, especially if we are going to clean up the Criminal Code as Bill C-51 proposes to do, I contend that the Minister of Justice, had she had a good strategy in dealing with the parliamentary timetable and calendar and how this place actually works, would have bundled up the non-contentious issues in Bill C-39 and Bill C-32, which was morphed into Bill C-75, together with the non-contentious issues of Bill C-51 and made it a stand-alone bill, and we could have done that work.

These are issues that we cannot really argue against because it is a moot point; the Supreme Court has already ruled, so keeping them in the Criminal Code just leads to further confusion. Here we are, three years into the government's mandate, and the Criminal Code has still not been cleaned up to this day. For an ambitious legislative agenda, that leaves a lot to be desired. I heard Michael Spratt, who regularly appears as a witness before the justice committee, describe Bill C-51 as dealing with the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Therefore, if we had been serious, we could have made some very reasonable progress on that. Be that as it may, we have Bill C-51 before us and we have to go over it.

Before I get into the specific amendments brought forward by the Senate, I think it is worth going over some of the things we are talking about. Among the things Bill C-51 would repeal is the offence of challenging someone to a duel. It used to be illegal to provoke someone to fight a duel or to accept the challenge. We will get rid of that section because it obviously reflects an earlier time in Canada's history. It is the reason why in this place we are two sword lengths apart. Members of parliament in the U.K. used to go into that place with swords on their hips. The bill would also get rid of section 143 dealing with advertizing a reward for the return of stolen property. It would get rid of section 163, dealing with the possession of crime comics, a legacy of a 1948 bill by a member who thought that crime comics negatively influenced kids by encouraging them to commit crimes, and that they were not a part of a good upbringing. The section on blasphemous libel would be dropped. Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft is probably one of my favourite ones.

While Bill C-51 is making some much needed changes to sections of the Criminal Code, as I said earlier, we would not be arguing these cases in the House three years into the mandate of the current government if the bills had been bundled up into a single bill, which I am sure could have had royal assent by now.

We did have a very interesting discussion at the justice committee on section 176. When I first read Bill C-51 and it mentioned that this section would be repealed, I read right over it. However, when hearing witnesses at committee, it became quite apparent that section 176 had a lot of very deep meaning to select religious groups. After hearing all of that testimony about the importance of having section 176 remain in the code, I am glad to see that the committee members were able to work together to polish the language to ensure that it would now be applicable to all religious faiths, and not just single out the Christian faith. Now, if someone were to interrupt the religious proceedings of any faith, that would be dealt with appropriately under section 176.

The heart of the matter before us is the Senate amendments to Bill C-51. As I mentioned, it is kind of awkward for a New Democrat to be recognizing the work of the Senate. I value the people who sit as senators. I know there are some very determined people who certainly try to do their best there. My problem has always been with a 21st century democracy like Canada having an unelected and unaccountable upper house. I have to face the electorate for the decisions I make and the words I say in this place, and for what the Senate as a whole does.

I am going to be rejecting the government's motion on Bill C-51, because I agree with the substance of what the Senate was attempting to do in Bill C-51. It very much reflects some of the testimony that I heard at committee, and I have also reviewed some of the Senate Hansard transcripts of the debates it had on Bill C-51. While it is true that the amendments were not passed at the legal and constitutional affairs committee of the Senate, they were passed at the third reading stage. When we see the transcripts, we can see that the hon. senators in the other place were trying to codify what they saw as some missing aspects of the bill.

If we look at the heart of the matter, it comes down to the Supreme Court decision in R. v. J.A. The Supreme Court ruling reads:

When the complainant loses consciousness, she loses the ability to either oppose or consent to the sexual activity that occurs. Finding that such a person is consenting would effectively negate the right of the complainant to change her mind at any point in the sexual encounter.

In some situations, the concept of consent Parliament has adopted may seem unrealistic. However, it would be inappropriate for this Court to carve out exceptions to the concept of consent when doing so would undermine Parliament’s choice. This concept of consent produces just results in the vast majority of cases and has proved to be of great value in combating stereotypes that have historically existed. In the absence of a constitutional challenge, the appropriate body to alter the law on consent in relation to sexual assault is Parliament, should it deem this necessary.

The court in a sense is recognizing the very important part that Parliament plays in this. One thing I have learned during my time as our party's justice critic is that, in looking at the Criminal Code, ultimately, we in this place are responsible for drafting and implementing the law and it comes down to the courts to interpret it. There is this kind of back and forth. When the justice aspect of the government and the parliamentary part of it work in tandem like that, we hopefully arrive at a place where the law is reflective of today's society.

However, it is not only the J.A. decision that we should be looking at. On October 30, which coincidentally was the very same day that the Senate sent the bill back to the House, there was a decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal, R. v. W.L.S. In that particular case, an acquittal on sexual assault charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal acknowledged in its decision that the complainant was incapable of consenting.

Senator Kim Pate provided us with a message. She said:

In regard to our discussions concerning Bill C-51, I write to draw your attention to the recent case of the Alberta Court of Appeal, concerning the law of incapacity to consent to sexual activity. Please find a copy of this case attached.

The Alberta Court of Appeal heard this case on October 30, the same day the Senate passed the amendments to Bill C-51. The court overturned the trial decision on the grounds that the trial judge had wrongly held that nothing short of unconsciousness was sufficient to establish incapacity. While this erroneous understanding of the law was rectified on appeal in this case, as we know, the vast majority of cases are never appealed. The trial judge's decision demonstrates the very error, fed by harmful stereotypes about victims of sexual assault, that many of us are concerned the original words of Bill C-51 risks encouraging.

Senator Kim Pate is basically acknowledging that there is a role for Parliament to play in providing a more explicit definition of consent, what it means and when consent is not given. While I am certainly one of those people who trusts in the power and ability of judges to make decisions, the judicial discretion, I align that thinking more with the decisions that they make and not in the interpretation of the Criminal Code. There is room in some parts of the Criminal Code to be very specific so that there is no judicial discretion, and that we are very clear on what consent means and what it does not mean.

Turning to the actual Senate amendments, they would be adding specificity in both clause 10 and clause 19. Basically, those particular aspects want to ensure:

(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity in question for any reason, including, but not limited to, the fact that they are

(i) unable to understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity in question,

(ii) unable to understand that they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity in question or not, or

(iii) unable to affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in question by words or by active conduct;

Adding this kind of specificity to the Criminal Code is very much a good thing. In paragraph (b), it says “including, but not limited to”. I think adding that kind of specificity will help with certain cases. From the very interesting Senate deliberations on this subject at third reading, we can see that senators were not very happy with how Bill C-51 left a bit of a hole.

We have made much of the witness testimony at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Professor Janine Benedet did look at this particular aspect of the Criminal Code. As I said in my exchange with the member for Mount Royal, one thing she stated was:

Any clarification we can give will be beneficial. It doesn't have to be an exhaustive list, but there has to be the idea that consent has to be informed, that you have to have the ability to understand that you can refuse—because some individuals with intellectual disabilities do not know they can say no to sexual activity—and that it has to be your actual agreement. Those are all things that can be read into the code as it's currently written, but sometimes are not fully realized in the cases we see.

Adding that specific part would be very much in line with what Professor Benedet was saying at the committee. That is why I will be rejecting the government's motion and voting in favour of the Senate amendments.

Turning to the Senate deliberations on this bill, in some of that debate it was said that R. v. J.A. outlines the requirement for active consent. However, the Senate very much found that without the specific amendment by Senator Pate to Bill C-51, we would have failed to capture the scope of consent laid out for us by the Supreme Court, supported by experts in the law of sexual assault in Canada.

Feminist experts in sexual assault law have advised that the inclusion of the word “unconscious” risks creating a false threshold for the capacity to consent. There were also deliberations that the current wording in Bill C-51 poses a serious risk that women who are intoxicated would be blamed if they are sexually assaulted. They would not be protected by this bill.

Further, some have noted that the weakness is in the definition of what constitutes non-consent. According to a legal expert who provides sexual consent training to judges, there is not enough precedent or awareness among judges to believe that the proposed wording in clause 10 and clause 19 of the bill is clear enough.

I see my time is running out, but I will end with some of the really scary statistics we face as a country. Statistics Canada estimates that some 636,000 self-reported sexual assaults took place in Canada in 2014. Shockingly, it also estimates that as few as one in 20 were actually reported to police. Those are statistics which should give us great pause and lead us to ask ourselves what more we could be doing. The Senate amendments are very much in faith with trying to keep that.

I would also note that this is probably one of the last opportunities I will have to rise in this particular chamber to give a speech. I want to acknowledge the history of this place and what an honour it has been for me, in my short three years here, to have served in this House of Commons chamber. I know we will be going forward to West Block, and an admirable job has been done there.

I finish by wishing all my colleagues a merry Christmas. I hope they have a fantastic holiday season with friends and family, and that we come back in 2019 refreshed and ready to do our work on behalf of Canadians.

Expungement of Certain Cannabis-related Convictions ActPrivate Members' Business

December 7th, 2018 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a great pleasure to rise today to debate Bill C-415 by my hon. colleague and friend from Victoria. We both hail from Vancouver Island and I really admire the work he has put into this bill.

It is not very often that one gets to debate a private member's bill in this place that would have such significance in how it would change how we approach criminal law and acknowledge past wrongs. One other private member's bill that I can reference, which I think had a major impact, was Bill S-201, brought in by Senator James Cowan to recognize genetic non-discrimination. The Liberal cabinet was opposed to that bill, but virtually the entire Liberal back bench rose and disagreed with the cabinet and voted in favour of the bill. With the combination of the Liberal back bench, the Conservatives and the New Democrats, we passed that bill and it received royal assent.

I very much implore my Liberal colleagues to look at what this bill attempts to do. I know that some have raised concerns about the bill. They may not think it is perfect, but at second reading stage, we are acknowledging the intent of the bill. I think that if they looked into their hearts, they would find it worthy to be sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where we could hear from departmental officials and expert witnesses, many of whom the member for Victoria has already quoted. That is where we can look at the language and technical jargon of the bill to see if some of the concerns can be addressed. However, let us at least send this bill to committee. I think this is a very important moment.

Last year, I had the pleasure of giving the NDP's response at second reading to Bill C-45, in my capacity as the justice critic then. I acknowledged that the bill was not perfect and there was a lot of fulsome debate on its merits. My colleague, the member for Vancouver Kingsway said it right, that Bill C-45 did not really legalize cannabis; it just made it less illegal. There are some strict limits that if someone steps outside of, the full weight of the law will still come down on them.

Nevertheless, I think that even my Conservative colleagues can realize that there has been a sea change in public opinion in Canada with regard to cannabis possession. The public has realized that the continued criminalized approach to cannabis possession is wrong. Far too many people suffered under it and, in fact, the continuation of a criminalized approach would actually cause more harm than the use of the drug itself. They have recognized that.

When looking at many of the arguments that Liberal members made in support of Bill C-45, not the least of which was by the Minister of Justice, one of the reasons they cited was that thousands of Canadians end up with criminal records for a non-violent minor cannabis offence each year. I will quote the minister. In her second reading speech on Bill C-45, the Minister of Justice said:

A majority of Canadians no longer believe that simple possession of small amounts of cannabis should be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, which can have lifelong impacts for individuals and take up precious resources in our criminal justice system. Our government agrees that there is a better approach.

I could not agree more with what the Minister of Justice said last year during that second reading debate on this.

There are roughly 500,000 Canadians who have criminal records for cannabis possession. That means that if one were to take a room of 60 people, one person in that room would probably have have a record for cannabis possession. We acknowledge that that has far-reaching consequences. We know that it has affected marginalized and racialized populations disproportionately more than average Caucasian Canadians. That is borne out by the evidence collected in each province and many of our major cities.

Another big issue is that the government came to power with a promise to legalize cannabis. That promise was adopted at the 2012 Liberal policy convention. Therefore, I think that the Canadian public has known for quite some time that this was coming.

As my friend the member for St. Albert—Edmonton said, elections have consequences, and the Liberal government did fulfill that one promise. However, I have an issue with the length of time that it took. We needed the task force to present its report. We then finally had Bill C-45 introduced in April 2017. It received royal assent and came into force only on October 17 of this year. There was plenty of time for the Liberal government to deliberate on the subject and on the consequences that criminal possession has on people's lives. We have this strange binary situation where a person who possessed cannabis on October 16 received a criminal record, but a person who had it on October 17 was perfectly fine.

It is quite amazing what has happened in this country. One can now possess up to 30 grams in public. People can now grow their own plants. Even though there are still very real consequences with the over-consumption of cannabis and whether it is getting into the hands of children, I think we can very much agree that the continued criminal approach to the issue was wrong. It was using up precious resources and it was in no way effectively dealing with the problem.

When we look at the intent of Bill C-415, I very much admire the word “expungement”, because it has an air of permanence about it. It is very much different from a record suspension. As the member for Victoria very clearly laid out, a record suspension is simply setting aside the record. It does not protect the individual in any way from having that reapplied sometime in the future. Indeed, the individual would very much have to prove that he or she is worthy of that happening. However, an expungement allows an individual to truthfully answer the question of whether the individual has a criminal record that he or she does not have one, because expungement makes it as if it never happened in the first place.

We can look at the statistics, specifically with reference to indigenous people in Canada. In Vancouver, indigenous people were seven times more likely than white people to be arrested. In Regina, it was as high as nine times. If we are trying to address a historical wrong, a very real case of social injustice, I think expungement is absolutely the way we should be going.

The Liberals have raised concerns. They have said that they wished to reserve expungement for activities that have been found to be unconstitutional. The parliamentary secretary made reference to Bill C-66, which, absolutely, every member in the House was in support of. However, I have to repeat that the member for Victoria clearly outlined that reserving expungement for activities that have been found to be unconstitutional is simply an arbitrary distinction and has no legal or principled foundation. This is basically a government making up its own rules. I would ask the Liberals to point to any specific case law that underlies their arguments for this, because, trust me, they will not be able to find it.

The Liberals would also like to say that pardoning people will work, because they are going to make pardons free and immediate. I appreciate the fact that the application process will be removed and that the fee will be waived, but right now, the only legislation that actually exists on the books to address this issue, at the end of 2018, three years into the Liberal government's mandate, is Bill C-415 from the member for Victoria.

The Liberals also agree that the process needs to be fair, but they have other doubts about the bill. The bill has been consulted on widely with academics and members of the legal community. I again appeal to my Liberal colleagues to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. If they have difficulties with the technical aspects of this bill, with the language, surely they can understand the intent behind the bill and surely they can find it within their hearts to send the bill to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights where we can make the necessary amendments so that it is reported back to the House in a form they can support.

I look forward to voting on this bill. Again, I congratulate my friend and colleague, the member for Victoria, for bringing in this fantastic piece of legislation.

December 6th, 2018 / 8:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, everyone, and thank you so much for inviting me to the Standing Committee on Health.

It's truly important for me to be here today to discuss with you the supplementary estimates (A) for the year 2018-19. I always welcome this opportunity to highlight some of the priorities and to discuss our efforts to keep Canadians healthy and safe. As always, I'm grateful to the committee members for your contributions to discussions, and I look forward to answering your questions.

Before I begin, I would also like to thank my officials who are accompanying me today.

They are Mr. Simon Kennedy, deputy minister of health; Dr. Siddika Mithani, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer and from the Public Health Agency of Canada; Monsieur Michel Perron, vice-president of external affairs and business development at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; and last but not least, Mr. Paul Glover, the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

They are masters in their fields and I am always happy when they accompany me at committee here. Also, I may turn to them for details with respect to some of the questions.

First, I would like to speak to Health Canada's authorities. Through the supplementary estimates (A), we are asking for an increase of $33.5 million. This would raise Health Canada's total authorities to just under $2.4 billion. This increase in funding would allow us to deliver on key priorities of the Government of Canada. I will describe these for you now, starting with opioids.

As Minister of Health, the first file that I was briefed on as Canada's health minister was the opioid crisis.

Since 2016 this crisis has claimed the lives of over 8,000 Canadians. This is a national tragedy that must be stopped, and it's why our government has taken action to save lives and to turn the tide on this national public health crisis.

So far we have restored harm reduction to the core of our approach and opened more than 25 supervised consumption sites. We have implemented the emergency treatment fund through budget 2018, and we are working to reduce stigma, which is a barrier to health and social services for people who use drugs, through public education.

Nevertheless, the opioid crisis continues to take lives and devastate communities. We must do more, and we will do more. These enhanced efforts include Health Canada's substance use and addictions program, which provides more than $28 million annually to support initiatives that work to prevent, treat and reduce all forms of harm from problematic substance use.

As a part of these estimates, this program has realigned $7.3 million to help address the opioid crisis.

Let's turn now to cannabis.

To support the legalization and regulation of cannabis, Health Canada received an additional $500,000 for operating expenditures from the central advertising fund as a part of these estimates for the cannabis pre-legalization advertising campaign.

This funding is a part of our government's significant investment of $108.5 million over six years to support cannabis public education, awareness and surveillance activities. We know that it's essential to invest in public education efforts surrounding the health and safety facts of cannabis, specifically targeting youth, in advance of the Cannabis Act coming into force.

These campaigns began long before legalization. They're intended to give Canadians, especially youth, the honest facts about cannabis, and to put them in a position to make informed, responsible and healthy choices. While healthy choices are the most important part of maintaining good health, environmental factors also have an impact.

Now let's turn to the new impact assessment and regulatory processes.

As you know, our government is renewing the federal impact assessment and regulatory system. The enhanced system will better protect Canadians' health, as well as our environment, fish and waterways. It will also rebuild public trust in how decisions about resource development are made.

This system will apply to all projects that are subject to federal assessment, such as mines, dams, pipelines and marine terminals.

Health Canada is the key federal department positioned to provide expertise on human health impacts of projects like these.

As such, we are requesting $5 million to help transition to the new impact assessment and regulatory processes.

Let's turn now to pay administration. I would now like to turn to an important administrative issue.

As you know, the Phoenix pay system continues to pose challenges for the public service, including employees of Health Canada and its portfolio organizations. For this reason, we are requesting $1.3 million in additional funds to address the issues in pay administration and to help ensure that our employees are paid properly and on time.

I will now speak in more detail about our portfolio organizations, their priorities and their specific requests for funding.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, PHAC, is asking for a net increase of $6.7 million to its authorities. This would bring the total authorities for 2018-2019 to $687.2 million.

This increase includes nearly $5.5 million to support the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities Program.

This program funds indigenous community-based organizations in urban and northern areas to develop programs that promote healthy development of indigenous preschool children.

The increase we are requesting also includes $1 million to support PHAC's childhood vaccination campaign. This advertising campaign will raise awareness of the importance, safety and effectiveness of vaccination.

As a part of the health portfolio, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, also known as CFIA, works to uphold a strong and reliable food-safety system.

The supplementary estimates we are presenting today reflect an increase of $9.4 million for CFIA for specific time-limited activities, bringing its total authorities for 2018-2019 to $762 million.

The specific time-limited activities include funding for the Canadian Food Safety Information Network. This network will strengthen Canada's ability to detect and respond to food hazards by connecting and coordinating food safety and public health authorities.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, is Canada's health research investment agency. It provides $1 million per year to support Canada's health scientists.

Through these supplementary estimates, CIHR is seeking an increase of $0.4 million, for a total of approximately $1.1 billion in available authorities. This increase will support the creation of new scientific knowledge—knowledge that will lead to improved health, more effective health services and products, and a stronger Canadian health care system.

In conclusion, Health Canada, and indeed all five organizations in the health portfolio, is committed to spending funds responsibly, efficiently and effectively. The work I have outlined today will be instrumental in helping us achieve our mandate to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak about our work and to explain our budgetary priorities.

I am now pleased to take your questions.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Madam Speaker, very briefly, as to the competency of the government, I would point to our medical assistance in dying bill, Bill C-45, and Bill C-46, and our appointment of 240 judges.

The member opposite took issue with peremptory challenges. The question I would put to him is on this issue. First of all, we have not just eliminated peremptory challenges, but are allowing judges to ensure that any jury will be diverse and represent the community it serves. We emphasize challenges for cause.

Does the member opposite believe, as in England, as it was done 30 years ago, that it is important that if one seeks to stand aside a juror, one has a reason for that, other than simply just the way that juror looks, and that one can enunciate that reason in front of an impartial adjudicator?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House especially to talk about ensuring the safety of my constituents and all Canadians.

Every day since the 2006 election I have had the privilege of being chosen to represent the values that are dear to us in Lévis—Lotbinière. My Conservative colleagues and I are determined to live up to that honour ethically and with respect and integrity.

Generally speaking, the legislation debated and passed in the House moves Canada forward, but since the election of this Liberal majority government, legislation is debated and passed very quickly in the House, which is moving our country backward. The list is long, but consider the marijuana legalization legislation, which is disastrous for the future of our young people, not to mention the bill before us today.

I would like nothing more than to remain positive, even optimistic, or even bury my head in the sand like so many other MPs are doing when it comes to Bill C-75, the 300-page omnibus justice bill.

As the official opposition, we have to once again call out this Liberal government's poor judgment, as it refuses to consider the impact that some of its changes will have on the safety of our children and our country. What is motivating the government? Is it tyring to keep one of its promises at all costs, even if that means setting Canada back? Time will tell.

We were fortunate to have inherited one of the most stable and robust political systems in the world, a model in terms of peace, order and good governance. Of course, things took a turn for the worse with this Liberal government, which wants to liberalize everything that we think should have some oversight.

Making major changes to Canada's justice system should be a judicious exercise, one that is not taken lightly, as the Liberal government seems to have done once again. Believe it or not, rather than taking action to combat terrorism, the Liberals want to get rid of penalties imposed on those who go abroad to join a terrorist group like ISIS.

What should we make of this Prime Minister who believes that reintegration, rather than prosecution, is the best way to treat ISIS fighters? Clearly, in keeping with the usual Liberal opportunism, the rights of victims and the safety of Canadians are not among the Liberal government's priorities to the same degree as they were top priorities for the Conservatives. The Prime Minister wants to lower penalties for serious crimes.

Apparently reason, committee testimony, studies, and plain old common sense just do not matter. If this bill passes, criminals may have to do nothing more than pay a fine instead of serving jail time for serious crimes such as leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist group, trafficking in persons and impaired driving causing bodily harm.

It makes absolutely no sense. All of these crimes are indictable offences and carry with them the maximum jail time they deserve. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard from victims of crime who are angry that the Liberals are again failing them by denying justice for their loved ones.

Recently, the Prime Minister refused to put a murderer back in jail. He decided to pay veterans' benefits to incarcerated criminals who never served their country. That is scandalous.

Canada's Conservatives have always stood up for the rights of victims of crime, and we will not stop now. That is why we submitted over 100 amendments to ensure the continued safety of Canadians and our country.

We called for serious crimes to remain indictable offences and demanded that the Liberals reverse the elimination of preliminary inquiries and peremptory challenges of jurors.

We also called for a reversal on the elimination of cross-examination of police officers for certain offences and an increase to the maximum sentence for sexual assault.

We demanded that the victim surcharge imposed by the courts not be reduced.

Obviously, some of the amendments are commendable. The Conservatives can support some of the proposals set out in Bill C-75. We agree to remove the provisions of the Criminal Code that have been deemed to be unconstitutional. The Conservatives can support that measure because it will benefit victims of crime and it will clean up the Criminal Code.

It goes without saying that we support increasing the maximum sentence where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner as well as the consideration of intimate partner violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing. We also support more stringent temporary release requirements in the case of offenders who have committed intimate partner violence.

It also goes without saying that we support the provisions to reduce delays in our justice system, particularly those that seek to limit the scope of the preliminary inquiry, allow increased use of technology to facilitate remote attendance by any person in a proceeding, modernize and clarify interim release provisions to simplify the forms of release that may be imposed on an accused, and provide for a judicial referral hearing to deal with administration of justice offences involving a failure to comply with conditions of release or failure to appear as required.

Finally, modernizing the language used in the Criminal Code to make it non-discriminatory is also a very good thing.

The Prime Minister played the part of the grasshopper who travelled here, there and everywhere around the world singing and dancing. Time has become a critical factor for this Prime Minister, who claims that his government is introducing an omnibus bill so that it can fulfill multiple election promises at once, since this is the final sprint before the next election in a few months.

This is deplorable and a fait accompli. Introducing a big bill such as this one leaves the opposition little time for careful and in-depth study. For most of the session, Bill C-45 on marijuana legalization and Bill C-46 on drug-impaired driving kept the Senate busy.

They are two major pieces of legislation that make good on the Liberals' immoral promise to legalize marijuana, a promise made during the 2015 election campaign.

These delays and poor management of the legislative agenda have left the government short on time to fulfill its mandate. It will be hard pressed to achieve its goals with Bill C-75 and other pieces of legislation that have been languishing for months.

We criticized the government for failing to do anything up to this point to reduce delays in our legal system and we were critical in particular about its approach to judicial appointments.

Can members believe that as of April 1, 2018, or three years after he was elected as Prime Minister, there were 59 vacant judicial positions at the federal level? We believe that it takes less time and is more effective to appoint judges than to impose an omnibus bill on Parliament.

In closing, under no circumstances should checking off an item on their list of election promises compromise the safety of honest Canadians and our borders or weaken Canada's justice system.

It is not just the Prime Minister who will be adversely impacted, but an entire generation that we have been honourably defending for more than 150 years.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-84. I would first like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.

Bill C-84 seems to be another example of the government striking a valiant attempt to make a change, yet it is an incomplete attempt, much like most of the legislation we have seen coming forward from the government. Some of these previous shortcomings include Bill C-45, the cannabis bill, which just came into effect a few days ago. Even though that legislation was debated in the House and passed roughly a year ago, there still remain multiple enforcement agencies, municipalities, regional districts and first nations that agree it simply was not complete or ready. It did not give the provinces or municipalities time to prepare.

After that was Bill C-46, the bill that dealt with impaired driving, which was tied to Bill C-45. We have now heard that because of the way Bill C-46 was drafted, there is no proof that the systems in place and the science and technology around identifying impairment, which was fairly standardized when it came to alcohol, are going to be effective when it comes to drugs. Not only do we have another piece of flawed legislation out there, but we have communities and enforcement agencies trying to scramble to figure out how to deal with that.

The next piece of legislation I am familiar with is Bill C-71, the government's firearms legislation, which, in listening to its rhetoric, is aimed at reducing gun violence, gangs and so on. However, the bill does not mention gangs or gun violence at any point in time. All it talks about is registering firearms and making things worse for law-abiding firearms owners.

The most current is probably Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code. That is a bill the government introduced to bring modernization to the Criminal Code. That bill has been bantered back and forth many times, but it is now at committee stage. My colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton is currently on the committee studying that bill, and members are looking at stacks and stacks of amendments to another government bill. I experienced the same thing when I sat in on the discussion on Bill C-69, when I happened to be substituting on that committee. I believe there were 600 amendments to that government bill. The bill was 300 pages long, and I believe 300 or 350 of those amendments came from the government side.

I continuously see the government putting forward draft legislation for debate in this House that it has not thought through or consulted on properly, and it just ends up being hashed about at committee. We have seen the Senate return a number of bills to this House with amendments. Worst of all, we see communities, enforcement agencies and the public trying to figure out how they are going to manage or work around this poorly drafted legislation from the government.

Turning back to Bill C-84, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to bestiality and animal fighting, I praise the government for bringing forward legislation to deal with this. I agree we need to do what we can, as legislators, to bring in legislation to protect people, protect the innocent and protect animals from the abuses we have seen. Also, to protect them from the ways criminals have been able to skirt the laws through definitions, different interpretations in the courts and so on. On that point, I will give the government credit for at least attempting to do something right.

When I look at this bill, I also see where it comes up short in some cases. I compare it to an insurance policy. I think everyone here has had an insurance policy and has taken a close look at it. Some have possibly made a claim through that insurance policy only to find out that the claim is denied because in the fine print something was excluded.

We may get a chance to amend this bill in committee. Even though it is a short bill and one would not think it needs much amendment, I do not believe it is perfect and I will be talking to committee members about possible amendments going forward.

When I see that the bill includes a phrase that basically bans the fighting or baiting of animals or birds, I question whether that is going to impact our provincial hunting regulations. I have not yet been able to have full discussion with anyone to determine this. In some provinces, it is completely legal and within ethical standards to plant crops to attract wildlife, such as deer and elk, to certain areas for hunting purposes. Those are perfectly accepted standards that continue to this day. In fact, many of those standards actually improve the chances of correct and humane harvest of those animals because they are at a baiting station.

That is why I question the wording in this bill. I will be following through further on this to make sure that this bill, like many other bills the government has put forward, is not flawed after it gets through committee. I want to make sure we are protected in those ways.

Another thing that troubles me with this bill is why it took the government almost a year to introduce its own bill that is identical in most ways to a bill introduced by a member from our side of the House, the member for Calgary Nose Hill. Her bill was introduced in December 2017, and yet the government sat on it and did not move it forward for debate. The government could have had this process done by now and given credit where credit was due, to the person who brought the issue forward.

It seems to be a continuous mantra of the government to not do anything until it is caught not doing anything. We see it when we have witnesses appear at committee to give testimony. We see it in the Auditor General reports. It just seems to be a continuing theme.

In fact, I had the same experience myself. I introduced a private member's bill a couple of years ago to recognize volunteers in search and rescue situations. Just a few weeks later the government announced that it was going to create service medals for search and rescue volunteers. Again, it was not doing anything until it got caught not doing anything.

That is the case here. It is disappointing that the government has to be shown the way forward by members on our side. We see this quite often with the opposition day motions we bring forward. In fact, we had another one just last week. We put forward an opposition day motion that the Liberals could have easily acted on much sooner, but we had to force their hand by forcing the argument and putting it to them to make them step up to the plate. It is just another case of, as I said, not doing anything until they are caught not doing anything. Then they get caught in a bind and have to put out something that is not complete, not well-thought-out and not well-processed.

With that, I am finished my comments. I know I will be receiving questions on this.

Elections Modernization Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

October 24th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I am now prepared to rule on a point of order raised on October 23, 2018, by the hon. member for Perth—Wellington regarding Bill C-76, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make certain consequential amendments.

The hon. member objects to an amendment adopted by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, sometimes called PROC in this place, on the basis that it amends a section of the parent act not amended by the bill. He argues that the committee went beyond the mandate the House had given it and urges the Chair to strike the amendment from the bill. He notes that Speakers have exercised this power in the past to deal with inadmissible amendments adopted by a committee.

I am grateful to the hon. member for having raised this matter, as it affords me the opportunity to clear up a misconception about what is commonly referred to as the “Parent Act rule”.

As the hon. member no doubt noted, the passage he cited concerning this rule, found at page 771 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, is contained in a section about relevance.

The Parent Act rule, the idea that an amendment should not amend an act or a section not already amended by a bill, rests on a presumption that such an amendment would not be relevant to the bill. This can be true. Often, such amendments attempt to deal with matters not referenced in the bill, and this is improper.

However, there are also occasions when an amendment is relevant to the subject matter of a bill and in keeping with its scope but can only be accomplished by modifying a section of the parent act not originally touched by the bill or even an entirely different act not originally touched by the bill. This is especially so when the amendments are consequential to other decisions taken by a committee or by the House.

In the present case, an amendment adopted by the committee creates a new section 510.001 of the Canada Elections Act. This section would empower the commissioner of Canada elections to request and obtain certain financial documents from political parties. The hon. member made no suggestion that this amendment was inadmissible. He objects, however, to a related amendment to section 498 of the act that makes it an offence to refuse to comply with the commissioner's request. Section 498, while not originally part of the bill, is the section that spells out offences relating to Part 19 of the act, which is where the new section 510.001 would be found.

I have trouble seeing how this could be considered irrelevant to the bill. Were I to accept the hon. member's argument, we would find ourselves in the strange circumstance of allowing an amendment that creates a new obligation but refusing an amendment that spells out the consequences for failing to comply with that new obligation.

The parent act rule was never intended to be applied blindly as a substitute for proper judgment as to the relevance of an amendment. Clearly, amendments that arise as a direct consequence of other admissible amendments should be considered relevant to the bill, even if they are made to a section of the parent act otherwise unamended.

The hon. member noted that our procedural authorities do not reference any exceptions, leading him to conclude that none are possible. He well knows, however, that practice and precedent are also binding. As is stated at page 274 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

Where there are no express rules or orders, the House turns to its own jurisprudence, as interpreted by the Speaker, who examines the Journals and the Debates of the House to determine which rulings of past Speakers and which practices and precedents should be applied.

There are multiple examples of amendments of this nature having been accepted in the past. In 2003, Bill C-250, an act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda), contained a single clause amending section 318 of the Code to change the definition of “identifiable group”. At the beginning of the report stage, on June 6, 2003, the Chair accepted amendments to sections 319 and 320 of the Criminal Code, which also dealt with hate propaganda.

On May 5, 2014, when the Procedure and House Affairs Committee presented its report on Bill C-23, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to certain acts, the report contained an amendment to section 345 of the act, which was not originally amended by the bill, but sought to clarify what did not constitute an election expense under section 376, which the bill did amend.

Just last year, in a report tabled on October 5, 2017, the health committee amended Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts, by modifying section 7 of the Non-smokers' Health Act, originally untouched by the bill. This change arose out of an earlier amendment to the definition of “workplace” in the same act.

These are just a few examples where exceptions were made to the parent act rule because the amendments were clearly relevant to the bill. Given that the present amendment is of a similar nature, I have no difficulty concluding that it too should be found in order.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

October 16th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON

Tomorrow Bill C-45, an act to legalize and regulate the production of cannabis, comes into effect. I wanted to take this moment in time to acknowledge and thank the HESA committee for the work that they did in furthering that legislation.

You will recall it was a year ago September that we met for a solid week before anybody else was back here on the Hill. We heard over a hundred witnesses and made some very substantive changes to the legislation. On October 5, 2017, we tabled our document in the House and it proceeded to go to the Senate after that.

Again, thank you for that time and the contribution by the committee.

October 5th, 2018 / 1:30 p.m.
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Allan Rewak Executive Director, Cannabis Council of Canada

Good afternoon. I'd like to begin by thanking the committee for the opportunity to be here today. As was mentioned, my name is Allan Rewak and I am the executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, or C3.

We serve as the national trade association for producers of medicinal cannabis approved by Health Canada, under the ACMPR, and very soon, Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act.

With me today, as mentioned, is our association's vice-chair Philippe Lucas, who will take the lead on all questions related to medicinal cannabis and the needs of the patients we serve.

C3's diverse membership represents approximately 85% of the cultivation of legal cannabis in Canada under the current ACMPR and reflects the full diversity and scale of our nascent legal industry. Today, in consultation around the upcoming federal budget, I'd like to express two key complementary but also mutually reinforcing recommendations.

First, as we build this new industry together, we believe we must ensure that the tax environment for both medicinal and recreational cannabis is conducive to building up an industry that can effectively compete against an illicit market.

Secondly, as we do this, we must ensure that medicinal patients, who really gave birth to our sector, are not unfairly penalized for accessing the medicine that has improved their quality of life.

In regard to the first issue, as I'm sure this committee is aware, all adult-use cannabis sold in Canada will be subject to both provincial and federal sales tax. Additional provincial tax measures will occur in certain provinces and we also will have a federal excise tax. On top of this, we will have a cost-recovery fee to assist Health Canada in regulating and measuring our industry. Taken together, this cascade of taxes presents an immense cost burden on an industry that requires very significant, upfront capital outlays to begin, and which is competing against an existent illicit market that is remarkably well funded and quite adaptable.

If our shared goal is to truly replace this illicit market, we must ensure that the tax burden does not make legal cannabis uncompetitive vis-à-vis the illicit marketplace. If we are to successfully defeat the illicit market, we must be able to directly compete against them for market share, price, availability and product selection, which will altogether be the deciding factor for the success of this new policy regime.

Today we're here to share our concerns around the growing tax burden that will affect the viability of licensed producers and also the success of public and private retailers in all provinces. We believe that as we move towards October 17, we must also, as we look at this issue, not forget the needs of our medicinal patients who are facing an ever-increasing escalation in the price of their medicine. This is a direct result of the Cannabis Act.

As CFAMM has told you today, from a patient perspective, cost has always been cited as a primary obstacle in accessing medicinal cannabis, and the burden of sales tax compounds this through the application of an excise tax. Ironically, while critically and chronically ill Canadians can get opioids or benzoids tax free, patients using cannabis at the direction and support of a medical professional will face an additional 10% sin tax on their medicine on October 18.

We know Canadians don't support this. A national poll, commissioned by both CFAMM and the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council in February 2018, found that over 60% of Canadians support removing the tax on medicinal cannabis, suggesting it should be zero-rated, just like all other prescription drugs. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, Canada is the only jurisdiction in the world—and there are 30 countries that are legalizing or have legalized medicinal cannabis—that does not have a differential tax rate fully implemented for medicinal and adult consumer-use cannabis. Notably, in our discussions with members of all political parties in the House and in the Senate, we have yet to find anyone who actively believes in an aggressive fashion that taxation on medical cannabis makes sense and would oppose the removal of excise tax as we move forward in fully developing this regime.

While our country is about to take the momentous step of legalizing cannabis for adult consumers, we urge you not to forget those 300,000 Canadian patients who benefit from its use for medicinal purposes. We believe that, as all other prescription drugs, no GST and certainly no sin tax should be targeted towards sick or suffering Canadians.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of this committee for the opportunity to be here today to voice our concerns primarily on the part of patients. With my colleague Mr. Lucas, I'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have after the other deputants have provided their remarks.

On a personal note, before we begin that, happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

I want to say at the outset that I am pleased to see that the minister has brought forward this bill. I have absolutely no doubt about her sincerity in trying to improve the lives of people with disabilities. I too am aligned in that direction. I have listened carefully to the debate we have had so far talking about how to get people with disabilities the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens, how to make sure they are able to live independently and how to make sure they are free from violence. I am aligned in all those things. I think I have heard that all the parties in the House are aligned in how we improve the lives of people with disabilities, and what we can we do with this bill to make sure it is effective.

When it comes to deciding to tackle an issue, with my engineering perspective I will ask what it is we are trying to do. I think it is trying to get people to be able to live independently, to have the same rights and responsibilities as others and to be free from violence. What is the plan to make that happen? What mechanisms will we put in place in order to make sure the money or the incentives flow so the behaviours of people will take root?

In my speech, I am going to talk a bit about what has happened in the past and what the Conservatives did. Then I will talk a little about the Liberal record. Then I will talk about the situation in my own riding, some ideas about possible solutions and some concerns I have with the legislation as it is written today.

I know things were going on to help improve accessibility when the Conservatives were in power. Although I was not here myself, I saw all the announcements and improvements happening in my own riding of Sarnia—Lambton, where multiple millions of dollars were spent to upgrade different buildings to ensure they were accessible for people in wheelchairs and to put different aids in place to help people with disabilities. I note that was going on.

At the same time, we have heard other members in the House talk about the Conservative Party's introduction of the registered disability savings plan in 2008. This plan is quite a rich plan. I looked at the details of it when we were addressing an issue that I will talk about later. However, this is a plan where a disabled person can put in up to $5,000 a year and the government will match it threefold. That program has been going on for almost 10 years. Although it has not come to the point where people are collecting from the program, it is a very well thought out way of ensuring people with disabilities will have the wherewithal to retire in dignity.

I see that and see the efforts of the member for Carleton, who brought forward a very intelligent bill aimed at addressing the problem people with disabilities have when they want to go work and their benefits are clawed back. In some cases, the money they are getting from other disability programs is clawed back. I was really disappointed in the extreme that every Liberal in the place rejected that private member's bill. That bill would have been such a help to people with disabilities. We talked as well about the member for Calgary Shepard bringing forward a private member's bill on rare diseases, which was also rejected. I just heard a member from the NDP talking about her bill being rejected.

This is where one really has to question people's motives. When people say one thing and do another, they are likely to be called hypocrites. When I look at the Liberals, I see there is a lot of talking about helping people with disabilities, but then we look at the record of what has happened since the election in 2015. The first member who had the portfolio to do something here on accessibility, or helping the disabled, was the member for Calgary Centre. It was in the mandate letter, yet nothing was done. That member is also a person who has lived experience as a person with disabilities, but nothing was done. It was not a priority.

It was then passed along to the member for Etobicoke North. However, I do sympathize with her. She is the Minister of Science and has a lot of very important things to do which, of course, I, as a fellow science person, cannot criticize. Again, nothing really came forward.

Then when I looked at the bill to see what was in it, I thought that perhaps there would be a lot of infrastructure money. We know there are a lot of buildings that are not accessible and they need a lot of money in order to repair them so they will be accessible. In some cases, those could be incentives. There is a number of ways that could be done, but nothing in the bill talks about that.

In fact, the bill has sort of an element of what the minister's powers would be. It has an element of a standards organization that can talk about what the right thing to do would be. There are mechanisms in the bill to complain. There are mechanisms in it to inspect. However, there are no action words. There is really no doing of anything. It is going to be consulting and spending a few more years to try to figure out what we should do, when we already know some of the things we should do. Some of the things we should do involves investing the same kind of infrastructure money that was previously done under the Conservatives.

I have heard the government speak about the $180 billion of infrastructure money that it will invest over the next number of years. In fact, the Liberals got elected on a promise to spend very small deficits in order to put infrastructure in place. That was going to create jobs and drive the economy and repair our roads and bridges, etc. None of that ever happened. My point is that there was a lot of infrastructure money that was planned to be spent. Even though the government has had difficulty getting that accomplished, as I think it has only spent about 40% of what it planned, it has still racked up way more deficit but not on the intended things.

There is an opportunity for the government to do something immediately with respect to infrastructure to improve accessibility. Those are things where the building codes exist today. The specifications exist today. The standards exist today. No work needs to be done to consult anybody on that or have new standard organizations to do it. This already exists. All it really needs is political will to put that money in place.

Instead, the government has basically a different political will, if we look at where the billions of dollars that the government is spending is going: $4.2 billion on foreign aid; $2.65 billion on climate change support for foreign countries like China and India; $5 billion for the Syrian refugees; $1 billion for the asylum seekers; and multiple billions of other things that are spread around the world but not for Canadians and not for the disabled. When we look at where time, energy and money is put, that determines what our values are or what our priorities are.

It has been three years before seeing any kind of legislation and the legislation does not have any strong actions in it. It is more of “we'll put structures in place to consult”. I really question whether there is enough political will to achieve good outcomes here.

As I mentioned, I have some good examples from my riding that I can share. I know that the previous member of Parliament, Pat Davidson, was very active. She really cared about improving accessibility. Elevators were put in multiple buildings. We had accessibility all over the county of Lambton. As well, we have upgraded many of the schools to be accessible.

The Sarnia Arena is going under remediation. I was there for an event this past weekend and all of the entrances and front sidewalks, etc. have been improved for accessibility and all of the standards have been met.

Not everything is wonderful in my riding. We have a situation in Port Lambton where the post office, which is a Crown corporation and is under the legislation being proposed, is not accessible. It has been there for a long period of time and was grandfathered, but it is not accessible. We are having a municipal election and people are going to have to go to Canada Post to vote. In Port Lambton that is pretty much all there is. However, it is not accessible. People have known about it for a long time. My office has called and nagged and has been told that they will get to it. However, no one has got to it.

Here is an example where the solution is known. It just needs to get done and it needs to get done in a hurry. Again, where is the will to force these solutions to happen?

I have a tremendously great example of a fellow named Dan Edwards in my riding. Unfortunately, he had an accident which rendered him unable to walk and left him in a wheelchair. He has been super inspirational in the riding. He does fundraising for mental health efforts and different things.

This is one of the things he did. We have a fundraiser in Sarnia—Lambton called the Dream Home. It is a fundraiser for the hospital. He decided to get together with the architect who was going to build the latest Dream Home for a lottery to raise money for the hospital and decided to make it a visitable home. A visitable home is a home where any person in a wheelchair would be fully able to access everything, from cooking to the entrances. Everything is ground floor. It is very well done.

I had the opportunity to tour the home and see what he and architect had designed together. He shared with me a lot of information about the very many plans like this. It is quite possible. We have these solutions that we could put in place to allow people to live independently. That would be great. Again, money and political will is some of what is required here.

The other piece of advice I would give with respect to solutions and rolling out the infrastructure money is to ensure that it is well-distributed. Of the $180 billion that was announced over 10 years, only $2 billion of that was earmarked for rural communities. When we look at improving accessibility, I think we will find that there is even more need in the rural communities. In many cases, they have grandfathered their buildings. There are more older buildings, and they have not been made accessible. As well, there is less of a population base to bring in the revenue to do these things of their own volition. That needs to be considered.

With respect to some concerns about the legislation, $290 million has been proposed. I heard discussion earlier about 5,000 new public servants. I was not clear if that was 5,000 public servants with disabilities who would be hired while attrition happened, so over time, or whether that was 5,000 additional public service employees. Of course, I would be opposed to increasing the size of government.

Another concern I have with the bill has to do with leaving things for the regulations. As a parliamentarian, and a detailed-oriented one, I do not like to leave things to chance. I have seen before, under some of the legislation that the Liberals have brought forward, where it is all left to regulation.

With Bill S-5, for example, the Liberals decided, from the plain packaging and the vaping, they were going to leave a lot of it to the regulations. We were approving a bill, and as the point was made, that we really did not know what the final outcomes would be. We were going to leave it to the regulation.

In the example of Bill S-5, the Liberals want to go to a plain package. The dimensions of the plain package are produced by machines that are obsolete, that are no longer owned by anybody who is legitimately in the business. The Liberals have given businesses six months to convert.

They would have to redesign the old, obsolete machines and get them built somewhere, and that is certainly an 18-month deal, or they would have to be shut down altogether in order to achieve this plain packaging goal, or let them use the existing size. That is an example of where when things are left to regulations, they do not always get done the way that we might want. That is why parliamentary oversight is important.

Bill C-45, the cannabis legislation, is another example where the Liberals decided to leave a lot of the details to the regulation. The problem is that the regulations did not come out quickly enough to address all the unanswered questions that were still out there. Now we are left with a situation where we will legalize on October 17, and there is still a huge number of things that are not addressed in the regulations. Again, there is no parliamentary oversight to talk about them.

This point came up again on Bill S-228 with the regulation that we most recently talked about, which is the one that prohibits the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. Instead of defining what the healthy foods are, the comment was that it would be left to the regulations.

As parliamentarians, we have a right to know what that list will be and have some opportunity to object or give input if we do not agree. By leaving it to the regulations, we would be passing a blank bill that says we would be doing something. We have no idea what the something is and we have no input on the something, but we are expected to vote in favour of it. I have an issue with that.

When it comes to accessibility, we have been much too slow in moving forward and addressing these things. For example, there are a lot of the grandfathered buildings. My mother is 84 and walks with a rollator. There are a lot of places she cannot go because of staircases or it is too narrow to get through. Something needs to be done there and I look forward to seeing what solutions will be brought forward are.

I will talk a little about some of the things the government could do that would make people have more faith in its wanting to help disabled people.

Members may remember when I was here on a Friday, asking a question about the disability tax credit. Through that whole event, we found out that where 80% of people with type 2 diabetes were previously approved, all of a sudden 80% were disapproved. We raised the concern, and the Liberal government insisted that nothing had changed. Of course, as the scandal went on, it came out that indeed things had changed. There were instructions given to interpret the criteria differently, and it went very broad. It affected not just people with diabetes but people with other disabilities, such as autism and mental disorders like bipolar. It took months and months to get justice for those people. This is what undermines people's faith that the government is sincere in its efforts to improve things for people with disabilities.

I will give members another example. For people with multiple sclerosis, it can be very difficult, because people are not always be at the same degree of wellness. It is sort of intermittent where there may be periods where they cannot work and other times they may be fine.

However, the current EI rules are not flexible enough to allow a person who has MS to be on EI and work intermittently, the same total benefits as someone who takes it consecutively would get. I raised this issue with the Minister of Labour. There is an easy fix there. If 670 hours of eligibility are required and there is a certain amount of hours that people get in benefits, then allow the intermittency. Those are the kinds of things we can do for people who have disabilities to be able to live independently, to work and to engage. We need to do that.

I did take the point that was made earlier that no disability lens was used for the legislation. When we do legislation, we do it with a gender-based lens. Therefore, it is very appropriate here to take that recommendation from the member and put a disability lens in place.

I also do not like the powers to exempt in the bill. I find that when we allow exemptions and have cabinet decide, we get into trouble. We saw this with the carbon tax. The government had the power to exempt and it decided to exempt the largest emitters up to 90% of their emissions. There is an example where having the power to exempt is really not what we want.

In summary, I absolutely want to see persons with disabilities have the independence they need and have the help they need. However, it has to happen faster. I call on the government today to start putting money into infrastructure for accessibility and do the solutions that we already know about, while we craft improvements to the bill.

Carbon PricingOral Questions

June 20th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In a moment I will be asking for unanimous consent to present a motion.

Last night, the Senate passed Bill C-45, important legislation that will positively change 100 years of legal, social, and economic attitudes towards cannabis. It will legalize an activity that the vast majority of Canadians regard as acceptable.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, in the opinion of the House, given the passage of Bill C-45 and the imminent legalization of cannabis for personal recreational use, and recognizing that many Canadians are facing criminal charges, experiencing criminal sanctions, or bearing criminal records for cannabis offences that are soon to be legal, the government should take all necessary steps to immediately provide pardons for those burdened by criminal records for cannabis offences that will soon be legal.

Cannabis ActStatements By Members

June 20th, 2018 / 2:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the passing of Bill C-45 in the Senate and to recognize the substantial work undertaken by all parliamentarians. I sincerely thank senior officials and our incredible support staff who have contributed to legislation that will legalize and strictly regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis in Canada. The evidence that nearly a century of prohibition has failed us is overwhelming, and it has compelled us to do a better job of protecting our kids and keeping our communities safe.

I want to acknowledge the excellent work of our task force and the thousands of Canadians who have contributed to the national discussion on this important issue. We are indebted to our provincial and territorial counterparts, indigenous leaders, and municipalities for their hard work and partnership. We will continue to work with all levels of government, indigenous communities, and law enforcement to transition to a responsible legal framework that works for all Canadians.

As the process of implementation unfolds, I would remind everyone that until the current criminal prohibition is repealed and replaced, the law remains in effect and should be obeyed.

MarijuanaOral Questions

June 19th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, once again, protecting the health and safety of Canadians is our number one priority. The current approach to cannabis is not working. It lets criminals profit and does not protect our young people.

We thank senators for all the work they have done over the past few months, and we have agreed to the vast majority of amendments brought forward. We are convinced that Bill C-45 will give us the opportunity to achieve our objectives and ensure a responsible transition towards a legal market.