Evidence of meeting #67 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was legal.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Lynda Balneaves  Registered Nurse and Medical and Non-Medical Cannabis Researcher, Canadian Nurses Association
Karey Shuhendler  Policy Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association
Serge Melanson  Doctor, New Brunswick Medical Society
Robert Strang  Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
Michael DeVillaer  Assistant Professor, Policy Analyst, McMaster University, As an Individual
Mark Kleiman  Professor of Public Policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University, As an Individual
Trina Fraser  Partner, Brazeau Seller LLP
Brenda Baxter  Director General, Workplace Directorate, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development
Norm Keith  Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
Clara Morin Dal Col  Minister of Health, Métis National Council
Isadore Day  Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario
Wenda Watteyne  Senior Policy Advisor, Métis National Council
David Hammond  Professor, University of Waterloo, School of Public Health and Health Systems, As an Individual
Mike Hammoud  President, Atlantic Convenience Stores Association
Melodie Tilson  Director of Policy, Non-Smokers' Rights Association
Pippa Beck  Senior Policy Analyst, Non-Smokers' Rights Association
Steven Hoffman  Professor, Faculty of Health, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, As an Individual
Beau Kilmer  Co-Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center
Kirk Tousaw  Lawyer, Tousaw Law Corporation
Stephen Rolles  Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you for your presentation.

Now we go to Chief Day, Ontario regional chief, for a 10-minute introduction.

2 p.m.

Chief Isadore Day Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Before I begin, I want to extend my condolences to the family, colleagues, and friends of Arnold Chan, a member of Parliament who passed away this morning. I'm sure he will be greatly missed by his Ontario Liberal caucus colleagues and members of Parliament, who valued his thoughtful contributions to the democratic process in Parliament. Just on a personal note, I've known Arnold Chan throughout the last 15 years, when he worked with Dalton McGuinty and in the private sector as well. He was an upstanding individual who will be sadly missed. Again, our condolences.

I also want to acknowledge the unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation. I am presenting here today as the Ontario regional chief. I'm also the national chair of the Assembly of First Nations chiefs committee on health.

As we all know, Bill C-45, the cannabis act, intends 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 safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements, and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties on those operating outside of the legal framework. The act is also intended to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.

As the committee has already heard earlier this week, police officials have stated they will not be prepared to deal with Bill C-45 when it becomes law on July 1, 2018. That's consistent among many jurisdictions and communities. It's accurate to say that first nations are also not prepared to deal with the ramifications of Bill C-45. In fact, this is a critical issue that is going to have huge impacts on first nations and all Canadians, but we're not yet in a position to fully understand and fully address those impacts.

In this part of my presentation I will probably put a lot of questions to the committee, because there are some unanswered questions, as you know.

The first is: does Canada even know the full impacts of cannabis yet? This is a situation where we're damned if we do and damned if we don't, and that speaks to the issue of engagement readiness. The reality is, the complexities of much of the process—just as an example, environmental legislation, or even getting communities' engagement ready, to ensure we have a substantive say on any legislative changes—make it a daunting task. It's complex in nature.

The Assembly of First Nations does not yet have a position on cannabis. It has been proposed that a national first nations summit on cannabis be held in the very near future.

In Ontario, it's accurate to say that first nations are much more engaged with the province's plan to establish a cannabis control board by July 1, 2018. Last Friday, when the Ontario government announced its cannabis plans, the chiefs of Ontario were briefed in advance by the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance. In the coming months, we will establish a bilateral table to work collectively on the Ontario cannabis control act. We are meeting with INAC minister on October 2, just prior to the first ministers' meeting. Rest assured, this will certainly be one of the major issues on the table for discussion.

Initial meetings with Ontario are proving to be respectful and focused on the real issues and challenges faced by first nations in preparation for the retail and distribution of cannabis. There will be many issues and opportunities that will need to be addressed. First, how will first nations communities regulate the sale and consumption of cannabis at the local level? Some of our communities may want to explore the potential of jointly owned cannabis operations, which will—or may—be federally approved.

What I mean is that there are going to be some jurisdictional issues and questions. As you know, unlike our brothers and sisters within the Métis community, we have a very specific land tenure under the Indian Act. Some communities may want to ban the sale and consumption of cannabis, much like dry communities ban alcohol, stemming specifically from provisions in the already embattled Indian Act.

Land governance, again, unlike with our Métis brothers and sisters, is going to be the crux of the challenges we face. All you have to do is look at the tobacco issues that we're faced with in many of our jurisdictions. I'll only speak for Ontario, but we have spent years dealing with those issues at the community level.

Any provincial legislation needs to have the flexibility to support first nations communities in pursuing development in ways that align with their own specific cultural and community values, for example the banning of recreational cannabis around community events and ceremonies. We take our protocols and ceremonies very seriously, and to a large extent cannabis has not been part of those ceremonies and community protocols. How do we deal with that? How is our jurisdiction respected if the communities set out their own laws and ordinances around that?

I remain optimistic that first nations will directly benefit from any revenue generated from these ventures. While historically Ontario first nations have been neglected in resource revenue-sharing with the Province of Ontario, this new industry provides an opportunity to turn a new leaf and to examine innovative revenue-sharing opportunities. We just need to avoid the potholes in the path going forward.

However, the biggest concern that first nations in Ontario and across the country have with Bill C-45 is the health and safety of our peoples. According to the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, cannabis is the second most-abused substance after alcohol, followed by cocaine and opioids. It was estimated as far back as 2003 in Ontario that an additional $33 million per year was needed to treat first nations drug and alcohol addictions. This is as a result of decades of underfunding.

What will happen when cannabis is legalized and more of our people are able to access this drug? We know there will be an increase in the need for addiction treatment. We know there will be a need for an increase in law enforcement as well. When the states of Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis sales in 2013, American Indian tribes were negatively impacted. This should be examined. Cannabis products were sold illegally on reservations as far as New Mexico, Arizona, and North and South Dakota. The primary targets were native American teenagers.

To quote the July 25, 2014 Denver Post article:

...tribal leaders are fighting a heroic but losing stand as state-legalized marijuana, cannibis-infused food, liquids, e-cigarette cartridges and other products make their way to young people from Colorado and Washington state-licensed dispensaries.

How are we going to ensure this does not happen here in Canada? For example, first nations policing is already chronically underfunded and understaffed. Over the past several decades the Chiefs of Ontario have passed at least 43 resolutions calling for more funding for first nations community policing.

To quote from our May 2017 “Strategy for a Safer Ontario” position paper:

The federal First Nations Policing Program fails to meet the needs of First Nations Police Services in Ontario, and its archaic assumptions place the safety of First Nations Officers and their community citizens at risk.

The Ontario Police Services Act provides a legislative basis for police services in the province of Ontario. However, first nations police services are not afforded the same protections other police services receive in the province, because there is no equivalent legislation for them specifically. Securing funding that is stable and sustainable is an ongoing necessity to improve the delivery of first nations police services. Funding is needed to build capacity to ensure the safety of first nations officers in responding to calls, to create specialized services, and to ensure there is adequate housing and infrastructure in support of first nations police services.

The need for training beyond front-line policing training is an integral part of community policing. This training should include cultural awareness training for native and non-native officers alike, so they understand the cultural norms of first nations communities. It should also include understanding social services, including dealing with addictions and other societal problems common in first nations communities.

On that list of quotes, I want to emphasize that you just had folks here from the police chiefs' organizations federally, and they were stating they are not going to be prepared, so you can only imagine what is going to need to be examined for first nations communities. We definitely are going to render ourselves hopeless here if something isn't looked at and responded to.

From the economic development standpoint to date, resource revenue-sharing agreements have largely been left to the provincial governments in relation to geological and environmental resources such as mining, forestry, and hydroelectric power. The bill has completely neglected any specific opportunity for first nations to participate meaningfully in or have any resources to appropriately respond to the implications of this emerging market.

Section 60 of Bill C-45 states that the Attorney General of Canada may enter into an agreement with the government of a province, or with any provincial, municipal, or local authority, respecting the sharing of fines and fees that are collected in respect to the prosecution of offences and for the compensation, administration, and enforcement of this act.

If the Government of Canada is serious about its dedication to a government-to-government relationship, first nations need to be included in this section to provide adequate responses to the implications of this bill within and surrounding first nations communities. This could include supporting first nations emergency responders, such as police, ambulance, and fire response, which will be impacted by manufacturing and sales within this emerging industry. A revenue-sharing agreement with first nations would ensure quality emergency response to promote community safety, which is an important factor in self-government.

While there may be some first nations that are unwilling to participate in the industry, which is their prerogative, there will be others that will want to participate as meaningful partners or even sole owners of related businesses. Within section 6.1(a), the minister may establish classes of applications for licences and permits. First nations should be a separate class and have a designated number of licences and permits attached to the class. The act permits the minister to revoke licences based on business incorporation being formed or organized outside of Canada.

As the Attorney General continues to work on federal legislation that impacts first nations' own ability to self-govern, more first nations will begin to assert their sovereignty and their jurisdictions. This could include self-regulation on cannabis but also on business licences and incorporation.

At this point, let me just make a very quick observation and suggestion. With respect to taxation in the province of Ontario, we know for sure that within the provincial and territorial regimes, when it comes to retail and distribution, that is going to be a ticket item. That's going to be part of the bottom line. We feel it's very important to examine what has happened in Ontario.

We will certainly want to explore the issue of taxation, and we know that the only way to do that within the context of the harmonized sales tax in Canada is through a CITCA. That was a heavy negotiation in Ontario. This legislation and the relevant policy-makers should be looking at that very closely, because taxation will become an issue.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

How much further do you have to go there? We're beyond our time, and we want to get to questions.

2:15 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

I have probably about two more minutes.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Fire away.

2:15 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

It is always important to be mindful of the changes to come in how colonial legislation includes the impact on the first nations' ability to generate revenues to appropriately govern their nations.

In conclusion, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how the legal sale of cannabis will affect first nations. This is why the AFN is calling for a national cannabis summit. How will our communities benefit in terms of economic opportunities and revenue-sharing? How will our people be affected in terms of health and safety, and how much funding will the federal government set aside for first nations in terms of education, especially for our youth, on the impacts of cannabis? How will we use the many millions of dollars generated to treat the ongoing issue of cannabis addiction?

At the AFN's AGM this past July in Regina, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the chiefs that there simply is no funding in the current budget to properly fund first nations police services. Canada must take funding of first nations policing services as its top priority. Before Bill C-45 becomes law next year, our communities must have the proper health, policing, and public safety resources in place.

Let me repeat, there appear to be more questions than answers. This leaves first nations—and, I might say, the feds, provinces, and territories—in a compromised state leading into an accelerated timeline on legislation.

To that end, my concluding question to the committee is, who is going to pay for the impact of hasty and forced legislation?

Thank you, and I'm open for questions.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Thank you.

Now we're going to go to our first round of questions. They will be seven-minute questions and answers, and we'll start with Mr. Eyolfson.

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you all for coming.

One of the things we've been aware of was brought up by a number of people at a town hall I held on the subject of cannabis a couple of weeks ago. This parallels an experience in the United States as well, that a lot of our current drug laws—the criminalization of drugs, including cannabis—have particularly affected groups that are overrepresented already in the justice system and are already subject to poverty and other issues. In Canada, that includes our first nations population.

I put this to everyone here. Do you find our current criminalization strategy is unfairly or overtly targeting indigenous groups? Would you say they are overrepresented among those that are being disadvantaged by this?

Mr. Day, I'll start with you.

2:20 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

Speaking to the issue of overrepresentation—whether it be in the child welfare system, the criminal justice system, and so on and so forth—we sometimes see society address the surface issues. We know for sure that when it comes to addiction, the addiction itself is only a surface issue.

My friend and colleague next to me talked to the social determinants on health. In my remarks, I spoke to the issue of needing to have effective funding and policing. From an overall systems perspective, we know for sure there are deeper issues, and the cannabis issues and the criminalization over the last several decades have only spoken to the fact that there are deeper issues.

My point is that there will need to be an examination of what is at the core of issues of addiction in the community. We can send good money after bad on this issue, but if we're not addressing the core issues in our first nations communities, we'll always be putting money where it's not going to be best used.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

One of the things we've heard in our testimony, and I found in my own experience as a physician as well, is that there is a correlation between mental illness and drug addiction. We know there are many people who suffer from mental illness, who then go on to experiment with drugs, self-medicate with drugs, and consequently become addicted to drugs. This causes its own problems, and also actually makes treatment of the underlying mental illness more of a challenge. This becomes a bit of a vicious cycle with people from all populations, not just indigenous ones.

In regard to the indigenous population, the Government of Canada has made some substantial funding commitments in mental health over the next few years, for non-indigenous as well as indigenous people. Right now, part of that commitment means almost $120 million for mental health for indigenous people over the next five years.

Do you believe that will help address the roots of one of the issues that are getting people in indigenous groups into problems with drugs? Again, I'll allow everyone on the panel to answer that.

Ms. Morin Dal Col.

2:20 p.m.

Minister of Health, Métis National Council

Clara Morin Dal Col

Thank you for that, and I'm glad you switched to indigenous and not just first nations.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Yes. That was my mistake.

2:20 p.m.

Minister of Health, Métis National Council

Clara Morin Dal Col

Thank you very much.

Mental health is a big issue. We're looking forward to working with the federal government on funding for Métis, which we've never really had before. Drug use, mental health issues in our Métis communities, and suicide among the youth in all our Métis communities are huge problems for us. That's why it is so important for us to have the funding resources, so we can have better care for our Métis people in these communities and in our urban centres. These are huge problems for us.

The cannabis issue is just a part of that because, as you said, mental health and drug addiction are a big problem for Métis and all indigenous people.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Yes, sir.

2:20 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

Can you just give me the simple, one-line question, so I can answer it directly?

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

We're making a commitment to vastly improve mental health funding. Do you think it will help address this, by preventing some of these people from the indigenous communities from becoming exposed and addicted to drugs in the first place?

2:20 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

That's a really good question. I want to make the delineation here between indigenous and first nations. It's an important one, as my friend and colleague sitting next to me stated. I must state that when it comes to first nations health, under Health Canada we have the first nations and Inuit health branch. There's a program that deals specifically with first nations. The larger extent of suicide issues and social problems that have been in the media are largely focused on first nations communities.

There is an underlying thread of commonality in some of the main issues, which is the jurisdiction and governance of health. Let me point to that specifically. It will be very important for this committee to recognize the issues and implications of cannabis on first nations governments. As first nations health authorities and governance become more developed, you will find that communities and territories that have a handle on the governance—that have control and authority within their community and their catchment, and for their citizens—are able to provide better health outcomes.

I just attended a community of the Samson Cree First Nation, called Hobbema. They have four communities that have a health system—an integrated model where they have a handle on their governance and a direct relationship with Canada.

My point is that it's not just the money coming in and the service being provided, but it will ultimately be the governance and authority of those first nations communities to take an active role and responsibility in addressing the addiction problems in the community.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Time's up. We'll go to Ms. Gladu.

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you, Chair. Thank you to our witnesses. Actually, you may know that Gladu is a Métis name. My daughters are both non-status Métis. It's an honour to have you here today and to hear your testimony.

My first question is going to be to you, Chief Day. You mentioned the tobacco situation in Ontario, which I'm quite familiar with, because in my riding it's quite a business. Obviously tax is going to be a point of discussion, because that would be a price advantage.

How do you see us resolving that as we go forward?

2:25 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

I'm not going to speak to the tobacco issue in that context, because that's not what I referred to in the context of tax. What I referred to was the instrument called CITCA, which is the agreement between Canada and Ontario on the harmonized sales tax and the point of sale tax exemption for first nations in Ontario. I'll say that.

However, you referred to the tobacco issue, and I did as well, so let me draw the comparison. The comparison is going to be around having to address this tax issue down the road when it comes to cannabis. We know that's what the jurisdiction of the province is going to be leaning on. That's how they're going to generate revenues and maintain that new infrastructure and law in Ontario.

I'm here to state that I can only speak for Ontario, but we will definitely want to address that issue. I can't make any assumptions. I can't make any initial conclusions as to what that would look like. I'm just advising the committee that it will have to come to grips with that issue.

I would draw the example that in Ontario we were able to do that through the CITCA, and when a government-to-government-to-government dialogue and negotiation happen, good things can take place. We're going to have to go into this with goodwill, good minds, and a willingness to recognize the sovereignty and rights of first nations on tax exemption.

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Absolutely. I also really agreed with your comments about how this legislation is being rushed in a rather irresponsible way. There are 289 days left, and the police have said they're not prepared. Many of the provinces haven't come out with a plan, and you've indicated there's a lack of readiness among first nations and indigenous groups as well.

I'm very concerned because when I think about the Colorado experience and what happened there, I'm worried that we may see some of the same things. One of the troubling things in Colorado was that in 16% of youth suicides, ages 10 to 19, cannabis use was present.

How long do you think it will take to get the things in place for you to properly implement the legislation?

September 14th, 2017 / 2:30 p.m.

Minister of Health, Métis National Council

Clara Morin Dal Col

We feel it's being rushed. This is something that is going to take time provincially, and even at borders: what's going to happen when somebody wants to cross the border into the U.S.? There are a lot of issues for us to deal with, and we really feel it is being rushed. We need the time to consult with our communities, which is something we haven't had the opportunity to do—lack of funding being one reason. We need the opportunity to have that dialogue with our Métis people.

Thank you.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

We heard testimony that at the border, because it's illegal federally in the U.S., if you were asked if you smoked pot and you said yes, you would be refused entry to the country. That's what we know today.

I don't know if any of you have any experience with the law, but we had a conversation in testimony earlier, where we were talking about provinces or territories that wanted to not implement the cannabis legislation—they wanted to ban it. It was said that wouldn't be allowed because, from a judicial point of view, it would interfere with the federal intent. I don't know if there's an exemption for indigenous sovereign nations or not. Do you know anything about that issue?

2:30 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Isadore Day

I know the concern is the acceleration of the legislation. The word we're getting back is that, in the event a province or territory is not ready, there will be federal online dispensaries made available, and those will be regulated in their own right.

This is going to become a problem for first nations. I can't speak for the provinces and territories, but with respect to first nations we definitely need to ensure that any parts of the act that may affect us—that may be modified because of our land jurisdiction, our sovereignty, and the authority of first nations jurisdictions—are going to be part of a separate discussion. I don't think the days and weeks ahead are going to be adequate to deal with that. There will be some major concessions, and I fear there possibly will be legal challenges in the future if the federal government doesn't deal with this appropriately.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

The addiction issues that we're seeing are on the rise across the country, and we've talked about how they exist with you as well. What resources are currently available in terms of treatment? How much more do you think you would need to deal with issues that are expected to arise, as they have in other jurisdictions that have implemented?