Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you very much for the invitation. It's a pleasure to appear before you this evening. I'm glad to join my colleagues the Minister of Justice; the Minister of Health; Parliamentary Secretary Blair, who has been front and centre in dealing with this issue over the last many months; and officials from our department.
We're here, obviously, to discuss Bill C-45 and how this legislation will help keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian children, and profits out of the hands of criminals, certainly more effectively than the failed regime that has existed in this country for many decades.
In developing our approach to the regulation of cannabis, strengthening public safety has always been our primary goal.
I will now talk about our efforts to ensure that law enforcement agencies, including the police and border services, will have the resources and training needed to protect Canadian communities.
First, it is important to be clear that Canada's current approach to cannabis, the one that has existed for decades, has simply not worked. The World Health Organization has studied cannabis use among youth in Europe and North America. In 2009-10, the WHO found that a third of young Canadians had tried cannabis by the age of 15, a higher rate than for any other country in that study. Also, in a 2013-14 study by the WHO, Canada remained in the top five for 15-year-olds and was number one in cannabis use among children 13 years of age or younger.
As well, according to a 2016 statistical compilation by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the rate of cannabis use among Canadians 15 to 64 was almost 15%, and that was higher for that whole age span than in every country except two others in the world. In other words, Canadians are among the heaviest and the youngest users of cannabis globally.
There is clearly a need to do things differently, and that's why we've proposed this new regime based on the framework set out in Bill C-45 along with enhanced measures to combat impaired driving, which are contained in Bill C-46, and room for provinces and territories to tailor approaches that suit their particular circumstances.
Essential to this new regime is engagement with and support for police and border officers to ensure that they have the tools they need to enforce the law. To this end we recently announced an investment of $274 million that includes $113.5 million over five years for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency as well as for programming within Public Safety Canada, primarily to keep organized crime out of this new legalized system and to combat smuggling. The investment also includes $161 million to train front-line officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, to build law enforcement capacity across the country, to ensure that police have access to drug screening devices, to support research, and to enhance public awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired by drugs.
Over half of the $161 million will be accessible to provinces and territories over the next five years, and my department is already engaged with them to identify the needs and the priorities for the investments, particularly with respect to training and equipment. That collaboration across jurisdictions has been a key part of our preparations for the new legislative framework, and it will remain crucial to the implementation and ongoing evaluation of the system that Bill C-45 will put in place. In that regard, as the Minister of Justice mentioned, she and I spent two days last week with our provincial and territorial counterparts at a meeting in Vancouver, where the discussions around this particular topic were particularly important.
There are three topics that I would like to address. Of the many that will need to be discussed about Bill C-45, these are the three in particular that I'd like to address in a little more detail.
First, on the subject of cannabis at the border. It is, of course, currently illegal to bring cannabis into Canada or to take cannabis out of Canada. Going both ways across the border, it's illegal. Under Bill C-45, that would not change. Border officers already examine people and goods entering the country to prevent the smuggling of contraband, including cannabis. They make use of advanced technology, intelligence gathering, and ongoing training about how to detect and interdict substances that may not be brought across the border. Their efforts will continue, bolstered by some of the new funding that I mentioned earlier.
As for the admissibility into the United States of Canadians who have previously used cannabis, we have engaged our American counterparts to ensure that they understand how our new regime will function and what it will achieve, and we have made clear that we expect travellers heading in both directions to be treated in a fair, professional, and respectful manner.
At the same time, the United States is, of course, entitled to make its own admissibility decisions. I would certainly encourage Canadians to be forthright with border officials and to keep in mind that cannabis remains illegal at the federal level in the United States. In fact, some of the new funding for the CBSA will go toward communications and signage to ensure that travellers are well informed about the state of the law.
The situation in the United States is also complicated by the fact that there are a number of state jurisdictions that either have already legalized cannabis or are planning to do so in the immediate future, so the situation with respect to American law is evolving.
Second, on the subject of organized crime. At present, Canada's non-medical cannabis industry is entirely criminal. The illegal cannabis trade in this country puts $7 billion annually, perhaps more, into the pockets of organized crime. Over half of Canadian organized crime groups are suspected or known to be involved in the cannabis market. Canadian law enforcement spends upwards of $2 billion every year trying to enforce what is currently an ineffective legal regime. With legalization and regulation, we can enable law enforcement resources to be used more effectively, and we can dramatically reduce the involvement of and the flow of money to organized crime.
In Washington state, for example, legalization a short time ago has shrunk the criminal share of the cannabis market by nearly 75%. As with tobacco, we know that the black market is unlikely to be entirely eliminated, but we're talking about taking the criminal market share from non-medical cannabis down from 100%, where it exists today, to much lower levels, and that would be an improvement.
Third, on the subject of impaired driving. Parliament will have an opportunity, obviously, to go into this in much greater detail during the study of Bill C-46, the companion piece to Bill C-45. Bill C-46 is specifically aimed at better addressing the long-standing problem of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But I know it's an issue that touches many of us very directly, and I certainly feel a deep personal sense of urgency to tackle it head-on, both as Minister of Public Safety and as the member of Parliament for Regina—Wascana.
Of all the provinces, Saskatchewan has Canada's highest impaired driving rate. Among cities, Regina is third in the country, with Saskatoon not far behind. Too many families in Saskatchewan, and in all of our communities, mourn loved ones lost to impaired driving. This is therefore a problem that exists right now, and we would have to address it with or without the new cannabis regime. It's urgent that we do so.
As I have said, we are doing this with the legislation we introduced in the spring as well as with the additional cash investments that I mentioned a few moments ago. I welcome the strong public support and advocacy that we see coming for legislation such as Bill C-46 from such organizations as MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They have gone so far as to engage in a very public advertising campaign about the importance of this legislation.
To deal with cannabis-impaired driving specifically, our approach focuses on educating the public and facilitating detection and prosecution. In March, for example, Public Safety Canada launched a social media campaign targeting young drivers and their parents in order to raise awareness about the dangers of driving while under the influence of cannabis.
Last winter, seven police services across the country, from Halifax to Vancouver and to Yellowknife, participated in a groundbreaking pilot project to study two different oral fluid drug screening devices in diverse operational settings, including the dead of winter. As you can read in the report that was released in June, police generally found the devices easy to use in various weather, temperature, and lighting conditions. Part of the investment I mentioned earlier will help ensure that police officers in communities across the country have these devices and are properly trained to use them.
Finally on this point, I know this committee has heard concerns about the timeline for implementation, but cannabis-impaired driving is happening on our streets right now. The faster we get the right tools, the funding, the training, and the legislative and regulatory authorities in place, the safer Canadians will be. Legislative delay does not make the problem go away or get better. Delay only stalls more effective action.
Public health and safety have been the key drivers of our approach to cannabis and will remain our overarching preoccupation. For too long Canadians, and especially Canadian youth, have been using cannabis at world record rates to the great profit of criminals and organized crime. That needs to change, and that's why we have this bill before you now.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.