Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak in the House in regard to Bill C-45, an act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other acts.
I am trying to think of an appropriate word to use that the people across the aisle would possibly accept and understand. The bill is harmful to young people. It is harmful to our society. It is poorly thought out. It is extremely rushed, and as a result, it is very dangerous legislation for us to be putting forward in Canada.
The Liberals claim that it will protect the health of young persons. That is one of their virtuous goals in putting this forward. Medical professionals have talked about mental health issues, including addiction, and the impact on the developing brain. Data shows that 30% to 40% of young people under the age of 25 who use cannabis will develop psychotic disorders, depression, or anxiety disorders. This is information from professionals, as my colleague was trying to present to the House to enable the Liberal Party to read and possibly discern that there are dangers in what they are suggesting they legalize in Canada.
The Liberals also talk about restricting access by young people. I have never heard a more confusing argument: trying to restrict the use of a dangerous substance by legalizing it and actually making it more available to young people. We know that the bill would allow young people between the ages of 12 and 18 to possess five grams at any one time. This would not say to young people that this is not something they should do. It would say it is okay for them to have this. Maybe it is because they do not want them to have a criminal record. It is irrational to say we do not want them to have a criminal record, so they can take and hold this much. It is not right, because it would encourage them to consider this.
In grade seven, I was part of a debate team. Our class was given this topic: grade seven students are juvenile and immature. Of course, we wanted to debate against that, because we were in grade seven, and we were not juvenile and not immature. My teacher told us to debate the other side, and somehow he convinced us to do that. We won that debate, because grade seven students are juvenile and immature. They are not grown up yet. They are formulating what their values are, and here we are with a government that is saying to them to go ahead and have five grams in their possession at any one time. It does not take long to realize that it would be a risk to them on many levels, besides their trying to process it with their own moral values. They could be coerced to carry it for others, possibly parents, or possibly older teens in the family who want more available. They could carry it for their siblings or their parents or a friend.
These young people also could be very much drawn into the black market to be handlers. I think especially of youth at risk. We like to think that this is not going to impact them in any way, but it will, because they are already at risk. They are vulnerable, and they are an easy target for people who are immoral and dishonest and will teach them behaviours that are not right and will draw them into a life of crime. There is also the opportunity to simply sell it personally and make money on something the government is saying they can have in their possession. Finally, there is the potential for them to say that they can have this, so why not just try it.
All these reasons totally negate this irrational argument that somehow, by legalizing this and making it available to children aged 12 to 18, it would restrict access. I have never heard a more disjointed, inaccurate, and inconceivable argument put forward. The government also said that it wants to protect young people from the inducement to use. Well, I have already said that just by putting the bill forward in this way, it is actually encouraging young people to consider using.
Another member on the other side of the House came back with the argument, on the question of youth having it in their possession, that it is the parents' responsibility. It is just like any other thing in the house they might have. The parents are responsible. On one level, I totally agree that parents are and should be responsible, above all other influences, for determining what direction their children should be guided. Parental rights, responsibilities, and privileges in raising children, which are our most precious and valuable resource as a nation, need to be protected. They actually need to be encouraged by government. Government should be supporting Canadian families through legislation. However, here it is working in opposition and challenging parents by telling teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 that it is okay, and legal, to have five grams of marijuana on their person.
I have worked a lot with teenagers, and I actually survived raising three amazing young adults myself. I have to tell members that at that point in life, the right thing for them to be doing is challenging things around them and trying to determine where their values are in relation to their parents and in what direction they are going to go.
When I tell my children that something is not right, and it is something they are thinking about, but their government turns around and tells them that it is okay and that it is legal, that is not supporting parents. The government is pushing this responsibility on them, just like it is pushing the responsibility on provinces and municipalities. The Liberals created the bill because they made an election promise, and they are having trouble finding one they can keep, so this is the one they will pull it off on.
This is entirely wrong. If youth should not use it, then they should not carry it.
The government also uses the argument that it is going to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis. In other words, it will somehow shut down the black market with the legal use of marijuana. We know how well that is working with contraband cigarettes.
I know from conversations with people I have helped in 10-step programs that there are rehab centres where black market drug dealers go to get healed. While there, they develop relationships with people they then meet on the outside, and they help them to become part of the process. This is not going to shut down the black market. It is money driven, it is greed driven, and it has nothing to do with caring for our society. The government is playing into its hands.
Canadians are very concerned all over this country. They are concerned about the workplace, law enforcement people, and our children, and they do not know what to do. They are throwing up their hands and asking how the government can do this.
Well, I have a few words I want to say to Canadians. I am going to post it, actually.
I will tell them that they have been amazing on so many fronts in dealing with issues this government has brought forward over the last two years, and they have made a difference. Opposition parties have a role to play, but we are here to represent Canadians, and as a result of their work and their telling this government what they will and will not accept, electoral reform is not on the table. They did that with their advocacy.
Punitive and unfair tax increases on the middle class, small and medium businesses, and farmers are not going to take place the way they would have if the Liberals had just been allowed to go ahead with their policies. Canadians made the difference.
They shut down the removal of section 176 and are protecting the right to freedom of religion in this country. They caused the Surgeon General to relegate the dangerous anti-malaria drug mefloquine to a drug of last resort, after decades of causing harm to our servicemen and women.
Canadians can do this. They can make a difference. I know that they see this law as irrational, dangerous, and rushed, everything that is not good. Therefore, I encourage them to do what they have done. I know they are exhausted. They should keep going.