Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-45.
Before I start my comments on Bill C-45, let me take a minute to reflect on the upcoming weekend and the remembrance services that many of us in this room will be attending this coming weekend, and to thank our veterans for the freedoms that we enjoy. Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending a number of remembrance services in New Dundee, New Hamburg, Linwood, and Elmira. This coming weekend, I will be in New Hamburg, Waterloo, Kitchener, and Elmira again. Let us just to think of the sacrifice that our veterans have made, and thank our legions for the great work that they do in not only supporting our veterans but also in helping us never to forget. I want to highlight that before I get into my remarks on Bill C-45.
There are a number of really important issues that are dealt with in this chamber on a daily basis. Over the last number of weeks, we have discussed a number of them, from rising debt to taxation, supposedly fair taxation, the economy, the deficit that is growing every day, and the amazing excessive interest we will be paying on that over the next four years of $33 billion per year. All of these things are important. However, in relation to the topic before us today, really they are of minor significance. This topic we are discussing today will have a life-changing impact not only on our youth and our citizens but on the very nation of Canada. I think it is important that we think clearly and soberly about the changes we are making, especially as it relates to three areas.
I first want to refer to our youth. That has been referred to many times today, the health, safety, and well-being of our children and our grandchildren, the safety of all Canadians on the roads, and the social risks that are involved in our communities with complaints and issues that will arise between neighbours.
However, let me first refer to our youth.
In question period today, my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska, and I just happened to catch it, made this great statement that the decisions we make reveal the values we hold. How much do we, as members of Parliament, in this room value the youth of Canada? That is a question that we need to ask. I believe youth are a sacred trust that every one of us in this room has an obligation to guard seriously. We cannot take this obligation lightly.
The Liberals claim repeatedly that the purpose of this legislation is to protect our young people and to increase public safety. How can we keep this drug out of the hands of our youth when we are actually allowing four plants per household? How can we say we are keeping it out of the hands of our youth when we are allowing 12-year-olds to have up to five grams in their possession? We often hear of people being polled about whether they favour the legalization of marijuana, and the polls are all over the place, but it is somewhere around 50:50 or 60:40. However, I am convinced that if we were to give the details of what this bill entails with respect to the availability of four plants per household and up to five grams for 12-year-olds, we would get a much different answer.
The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Psychiatric Association have both stated that Canadians who consume marijuana recreationally under the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. We can all probably tell some anecdotal stories of family members or neighbours who have been derailed by the early use of marijuana.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association says:
Regular cannabis use in youth and young adults can affect aspects of cognition...attention, memory, processing speed, visuospatial functioning and overall intelligence. Worse performance is related to earlier adolescent onset of use.
I do not know how much earlier an onset one could get than offering this availability to a 12-year-old. Therefore, parents and grandparents are very concerned about the direction in which this bill is going.
Dr. Diane Kelsall in the Canadian Medical Association Journal wrote, “Most of us know a young person whose life was derailed because of marijuana use. Bill C-45 is unlikely to prevent such tragedies from occurring—and, conversely, may make them more frequent.”
There are far too many young people who have already been derailed. These are not just opinions, these are medical and psychiatric experts, and it is important that we listen to them.
I want to use the bulk of my time today to listen to one of the youth of Canada, who is concerned that this legislation and the actions we approve here in this House would, or could, in fact derail young people. She does not want to be one of those derailed, and she does not want her friends to be derailed. This young person is my granddaughter who wrote this two years ago, in November 2015, when she was 15 years old. She wrote:
Marijuana, the dangerous substance that damages our lungs, brain, educational value and social activity is the substance the government of Canada is trying to legalize. Claims say that legalization will erode the black market but in reality, legalizing marijuana will give people easier access to the drug. Recently I heard the testimony of a man who at age 14 was heading to Toronto for 420 with one hundred dollars worth of Marijuana. The fact that ten years ago a 14 year old boy who had no job and no car was able to get his hands on one hundred dollars worth of weed blows my mind. Can you imagine how easy it would be for someone to get marijuana now, especially if it were to become legal? Easier access to Marijuana will have many negative effects for Canada such as major health damage, ruining our educational system, our workplace and our society. The future of Canada rests in the hands of our generation, there is no way marijuana will be a positive tool in that regard....
With long term and short term effects the list of things that marijuana does to damage your health is endless. Short term effects include impaired memory, impaired body movement, changes in mood, hallucinations, paranoia, difficulty thinking and problem solving. Along with temporary damage Marijuana proves to once again be a dangerous substance having a long lasting effect on your brain and mental health. A study showed that people who started heavily smoking marijuana in their teens lost an average of eight IQ points between ages of 13 and 38. Even after quitting as an adult the lost mental abilities did not fully return. There are many different ways to consume Marijuana but no matter which way, it is harmful. Marijuana smoke contains the same tar and chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke which will lead to the inflammation of bronchitis. The drug harms cells lining and respiratory tract leading to precancerous changes that are associated with lung, head and neck cancer. Marijuana also stimulates your heart rate and blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart attack among individuals. I have named only a few of the health risks that occur when marijuana is consumed however, I hope that this is enough to strongly discourage you from believing the legalization of medical marijuana will infact be a positive thing in any way shape or form.
She went on:
The damage of marijuana does not end with your health, the drugs negative effect leads into your educational life as well. A review of 48 different relevant studies all found that marijuana use is associated with reduced chances of graduating. A recent analysis of data from studies in Australia and New Zealand found that youth who have used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely to finish highschool and obtain a degree than their non-using peers. Marijuana is encouraging lazy work habits and a 'don't care' attitude, leading students down the path of becoming a high school dropout. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that while under the influence of marijuana the still developing brain will have difficulty retaining memories, when related back to school this can seriously affect your learning skills as a student. “Falling behind in school is par for the course when marijuana use is a factor. It's not an issue solely based on loss of memory; they also report that psychological skills are reduced among students as well, decreasing their ability to sustain their self-confidence and remain focused on achieving academic and other goals”—NIDA. Even though marijuana is an illegal drug it has not stopped teens and students from buying and using the drug, what is to happen now if marijuana becomes legal? By legalizing this drug we are practically encouraging students to go out and get high, ruining their high school career and affecting whatever may lay beyond that....
Believe me when I say that marijuana not only negatively affects your health, your education but your social and work life as well. Studies show specific links between the use of marijuana and the workplace such as increased risk of injuries and accidents. One study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 75 percent greater absence compared with those who tested negative for marijuana. After all of the papers you wrote, tests you studied for and emotional trials you went through over the minimum of 16 years of schooling, is it really worth it to throw that all away for the temporary high of marijuana?
....Before make the decision to legalize this dangerous substance lets first think of all of the health risks caused by this drug, the negative effect that it would have on our educational system and how different and harmful the workplace and our economy would be with marijuana easily accessible and legal.
I have so much more to share.
Let me finish with some comments by Dr. Diane Kelsall, director of the Canadian Medical Association, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. She says, “If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”
I hope my colleagues will listen.