House of Commons Hansard #186 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was licence.

Topics

Bee PopulationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, because bees are in peril, because they are facing habitat loss and pesticide deaths, because they are vital pollinators and contribute over $2 billion a year to Canada's agricultural economy, I present to Parliament petitions signed by members of the Nanaimo Beekeepers Club. They gathered these signatures in support of federal action to protect bees on the Day of the Honey Bee.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to present two petitions.

The first is from residents of Kipawa, Quebec, who are very concerned about the Lake Kipawa system. The ecosystem there is threatened by a rare earth project, and petitions continue to come in asking the federal government to work to protect this ecosystem from the proposed Matamec Explorations Inc. mine.

AgriculturePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands who are looking to the government to ensure that our aid policies are allowing and encouraging small family farmers in the developing world, the global south, to save seeds.

It is an ancient practice in agriculture for farmers to have the right to save and use seeds in the following season. It is increasingly under threat. The petitioners hope that the Government of Canada, through the work of our international aid agencies, will support family farmers, many of whom, if not most of whom, are women.

Falun GongPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have five petitions to table, all dealing with the same issue.

Back in July of 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched an intensive nationwide persecution campaign to eradicate the Falun Gong. Hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in forced labour camps, brainwashing centres, and prisons, where torture and abuse are routine, and thousands have died as a direct result. There are many other concerns. The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to do what it can in terms of bringing more attention to the issue.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Child BenefitPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

June 2nd, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, on Friday last week, the member for Kootenay—Columbia asked a question about the Canada child benefit, and I promised to come back to the House with clarification on a policy. It was a very significant question that requires a very significant response.

The issue had to do with whether women escaping violent domestic situations have to return to their spouses to get permission or a signature in order to receive the Canada child benefit.

In fact, that is an option, but it is only one of five options, and it is certainly not the most recommended. Front-line workers also instruct women that they are entitled to have a social worker, police officer, lawyer, or faith leader to confirm that the mother is, in fact, in charge of the family's children. We do not require women to return to dangerous situations in order to receive that benefit.

The situation had been resolved before the question was asked. I have also made sure that the member opposite has the correct information. I wanted to make sure that members of the House and Canadians who are listening know that we take this issue very seriously. Gender-based analysis was applied to this process to make sure that women are not put in danger to receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

The House resumed from June 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise on this bill, particularly given the fact that the policies that pertain to cannabis have been nothing short of abject failures.

We have, over successive decades, let our young people down. In fact, if we look at the numbers, for the cohort from 15 to 19, there is a 21% prevalence in the use of cannabis. If we go the next cohort up, 20 to 24, it is 30%. It represents the highest level of cannabis use by young people on the planet. In fact, one-third of young people will try cannabis before the age of 15.

I know I have heard many times from members opposite that they are concerned about cannabis being in the hands of young people. The problem is that it is already happening, and it is already happening at higher levels than it is happening anywhere else on the planet. The only way we can categorize being dead last on the planet is as a failure, and certainly to me it speaks to the need to do something differently.

We cannot be ostriches on this. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem does not exist. It is not just our young people who are being let down. We spend $2 billion to $3 billion in the enforcement of these failed laws. About $7 billion or $8 billion of profit goes to illegal organized crime organizations that fund illicit activities. Having been on the Police Services Board in Durham region, and seeing the impact of grow-ops and the danger our front-line officers are placed in when trying to enforce these disastrously failed policies, I know first-hand just how much this change is needed. It is time to stop play pretend. It is time to stop ignoring this issue and to finally do something about it.

I look at the example of my time at Heart and Stroke, where I was the executive director, and what we did with tobacco. We targeted tobacco, and through a sustained effort of denormalization and public intervention, took prevalence rates among young people of well over 50% to half the level of where cannabis is today. Here is cannabis, an illegal substance, double that of a legal substance.

The example of what we did in tobacco with those campaigns on denormalization offer an excellent path for us to move forward. We know we have two objectives at the front of our minds. Number one is to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people, something we have done an abysmal job of doing to date. It is a total failure. Number two is to dry out the billions of dollars in illicit profit that is flowing to criminal organizations. If those are the two markers we want to go for, the bill takes us a long way in that direction.

I want to thank the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, headed by the Hon. Anne McLellan, and the incredible work done by experts in public health, justice, policing, public safety and substance abuse, and mental health who came together and were instrumental in creating the bill. It would now make cannabis legal for adults. Thirty grams dried, either for personal use or to be shared, would be legal. Small quantities would be allowed to be grown, so if individuals wanted to grow marijuana, they would be able to do so. They could have four plants no higher than one metre in height per residence.

At the same time as we bring in that regime to legalize it for adults, we would bring in very strict regulations to keep it out of the hands of youth. That is particularly important, because the research shows us that cannabis is most deadly and most concerning for young people and their mental health. We will obviously have to invest in public education campaigns and the type of denormalization efforts we had for tobacco.

On top of that, for the first time, the bill would make it a criminal offence to sell to a minor. It would create severe penalties for anyone who engaged youth in cannabis-related offences. Very importantly, it would block marketing and advertising to children, something we should have done from day one when dealing with tobacco.

To make sure that a young person who makes an error is not burdened with a criminal record that would, frankly, wreak havoc on their later life—and unfortunately we see that all too often—minors who are caught with an amount under five grams would not get a criminal record.

Make no mistake: this bill would target full force the use of cannabis by young people. It would come down like a hammer on anyone who would seek to sell to or use young people, under an age determined by the provinces, in the conduct of anything having to do with cannabis.

On the supply side, this legislation would also bring in a number of important measures. One of the big concerns with cannabis today is that people who are purchasing it have no idea what they are getting. They do not know the level of THC or if anything else has been cut into it. The bill would ensure that the supply was safe, that it was securely cleared, and that it was federally licensed. For adults who make the decision to use it, the bill would ensure that it was done in a way that causes the least amount of harm.

Concurrent with this bill is Bill C-46. While that is a different bill, it is very important to mention that the two would work in tandem with one another.

Some have asked about driving impaired, as if the problem does not exist today. The problem, unfortunately, does exist today, and law enforcement has been given no tools to deal with someone who has been driving under the influence of drugs, not just cannabis. We know the deadly impact of impaired driving. We have made great strides in dealing with the impact of alcohol. Bill C-46 would go even further. It would make further advancements in public safety when it comes to drinking and driving.

Bill C-46, for the first time, would set up a regime. The government would be providing resources to ensure that law enforcement had the ability to recognize and charge anyone who was driving high. That is an important part of the fabric of this bill.

I want to state in closing that the balance in public safety between, on the one hand, ensuring that illicit, dangerous substances are kept out of the hands of people generally, and on the other, ensuring that when the regime we have is not working we find a different path, is incredibly important. What we are seeing here with respect to cannabis is that appropriate balance. We are making sure that young people are protected. We are making sure that we keep cannabis out of their hands and that we have robust education to tell them about the damage cannabis can do to a developing mind. On the other hand, we are looking at the fact that existing policies have been complete failures. When almost a third of the population is using it, it is time for a different approach.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about the need for robust education with regard to marijuana use, particularly among young people. I would agree with him that this seems to be a very important provision that should be within this piece of legislation going forward.

The interesting point is that the Liberals are allocating less than $2 million per year for public education on marijuana, and that funding is not going to be implemented until right before the legislation comes into effect on July 1, 2018. It seems a little late in the game to start educating the public when it is in tandem with the legislation itself.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on how this would provide robust education.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing here today is setting out the framework for regulating and legalizing marijuana. What is going to follow is the exact plan to ensure that public education is furthered.

We do not want to do what, unfortunately, was done by the previous government, which was to provide nearly no dollars for public education on health at all. I look at the rates of tobacco use and how that impacts young people. The national tobacco strategy was thrown in the garbage. The dollars that were put in every single year for public education to make sure that young people did not smoke tobacco were not expended at all.

It is time to turn the page on a dark time that occurred in public health awareness. We want to do that not only on cannabis but on tobacco and public health issues in general.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member made mention in his speech of dropping the hammer down on anyone who operates outside the way Bill C-45 is written, and Bill C-45 certainly has some harsh punishments. Someone over the age of 18 who distributes to someone who is younger could face up to 14 years in prison for an indictable offence. If it is a summary conviction, it could be $5,000 or a term of six months.

If we have a household where pot plants are allowed to be grown, and we have an inadvertent situation where someone over the age of 18 accidentally lets that marijuana get into the hands of someone younger, how are we making sure we are not dropping the hammer on a family unit and possibly sending a parent or guardian to jail for something that happened by accident? I just hope the government has taken that into consideration and maybe has a plan to deal with it.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, going back to the number I stated during my speech, that roughly one-third of children under the age of 15 will try marijuana, that is an abhorrent statistic. Any parents or guardians who are going to have cannabis in their possession need to be incredibly careful about where that cannabis is and how they contain it. That is already a circumstance existing today. Unfortunately, it is easier for a young person today to get a joint than to get a cigarette or a bottle of beer. That is a circumstance we have to change.

I hope the bill sends the clearest possible message that we have absolutely no tolerance, none, zero, for anyone who seeks to sell this product, or drugs generally, to children. It is an abhorrent act, particularly when a young person has a developing mind. That is why we recognize in this legislation that we need to draw a thick black line to say that it is totally and utterly unacceptable. There is a major difference between an adult who makes the decision to use cannabis and a child who is at risk and exposed.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I found striking was the fact that when we compare Canada's rate of youth who have used cannabis to any other country in the developed world, I am told that we are the worst country. In other words, it has not worked over the last decade.

Is it not safe to say that for the first time, we have a government that is really dealing with the issue of protecting our young people and dealing with the issue in terms of criminality?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is 100% right. This is about public health, first and foremost. It is about protecting our children, first and foremost, as well.

I look at the complete failure we have had, and I am glad I am with a government that has the courage to act, to stop pretending that this problem is magically going to go away, when year over year the numbers get higher and higher.

This bill takes action. The action is appropriate. I have great belief that just as we were successful with tobacco, we will be successful with cannabis.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to add my comments to the debate on Bill C-45, which is the cannabis act.

It is interesting that the Liberals, when they were the third party in the House, wanted to put out some things in the window to encourage voters, but I do not think they ever actually thought that they were going to have to follow through with this particular policy. They made a lot of promises in the election, including balanced budgets, electoral reform, and of course legalizing cannabis. To be quite frank, I would have much preferred that they kept their promise on a balanced budget than their promise of legalizing cannabis.

As is the policy of our party, most Canadians think that children, young teenagers, and young adults should not be adversely impacted and have criminal records for having a small amount of cannabis. Certainly that is something that would have been important to move forward, rather than an ill-thought-out plan that probably would create some significant damages down the way.

The Liberals' stated policy objective is going to be monitored and watched by all Canadians because the Liberal government is saying two things. The Liberals are saying, first, that they are going to protect our children, and second, that they are going to get organized crime out of this business, and that the rest of us have our heads in the sand like ostriches. The Liberals are going to be held to account, year after year as the data come in, as to whether they have actually achieved those two objectives. Certainly, there are a number of people out there who are very concerned that the design of the legislation would not achieve those outcomes.

I am going to read a couple of excerpts from a very good article that came out in the Canadian Medical Association Journal a couple of days ago. It is important to note that the Minister of Health is also a physician and that this is her professional body. The CMA is advising with regard to the legislation, and it has some pretty important things to say. Perhaps the minister should reflect on what it is saying, because the association is an expert in this area.

The title of the article is “Cannabis legislation fails to protect Canada’s youth”. This is an article by Dr. Kelsall. I do not have time to read it all, but I certainly encourage anyone who is interested to read the details. It was in the May 29 Canadian Medical Association Journal. It says, “The purported purpose of the act is to protect public health and safety, yet some of the act’s provisions appear starkly at odds with this objective, particularly for Canada’s youth.”

The author then goes into significant detail, which has been spoken about in the debate up to now, in terms of young age and the particularly long-term consequences and impact of cannabis use on the developing brain, and really saying that it is not until the age of 25, when the brain is more fully developed, that it is less impactful. What did the government do? The medical association says, at a minimum, to make the age 21 for legalization because up to that age it is a real issue, so the Liberals made the legal age 18. That is the first significant area of concern.

Next, the article talks about drawing on the work of the federal task force, which “recommended taking a public health approach”, yet in the bill the age is set, even though 21 years is absolutely recommended.

The association's next area of concern is the “personal cultivation of up to four marijuana plants”. About this, the article states, “allowing personal cultivation will increase the risk of diversion and access to cannabis that is not subject to any quality or potency controls.” That is important. The Liberals talk about use, and I believe a lot of studies talk about the fact that the first time children smoke a cigarette at a young age is often when they have gone into their parents' package of cigarettes and taken from that supply. That is their first exposure to cigarettes. We now would have a situation where having cannabis, whether it is purchased legally or grown in the home, becomes normalized.

To be quite frank, I think children's access would be much easier than it currently is, especially in the case of the homegrown and particularly in the case of the potency issues.

The other issue with the home growing is that, not only do I think children are going to have more access, but why did the Liberals ever put this in there? They did not need to have homegrown in there at all. I think if they are going to do this, it should be absolutely all purchased and quality controlled.

They talk about only being able to have four marijuana plants and they can only be 100 centimetres high, so all is fine. Who is going to monitor that? Who is going to go around with a measuring tape, measuring the height of the marijuana plants and counting them? No one. This is an unenforceable piece of legislation. It is absolutely ridiculous to have that in there.

Then there is the insurance issue. I have dealt with a number of landlords who have come to me over the years, in terms of our medical marijuana regime. What is happening is that landlords have no rights. If someone has a licence to grow medical marijuana, and they rent a home from someone and decide they are going to grow their medical marijuana, they perhaps are growing it for another person with a licence, the landlord has no rights at all. What happens after that? The landlords lose their insurance.

There has been no work that I can see done with the insurance companies, real estate associations, or provinces in terms of what the impact would be in terms of the homegrown aspect.

The FCM is here. Many people have noted they are here. I met with a number of representatives from our local area. They said, “We have a mess right now. This is a mess. We don't know where it's going to end up, but we're very fearful that there's going to be a lot of downloading on us.”

With respect to the organized crime aspect, again, perhaps this is going to work, in terms of taking it out of organized crime. There is no guarantee. I suspect that the prices are going to be high and between the diversion from the homegrown, because no one is monitoring four plants, there is going to continue to be a significant element of organized crime. To be frank, if this goes ahead, and I hope that I am wrong, I do not think that they have created the right circumstances to remove organized crime out of this particular business. Perhaps, in many ways, they will be getting into the legal component of it.

I am going to conclude by stating what my concerns are. Absolutely, age is number one. Second is the ability to grow in the home, and the third is just a personal thing that I find to be particularly offensive. When the Liberals came out, with great pride, to announce the movement forward with their cannabis legislation, they said, “We're going to have it in place for July 1. It is going to be there for Canada Day 2018.”

In 2018, when I am watching the fireworks on Canada Day, I hope that people do not say this is what is making it special, because the Liberals think that we cannot enjoy our celebrations of our country by watching the lights and the different displays without being stoned. I think it is incredibly offensive that they want to attach legalization to Canada Day, a day on which we should be filled with pride, and they just think it is important that perhaps people can enjoy being stoned during these festivities. It is really offensive.

In any event, I hope members listen to me on at least the issue of age and the issue of home growing.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I guess where I disagree with the member across the way is that there is a time to act. We have seen, over the last decade, when we look around the world, that Canada has the highest per capita usage by young people than any other developed country in the world. We have a serious problem here. When we take a look at an action, this is something that more American states are moving toward. This is something that will ultimately deal with the issue of getting fewer kids using cannabis. I believe it will have a significant impact on criminal activities to the tune of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are funnelled into criminal activities. This is an action plan that at least three parties inside the House seem to be getting behind, but the Conservatives seem to be out of touch with what Canadians really believe: that there is a need for action.

Why is the Conservative Party opposing the need for action to protect our young people and deal with criminal activities?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I said during my speech. I hope that they are right about this decreasing use. However, I am strongly concerned that it is actually going to go in the opposite direction and that we will see an escalating use. That was the experience in Colorado. They went from a baseline to increased use.

We just talked about how something is normalized. When parents have a package of joints sitting on the counter, it becomes normalized and accessible. I worry, and I hope I am wrong, that this will actually increase use in our young adults, as opposed to what the Liberal public health objectives are.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that many members in the House have raised concerns about the age limit. I know the government did struggle with setting the age limit at 18. This legislation does allow provinces to harmonize it.

The thing we have to remember is that at age 18, we trust Canadian citizens to cast ballots for everyone in this chamber. At age 18, we trust that Canadians have the maturity to join our Canadian Armed Forces and go to fight abroad for us. It is a great deal of responsibility. I know there are concerns about brain development under the age of 25.

I would like to hear the member's reflection on the fact that at age 18 we already give people so much responsibility. Could the member comment a bit further on that and how the government had to find the right balance?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is not a situation of trust. This is a situation of science and the neurological development of the brain.

Members only have to have been in an emergency department where a 20-year-old who has smoked somewhat excessively has come in with their first psychotic break, knowing that it could have been prevented and knowing that they are now into a lifelong psychiatric illness, to know that it is not about trust. This is about people and how young adult brains can respond to the use of cannabis, especially between those ages of 18 and 21. Obviously, 25 is the recommended age in terms of when it is not going to impact to that degree.

This is not about trust. It is about lifelong impacts, psychiatric illness, schizophrenia, and all those other sorts of issues.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech about homegrown has really hit home with residents in my city.

Last week I stopped at a feed and garden store in Saskatoon. They have already been put on alert. They are the ones that are going to police who buys enough material for four plants in a household. We already know municipalities in this country have no resources to police these plants. Now stores in my city have been told they will be the ones that will record who is buying the materials for these plants.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, the idea of four plants is absolutely ridiculous.

I have not heard from insurance companies, but I know the insurance industry is very concerned. I know the real estate industry is very concerned. Why did the Liberals have to go there? It just does not make sense that they are going there. If the Liberals want to make it accessible, they should have the quality and the toxicity created in a controlled environment with health and safety behind it.

To me, the four plants in a home is absolutely a giant mistake in the legislation.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we go back to debate, I just want to mention to hon. members that sometimes it seems like the chair does not see members or does not quite put them in the rotation. I notice some, and one member in particular, getting dramatic and making a little bit of a scene. I do not want to mention the member's name. I remember being in those chairs, and sometimes thinking that the Speaker really did not like me.

Believe me, I like all of you equally. It is just that I am making a list in the back of mind. Please be persistent.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!