House of Commons Hansard #314 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cannabis.

Topics

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, the member opposite is absolutely right that the situation today is not a good situation, but if Liberals had done what was prudent, they would have put in place a system like Washington state that actually reduced organized crime's involvement, raised the age to 21, and made it more difficult for people to get hold of marijuana.

In terms of what will happen in the future, I look forward to the day in 2019 when Conservatives are victorious and return to government. At that time, it will be like the toothpaste is out of the tube. There will be a big mess to clean up and a doubling of traffic deaths, which has been seen in every other jurisdiction. Public education has not been done by the government, after warnings from every jurisdiction that legalized marijuana. That is going to have to happen for people to understand the harms. However, by that time, there will be young people who have mental health issues, there will be traffic deaths, and all of the unintended consequences to property owners.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I first want to express what a pleasure it is to work with my hon. colleague on the health committee. She almost puts a reasonable gloss on the Conservative position on cannabis, and for that I congratulate her.

The position of the Conservative Party on cannabis has been extremely perplexing to me. In the comments of the hon. member for Thornhill, he compared a homegrown cannabis plant to the equivalent of leaving opioids out for children. Right now in Canada, the reality is that with extreme criminalization, in fact, a potential life sentence for trafficking, we have the second highest rate of cannabis use among young people in the world.

Given that reality and given that millions of Canadians who have used and currently use cannabis do not feel it is a criminal act, and given that her party is opposed to legalization, I have a question for her on the edibles and concentrates provision. This bill would continue to make edibles and concentrates illegal in Canada. Given that one of the purposes of the bill is to get rid of the black market, I wonder what her party's position is on the legalization of edibles and concentrates. Is she and her party content to leave those products in the hands of organized crime, which is selling those products, in some cases, without any of the regulations that Canadians want to see with those products?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to work with the member as well on the health committee. He brings forward many good points.

Here are some of the facts that come to bear on this question: 30% of the market today is edibles. We received testimony from multiple jurisdictions that had legalized edibles, and they talked about some of the problems they encountered originally with overdoses in children, especially with gummy bear and candy-flavoured items. Having very strict controls and learning lessons from those people will be important, but once again, the government decided not to have parliamentary oversight when those regulations are developed. The bureaucrats will be able to put in place whatever they want. Perhaps they will not listen to the learnings of other jurisdictions, and I am against that.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of items.

I want to thank the member for Sarnia—Lambton for talking about the education system. We have seen a few ads by the government on television, but not enough. It was prepared to spend $300,000, $400,000, or $500,000 for an ad campaign and we have not seen that, even though we could be months, or even weeks, away from this bill becoming law.

In January, I went to Nunavut. There are no addiction centres at all up north. They are concerned. There is not one addiction centre in Nunavut, yet the government has not consulted with them. They are concerned about this because their people from the north have to go to Winnipeg and even Montreal to addiction centres. There is no plan by the Liberal government to place addiction centres up north. I would ask the member to talk about the addiction centres that will certainly be needed when this bill becomes law.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question. Yes, the government has been woefully inadequate in putting treatment facilities in place, not just in Nunavut but across the country. If we compare it with other places that do this well, talking about public education and treatment, Colorado spent $10 million on public education and it has five million people. Washington state spent $7 million and it has seven million people, and it spent it a year before the legalization. The $100,000 we are talking about for 36 million people is woefully inadequate.

Let us take Portugal. The government is always saying how well Portugal does things. Portugal has 170 treatment centres for 11 million people in a very small, driveable space. That is not the situation in Canada, and we have to start putting emphasis on treatment for people, especially those who are predisposed. Nunavut has recognized the threat and decided not to allow homegrown cannabis, along with Quebec and Manitoba, and treatment centres are needed there as well.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I have been following the Conservatives' debate on this issue, and I find it amazing. Their position is to decriminalize cannabis. By decriminalizing cannabis but not legalizing it and putting in regulations, I suspect they will find great support from gangs. Gangs and the criminal element would be the biggest beneficiaries of the Conservative policy on this issue. If we decriminalize cannabis, that means that the gangs can continue to get involved. After all, it is not legal, but now these individuals would not go to jail. Rather, they would get a fine. It just does not make any sense.

Where I believe we agree is that over the last decade we have seen our youth more engaged in cannabis than the youth in any other western country in terms of the crisis that currently exists. This legislation would legalize, regulate, and educate. I believe there would be marginal criminal activities surrounding it. Those monies would be generated for government. I see it as a win-win-win. The biggest winners would be our young people because there would be more education and it would decrease the number of young people participating in cannabis.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, instead of talking about hypotheticals, let us talk about what organized crime is thinking about the government's legislation. They are jumping up and down. Their going price is $7 a gram, but the government is going to start at $10 a gram and then add another dollar. Not only that, the government is going to do what Colorado did and allow home grow. We can see how profitable organized crime has been there. By the way, the government also eliminated the visa requirements for people coming in from Mexico, so lots of experienced people could just move in and take over the whole thing. When we think about the advantages for organized crime, and how the police have already said that there is not enough of them to enforce all the provisions for home grow in this legislation, organized crime is going to be happy. It is going to make a huge amount of money when people have to go through Kathleen Wynne's LCBO model between nine and six.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, as I tuned in to listen to the Senate debate on the cannabis bill, Bill C-45, I was given a stark reminder of why so many Canadians have so little confidence in that unelected, unaccountable body. Certainly it is legitimately questionable whether an institution capable of producing such baseless fearmongering and ignorance has any legitimacy blocking legislation passed by an overwhelming majority in this democratically elected House of Commons.

Disturbingly, in the hours leading up to the final vote on Bill C-45, the Liberal government was forced to quietly swear in two new senators to ensure its passage, even though they were not present for one minute of testimony, one minute of debate, or one minute of review of the bill. However, they cast their vote in lockstep with the government. Some democracy. Some sober second thought.

After studying this legislation for over six months, it is not even clear that all 93 senators actually understood the most basic facts about cannabis, such as the most basic facts about cannabis quantity. While reviewing the act, Senator Nicole Eaton, a Conservative from Ontario, said this:

[F]ive grams is about four tokes. So, in other words, if I’m a high school student—I’m 16—I have four tokes in my pocket, which is under five grams. So you just don’t take it away from me, but I’m allowed to possess it, right?... I’m allowed to have less than five grams, or I’m allowed to have zero grams? This is what I don’t understand.

There is quite a bit the senator does not understand. For the record, five grams of cannabis is enough for some 10 joints. That is far more than four tokes.

Given this statement, l was rather surprised to learn that both Senator Eaton and Senator Frum were forced to abstain from votes on the cannabis bill because they stand to profit from legalization. Senator Eaton declared a conflict of interest over the bill “due to an impending investment in the cannabis industry.” However, until she recused herself, Senator Eaton was an active participant in debates and committee work on legalization, including voting against Bill C-45 at second reading.

For her part, Senator Frum has a property “that will be leased for the purposes of selling recreational cannabis”. After initially indicating her opposition to Bill C-45, she recused herself from debate, deliberation, and voting on the matter.

While it may seem like a contradiction to publicly oppose Bill C-45 while privately investing in cannabis, such behaviour has become disturbingly common in the lead-up to legalization. An emerging group of so-called cannabis capitalists, notably composed of the same police officers and government officials who have spent years prosecuting the war on drugs, has already begun staking its claim to the new recreational market.

Some prominent names include the following.

Kim Derry, who served as deputy chief when the current Liberal member for Scarborough Southwest, the Liberals' point man on cannabis, was Toronto police chief, is now the security adviser for THC Meds Ontario.

Former Ontario Liberal deputy premier, George Smitherman, who once served as the province's health minister, is tied to THC Meds Ontario as well.

Former Liberal prime minister John Turner is a board member for Muileboom Organics, Inc.

Chuck Rifici founded Tweed Marijuana Inc., the country's first licensed provider to go public, while he was chief financial officer of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Former police chief and Conservative cabinet minister Julian Fantino, who once compared cannabis to murder and voted in favour of harsh mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis as a member of the Harper cabinet, has now gone into the cannabis business himself with former RCMP deputy commissioner Raf Souccar.

It is a travesty of justice and a hypocrisy of the highest order that those who fought hardest for legalization may benefit the least from it, while those who spent a lifetime enforcing prohibition are now lining up to fill the boardrooms of the cannabis industry.

Those who put their liberty on the line as activists for legalization, and who, in the pursuit of their defence of cannabis, often took legal liability and got criminal records, not for any violent activity but in their drive to get sensible cannabis policy in this country, now carry the burden of a criminal record for their efforts. Not only have they been shut out, but the federal government has not even offered them a path to participate in the cannabis industry, or to obtain pardons. Are they now supposed to sit back in admiration of the moral flexibility and business acumen of their former detractors?

The inescapable truth is that Bill C-45 is principally about legalizing the cannabis industry, not the plant or its usage. This bill is not about legalization, but about making cannabis less illegal. If this legislation were truly about legalizing the cannabis plant, it would herald the end of criminalization, the end of stigmatization, and the end of the prohibitionist approach to cannabis policy that has been such a failure for almost 100 years. Instead, this legislation would create an incredibly complex criminal framework that legal experts and police chiefs predict will result in more, not fewer, cannabis offences post-legalization.

There have been many opportunities to change course as Bill C-45 worked its way through Parliament. I want to be clear. I do give the government credit for rejecting the most harmful amendments proposed by the Senate, and for accepting the NDP's proposals in a number of ways, including to legalize the sale of edibles and concentrates, albeit not for one year post-legalization. This is unjustified, but it is the best the Liberals would do. The government has also agreed to remove the misguided 100-centimetre plant height limit. Unfortunately, the Liberals have also rejected a number of key improvements to Bill C-45.

I would like to take a moment to focus on some of the Senate's key proposed amendments and the government's response to them.

First is home growing. Based on the advice of the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation, the federal government has proposed to allow the personal cultivation of cannabis for non-medical purposes, with a limit of four plants per household. However, after considering a proposal to ban home growing outright, the Senate chose to amend Bill C-45 to allow provincial governments to ban home growing themselves. Now, this is not a rational or evidence-based approach to cannabis policy. As the College of Family Physicians of Canada put it, “Banning home growing for personal use defeats the purpose of legalization, which is to reduce the harms of criminalization.”

New Democrats believe that, under legalization, the personal production of cannabis should be permitted, similar to the home production of alcohol, such as beer and wine. Personal production would play an essential role in eliminating the illicit cannabis market since it would ensure that individuals who want to consume cannabis can afford it and have access to it in regions without nearby retail storefronts. For many Canadians, particularly those in rural areas who would not be served well by the retail marketing of cannabis, this may be the only way to get access to cannabis.

I would point out that under the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling, medical cannabis users are allowed to grow their own cannabis. In some cases, they are growing eight plants, and they can obtain a licence from another person and grow for that person. Would it not be the height of folly if across Canada one house on a block could grow cannabis, because it is grown for medical reasons, but the house beside it could not, because it is for recreational purposes? That is the height of inequity and it would make a mockery of the law.

I would point out that the health and safety issues generally associated with home cultivation are overwhelmingly the result of large-scale, industrial, illicit growing operations that operate covertly in residential buildings due to prohibition. This can result in damage due to improper ventilation, and the illegal electrical hook-ups pose a fire risk. However, the personal cultivation of four plants would obviously not pose similar risks any more than growing four plants of any other species in the home. I daresay that most Canadians in an average household have more than four plants in their house. By contributing to the dismantling of the illicit market, home cultivation would actually serve to help eliminate those covert industrial growing operations.

Furthermore, I would point out that raw cannabis plants are non-psychoactive. According to University of British Columbia botany professor Jonathan Page, who testified at committee, if anybody, including a child, were to eat the raw bud of cannabis, that person would get the acidic form, which is non-psychoactive. The fresh material is not capable of getting one high. One needs to bake it, heat it, or smoke it in order to obtain that result.

The government chose to reject this amendment because it said, “t is critically important to permit personal cultivation in order to support the government’s objective of displacing the illegal market.” Canada's New Democrats agree.

On potency limits, the Senate also proposed an undefined potency limit for cannabis products. I think the Conservatives are supporting this. On this point, it is important to note that the task force on cannabis legalization and regulation rejected potency limits for a number of reasons. It believed that if prohibited these products would continue to be available on the illicit market. The task force also concluded that there was insufficient evidence even to identify what a safe potency limit would be. The task force emphasized the significant risks associated with the illicit production of high potency concentrate, and instead called on the government to regulate them within a legal market.

I would point out that illicit producers often use flammable solvents, such as butane, to extract cannabinoids from plants, an inherently dangerous process that can also leave carcinogenic residues on the end product. Product safety was also a concern as the extraction process may also concentrate contaminants, such as heavy metals and other impurities in addition to THC.

The government rejected this amendment because “the government has already committed to establishing THC limits in regulations, which will provide flexibility to make future adjustments based on new evidence and product innovation.” While we support the decision to reject this amendment, Canada's New Democrats believe that the government should heed the advice of the task force in this area.

On branding, the Senate proposed deleting a provision of Bill C-45 that currently would allow a person to promote cannabis, a cannabis accessories or a service related to cannabis by displaying a brand element on the thing, provided that it would not be associated with young persons, appealing to young persons, or associated with a way of life that would include glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring.

The government rejected the Senate's amendment because “the Cannabis Act already includes comprehensive restrictions on promotion.” Again, Canada's New Democrats agree.

Branding restrictions on cannabis in Bill C-45 are there now. Indeed, they are already more stringent than those applied to alcohol. I do not need to remind any of the members of the House of the tragedy that occurred just a few months ago. A young Quebec girl died after consuming a high alcohol volume drink and ended up drowning in a river. If we look at that product, it is definitely marketed to young people, even to children, and there are no similar restrictions on alcohol. The House should look at closing that in the future.

With respect to parental sharing in the home, just as is currently the case with alcohol, the Senate proposed to allow parents to share cannabis with a younger family member of at least 17 years of age in the home. Canada's New Democrats believe this was a sensible proposal and the government was ill-advised to reject this amendment.

We currently allow this approach for alcohol because we understand that parents can be trusted to model responsible behaviour to their children and to make positive choices for their family's well-being. In fact, the New Democrats believe parental education will be a key component of low-risk use of cannabis and should not be criminalized. After the bill becomes law, parents will be able to legally consume cannabis in the house, and if they want to pass a joint to their 17-year-old and discuss responsible use of cannabis, the bill would make that a crime. We do not think that is sensible.

The government has also rejected the Senate's parallel proposal to ensure that sharing among individuals close in age within two years would not be criminalized, and that a cannabis offence carrying a sentence of less than six months would not be used in deportation proceedings for someone without citizenship status.

The government justified its rejection by saying, “the criminal penalties and the immigration consequences aim to prevent young people from accessing cannabis and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for prohibited activities...”.

If criminalization and the threat of imprisonment or deportation prevented people from using cannabis, then Canadians would not be consuming an estimated 655 metric tonnes of it per year and we would not have the second highest rate of cannabis use among youth between 16 and 24 in the world, and that is when we have full criminalization and life sentences for trafficking.

Contrasting that, a single bottle of liquor is enough to kill a child, and yet I know of no 14-year prison sentence arising from the distribution of beer or liquor. However, a parent who shares a joint with his or her son or daughter who is 17 would be a criminal under this legislation. An adult who possesses 31 grams of cannabis in public would be a criminal. A youth who possesses more than 5 grams of cannabis would be a criminal. An 18-year-old who passes a joint to a 17-year-old friend would be a criminal. An adult who grows five cannabis plants would be a criminal.

This kind of continued criminalization is inconsistent with a rational and evidence-based criminal justice policy and will only serve to reduce the positive impacts of the bill. The prohibitionist approach has been repeatedly discredited by its failure throughout history.

For far too long, we have wasted billions of dollars in resources in the criminal justice system by criminalizing otherwise law-abiding citizens at an alarming rate for simply possessing and consuming cannabis. In fact, we are today. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, the most recent year of available data, there were about 55,000 offences related to cannabis reported to police and police charged 17,733 people with pot possession.

A recent Vice News investigation found that black and indigenous men and women have been overrepresented in cannabis possession arrests across Canada just in the year since the Liberals formed government, and yet Bill C-45 would preserve the criminalized approach to cannabis, along with the damaging paternalism of the war on drugs.

I want to be clear that from the very beginning Canada's New Democrats have worked hard to reach across the aisle with constructive proposals to improve the bill. These changes included the following: providing pardons to Canadians saddled with a criminal record for offences that will no longer be offences under Bill C-45. This amendment was ruled outside the scope of Bill C-45. However, given the Prime Minister's previous statements, it is shocking that the Liberal government would structure a so-called cannabis legalization bill in such a way that pardons could not be included through amendment.

We proposed empowering provincial governments to create parallel production licensing regimes in order to give provinces the flexibility to implement legalization in the manner best suited to their jurisdiction. For example, this would have allowed provinces to let craft growers, small scale producers, and outdoor growers compete against the federally licensed corporate giants.

As said earlier, we proposed the legalization of edibles and concentrates, which are among the safest ways to consume cannabis and are the growing part of the market. This would allow Canadians and entrepreneur of businesses across the country to provide safe, regulated products to customers instead of allowing this to be provided underground.

We proposed decriminalizing the penalties section in line with the Tobacco Act. We proposed that the legalization should take a regulatory approach with significant fines for offences rather than criminal ones.

One of the purposes of Bill C-45, as laid out in section 7, is to “reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis.” Penalties in the bill should be consistent with that stated intent.

I am disappointed that the government chose to reject these vital proposals, but I am heartened that the bill at least contains a mandatory review of Bill C-45's operation in the next Parliament. I view this as a tacit admission by the government that it knows the bill contains problematic sections that will need to be fixed.

To be clear, Canada's New Democrats will support this motion and this legislation because we have fought for an end to prohibition ever since the 1971 LeDain Commission. The bill before us today is an important step forward but it is far from perfect.

After the last election, Canadians rightfully expected that the Liberals would produce a timely and fair cannabis law. As it now stands, the federal government has left the heavy-lifting of legalization to the provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous governments. The bill will lead to the emergence of a patchwork approach to legalization that will shut out the most long-standing cannabis activists, the folks who have spent decades honing their craft and providing world-leading medicinal cannabis to patients across Canada.

Some provinces have chosen to impose a government retail monopoly, some have chosen to shut out existing compassion clubs, and some provinces are pushing to ban home growing outright. This is disappointing. It is a lost opportunity. It is a betrayal of the clear promise that the Liberals made to Canadians in 2015.

Done properly, an appropriate legal approach to cannabis can achieve impressive benefits economically, technologically, and medicinally. The New Democrats will continue to work to provide the best cannabis legislation in the world for Canadians.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, the member began his remarks by making some very disparaging remarks and named a number of individuals, suggesting somehow they had done something improper.

I know the member and I know he would never knowingly disparage an innocent Canadian. I know he believes, as I do, that parliamentary privilege is not a licence to slander innocent Canadians. I want to advise him that of the five people he mentioned as having some kind of privileged access to the cannabis business through Health Canada, four of those individuals were denied their licence applications and were not successful. They are no longer, in any way, associated with the licensed cannabis industry. The one who actually was approved, was approved by the previous government, when the Conservatives were in power.

I want to give the member opposite an opportunity to apologize to those individuals who he unjustly disparaged.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, that comment reveals a sensitivity that is far in excess of what I actually said. I will not apologize to the House for pointing out hypocrisy.

When a former Conservative cabinet minister compared cannabis to murder and was part of the police process to actively prosecute Canadians for cannabis and is now rushing to profit from the industry, when former Prime Minister John Turner, who as prime minister of the country, could have brought in cannabis legislation, or decriminalization if he wanted to, and chose instead to perpetuate a criminal approach to cannabis and is now seeking to profit from it, it is rightful to point out that kind of hypocrisy, and Canadians deserve to know.

At the same time, all those Canadians who have been working under this prohibitionist criminal regime, who have fought and put their liberty at risk, who have sometimes achieved criminal records and now, under this legislation, may not even be able to participate in the legalized market, I find that hypocritical. I find that unjust.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I find it very disturbing to listen to the debate and to see the breakneck speed with which the Liberals and the NDP want to have this law come into place. Our police agencies, including the RCMP, are not set up to handle drug-impaired driving.

For those individuals in rural areas, like my riding of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

An hon. member

It's happening now.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I am trying to make a point here, and the member keeps—

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind members that if they have anything to contribute, then they should stand and attempt to be recognized.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, the member needs to be very aware that there will now be a process to determine the level of impairment. Right now, if people are caught with any type of narcotic in their system, it is an illegal activity. Now we will have to determine whether that individual is driving under the influence of marijuana. Of course we only have so much resources in rural areas.

In my riding of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, which is about the same size as the state of Israel, we are looking at maybe one or two officers in the entire region who will have the ability to make that determination on whether somebody is impaired. If that individual is on leave, if that individual is taking time off or is not on shift, how are we ever going to charge anyone? This will give free licence for everybody to be out there driving under the influence of marijuana.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I think I speak for every member of the House, and we can join issue, with the fact that nobody countenances or endorses any Canadian operating any kind of machinery, whether a motor vehicle or anything else, or coming to work under the influence of cannabis. We all agree with that.

I would also point out that it is against the law now. People cannot operate motor vehicles under the influence of cannabis now. Canadians should be well aware of that. We have impaired driving laws in the country. The current law that is before the Senate, Bill C-46, is an attempt to modernize that law with a specific focus on cannabis. There are certain problems with that bill too, by the way, which is that it seems to be quite difficult right now to get an accurate reading of impairment or set an appropriate per se blood limit reading for cannabis. There are some problems with that.

At the moment, we all know that driving under the influence of cannabis is against the law, and it should be treated that way.

I want to talk about whether we are ready or not. Very many times Canadians are ahead of politicians. The vast majority of Canadians have voted with their actions for years now. Millions of Canadians have used cannabis and continue to use cannabis, and they do not feel they are criminals by doing so. This law is an attempt to catch up to the reality in Canada.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, last year I stayed in Ottawa on July 1 for Canada Day celebrations. It was kind of a disappointing day because it rained really hard, and then I found a lot of the music had nothing to do with Canada's heritage or history. Anyways, we will leave that aside.

What I did notice last year being here on Canada Day was that Wellington was pretty well plugged with people waiting to get in here, thousands and thousands of people trying to go through security to get on Ottawa's main grounds up here.

I wonder if the member could just use his imagination and imagine all of them having a little bit of smoke, or a little toke, whatever we want to call it. We have Ribfest coming next week, and we know how this town smells so great during Ribfest. Imagine what Wellington would smell like with 10,000 people smoking marijuana. I wonder if the member could imagine that.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am going to end by asking the hon. member to use his imagination as well to focus on a piece of this bill that has another problem with it, and that is that this bill would prevent the exportation of recreational cannabis products. As countries around the world start to legalize, and they are and they will, as California, Colorado, Washington State, and many other states in the union and jurisdictions around the world have done, the ability to support our entrepreneurs who can develop safe, healthy, high-quality products for the world is something we should be supporting in this House. Imagine Canada being a world leader in a new product regarded around the world as being safe and of the highest quality. That is the kind of policy we should be working to develop in this House of Commons.

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from June 6 consideration of Bill S-218, Latin American Heritage Month Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill to create Latin American Heritage Month.

I want to take this opportunity to highlight an organization in my riding, since we so rarely have the opportunity to do so. We try to do that during debates on bills and during members' statements, before question period.

I can explain how this ties directly to the importance of having a month to celebrate this heritage. I am specifically thinking about Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale, an organization that operates primarily in my riding, and about Monique Messier, the chair of its board of directors, and her entire team. This organization has been around for years, and since I became a member of Parliament I have had the opportunity to attend their Arte y Cerveza fundraising soirees. These events allow the organization to continue operating, and provide opportunities for cultural sharing.

Cultural sharing is one of the most important things we can do in a diverse society like ours, and I would say that these events highlight most of all our values of solidarity. They focus on culture and include exhibits of all kinds of artworks, which explains the word Arte in the name. These soirees also provide an opportunity to learn about what this organization's volunteers are doing in Central America, and the money raised helps pay for the volunteers to get there.

I am very happy to say that I have been supporting this organization since becoming an MP. Bertrand St-Arnaud, the former MNA for Chambly and minister of justice, did a good thing when he allocated funding to that organization. I remember his speech when his ministry announced the funding. He said that the Quebec ministry of justice's main concern was the administration of justice and the courts, but that it also gave money to organizations that promote ideals of justice in Canada, Quebec, and abroad. That was his justification, and he was spot on, so I would like to take this opportunity to give him credit for that.

Events like that highlight the values of solidarity and sharing that are important to Quebeckers. They remind us that we can see beyond our borders, take the time to visit other countries and learn more about their cultures, and really make an important contribution.

When I think about Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale, or SMAC, I remember seeing videos and photos taken during trips to help build schools or proper sanitary facilities for people in countries like Guatemala. That is highly commendable.

The sharing goes both ways though, and that is the beauty of this organization's mission. People from those countries also come visit us in Quebec and participate in activities hosted by our community organizations and our community. They come to share their art and culture. During these soirees, we get to connect with volunteers who talk about their experiences and with Guatemalans who tell us what the organization's work has done for their communities. That is extremely important, and it makes me so proud.

There are many organizations doing commendable work in our ridings. We can all agree on that. However, it is sometimes harder to convince people to go help out in other countries. We tend to help our neighbours and stay close to home, and with reason, that being said. Nevertheless, the opportunity to go help beyond our borders is extremely important. Canadians of Latin American origin, from Central America, contribute immensely to our culture. That is why it is important to have opportunities to honour their contributions.

It can be hard to see the point of a bill designating a month to celebrate the heritage of a particular cultural community. I myself have a cynical side, I admit. However, this is extremely important, because we have to duty to remember, to share, to exchange, and to celebrate. Whether it is for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Canada Day, Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, or Sikh heritage month, we must always pay tribute to the efforts parliamentarians make to designate these months of recognition.

It is understandable that people view the purely symbolic value of such a month with a cynical eye, but it is important to take a few moments to stop and acknowledge that a given cultural community has made a substantial contribution and that meaningful exchanges have taken place. I myself am using the debate on this bill as an opportunity to talk about a major organization in my riding whose work would not normally be recognized in the House of Commons. That is why it is so vital to have opportunities like this.

However, before I go any further, I would like to apologize, Mr. Speaker, because I should have first paid tribute to the senator who sponsored this bill and who died tragically. We offer our condolences to his family and loved ones. This bill is part of his legacy. I also thank the member for Thornhill for introducing this bill.

The organization that I was talking about is Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale or SMAC. I am pleased to continue to support that organization and I want to acknowledge its 20th anniversary in the House of Commons. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to its representatives for missing the anniversary celebration. I was unable to make it, because I was also the honorary chair for the Relay for Life in Chambly. Unfortunately, members cannot be in two places at once, even though we sometimes try.

I am very proud to support this organization and see it diversify its activities. SMAC started out as a cocktail-and-auction fundraiser. Today, it has grown and now it hosts a dance and an art exhibit. This year, events were held on both Friday and Saturday, and artists were invited. It is so nice to see that. I fully support these people and commend them for their efforts. As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, I wish this organization continued success.

In closing, I want to come back to what I was saying about designated months. We have to understand that we have some rather large communities. Since becoming a member of Parliament, I have been hearing my colleagues talk about certain cultural communities that represent one million Canadians, or 500,000 Canadians. It can be breathtaking to see such wonderful diversity. We must highlight diversity and encourage cultural exchanges. It is the best way to promote community spirit, love, and respect for our neighbours. Organizations that promote solidarity help in achieving that objective.

Again, I want to congratulate SMAC and the sponsor of this bill. Even when we think that a bill is purely symbolic, we must never turn our backs on the importance of celebrating an occasion and heritage with our neighbours in order to promote community spirit. These are the values of Quebeckers and Canadians, and I am proud to share those values.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on the speech he just gave on Bill S-218.

I want to begin by paying tribute to the late Senator Tobias Enverga, the sponsor of this legislative measure and a great Filipino-Canadian who advocated for multiculturalism.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you in helping me to quiet things down in the House.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I would ask those in the House to show some respect for the person who is speaking, because he is trying to deliver a speech that I look forward to hearing and there are distractions that prevent me from doing so.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I was not sure if the Speaker was referring to me, but I want to apologize if my singing of Latin American songs interfered in any way. I have enormous respect for you, so I will take my singing outside.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I thank the hon. member for that, and I am sure the Grievous Angels will depart.