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.

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Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2018 / 11:50 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to the message from the other place on Bill C-45. Before I start my remarks on that, I want to say that this is a historic time. I am very proud of this legislation, this change in social policy that we are making as a government.

If we reflect on what it is like to go out for dinner with friends and have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner, and we think about the fact that there was a time when that was illegal, when the provision of alcohol was controlled by the criminal underworld, and when the act of partaking in alcohol was a crime, it is almost impossible to imagine that this made sense in an earlier period, and it certainly does not make sense to us today. In the same way, in the future we will be looking back at a time when cannabis was illegal, criminalized, and purveyed by criminal gangs. In a future day, the public in Canada will not be able to imagine how that could have made sense. In fact, it does not make sense. That is why I am so proud of what we are doing today.

It does not make sense because it has not worked. Having the use of cannabis deemed a criminal matter, as opposed to a health and safety matter, makes no sense. It creates massive profits for the Hells Angels and other organized criminals. It provides no safety with respect to what might be in the content of the product that is being consumed or what might be harmful. Members should make no mistake: It is being consumed, notwithstanding the fact that it is an illegal activity, a criminalized activity. Our young people are using this product at higher rates than virtually anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is far past time to take the control and regulation out of the hands of the criminal underworld, which has been profiting from it, and place them in the hands of government, where health and safety aspects can actually be addressed by the government.

That is exactly why, in 2011, after the election, I began this discussion in Ottawa with Liberal colleagues, saying that I think it is time we address the situation and, as a party, consider legalizing marijuana. I had the privilege of bringing a film called The Union, a documentary about the control of cannabis by the criminal underworld and all the negative aspects of that for our society: the shootouts in open streets in broad daylight in our cities when there were gang wars; the drawing into criminal activity of young people, who were being recruited by the gangs to be part of their distribution network; and the hundreds of thousands of young Canadians who ended up in the justice system because of their involvement with cannabis.

Therefore, it is with great pride and humility that I want to acknowledge Parliament and the government for what we are doing here. This is a historic time. I have to say that in 2011 it looked pretty impossible. However, our Prime Minister took the bull by the horns and made this commitment in our last election platform, and we have proceeded with this project.

I am now going to talk about some of the details of implementation so that we do this as best as we possibly can as a Parliament and a government.

As others have already pointed out, both houses of Parliament have conducted extensive studies of the proposed cannabis act. In the other place, Bill C-45 was studied by five different committees, which heard from over 200 experts and witnesses. Four of those committees conducted an in-depth study of specific aspects of the legislation and its implications. They carefully assessed issues related to criminal law provisions, indigenous persons, international obligations, and Canada's borders. I want to add my voice to those who have acknowledged this important contribution, and to thank the other place for its extensive work on this bill.

The study of this proposed legislation by Parliament built on extensive work by the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation. In 2016, after the previous election, the task force undertook extensive consultations to hear from Canadians; public health experts; law enforcement; provincial, territorial, and municipal governments; indigenous organizations; U.S. state governments with more experience administering cannabis regimes; and more.

The proposed act was developed largely on the basis of the thoughtful advice of this task force, and the act has been carefully designed to support the policy objectives stated in clause 7. It was carefully designed to ensure that its provisions would comply with privacy and other obligations and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For these reasons, the amendments proposed by the other place had to be very carefully reviewed and assessed on the basis of whether they would support the bill's policy objectives and could have unintended consequences. Based on this review, it is clear that some amendments, in fact the majority of the amendments brought forward,would further improve the bill, and they support its objectives. Others are problematic.

For example, the amendment that would further clarify the requirements and the scope of the legislative review that would be undertaken three years after the coming into force of the act would be a positive improvement to the legislation. This amendment would establish a clear timeline of 18 months, following the beginning of the review, for the minister to table in Parliament a report on the findings of the review.

In line with the objective of a separate amendment in the other place, it is proposed that the act clearly indicate that this legislative review carefully consider the impacts of this legislation on public health, including on youth, the impacts on indigenous peoples, and the impacts of home cultivation.

However, on the other hand, a number of amendments adopted in the other place cannot be supported, as they could create significant issues. This is the case, for example, of an amendment that would require that the minister collect and publicly disclose the names of every holder of a licence or permit, including persons who have control of or shares in corporations holding a licence. This amendment would raise concerns from a privacy perspective and would impose requirements on businesses operating in the legal cannabis industry that would be inconsistent with how businesses operating in other Canadian industries are treated.

It would also pose some issues from an operational perspective. For example, the volatility of shareholding in a publicly traded corporation could make the proposed reporting requirements practically impossible to meet and could cause extreme delays in licensing.

Health Canada has a robust physical and personnel security screening process in place for the existing cannabis for medical purposes industry. It is designed to guard against infiltration by organized crime. All officers and directors of a company must undergo thorough law enforcement record checks prior to licensing.

As part of the new regulatory framework, Health Canada has proposed to expand the list of individuals who would require a security clearance to include the directors and officers of any controlling company, in addition to those of the licensed company.

As we finalize our study of Bill C-45, I urge all parliamentarians to remember that this legislative framework is one of the pillars of a comprehensive public health approach the government is proposing to better protect Canadians and minimize the harms associated with cannabis use.

The government is taking action in a number of key areas, informed by the strict regulatory controls that are currently in place for Canadians who access cannabis for medical purposes and by lessons learned from our considerable success in taking a public health approach to reducing tobacco smoking rates. Our strategies include efforts to educate Canadians about the harms and risks of cannabis use, to promote healthy choices and reduce youth access, and to prevent problematic and high risk patterns of use, and many more.

It is important that we consider the proposed legislation in the context of these broader proven strategies for protecting public health. The government has taken every reasonable action to ensure that this bill is designed to take those things into account. I am proud of Bill C-45 and proud to—

Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, Midnight

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have five minutes of questions and comments left the next time this matter is before the House.

It being midnight, pursuant to order made Tuesday, May 29, the House stands adjourned until later this day, at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at midnight.)